Saturday, November 18, 2006

...And the sun shines on the bay....

Ok I've lost the 4 lbs I gained in SF and then some, making my detox total 12.5 lbs. My posterior also feels stronger and strangely higher after walking up all those hills.


My pants fit too, at least, 3 out of 4 pairs. There's that one last pair I want to squeeze into, a pair that fit at this time last year.


In SF we took a lot of public transportation, which includes the cable car system (a tourist attraction, and rightfully so - it's quite thrilling), BART, and MUNI. While I was there I became obsessed with MUNI and its retro look - both in terms of its logo and also the actual stations, which reminded me of downtown Syracuse circa 1979. It was actually all very clean and well taken care of, so although it was old, renovation would only be for cosmetic purposes since everything was fully functional and quite pleasant.


Despite the convience of public transportation, we did our fair share of walking, including up a huge hill to see the crookedest street. That portion of Lombard St. makes its way into lots of video games, and it's no wonder. The hill's incline is so steep there that we wondered how the cars didn't flip over - until we saw the signs that strictly enforce parking at exactly 90 degrees.


Thankfully we didn't walk up Telegraph Hill to Coit Tower, but instead took the bus. We didn't see the wild parrots that live in the neighborhood but we did catch some really great panoramic views of the city from the top. San Francisco has some amazing cloud formations, or at least did while we were there, and it was very inspiring to look out over the water and see the Golden Gate Bridge, the Bay Bridge, the Ferry Building...


After that it was a bit disappointing to see how nothing Ghirardelli Square and Fisherman's Wharf are, but I did manage to snap a shot of In-N-Out Burger (another LA reference) in a very...touristy SF scenario. We also got to ride the F line streetcar which was cool. They have all kinds of different classic streetcars on the route including some from New Orleans, but the one we were on dated back to 1948 and was a smoooth ride over to the pier where we were catching our ferry to Alcatraz.



I know it sounds ridiculous but visiting Alcatraz was really a dream come true. I've always been a prison movie fan and have always been fascinated with prison politics, death row controversies, etc. Plus I like spooky places. We took a night tour of The Rock and although I didn't feel any real indication of hauntings, I was way creeped out, especially going into the pitch-black solitary confinement cell. Our night tour also took us upstairs to the hospital, where the walls were flaking with paint and every room was dark, save for an eerie lantern casting white light from the center of the room. The site has a history as both a military prison and a maximum security prison, so a lot went down there. It feels weird to take a tour of it with hundreds of other people, to gawk at the torture that people experienced, and then buy branded bars of soap and posters of mugshots. But I got a Christmas tree ornament anyway. The soap smelled horrible, but if it hadn't, I probably would have gotten that too.


We didn't shop a lot in SF but I got a few souvenirs, including a 7" vinyl single and the new John Legend CD from Rasputin, and more importantly, wine. We didn't want to check our bags on the plane so we had the Homewood Winery (the only place you can get their wine) ship our Flying Wizzbanger and Cabernet Sauvignon to the office. It should be arriving shortly. Homewood - with its generous tasting portions and intriguing varieties - was definitely the best winery on our day-long tour of Napa and Sonoma. Our bus also took us to the Larson Family Winery, Madonna Estate, and Viansa, which had some great wines and a lovely Tuscan marketplace where we got a nice lunch.


It's nice to know that seemingly cheesy touristy things actually work out quite well: not only was the "Woods + Wine" tour a great deal, but also full of adventure. Before you head out to wine country, you're first taken across the Golden Gate Bridge and stop for a photo opp, and then on to the redwood forest (spotting yet another prison, San Quentin, in Sausalito along the way). We did an hour-long hike in Muir Woods and stopped long enough to gawk at some of the oldest trees in the country, and a black-tailed deer that scuttled by. This is just stuff I've never seen before.


I really felt like I could live in SF, which is the first time I could say that about a city other than New York. I think first I have to visit again and see some of the stuff I missed (the Mission, SoMa, Pacific Heights, the Presidio, Berkeley). And next time I'm definitely walking across the Golden Gate Bridge. If I'm lucky there'll be an earthquake so I can feel it sway 25 feet. I probably won't jump off, even though it's famous for that.