Unlike our mildly depressing visits to other cities in California, our daytrip to San Francisco was a lovely experience – even in these times of COVID.
The bustling urban atmosphere was also a nice contrast to the pastoral, vine-draped hills of Sonoma Valley, the meditative vibe of Sunset Beach, the grand shores and redwood forests near Big Sur, and the harshness of Point Reyes National Seashore – all of which have hosted us over the past many weeks.
Glenn and I had each been to SF before, so this trip was more about getting a dose of urban vibe than checking off sightseeing sights.
We did ask ourselves whether Haven could be in the Bay Area. After some half-serious consideration, the answer was a unanimous, “No.” Though, it was fun to entertain the notion during our visit to the city and its surrounds.
We drove from our deep redwood-forested basecamp in Samuel P. Taylor State Park through Sausalito and into San Francisco via the Golden Gate Bridge. This was our second time crossing the span on this trek – albeit without our house in tow.
In all the times I visited SF on business, I never made it across the iconic bridge. It’s so fantastic! I definitely recommend this memorable experience to anyone who gets the chance to visit.
We parked in a garage on Lombard near The Presido. Once in the park, we paid a visit to the Yoda fountain on the Lucasfilm campus. Pre-COVID, their lobby was open for fans to visit other familiar characters inside. On the day of our visit, we couldn’t go in, but we did get to wave at R2-D2 who we imagined beeped and booped while watching us through the window.
The nearby Beaux-Arts style dome of the Fine Arts Center drew us in for a closer look. It’s so beautiful … and enormous!
From there, we rented electric scooters – which are harder to ride than you might think. At least we didn’t accidentally zoom into traffic or fall off (well, not technically). Anyway, since the cable cars were COVID-closed, we had to get creative with our local transportation.
Unfortunately, just before the summit of the steep hill near Ecology Trail, the battery on Glenn’s scooter died. He got quite a workout using leg power to coax that heavy two-wheeler up the rest of the hill. His reward for all that effort was zooming down the other side at a breakneck speed as gravity did what the battery could not. Glenn had to wait for me at the bottom, though, as I walked mine carefully down the dangerous slope.
From there we visited Golden Gate Park where we saw the Conservatory of Flowers as well as the 1914 Golden Gate Park Carousel, which was COVID-closed, of course.
(Sorry, not sorry for all the plant pictures.)
We walked through the buzzed buzz of Haight Ashbury and then made our way to Chinatown just as people were getting off work and heading to the various markets there. We wandered the stalls, marveling at the unrecognizable goods labeled in words we couldn’t read. Some of it looked and smelled delicious and some of it looked and smelled unappetizing, but all of it seemed mysterious and unknowable to my uninitiated self.
We followed a sweet, vanilla aroma down an unassuming alley, and found the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Co.
Inside this impossibly tiny operation, an older man and woman tended two steaming, clanking, and humming machines that dispensed batter onto little round plates on a rotating platform. The man mixed batches of batter and filled the hoppers. The woman collected the flat, crepe-like cookies from the plates and then used a stick to fold them while they were still hot, forming them expertly into the familiar shape we know. Once cooled and crisp, each would get a fortune inserted before packaging.
Just outside Chinatown is Little Italy. We stopped and got affogato and sorbet and headed to Washington Square where the locals were also picnicking, having doggie play dates, and just enjoying the early spring evening next to the beautiful Sts. Peter and Paul Church.
Before heading home, we popped back up to the bay and visited the unapologetically touristy Pier 39.
There, the local seagulls ran quite the racket. After a conversation with one of them, I learned they had worked out a rotation sytem, with the next crew coming on shift just as the prior group grew tired of filched French fries. Further down the Embarcadero, we found another gang with a different hustle. They were busy cramming their craws with clam chowder. This town is clearly for the birds.
Frazzled families with tired children in tow started heading home, and the streets grew quieter as the sun started to set behind Golden Gate Bridge.
We bid a fond farewell to the shining city by the bay before heading home ourselves, back across that beautiful Golden Gate Bridge.