01 – San Francisco 1979, Part 1

January 4-15, 1979 

Thursday, January 4

Left Logan on a 9:00 pm flight to San Francisco via St. Louis. 

Friday, January 5 

We arrived in San Francisco at 2:30 am and went to sleep as soon as we reached Mary & John’s home. We got up at 10:30 am and took it easy, going out later for a walk around the neighborhood. You know you are in California right away: the flowers are in blossom and the homes are primarily the Mexican stucco type with tile roofs. We made a pizza for dinner, and went to bed early to prepare for the next day’s sightseeing. 

Saturday, January 6

We got up early and took the BART to San Francisco. We started our trip with the Gray Line tour, including the Harbor Cruise. Our tour guide was a nut, with one corny joke after another. He advised us to get used to him, as the jokes would not get any better. The bus tour took us by the Treasure Island Navy Base, located on an island in the middle of the Bay Bridge between San Francisco and Oakland. We drove by City Hall, and the Opera Center (where the U.N. was founded), coming to stop at Mission Dolores, which was founded in 1776 by Fr. Junipero Serra, and was the only building in the area to survive the Great Earthquake and Fire. We then drove to the top of Twin Peaks, which on a clear day gives a nice panoramic view of the city. Unfortunately, it was a hazy day, not very good for taking pictures. But we were told that the night view of the city lights is spectacular. The Yuma Indians called Twin Peaks ” the breast of an Indian maiden”. 

We then drove through Golden Gate Park (1013 acres), stopping at the Japanese Tea Garden. This is a lovely, formal Japanese garden, where we walked around for half an hour. Next stop was the Seal rocks on the Pacific Coast of San Francisco. The rocks had seals and sea birds 

all over them. The surf crashing on the rocks was lovely, and we were told that swimming is prohibited on the beach due to the treacherous current. 

We drove past the Presidio, the oldest military installation in continuous use in the U.S. Founded by the Spanish in 1776, several months before the Declaration of Independence was signed, it was later under the Mexican, and now U.S. flags. The Presidio is right next to the Golden Gate Bridge, where we first stopped to get a view of the bridge, and see a cross section of the cable, which is one yard in diameter. We drove across the bridge into Marin County (Sausalito, Tiburow), and then back into San Francisco, passing the Palace of Fine Arts. The towers on the Golden Gate Bridge are as tall as a 70 story building. 

Our bus tour ended at Fisherman’s Wharf. We had lunch at Fisherman’s Grotto, where half a loaf of the famous sourdough bread is placed on each table. We both had the Giant Pacific Red Snapper. After lunch we took the harbor cruise, under the Golden Gate Bridge, around Alcatraz, under the Bay Bridge, and back to the pier. 

We wandered around, through the Cannery, and up to Ghirardelli Square, where we stopped to see a juggling act on the stage in the central plaza. Every day there are different performers on the stage, musicians, magicians, and the like. Cheryl introduced me to Ghirardelli’s Ice Cream Store, where we pigged-out on sundaes. We walked down to the cable car, which brought us to the BART station on Market Street, returning us to Oakland. 

Mary & John treated us to Falafel, cheese, tomatoes, bean sprouts, and tahini, served on the sourdough bread we brought back from Boudin’s on Fisherman’s Wharf. Delicious! 

Sunday, January 7 

We got up at 7:30 and took the BART downtown. We had breakfast at a yecchy place with cockroaches, and determined that we should find better way to choose restaurants. We took the MUNI to Golden Gate Park. It was raining, so we went inside to the California Academy of Science. We started with the Planetarium show, and wandered through the Anthropology exhibits, finally ending up in the Aquarium. Around 1:00 we checked on the Sunday Afternoon outdoor concert, which turned out to be canceled due to the rain. So we finished seeing the Aquarium, and then saw the Gem stone exhibit, and the bird exhibits. We saw one duck with an upturned tail that cracked us up. 

We returned to Oakland for a dinner of curried vegetables and rice with Mary & John. After dinner, some musician friends came by (Jim on tenor sax, and Bob on drums) and we made some noise together. 

Monday, January 8

We got up at 7:30 again, and went back downtown. We stumbled across a nice place for breakfast, the Crepe Escape. It was like a French Cafe, with hanging plants and paintings on the walls. I had a memorable Banana Crepe, which had only the crepe, sliced bananas, and real whipped cream; it had no sugary sauce or other detrimental embellishments. After breakfast, we stopped at a bookstore and got two books on San Francisco, one of which had restaurant menus and reviews. We are now armed and ready to do Battle!!! 

For our first stop we went to Old St. Mary’s Cathedral, which is run by the Paullists. It had a stained glass window of St. Paul preaching in Athens. The story goes that as he preached to the crowd, he said “I see that you have a temple to an unknown God. I come to tell you of that unknown God.” This story was told to us by a young priest whose ambition is to be “stationed” at the Paullist Center in Boston! 

We left the Cathedral and resumed walking in the rain. It has been pouring since we left Mary’s house, and we have been walking the streets, first in search of breakfast, later to St. Mary’s, and now to the cable car, which we discover is temporarily out-of-order. With our feet thoroughly soaked, we search out coffee and consider our next move. 

We decide on Ghirardelli Square, which received only a cursory examination our first day out. The cable cars are now working, so away we go. The cable car to Ghirardelli Square (the Powell-Hyde) stops at Lombard St. known as “The Crookedest Street in the World” on its way. At the Square we started going through the many shops. We found an Irish shop, called the Kilkenny Shop, where I bought a poster of an Historical Map of Ireland and tried on many hats, although none of them proved to fit my image. We found a Music Box store called Richters, and spent a long time looking them over, trying to decide whether to buy one. We decided to consider it over lunch, and ultimately decided against it. 

We had a Hungarian lunch at Paprika’s Fono, where we sat on the terrace with a beautiful view of the bay. Cheryl had the “students” lunch of sausages, potatoes, and pickled cabbage salad. I had the Gypsy Steak, which was pork steaks with potatoes, red cabbage, and a sliced beet salad. The food was delicious, and led me to conclude that the Piarist fathers could be arrested for defamation of Hungarian Cuisine. 

After lunch, we wandered through the Square some more, and stopped at a store called “Light Opera” which had beautiful glass sculptures, jewelry, cups, bowls, etc. It’s incredible what can be done with glass! 

Our final stop on today’s tour was the San Francisco Maritime Museum. It had a lot of model ships, mostly made by sailors in their off time aboard ship, and navigation instruments, etc. One particularly interesting exhibit was three views of San Francisco: before the Gold Rush, during the Gold Rush, and a modern view. The striking thing was the difference the Gold Rush made in just a year or two. Before the Gold Rush, there were a half-dozen ships in the harbor and scattered houses. During the Gold Rush, the harbor was a forest of masts, and you couldn’t see the water for all the ships. It was called “The greatest movement of people since the Crusades”. 

We took the Cable car back to Market St., and on to Oakland. Mary and John suggested a Mexican Restaurant called “Mexicali Rose”, located in Oakland, which had great food and lots of it. The check came to $21.00 for four, and we were so full we thought we would need to be rolled to the truck. 

We ended our day with a rousing game of Scrabble, and went to bed. 

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