San Francisco - July 2008

The end of my summer vacation tale takes me to San Francisco via a mini-detour in Houston

Kris had been hiking for a week in Colorado, and, as soon his dad dropped him off at our house, I hugged him and got into his dad’s car to ride back to Houston with him.  Needless to say, I was missing Kris something fierce after not spending any time with him for two weeks.

After spending a few days in Houston, Terri and I flew to San Francisco out of IAH.   

Day 1, July 24, 2008 – Thursday - after flying into SFO, we took the BART to the Embarcadero Station then walked to our hotel…the Harbor Court Hotel.  They were nice enough to let us check in early.  Terri had purchased a book with maps on San Francisco, and I had spent a good amount of time creating an itinerary including directions on how to use the public transportation.  

View from outside of our hotel
First up was the Octagon House, an incredibly neat and unusual, eight-sided, cupola-topped house dating from 1861.  As neat as the outside was, inside there were also some historic documents, including signatures of 54 of the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence.  It was really cool to see John Hancock’s actual signature.

Outside of Octagon House

I thought everything would be smooth sailing when getting around San Francisco, as I’d spent so much time plotting our adventure, but NO.  Who knew that, in order to find a bus stop in San Francisco, you’d have to look down in the middle of the road (on the ground) for a faded sign that says “Coach Stop”?  We certainly didn’t, so we passed it a few times.  

The Octagon House is only open the 2nd and 4th Thursday of the month for a few hours, so we were in a rush and unsure if we’d make it on time.  We actually used some random construction guy’s port-a-potty along the way, but we made it in time to see the place.  We also walked by the Vendanta Temple, then went to Frjtz Fries for Belgian fries and crepes, hit Cliff’s Variety, explored around the hotel, and made it back to the hotel just in time for the complimentary fresh-baked cookies.  

Frjtz's Fries
[Funny story about Cliff’s Variety…Terri’s book said the best gift shop in San Francisco was a place called Cliff’s Variety, so we went.  Imagine how surprised we were when we arrived at a hardware store (that’s right…hardware like hammers, nails, etc.) catering to gay and lesbian clientele.  How did we know it was GLBT friendly?  Maybe it was the massive number of rainbows in the store, the cross-dressers, or the fact that we were in the Castro District, which I found out is called the “Gayest corner in the world.”  Why was this store considered the Best Gift Store, I have no idea.]

Day 2, July 25, 2008 – Friday - We rode the F light rail to the last stop on Fisherman’s Wharf and shopped along strip.  We saw The Cannery, many piers, the seals, Boudin Bakery and Museum, we ate, went to Alcatraz (very very neat to see), did some more shopping, went to Ghirardelli Square, and ended with a late night cable car ride.  The cable cars are really something you should do.  They are like riding an old wooden roller coaster without the jerkiness.

Day 3, July 26, 2008 – Saturday - We wake up and go to Ferry Plaza Farmer’s Market for some shopping and breakfast.  So many vendors had both fresh food and fruits as well as arts and crafts.  It was pretty dern cool.  

We then had a Chocolate tour from noon – 3.  The chocolate tour was pretty interesting.  We learned some of the history of chocolate, what makes good chocolate, the difference between white, milk, and dark chocolate, stopped at seven different locations and got at least two pieces of chocolate at each, and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves…that is, until our guide gave us Chipotle Chocolate without telling us what was in it first.  That was terribly hot, and I suffered for it later.  After the tour was over, we were able to shop a tad, but we soon had to catch a different cable car to go back to hotel where my being out of commission forced us to stay near hotel.  I had an hour nap, and we headed for dinner.  We ate at Taylor’s Refresher which has the best Sweet Potato Fries.

Day 4, July 27, 2008  – Sunday – We take a movie tour from 10 am – 2pm that picked us up at our hotel.  This was a nice change of pace, as we’ve been walking a storm and both have aching feet.  Before the tour, we got great breakfast pastries from Ferry Plaza Building.  

The movie tour stopped at a bunch of different places all over San Francisco and represented over 70 movies including Mrs. Doubtfire, Birdman of Alcatraz, and Full House (okay, not a movie).  

Mrs. Doubtfire House

Full House Painted Ladies

One of the best stops was right near the Golden Gate Bridge at Fort Point.  I climbed up to the top for a really spectacular view of the bridge and city.  

After being dropped off, we walked Grant from Market to Chinatown visiting Union Square, Avant Cards, and Chinatown.  

There was some fabulous shopping on this trek, and, one of the best places we stopped at in the back of a side alley, the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory.  Two little old ladies were sitting on stools manually folding fortune cookies.  You could even write your own messages to be put inside, which Terri and I did.  Also, after giving a tip, they treated us to a gigantic handful of warm fortune cookies.  So YUM!  

I later went to the top of Coit Tower, we took public transit back to the hotel, and went back to eat more fries.

Day 5, July 28, 2009 – Monday – We woke up and finished packing, stopped at the post office across the street to mail gifts, walked Market Street and stopped at Fog City News for more chocolate, had a lunch of dim sum at Yank Sing, and headed to airport.

I love San Francisco, and I really enjoyed the weather.  It was a bit chilly and windy the entire time, and Terri froze which sucked, but I loved it!

I know this review isn’t great, but I’m pressed for time.  School starts in less than 48 hours.

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