Jul 31, 2009

I Found My Heart in San Francisco

The Golden Gate Bridge and the city of San Francisco, Sabbath, July 25, 2009

The primary purpose of our trip to San Francisco was for the marathon, but even without that epic event our time in the Bay area would have been one of the most fun and memorable of our lives.

Ever since my brief glimpse of San Francisco two years ago, I knew I'd want to come back and spend some more time. Now after an all too short long weekend there, I'm again certain we'll want to go back when we can spend even more time there.

So what made this trip so special? Well, there's the city itself--perhaps the most beautiful in America. There was the food--we ate like kings last weekend (and spent like kings too!). But most of all, it was the good friends we got to share our time with.

The City

The view from Bev & Greg's living room. They have a beautiful studio apartment in the Marina district.

Babs and I completely fell in love with the city of San Francisco. It's a city full of vibrant creativity--artistic would define it in a word. The distinct architectural styles, the multitude of galleries, coffee shops, the parks, the tree-lined streets, the very geography of the place with it's many hills has an certain aesthetic sensiblity. Even the laundromats have style in San Francisco. Bev and Greg do their laundry at a place called The Missing Sock that features earth tones, warmly lit washers and dryers, and art on the walls.

San Francisco is a city of great cultural diversity as well. Chinatown, North Beach, Japantown, Castro, Haight & Ashbury, the rough & ready Tenderloin, and upper crust Nob Hill--every neighborhood has it's distinctive qualities and unique contribution to the vibrant life of the city. Even the bohemian characters one encounters on the street seem to have an artsy bent--the homeless of San Francisco have a certain funky style that sets them apart from your average hard-luck panhandler. And for such a large city, we were impressed by the kindness of the strangers we encountered there--the woman who gave Barbara $5 on the bus when she didn't have change; the homeless guy hunched over on the street that overheard me say I was looking for a bathroom and pointed me in the right direction (and asked for nothing in return), the many San Franciscans that stood all along the race route on Sunday and cheered us on, even when the race had been going for more than six hours.

We were truly blessed by our time in San Francisco and, the earthquakes and chilly fog notwithstanding, we wouldn't mind becoming San Franciscans ourseleves someday.

The Palace of Fine Arts, built for the 1916 World's Fair, located not far from Bev and Greg's place.

Time was limited. It was Thursday afternoon when we finally arrived in the city by train from San Jose (where we'd flown in from Florida). We met up with my former students Aya Sato and Holly Delacruz for a late lunch and then connected with our friends from Saipan, Bev Cabanatan and Greg Moretti. Friday we had brunch with the Piersons and spent most of the rest of the day getting to and exploring the Expo for the marathon. Sunday was the marathon and Monday I had to take the Praxis II exam for my Ohio state teacher certification. So Sabbath was the day we devoted to exploring the Bay area. One of the great things about San Francisco is that God's creation hasn't been obliterated by man's. San Francisco and the surrounding area is rich with natural beauty, and that which man has added complements rather than detracts from nature.

A view of the iconic Golden Gate bridge from the wooded hills of the Golden Gate Park.

Greg is a fourth-generation San Franciscan and on Sabbath he gave us a fascinating, informative, and thorough tour of his city. He began by taking us across the famed Golden Gate Bridge and into Marin County.

The Marin Headlands, just across the Golden Gate Bridge. One of the great things about San Francisco is that you're literally only a few minutes drive or train ride from the Great Outdoors. There's some absolutely beautiful countryside nearby and with plentiful biking and hiking trails.

Elijah slept through most of our tour. Bev or Greg would stay in the car with him while we popped out to see the sights.

Bev and Greg in the fog. Every day we were in San Francisco began foggy and cold, and turned bright and beautiful by late morning or early afternoon. Bev and Greg were disappointed for us that our views of Golden Gate were so obscured by fog, but I jokingly pointed out that in a stroke of marketing genius, San Francisco has turned its fog from a liablity to an asset. The city is famous for its fog and tourists like us, far from being disappointed by the fog, are thrilled by it and find it beautiful.

Back on the city side, in Golden Gate Park

Greg recently started working for the National Park Service with the Park Police so he had lots of interesting stories about the Golden Gate National Park.

I can't remember the name of this particular beach. Perhaps Bev will comment on this blog and give us the names of some of these places (as well as correct any mistakes I've made).

By this time, the fog was beginning to lift. You can see the many sailboats underneath and beyond the bridge.

By early afternoon, we were getting pretty hungry, and Elijah had woken up and was decidedly cranky. We cut short our tour of Golden Gate Park--though not before we got a glimpse of the bison paddock and took a short walk in the park--and had lunch. We had lunch at Frjtz's, a french fry restaurant that features mouthwatering fries and dozens of tasty and unique sauces and dips, as well as a collection of delicious sandwhiches.

After that, it was on to the city proper:

Lots of colorful houses. These, I think were not too far from the psychedelic Haight Ashbury district.

The famed "Painted Ladies." This row of Victorian homes is one of the city's famous vistas. Many people remember it from the opening credits of the 80's sitcom Full House.

