Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Our Visit to the City By the Bay

Hello from Klamath Falls, Oregon! We've been with my parents for several days now, rounding out our west coast week with another long visit family visit.

While we were in San Luis Obispo (one of our two stops between San Diego and Klamath Falls) Chris said, "I think I want to write the San Francisco post." My reaction to this announcement was more or less the same as it would be to, "I think I want to wear your underpants." Anyone with a blog will understand this. After I moped for a bit, he conceded that, "we could write it together." Since we had approximately five minutes alone to even try this...and I'm a terrible collaborator...I just told him to send me what he wanted me to post and I'd add to it.

So here it is! Chris' contribution is in italics:

Last time we checked in with you we were leaving San Luis Obispo and heading up for a short stay in my favorite city, San Francisco.

Just realizing now that we took approximately zero iconic San Francisco view pictures - so this will have to do.
Chris has taken numerous business trips to San Francisco, while I've only been there a handful of times. After sending him a draft itinerary for our stay, which he described as "aggressive," I said he could take my suggestions as such and let me know what he thought we should do with our 1.5 days in The City By the Bay. He had time to think it over on our drive up the coast.

The drive from SLO (as folks in the know say it) wasn't terribly long at all. It's shocking how quickly the miles and time just dissolve away. I was dreading all of the driving that I would have to do but my wife, the Road Warrior, decided that she was the only driver as she wanted to be able to say that she alone had driven across the US. 

I am 100% down with this description of me. I LOVE all of the driving. You know how people say that they love boring tasks like vacuuming or creating spreadsheets because it's "instant gratification"? Try driving across an entire state in one day. I do struggle a bit with anxiety, so I will admit that thinking about all of the destinations and activities to coordinate over the span of weeks often feels overwhelming. I've just focused on one day at a time and tried not to worry about what's going on at home (like my lonely husband and my heartsick dog). So yeah - I feel like fucking action hero.

Back to Chris' San Francisco notes...

We did the typical family outing to see the sea lions at the pier... 

...and wandered around and saw Lombard Street... 

Chinatown was Chinatown and the kids loved going in and out of junk shops. At some point we decided that we would stop off for lunch and went to Sam Wo's noodle shop where our server clued us in on a serious gem of information. She told us that there was a fortune cookie factory nearby! Now, seriously, who doesn't want to go to a fortune cookie factory when you have 3 children in tow! 

It looks like George is taking a drag from a cigarette - but he's really just eating a fortune cookie.

We headed out early the next day to see Kate's parents in Klamath Falls OR. [ bye SF! ] It was a beautiful drive up. None if us could believe that even though it was 97 degrees in the high desert Mt. Shasta still had snow cover! 

That was a very brief synopsis and completely out of order. I want to go over it again with a little more detail, because Chris really did an excellent job of squiring us around miles of the city (almost all of it on foot) and keeping it fun.

We arrived in San Francisco in the afternoon, so that first day we had time to get out and explore. Since our hotel was just a few blocks away from the Chinatown Dragon Gate, we started with that.

And yes - the kids wanted to go directly into the first touristy junk shop. We let them get that out of their system.

Chinatown in San Francisco is HUGE and the main drag, Grant Avenue, alone is a healthy walk uphill. With so much to see, I didn't hear "My legs are tired...I'm hungry...my feet are bleeding..." once. 

Ode to Joy, Chinatown style.

The next neighborhood up is North Beach, San Fran's Little Italy. Here, Chris picked an outdoor cafe where we could enjoy a beverage and some people watching.

Kids on stools that spin up and down = at least 20 minutes for Mom and Dad to have a glass of wine.

Our plan was to end up at Fisherman's Wharf. Yes - it's a tourist trap, but we ARE tourists. And we had kids to entertain. It was also an excellent place to find a bathroom (we hit Lombard Street on our walk there).

At this point, everyone was getting hungry, so we headed back to Little Italy. Chris did some research on Yelp as we walked and found a great restaurant, Franchino, that was casual enough for kids, but authentic enough to please adults who appreciate fine dining. Obviously, we ordered a bottle of wine.

