We began our first full day in San Francisco with a bike tour. Our guide, Sam, started by assuring us that the tour involved only a couple of hills, and not big ones by San Francisco standards, which was nice to hear, having just walked up and down several gigantic ones on the way to the rental shop. Off we went from Aquatic Park, through Fort Mason and the Marina, and over to the Palace of Fine Arts. Sam was a wealth of information, explaining how the palace was constructed for the Panama-Pacific Exposition of 1915. At the time, the palace was intended to stand only for the duration of the exhibition, and was constructed out of something only slightly more substantial than papier-mâché. Nearly 50 years later, the crumbling palace was demolished, and a more durable concrete version was built over the original steel structure. On a fairly unrelated note, Sam also informed us that there are more dogs than children in San Francisco.
On we went, past Crissy Field and the Presidio before we got to the main attraction.
I had been across the Golden Gate bridge before, but only via car. I’d also been under it in a boat, but going across it on foot or on a bike definitely gives you a different perspective. The main thing that struck me was the sheer size of the main cables. They’re huge! Their circumference is substantially larger than a typical wine barrel, and, as Sam informed us, they contain enough miles of wire to circle the Earth more than three times. Vacations are so educational. I should really take more!
Our timing was good in that it was mostly sunny, so our view was relatively unimpeded as we crossed, but it was cool to see the fog start to creep across the bridge. When we stopped at the other side to rest and let all the tour members catch up, Sam turned to me and said, “Do you get fog in Chicago?” This seemed like an odd question, like asking, “Do you get rain in New York?” True, fog does not come to Chicago with the same regularity as it does in San Francisco, but, for anyone else who is wondering, yes, Chicago does get foggy from time to time.
We continued on to Sausalito, where the guided part of the tour ended and we were free to do as we pleased. We locked up our bikes, took in the town, and enjoyed sandwiches and beer at Venice Deli as our reward for all that hard work of biking, not to mention all the learnin’ we did!
Side note: During this trip, I could not help but notice that California seems to have a great many stores devoted entirely to socks. Sonoma, Napa, San Francisco, and Sausalito all had dedicated sock stores. Perhaps sock shops are simply popular in touristy areas (probably because souvenir junkies like me can’t help but purchase novelty socks while on vacation…or any time really, but especially while on vacation). In any case, I picked these up, which seemed especially apt for that day.
We retrieved our bikes and took the ferry back to San Francisco, watching the fog loom in a beautiful but somewhat menacing way as we departed Sausalito.
Once off the ferry, we rode back to the rental shop to return our bikes. After all the exercise, we figured we deserved some ice cream, so off we went to Ghiardelli. (Okay, it really wasn’t that much exercise, but it was more than we’d had for most other days of the trip. Besides, it was vacation!)
We strolled around the waterfront for a while, and at one point, we spotted in the crowd a woman and her young son, both dressed as superheros. He was Captain America. I’m not sure who she was supposed to be, but my knowledge of superheroines is rather lacking. Regardless, after our Superman sighting the previous day, I began to wonder if there was a convention being held nearby or if I was unaware of some new fashion trend. These two looked considerably less conspicuous among the crowd near Pier 39 than did Superman in front of Napa Town Hall, but still…why? In this case, I never seriously considered taking a picture because not one of us was sitting still. Plus, there was a kid involved, and that definitely ups the creeper factor when it comes to snapping pictures of strangers.
I was slightly disappointed that none of the sea lions at Pier 39 were dressed as superheroes. Those are some pictures I definitely would have taken. Ah well, you can’t have everything.
We started to make our way back in the direction of our hotel. The previous day, I had notice signs in Union Square offering Happy Hour specials between 4:00 and 7:00, and that sounded good to us. We arrived at the square, which has two similar bar/cafe buildings opposite one another, each with outdoor seating. It was cool out, so we opted for the sunny side of the square, not noticing at the time that the drinks were more expensive there. Clever! Have specials on the side that’s shady in the afternoon to lure more people over there. We shrugged at having paid a couple dollars extra and sat down to soak up some sun and people watch.
When our glasses were empty, there was one thing left on the agenda for the afternoon–hat shop! In my out-of-date San Francisco guide book, I had found a hat shop I wished to patronize, but alas, learned that it was no longer in business. I searched the interwebs to find a suitable replacement to fill my hat shop void and came up with Goorin Bros. They have stores in Chicago, so it wasn’t exactly exotic, but I’d never been to one before. Plus, it was not far from the hotel, so it seemed like a good place to get my hat shop fix. It was a tiny little store. The lone employee there informed me that it used to be an elevator. Then all I could think of was the scene in Being There when Chance (aka Chauncey) is wheeled into an elevator and remarks, “This is a very small room.” Anyway, small as it was, it was packed with lovely hats, and I walked away the proud new owner of this one.
We finished out the day with cocktails at Mortimer an dinner at Colibri, which had delicious food and one of, if not the, most extensive tequila menus I’ve ever seen. However, no one was coercing me, so I didn’t have any shots, just a margarita. Ian and I toasted our penultimate evening in San Francisco and having kicked the day in it’s sunshiny ass (in a good way, of course).