San Francisco has always been a place that I would want to relentlessly visit. Its allure always has me coming back for more and drooling at the mouth because I cant get enough of it. If the last time I was there was just an appetizer then surely this time around I had my first taste of the entrée that is this amazing little corner of the world.
I am fortunate enough to get in a few days of just relaxed wandering, adventurous sight seeing and reconnection with family and old friends. All the while showing my travel companions what it is about this city that I love. We set forth quite a list of things to see, places to go, people to visit that at first it seemed daunting. Twenty-four hours in a day surely wasn’t enough, but coupled next to our tenacity to see it through we ventured forth once we landed.
I missed the Japanese Tea Garden the last time I was in town but I surely was not going to miss it again. It’s a quaint little corner tucked away in the Golden Gate National Park near the western side of San Francisco. Street parking being abundant not to mention my rental was a wee little Yaris hatchback; it truly was a car made for this city. Admission is a small $8 but that pays it forward for the upkeep of this amazing little place.
One step in and you’re taken back in time to imperial Japan, or it seems like it. Right from the admission gate there is the teahouse overlooking much of the pond set in center. This teahouse would be a place in which I divulge my love of iced green tea, which I highly recommend you try, delicious. When you walk around you notice how neat and tidy everything is, maybe a reflection of the culture of the Japanese. Atop a hill you’ll notice a large standing pagoda, you can’t really miss its attention grabbing nature.
Below this led way to a waterfall that fed itself into a larger pond. My friend hollered to me to come quickly, to my amazement in the pond there laid a copious amount of koi fishes. Every color, every size imaginable made this pond their home. Wander off further and there were pathways littered with trees on either side. This was a good opportunity to sit in peace and quiet to be with one’s thoughts. Found all around the garden was bamboo shoots. Stare long enough into a few of them and you’ll think you’ve lost yourself in a forest filled.
If you venture out of the garden you’ll be presented to walk towards the California Academy of Science. This venue hosts a planetarium as well as an aquarium, sadly all of which we didn’t have time for. I heard that they do host a Thursday night party where local brewery comes to vend and this allows for a walking around with a cold one in your hand. Despite this there presented itself statues and water fountains to gawk and ogle over.
I saw Alcatraz from the far away safety of Pier 39 the last time I was here. This time I found myself on a ferry going towards that very island. The Rock as they call it was a prison for the worse of the worse. Those who broke the law went to prison. Those who broke the prison’s law went to Alcatraz. If that didn’t fear enough just the words being uttered would bring chills to my spine.
We opted for the audio-guided tour that was part of our admission ticket. Usually I never really follow a guide but rather wander off on my own, but in this case I really am glad I took this option. The audio was from real people that were there during the time it was in full operations. Correctional officers to inmates all the way to the warden’s children were part of this audio tour. It gave you goose bumps when they described to you the facility, the inmates, and the escape attempts that occurred over the years and even the feeling of solitary from the world.
I don’t think I ever appreciated my freedom from a prison quite like I did after this tour. Although Alcatraz as an island seems like a wonderful place to live, let alone build a prison there, the weather is very damaging to anything on the island. Harsh winds and weather have eroded many of the buildings there. Once upkeep was deemed to high the government decided to shut it down. Fortunately enough the site is now an historical park, which means it will be around for when you go for your own tour.
Seals and Pier 39 kind of goes hand in hand. It is one of the many attractions of this part of the pier aside from the many shops and eateries. Seals and shopping aren’t the only thing though as there was a make shift concert featuring the men and women of the U.S. Navy ongoing while I walked around. If you ever needed a souvenir then this is ideally the place where you will find what you are looking for.
An unexpected surprise during the visit was when we realized we came in the right time for Fleet Week. Masses of ships, fighting armadas, naval planes and bombers were surrounding the bay. As a bonus the U.S. Navel’s Blue Angels were going to perform during the weekend. I love planes. I love aeronautical acrobats. Put the two together and you honestly have quite the show. My first time seeing this live in person and the thunderous exhaust booms of the jet turbines left me feeling heart palpitations. That is how close I was and how low they flew.
If you grew up in the same era as me then Full House should be a word combination you are very familiar with. I couldn’t find the park in which the show’s ending opening scene was shot but I was determined this time. Alamo Square. Mark it down, punch it into your GPS and you’ll be there in no time. The backdrop of houses isn’t actually the Full House’s house. Their names are the painted ladies. Their immaculate detail is undeniable. All six of them are decorated, painted and given such defining features that not any two are alike but they are able to create a serene sense of unity.
Another vista point displaying the city’s incredible skyline is Twin Peaks Park. It is two peaks; as you can guess already, near the outskirt of the city center that allows to you view back at the middle. It was quite a troop to get too with endless hills, the worse being Divisadero Street, but with trusted brakes you shouldn’t have a problem. Once there the overlook is quite euphoric inducing. To the left you see the Golden Gate Bridge, to the right you see the Oakland Bay Bridge and in the middle you have the best city outside of my own of Boston. Sit a while, catch your breath and let life catch up with you a little bit.
No trip is complete without a forging to see the Golden Gate Bridge. I saw it from Fort Point my last time out, this time I wanted the opposite view. If you ever want this vista point simply go to Marin Headlands in Sausalito. Many of tourists are here so finding parking on this narrow bit of freeway will be difficult. But if you see a spot that your economical car can park in I suggest you do so. Any ticket will be worth the price for the view you are about to enjoy.
Yes it simply is a bridge, but it’s more than that. This isn’t a place you simply go to, snap off a few photos, take a selfie and leave. You need to go there and just take it in, as much like the rest of the places I have visited during my trip here. Of course there is caution wires telling visitors to stay clear of the cliffs, but is that any way to view the majesty that is before you? I hopped the wired barricade and planted my firm behind on the ground. With my legs dangling near the cliff’s edge I did exactly what I have been telling anyone to do all along this trip, sit back, catch your breath and let life catch up with you.
It seriously couldn’t be a better ending to my trip than with this view, with my friends and with the knowledge of being satisfied with life’s beauty. This entrée was immaculate in presentation, impeccable in taste and flawlessly pulled off with its many diverse offerings, all on one plate. I am full from it but I have left enough room for dessert. I will be back soon enough to let my pallet run amuck once again in this beautiful city so far away from mine.