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San Francisco

San Francisco — one of America's most beautiful cities — a city of hills adorned with strings of bridges like pearl necklaces, rouged by sunsets, enshrouded by fog, and perfumed by sea breezes. She's a grand lady, sophisticated at balls, vibrant at parties, and conversant in many languages.

Unfortunately, this was as close as we got to Alcatraz Island, since the tours were booked up over the holiday weekend. Even from a distance, thought, it was imposing, and a bit beautiful, sitting in the bay at dusk on our first evening in town

With the ocean on its west, and bays on its north and east, a nautical sight is not far from wherever we were in San Francisco. While Cherie was, ahem, using the restroom, in the Ferry Building along the embarcadero, I stepped outside to watch the sailboats tacking in the harbor in the shadow of the Bay Bridge

San Francisco (Be Sure To Wear Some Flowers In Your Hair)
For a guy who graduated from high school in 1967, San Francisco is the mecca of all things 60's. Home of love-ins, the Doors, Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, the Fillmore, Haight-Ashbury, and hippies camping out in Golden Gate Park, we couldn't help but swing by the Haight to dream of the summer of love and relive our lost youth.

What we found is that Haight-Ashbury is still a mecca for the offbeat and colorful.

A young lass accessorizes her hippie garb with a modern-day skateboard

If you’re going to San Francisco
Be sure to wear some flowers in your hair
If you’re going to San Francisco
You’re gonna meet some gentle people there

For those who come to San Francisco
Summertime will be a love-in there
In the streets of San Francisco
Gentle people with flowers in their hair

All across the nation,
such a strange vibration
People in motion
There’s a whole generation,
with a new explanation
People in motion, people in motion

For those who come to San Francisco
Be sure to wear some flowers in your hair
If you come to San Francisco
Summertime will be a love-in there

— Written by John Phillips,
sung by Scott McKenzie,
released June 1967

We spent a lazy afternoon walking the streets, admiring the Victorian homes, sampling the tastes, taking in the smells (but not inhaling, Mr. President), and strolling the shops of the neighborhood. We bought Linda, the eternal flower-child, a tie-dyed shirt in the shop at right

The good ol' days of mini-skirts live on in Haight-Ashbury, below, even if the look is somewhat inflated.

The homes on the west side of San Francisco are Victorian-style row and stand-alone gems.

Aptly named, the "Wasteland" is one of many unique shops in the Haight that cater to the tourists and psychadelists who haunt the district streets. We bought some great incense in the area, as well as some smokes, but from the looks of a young lady sitting in front of one of the shops we passed (not pictured), other forms of tobacco are still available in San Francisco.

Okay, we didn't send nearly enough postcards from our vacation to friends and relatives. So here are a couple from San Francisco — turn them over by passing your mouse over them and read the greetings!

image from PBASE.com
Fisherman's Wharf

The harbor along the north side of the city, facing Alcatraz Island, was bitter cold and windy in early July. Our first purchase was sweatshirts, and even they didn't keep the chill out.

But along came the "Blue Mermaid" chowder house and bar, and between the best chowder I've ever tasted, hands down, and a tall cold glass of wheat beer, the world was a toasty place again.

Evenings along the harbor were golden. Golden schooners of Pyramid Hefeweizen, brewed across the bay in Berkeley, smoothly quaffed a thirst generated from a long day's walk through the city. Similarly, the glowing sailing schooner, the historical C.A. Thayer, offered a relaxing moment of reflection at the Hyde Street Pier.

Did someone say...


Cherie was all eyes when we got to Ghiradelli Square, the former chocolate factory that that now houses shops, restaurants, galleries, and two Ghiradelli gift shops and sundae bars. We were in heaven when we noshed on home made ice cream topped with Giradelli chocolate and fudge syrups — yum-my.

We bought a 3-day transit pass, then boarded the cable car for the trip from Fisherman's Wharf to Union Square

Union Square and Maiden Lane
Union Square is the high-end shopping mecca of San Francisco. If it's got a French or Italian designer name, there's a shop in Union Square. One of the neatest streets in the area is a narrow alleyway off the square, Maiden Lane. I found quirky surprises down there—from a jazz band seranading outdoor cafe patrons, to a white-shirted solo performer using the lane's acoustics to fill the surrounding streets with classic opera arias

At the Montblanc store across from the opera singer, I endulged one of my passions by trying out fountain pens with the helpful assistance of the white-gloved Ms. Tomita. I found my favorite: a Meisterstuck Hommage a Frederic Chopin which can use either ink cartridges or can draw ink into its barrel via piston action. What a beauty.