The trolley tracks. A view from our cable car ride Sabbath afternoon. Around midafteroon we met up with Aya and Holly again and took a trolley ride through the city. There are only two of San Francisco's famous trolley lines still in use. They are a prime tourist attraction but are also used by residents who actually have somewhere to go (as opposed to us tourists who are just there for the ride!). The public transporation in San Francisco is great--you've got the MUNI bus line, the trolleys and calbe cars, the BART trains, and CalTrain system for travel further afield. The city is bike friendly too with bike lanes on most of the roads and space on the public transport for bikes. It wouldn't be too difficult to live in the city without a car.

The emphasis on biking and public transportation with it's attendant walking (to and from the various stations, and up and down the many staircases and hills) shows in the city's collective waistline too. The residents San Francisco are visibily in better shape than much of the rest of the country.

Lombard Street. After getting off the trolley near Fisherman's Wharf, Greg picked us up and took us for a ride down the famously serpintine Lombard Street. Babs took this photo just after we finished the drive. Note all the tourists hanging out along the side of the street taking photos. The interesting thing is that people actually live in the houses along Lombard's curves. I hope they don't get tired of the constant foot and automobile traffic outside.

Entering the curves of Lombard Street. You can see Coit Tower in the distance on the right, yet another famous city landmark.

A typical city street. Unlike many other U.S cities whose cores have been abandoned for the suburbs, many people still live right in the heart of San Francisco.

On Lombard Street approaching Coit Tower. In the distance you can make out Lombard's famous curvy section.

Another landmark, the TransAmerica building. I took this photo through the sunroof of Greg's car.

By late afternoon, our tour drew to a close and we headed towards the city's financial district and our hotel, The Westin Market Street. We enjoyed Bev and Greg's generous hospitality for our first two nights in San Francisco, but we'd planned to switch to a hotel Saturday night so they wouldn't be burdened with having to drive me out to the starting line at the crack of dawn Sunday morning and then figure out how to get Babs and Elijah to the cheering station, all while getting Bev to her starting line for the second Half Marathon too. So we took a step down from our lovely digs at Casa de Cabanatan-Moretti and booked a room at the Westin.

View from the left window of our room at the Westin.

Looking down. Those are Ferraris.

Whoa! Look at that giant baby climbing up the side of that building! The view from the right window.

The Westin wasn't too shabby either. We had a really unique corner room. The room narrowed to a point and had floor to ceiling windows on both sides that offered spectucular views of the cityscape. The Westin's signature brand Heavenly bed, sheets, and pillows were very comfortable as well. The only downsides were the tiny bathroom (which may have been due to our room's location rather than standard throughout the hotel) and the concierge's inability to answer the phone. Despite numerous attempts throughout the weekend we were never able to reach the concierge by phone and as a result had to hike down to the lobby every time we needed concierge assistance.

But these were minor quibbles and overall we enjoyed our stay there immensely. When we moved over to the Radisson in San Jose the night before we left, the sharp contrast in amenities, aesthetics, service, and comfort reminded us of the luxury we'd enjoyed at the Westin.

Elijah in his crib near the "point" of our room at the Westin.

The Food

The spread at Bev & Greg's place, Thursday night, July 23, 2009.

One of my favorite things about our San Francisco was the FOOD! We ate so well the whole time we were in the city. It all began with the Thai food we enjoyed with Aya and Holly right after our arrival in the city. I wish I remembered the name of the place--it was very good. The gustatory delights continued that evening with the homemade gourmet pizza and salad at Bev and Greg's that. Greg loves to cook and he whipped a tasty supper for us that night, and also cooked up some delicious blueberry pancakes with real maple syrup Sabbath morning (his first attempt with the gluten-free, organic boxed pancake mix doesn't count. Greg's from-scratch batter was a million times better).

On Friday mornign we also had a fantastic brunch at Judy's Cafe located just down the street from Bev's place. The apple chicken sausage and the homefries were particularly good.

For supper on Friday, Greg and Bev took us to their favorite Himalayan restuarant called Shangri-La, I believe. Everything was rich with flavor, and the small portions are remarkably filling.

For lunch on Sabbath we stopped at the aforementioned Frjtz's and had supper at the more pedestrian California Pizza Kitchen across the street from our hotel, where Bev and I loaded up on in pasta preparation for the big run the next day.

Sunday it was perfect fish tacos at Mijitas after the race and the Ethiopian Cafe with the Piersons Sunday night. Here the various curry-like dishes, spicy beans, and collard and spinach greens were served on huge Ethiopian sourdough flatbread called ingera. You tear off a piece of the communal bread, fold some of the fillings into it and eat it with your hands. Delicious and fun! I wish I'd thought to take a picture.

We rounded things out with lunch on Monday at the Samovar Tea Lounge near the Yerba Buena Arts Center in downtown San Francisco. I actually didn't have any tea, but the grilled portobella mushroom sandwhich with gueyere cheese was excellent. The room service chicken parmesan and chinese salad we ordered at the Airport Radisson in San Jose was a brutal letdown after a weekend of delectable dining by the Bay.

