San Francisco 1979, Part 2

Tuesday, January 9

It is raining, but we hope it will end soon. The weather forecast is that today will be the only sunny day this week, and we want to go to the Muir Woods. 

It does stop raining, so we pack a picnic lunch and head off. The Muir Woods are spectacular. They are home to the California Red­wood (Sequoia Sempivirens) which is the world’s tallest tree. The tallest tree at Muir is 243 feet high. The Muir Woods is nestled in a valley along the coast, surrounded by what would be mountains on the East coast, but out here are only foothills. The trees blocked out the Sun in most places, making it rather dark, and as a result of the rain it was quite damp. Virtually every tree except the Redwoods were covered with moss, and we even saw ferns growing on trees. The redwoods contain certain resins to protect them from the moss. 

One rather interesting note: we saw congregations (?) of ladybugs. Apparently they mate and winter-over in the Muir Woods. Come spring they fly to the San Joaquin valley, give birth, and die. The young eat aphids all summer, and in the winter are carried by wind either to Muir Woods on the west coast, or east to the foothills of the Sierra’s. 

We took a long walk through the park, including a hillside trail, which is just a path cut into the side of the hill. The strongest impression was of peacefulness. It was simply very quiet and beautiful. 

We left the park and drove along coastal Route 1 north towards Stinson beach. The coastline is rather mountainous, with beaches at scattered locations. The road twists and turns along the upper part of the ridge, and is only two lanes wide. After driving about ten minutes, we stopped on top of a promontory overlooking the ocean and had our picnic lunch. We had a wonderful view of the rugged coast. 

We went back to Oakland to rest before dinner. We went to the Fleur de Lys, a wonderful french restaurant which is decorated like a Sultan’s tent. It had an interesting chandelier, no crystal, but an asymmetrical cluster of curved arms, some with lamps on the end, some without. In the center of the room was a huge bread basket sculpture, with all different kinds of bread and dried plants heaped upon a wicker basket. The service was excellent, and all the waiters spoke with heavy french accents (Cheryl surmised they were all French majors from Berkeley-tsk, tsk). We began with country pate, which we felt was not quite the equal of the Hermitage, but nevertheless quite good. It was accompanied by marvelous little pickles not like anything I’ve ever had. We followed this with Couer de Palmier Vinaigrette -palm hearts- which were very tender and had a taste somewhat like asparagus tips. Cheryl enjoyed the Vinaigrette marinade so much she mopped it up with bread- naturally the San Francisco French sourdough bread. The main course was roast rack of lamb- lovely, tender, pink, luscious lamb. It put to shame any lamb we’ve ever had anywhere. It was accompanied by little round potato balls and Nicoise Ratatouille. All of this was washed down with Perrier water. To cap off the meal, we had dessert with French coffee. Cheryl had vanilla ice cream with chestnut sauce and whipped cream, and I had cream puffs filled with vanilla ice cream, and covered with chocolate sauce and whipped cream. Yum, Yum!! I should also point out that the french coffee was the only decent cup of coffee I had while I was out there. For some reason, San Francisco does not understand the art of making coffee. This whole affair was a leisurely two hours, and one of the most memorable meals we’ve ever had. 

After dinner, we took a stroll through the downtown area, window shopping, and finally headed back to Oakland. 

Wednesday, January 10

We slept a little bit later today, and went downtown for breakfast at Mama’s. There are a couple of Mama’s in San Francisco. We went to the one on the top of Nob Hill. It features some of the best breakfasts imaginable. Cheryl had pineapple juice, I had Orange juice (fresh squeezed–lots of pulp and a few seeds in the glass). Coffee was served in glasses, placed inside wicker baskets. We both had french toast, Cheryl with raisin-nut bread, and me with Swedish cinnamon bread. For topping we had a mound of fresh fruit, and whipped cream. 

We walked down Jones street to the Civic Center, and took a trolley out to the Zoo, which is clear across town. We spent several hours walking around, seeing perhaps half the Zoo. There were peacocks walking around everywhere, practically getting underfoot, and wherever there was water there were ducks. We caught feeding time in the lion house, before heading back downtown. 

We took the Cable car to Fisherman’s wharf, where we had our pictures taken in Victorian clothes. We wandered around some, and made a few phone calls, and it started to rain again. We engaged the services of a hackney carriage to take us out to the Point Lobos area, where we had dinner at a Moroccan restaurant called El Mansour. It is owned by the same people as the Fleur de Lys, but the only resemblance is in the tent-like decor. You put yourself in their hands here, and it is worth it. You get one dinner for one price, $10.75, but you can choose from about twelve entrees. 

We were seated at round, inlaid tables, about the height of a coffee table, where you can choose between couch seats along the walls or cushions on the floor (Arabic-style). Such seasoned world travelers as Cheryl and I of course chose the cushions. The waiter then came and washed our hands, leaving us the towels to serve as napkins. Aside from being a pleasant custom. this also cleaned the only utensils used for the meal, our fingers. 

First course was spicy lentil soup, accompanied by fresh, hot Arabic bread (loaf type, not the flat Syrian pouches). The bread is served with every course, and is used to scoop up, mop up, dunk, etc. The soup was followed by a marinated, spicy salad plate of carrot and cucumber slices, and eggplant and tomato salads. Then a very unusual and tasty pie of chicken, pork, and almonds, surrounded by’ a filo type pastry and topped with confectioners sugar and cinnamun. For the main course, Cheryl and I both had the Couscous and Chicken, a half chicken, roasted, on a bed of couscous and covered with spicy vegetables, chick peas, and raisins. We discussed ordering two different main courses to try them, but the fact is that 90% of the time we independently choose the same menu. We both find this to be remarkable, and perhaps inescapable.  

After the main course, our hands were washed again and sprinkled with flower water ( we both sniffed our hands often on the way home, which may have puzzled people on the bus). Finally, the desert was a banana slice dipped in batter and deep fried, covered with honey and confectioners sugar, served with mint tea. The waiter placed the glasses on the table, and poured the tea from his shoulder into the glasses. It must have taken some practice to do that! 

We pushed back from the table, stretched out and relaxed, enter­ tained by the two waiters (Chinese) trying to fix a problem in the music system. It sounded like a worn out 8-track cartridge, but it took fifteen minutes of useless adjustments before it was fixed. After leaving, we caught a bus in the pouring rain and returned to Oakland via BART. 

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