Wednesday, March 9, 2011

San Francisco Highlights

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It's been a whirlwind week. I still can't believe I'm sitting in my own dining room looking at snow outside the windows instead of flowers.

Arriving home at midnight Tues. night has left me a bit jet-lagged and groggy, which hasn't helped the feeling that I wish I were still enjoying the temperate climate and ocean breezes of the coast. It will be months before spring truly arrives here.

Uff da.

To cheer myself up I am going back through my pictures from last week.

Like visiting Fisherman's Grotto on Fisherman's Wharf for lunch with my aunt and uncle. They recommended the Boston Clam Chowder (scrumptious!) and the fresh dungeness crab (I had the sandwich - yum).

Fresh crab would turn out to be a recurring theme this week - after eating it here I would also later have it fresh cracked, in crab dip and crab salad. Considering I don't normally eat finger food (like cracking crab), this was quite an accomplishment for me.

Fisherman's Grotto
There is a great view from this restaurant but alas, this was one of only 2 days it rained while I was out there so I only caught glimpses of the Golden Gate Bridge through the fog and drizzle.

Fisherman's Wharf
While we ate, my aunt and uncle told me stories of the city and the area, of earthquakes and bridges,the history of the wharf and of an odd little man nicknamed the "bush man," who could often be found on the wharf hiding behind a couple of tree branches and scaring the living bajeevus out of anyone who passed by. Then asking the laughing on-lookers for donations. (Clever way to earn some change, no?)

After lunch I was given a short tour of the city, complete with a climb up Lombard Street and a visit to Coit Tower on Telegraph Hill.

I enjoyed reading about Lillie Coit, the San Francisco legend who became the mascot and honorary member of Knickerbocker Engine Co. 5, often accompanying the fire truck as it was hoisted up Telegraph Hill to a blaze.

After her death at age 86, Lillie left one-third of her fortune to the city “to be expended in an appropriate manner for the purpose of adding to the beauty of the city which I have always loved.” The tower is the outcome of that donation. Murals ring the walls inside the tower, depicting aspects of California life in 1934 when the paintings were commissioned.

Coit Tower mural
My favorites were those depicting country scenes like this one, where the cows are housed in a pristine barn and attended to by men in white, even receiving a shower!

Although the view of the city and bay was draped in fog, we marveled at this little park at the top of the city and at the fortitude of the residents whose homes perch seemingly precariously on the edges!

As enchanting as the tower and murals were, by far the most beautiful building I visited during this trip was The Palace Hotel. This iconic landmark has graced the city for over 100 years, having been completely rebuilt after the 1906 earthquake.

The Palace Hotel Garden Court
The Garden Court's stained glass dome ceiling graced with Austrian crystal chandeliers is really a sight to behold. Having dabbled in stained glass myself awhile back, I can really appreciate the work and effort that went into building this amazing ceiling.

Garden Court ceiling
After wandering around the Garden Court (which is used as a dining room) we were then drawn into the dimly lit, richly appointed interior of the Pied Piper Bar, so named because of its 1909 Maxfield Parrish mural of "The Pied Piper of Hamlin." Joel the bartender was not nearly as gregarious as Larry in Pescadero, however, he makes a darn fine Long Island Iced Tea.

Or so I'm told.

Pied Piper Bar, Palace Hotel
After checking in and wandering around a bit, Lowell took me over to Yank Sing for deem sum - another first in culinary experiences for me. As you are seated at your table, staff wheel carts of fresh offerings of bite-sized Chinese noms around the restaurant and you pick and choose as they go by.

It was, of course, yummy. Everything I ate this week was yummy. My jeans no longer fit me.

To counter all this great food, I hoodwinked Lowell into attending a hooping class with me later in the evening. My favorite professional hoop dancer, Christabel Zamor of Hoopgirl, teaches a beginners class every Monday night on Divisidero Street about 2 miles from the hotel.

Sadly, Hoopgirl herself was not in attendance this night, but one of her instructors filled in for her, Debbie. She was a lovely girl with long curls and beautiful tattoos on her back and arms. She spoke with an exotic accent.

I had a blast in this class. Having been hooping in the privacy of my living room for awhile now, it was still a good workout but not nearly as strenuous as it was for those (like Lowell) who had just picked up a hoop for the first time that night.

Twenty minutes into the class I looked over and saw Lowell mouthing the words, "You Are Evil!"

I think deep down inside he really did have a fun time though, despite his aching glutes and thighs. If you're ever up for the challenge, hooping is great cardio and a phenomenal core workout, not to mention, just plain fun!

Hoopgirl class!
After catching a cab back to the hotel, we had just enough time to change and head out for... dinner!

Lowell's friend Dana picked us up and we headed over to Chaya Brasserie, which serves a yummy and surprising combination of Japanese and French cuisine.

I'm sure I don't have to tell you that my roasted free-range chicken breast was yummy.

Not only that, the company was utterly delightful. Not that I'm surprised, all of Lowell's friends and coworkers that I met while visiting were engaging and entertaining, and everyone without exception seems to adore him.

The Palace Hotel
After all of this fun, food and excitement, it was time to head back to the hotel and call it a night. Of special interest was the king sized bed, which I had all to myself, with no cats pinning me down in strategic places!

It was sad to awake the next morning realizing I would soon be on a plane back to Minnesnowta.

It is still sad now that I am back.

Not just because of the temperature, the snow, the lack of flowers and sunshine, but because it had been 25 years since I had last spent any measurable amount of time with Lowell.

And now I remembered exactly why it was that I cherished his friendship so much in the first place.

If ever there was a kinder, more generous, loving soul, I have yet to meet him. Hanging with Lowell is like putting on your favorite pair of jeans - perfect fit, and they make you feel great.

Unlike my current pair, which, for some strange reason, do not seem to fit me at all after my week in San Carlos!

Cheers -

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