That was a lot for a few hours. We were happy to collapse on our hotel beds and veg for the rest of the evening. 

I tend to hustle everyone out early each day, but Chris has ideas about vacation being relaxing or something. So we had a very leisurely morning in our room, eating breakfast he picked up at a local diner. 

My itinerary (we were loosely following parts of it) had us starting the day with a trolley ride up to Fisherman's Wharf again. We were only there for a short stroll the day before, and we still had to see the promised sea lions! But the sight of a line that wrapped around the block sent us back into Chinatown. After a little more junk shop perusing (the kids) and photo snapping (me), it was suddenly lunch time. Chris knew exactly where he wanted to go: the aforementioned, Sam Wo Restaurant. This is a local favorite and not heavily frequented by tourists. So we quickly found a table and enjoyed the best Chow Fun noodles I've ever eaten (some other stuff too).

On the way there, Oliver had spotted a shop with bags of fortune cookies in the window and asked if we could buy some. Thinking that we might avoid purchasing a huge bag of calories, Chris suggested that we just have a couple after our meal. Unfortunately, they don't serve them at Sam Wo's, but our server said we could buy some at "The Fortune Cookie Factory." Come again? There is a fortune cookie FACTORY in Chinatown? I consulted my iphone GPS and we headed that way (in case you were wondering, it's in Ross Alley, just off of Grant and Jackson). 

This MUST be listed in various city guides as a tourist attraction (surely I would have found it in a copy of Let's Go San Francisco back in the day) but I swear I didn't see it in any of the "must do" lists I scanned while planning our trip. So you heard it here first... Super cool, kid-friendly experience in San Francisco: The Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory.

Gotta pay 50 cents to take a picture. FYI.

Just make sure to check the sign on the shelf before you grab a bag of cookies...

I had been harping for days on how our children would love to take the ferry to Angel Island (about an hour ride into the bay). This was actually Plan B. A month earlier, I tried to buy tickets to Alcatraz, but it was completely sold out the one day we would be in town (pro tip: buy tickets to Alcatraz more than a month in advance). Several resources I consulted listed Angel Island as a fun activity for families, so I was really keen on this idea. Unfortunately, we were so busy in Chinatown that we ended up missing the boat (literally) and it was the last one of the day.

Instead, we visited the sea lions and battled crowds through the busier piers. It will come as no surprise that the section of San Francisco that Chris and I could have happily skipped was a huge hit with the under 12 crowd. We had a hard time tearing them away from Pier 39 where Oliver spent an inordinate amount of time developing back stories for the seagulls.

Eventually, we found ourselves out of the crowds at Hyde Street Pier, where we watched people swimming up to the little beach from the bay (they must be insane). There was also some thing with weights and pulleys that the twins found fascinating.

Everyone was pretty tired by now and we decided to try again with the cable car plan. Luckily, we were a few blocks away from where the Powell/Hyde line originates. There, we found a not short line of people with the same idea. We told the kids they could wait for about an hour in a sunny spot with a view of the bay and take a cable car back...or they could walk. They chose the not short line.

The majority of our wait was very pleasant and soon enough we enjoyed a very crowded ride to the hotel. George was a little disappointed by the slow speed down steep hills (at the first one he threw his hands up in the air expecting a roller coaster ride down). But novelty won out and he loved it anyway.

Everyone was pooped by the time we settled in, so we ordered a pizza for dinner and made an early night of it.

My original aggressive itinerary included a visit to Crissy Field and the Wave Organ on our way out of town...but we decided that we had done enough sightseeing. We were ready to get on the road. Our last San Francisco experience was driving over the Golden Gate Bridge (or as my kids refer to it, The Full House Bridge). We couldn't get a good view of it from the city while we were there (too foggy), but the ride across more than made up for that.

The quiet serenity of Klamath Falls has definitely been a departure from the previous week's hectic pace and big city sightseeing. More on our Oregon visit next time...

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