Chinatown—East Meets West

Chinatown begins near Union Square. Walking through the gate brings you into the Orient

Colorful signs in Chinese and English adorn the colorful and fanciful buildings alongs the streets of little Asia

The TransAmerica tower located in the Financial District as seen from a street in Chinatown

Red is a popular color, making the streets feel festive, while the noises of the vendors, the shoppers, and the diners give the area a vibrant atmosphere
Cherie found the Chinatown stores more interesting than the upscale shops in Union Square. Here she found some jewelry for Anna.

After Chinatown, we walked downtown and to the foot of Market Street, where the Ferry Building, left, stands tall along the Embarcadero. We sampled the goods in the indoor market, below, browsed the shops, grabbed a coffee, walked out to the bay to watch the sailboats, then headed along the piers to the foot of Telegraph Hill

-  .  .-..  .  --.  .-.  .-  .--.  ....  /   ....  ..  .-..  .-..
( T  e  l  e  g  r  a  p  h   H  i   l  l )
Telegraph Hill and the monument on top, Coit Tower, can be seen from most of eastern San Francisco. The photo above was taken from a cable car at the top of Lombard Street.
After Cherie and I walked along the bay on the east side of the city, I talked Cherie into walking to the top of Telegraph Hill and up into the tower. After more than 377 steep, grueling steps from the bay to the peak, we were rewarded with panaramic views of the city.

Up, and up, and up we went, through the beautiful gardens and neighborhoods along the Filbert Steps until we reached the top of Telegraph Hill. Cherie hates to climb stairs, but she took all 377 of them up the steep face of Telegraph Hill to the base of Coit Tower. The views of the bay and of the trees and flowers and cottages were spectacular. The sound of our hearts thumming in our chests was deafening.

Cherie pauses to catch her breath at the corner of Filbert and Montgomery streets,
where the Dalla Torre Restaurant beckons the weary climber to stop for dinner and drinks

360º views
of the city
from Coit Tower

North Beach: Columbus Ave and Little Italy
North Beach, along Columbus Avenue, was the beating heart of the Beat scene in San Francisco in the 1950s. The artsy, quirky neighborhood retains its character, and we soaked it up at the Rose Pistola Italian restaurant, drinking and dining on the sidewalk while watching the modern-day hip walk up and down the street.

Once the haunt of Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg, who held court in the area's cafes during the 1950s, North Beach still sports the iconoclastic "City Lights" bookstore, right, where I bought Kerouac's "On the Road" to get a feel for the beat generation.
(My not too kind review is on our "Reviews" page.)

One of area's bars displayed its own "city lights" in its window, below.

At far right, Cherie savors the Italian food at Little Italy's Rose Pistola Restaurant sidewalk table.

Standing at the corner of Columbus and Broadway, the worlds of culture and decadence collide. With the City Lights bookstore behind us, looking left we see muralist Bill Weber's ode to San Francisco and jazz greats on a building that variously held a bank branch and a strip club. To the right is the heart of sleeze, with the "hungry i" club in the distance, and to the left of "Big Al's", a bit of the brick facade of the original Condor Club, the "birthplace of the world's first topless and bottomless entertainment."

And speaking of ladies of the night...
San Francisco's Painted Ladies

Across from Alamo Park, not too far from the Haight district on the west side of S.F. is one of the most frequently photographed city landmarks—a row of Victorian Houses that fronts San Francisco's skyline. Yes, if you were a fan of the TV show "Full House," you'll recognize these ladies from the show's opening scenes. Groovy!

And my favorite lady in San Francisco, and everywhere else, was the best present on the birthday I celebrated in California

Land's End

On the far west side of San Francisco lies land abuting the Pacific Ocean, an area that has largely been preserved from development so city dwellers can reconnect with the bigger forces that shape our world—the pull of the ocean, the push of the wind, the fire of the sun. On my 56th birthday I was able to feel those forces as we wandered along that area of the peninsula appropriately known as Land's End. We had an early morning breakfast at the Cliff House, which overlooks the ocean and the opening to the bay area, not far from the Golden Gate bridge.

The Cliff House, a San Francisco treasure and tradition since 1863, offers great meals and great views from its window tables. To see a video of the restaurant, turn on your speakers and follow the link to the Cliff House web site.

Cherie enjoys her first coffee of the morning in the restaurant

An egret strolls through the ruins of the Sutro Baths adjacent to the Clff House

The ever-lurking fog of the bay area moved in to blur the outlines of the Golden Gate Bridge when we visited the Old Presidio, Fort Point, and the bridge. Run your mouse over the photo to see that Cherie, too, occasionally uses the camera.

And we leave San Francisco with a memory of her golden sunsets over the bay

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