Friday, October 30, 2009

Day 1: San Francisco

My adventures in California with Nick carry an element of the atypical. I've seen San Diego without sun and San Francisco without fog. The first was not appreciated, the latter certainly has been. Since my internal clock had not adjusted to the time change I was up at 6:30, and we were walking the city at 8:00.

It has become typical for us to preview cities in the morning. Ironic since I favor a vacation involving sleep, but I can't deny that being part of a city's wake-up routine is a unique experience - and ideal for the tourist desiring pictures sans other tourists desiring pictures. If we had caught on sooner we would've started counting the number of people carrying Starbucks coffee. When in Rome. Twist my arm.

So we made it down to the piers, passing bicyclists, runners and moms taking their kids to school. Some were dressed in Halloween garb and one man's desk was covered in faux spider web. The streets were being cleaned, the vines trimmed, pelicans were swooping, and laughs came from behind closed doors. By making a pass of a city in the AM, I don't find it as easy to become engrossed in the role of tourist - the routine of waking up, similar enough to my own morning routine, reminds me that people live here.

This does not stop me from taking advantage of the tourist-less atmosphere. I was unprepared for the giggles produced by watching the sea lions. On what looked like 10-12 large wooden slabs was an entire community of sea lions. And about 3/4 of them appeared to be sleeping-though with all the ruckus caused by the barking and sneezing of the other lions I'm not sure how. It had potential to be the hotbed for Sea Lion H1N1. More amusing were the sentinel sea gulls. Posts were stationed at the front of the wooden slab line-up and one sea gull per post watched over the partially dozing sea lion community. The other side of the view was Alcatraz.

We continued walking and, on a blessedly fog-free Friday, we meandered up a hill to get a perfect view of the Golden Gate Bridge (incidently not the bridge that recently had a severe malfunction and has forced an entire sub-population of the city to "telecommute"). It was still early enough that shops were opening, cafe tables were being shuffled, mounds of jewelry were being lined up for display and bike rentals were just starting. A couple in front of us had rented a tandem bike. The man dutifully was taking it to the side and the woman quickly darted over to follow behind. Nick casually noted "That's not going to work. I saw the look in her eyes." As we meandered up the aforementioned hill for the view the couple passed us - on two separate bikes.

I laughed as the woman wobbled up the steep hill and barely avoided a collision with a more experienced biker flying around a corner and down the hill. It was not so funny when Nick and I decided to climb Hyde Street to get a look at "the crookedest street in America". Straight. Up. And wobbled at the end.

Chinatown also was waking up. You turn a corner, and BAM! People! Everywhere. The markets were open and the smell of questionably fresh fruit was a nice addition to our already overwhelmed senses.

By 10:30 we had hiked our butts around most of the sites we had initially planned to see. It was back to our hotel for a quick shower and to check-out of Nick's business hotel for our personal weekend accommodations. More walking.

A relaxing lunch on top of Macy's re-fueled our spirits, and we set off for a bookstore Nick had passed in Little Italy. More walking. It was a cute bookstore, three small floors, a disconnected staircase and haphazardly organized shelves of books. In the end, I bought a children's book on San Francisco - The Cable Car and the Dragon - and picked up a free newspaper of book reviews. Nick promised we'd come back for dinner at a spot he had eaten at earlier.

Time for the hotel and a break. My internal clock needed a nap and my feet needed to be free. Then it was a trip to a local garden area and museum center and dinner (in Little Italy as promised). Tomorrow will be the farmer's market and a round of museums (the King Tut exhibit being a priority). And Halloween.

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