A day in San Francisco

On the first weekend in February, Evelyn and I had the opportunity to spend a full day in San Francisco, following a week in San Jose. Evelyn was on a business trip to the SNIA Winter Symposium, and I was able to tag along for the ride, working from the hotel room (where I did not expect to find an Aeron chair).

Come Saturday we ventured on up to San Francisco, accompanied by Evelyn’s esteemed colleague, Kevin, who, being a native of the Bay Area, essentially served as our tour guide. Close to ten years had passed since I was last in San Francisco, on occasion of an orchestra tour while in high school, and it was Evelyn’s first visit to the city.

We began the morning at Fisherman’s Wharf, where we wandered over to a large building by the water that had a banner with “Free Admission” and something about a museum. It turned out to be the home of Musee Mecanique (or the Mechanical Museum of San Francisco), which was a wonderful surprise for us. The museum features hundreds of antique machines, nearly all in working order (especially the coin-operated part), including orchestrions, mechanical dioramas, animatronics, early video games, and other classic game machines from earlier generations. Highlights were some of the early sports games, almost anything that made music, and the modernĀ  classics like Pole Position and Spy Hunter.

Following the museum we had clam chowder in bread bowls for lunch, enjoyed the great weather and walked around the piers. We saw breakdancers perform (put the other street performers to shame), heard live music (a very young band, weak), bought some chocolate (tasty), saw the sea lions (boring, they’re better in Oregon) and eventually got a $40 parking ticket (super weak – watch those 1 hour meters!).

We then proceeded to Ghirardelli Square, which was ultimately underwhelming, in part because a large portion was closed for construction and renovation. The Ghirardelli store was mildly interesting, but it suffers from the wide availability of so many Ghirardelli products these days, that only a few items seemed unique or exclusive to the store. We passed on ice cream, and weren’t interested in the other shops in the Square, so we left.

Our next stop was the Golden Gate Park and eventually the infamous Bridge. After snapping some pictures, we walked a ways onto the bridge, enjoyed the view, I snapped some more pictures, and then we walked back.

It was late afternoon when we arrived at the Japanese Tea Garden, only to find out that they’re not open very late during the winter months. There was still a little time before they closed, so we went in anyway. The gardens were attractive despite the time of year, with a variety of plants and garden areas and two pagodas, although the large pond being empty was disappointing.

Across the street was the San Francisco Botanical Garden. We decided to walk around there too, as there was still some time left before the sun went down. It reminded me a bit of the Oregon Garden, although it was a bit strange to realize that this place was in such a busy urban area. We enjoyed the flora and fauna (just ducks and squirrels) before heading back to the car. On our way to the other side of the city, it was getting dark, but we still drove down the super curvy Lombard Street, even in the non-agile rental car (rhymes with chorus).

Dinner was at a great Italian restaurant in North Beach, Trattoria Pinocchio. We ended the night by spending some time walking around in Chinatown. Kevin knew of a small back-alley place that made fortune cookies and he was able to find it again, so we got to have some hot cookies right off the line. In addition, we both had chocolate ones for the first time. At the last shop we visited, we picked up a small tea set, and I finally tried bubble tea for the first time.

It was a long day but we had a great time. I’ll have the pictures up soon.

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