Another great thing about San Francisco, you can feast your stomach as well as your eyes. (Though it will cost you--we spent a hefty chunk of change on food over the weekend, and this even though all of the places we visited were mid-range in price).

The Friends

Our hosts for the weekend, Greg Moretti and Beverly Cabanatan at Shangri La Himalayan restuarant, Friday, July 24, 2009.

The highlight of our trip was catching up with old and dear friends from Saipan. We really enjoyed spending time with Bev and Greg and getting to know them better. Of course we'd known Bev as a dear friend in Saipan. She should be familiar to any regular reader of this blog. Greg, we'd known casually as a pal of John Moreno and as Bev's boyfriend, so it was great to really great to get to know him. He and Bev opened their home and hearts to us and showed us a really great time. As a result of our time with them, we feel like our friendship with both Bev and Greg has deepened and that we'll continue to stay in touch in the years to come.

Thanks Bev and Greg for being great hosts and great friends! Come see us in Ohio and it'll be our turn to show you a good time!

Bev and the Little Feller at her apartment.

Bev, Crystal, Me, and Ken at the San Francisco Marathon Expo Friday afternoon, July 24, 2009. We went to the Expo to collect our race bib and timing chip (which we're flaunting in the photo) and also our sweats bags full of free goodies. The Expo also had lots of vendors hawking every imaginable running accessory. I picked up some Gu (a sports gel that gives you instant energy during the run) and an earwarmer.

It was great to see the Piersons too. Saying goodbye to them in Saipan was easier because we knew we'd see them in a few weeks in San Francisco. We enjoyed hanging out on Friday with them, were amazed by our chance encounter with them on the streets of San Francisco Sabbath afternoon (we were in the car talking about possibly meeting up with them and we look over and they just happen to be in the car pulled up next to us in the traffic. What are the odds!), were touched by their being at the finish line to cheer me on Sunday, and appreciated the dinner at the Ethiopian restuarant with them as well as Ken parents, Ken and Gloria, and Ken's brother Jeremy and his family.

Thanks Ken & Crystal for dragging those suitcases, the framed photo, AND Barbara's painting all the way from Saipan for us! It'll be awhile before we see you two again but you'll always be in our hearts and prayers, and of course we'll be checking the blog for all the latest developments. Thanks to Jeremy Pierson and family for letting Elijah borrow the car seat and thanks Ken and Gloria for the anniversary dinner Sunday night.

Holly Delacruz and Aya Sato, former students at the Thai restuarant, Thursday, July 23, 2009.

Aya and Holly were students of mine for several years at the Saipan SDA School. Now they're all grown up and making their way in San Francisco. Aya just moved there a few weeks ago, having recently graduated from college with a degree in Social Work, and is currently hunting for a job. Holly has been living in San Francisco for the past two years. It was so great to spend some time with them. We saw them several times over the weekend--a fun afternoon on Thursday, the trolley ride on Sabbath, and then Aya joined us for lunch at the Samovar Tea Lounge, Monday before we left. It's so inspiring and exciting to see our students as adults embracing life. I'm so proud of them.

Thanks Aya and Holly for dropping everything to meet up with us over the weekend. We really had fun and hope we can do it again some time!

On the trolley, Sabbath, July 25, 2009

The Last Auntie: Gloria Pierson was a vital part of Elijah's earliest days even though the Little Feller only met her this past weekend. Her expertise as a lacatation consultant was crucial to Elijah's learning to breastfeed. This photo of him with his Last Auntie was long overdue. (See The Auntie Brigade --you'll have to scroll dwon to near the end of the entry--for the full story of Gloria Pierson's role in Elijah's young life).

Babs, Me, Elijah and Aya in downtown SF, Monday, July 27, 2009.

With Bev. Did I mention that Monday, July 27, 2009 was Barbara and I's 12 year wedding anniversary? We were so busy that weekend, there was no time for a romantic celebration, but the weekend itself was a special memory we shared. It wouldn't have been the same without my favorite travel companion, Babs, and our little boy.


Aya said...

Aww, loved your post! (I read it, too!). It's always an honor to be part of your blog, Mr. Maycock! Really really hope to see you 3 again :)

Ps. Can't wait for the exciting Ohio adventures ;)

Bev said...

Wow Sean! You're quite the photographer . . . especially hanging outside the car windows to get those great shots! Greg's a great tour guide, eh?! I'll need to make him a tip cup =) Btw, the name of that Beach is Baker Beach (aka nude beach)! We miss you guys already! We're so thankful for your friendship. Cheers!

Sean said...

As much as I would love to take credit for those photos, most of them were taken by Babs. I know I took the one of the Transamerica building but that was through the sunroof which did involve any hanging out of the car. Babs is the cool one, I'm afraid! :)

We miss you too. Thanks again for a great weekend!

Mai said...

Looks like fun! I can't wait to experience it all for myself soon!