Monday, May 29, 2017

Three Days in San Francisco - Final Day

Link to Day 1
Link to Day 2

Our last day in San Francisco was Easter Sunday. We started the rainy morning off with breakfast and realized our room was on the wrong side of the hotel when we took the staircase (instead of the elevator) and saw the north views out the window. Darn it!

Our morning routine of walking to the Embarcadero was still in-place. This morning we visited the Aquarium by the Bay located near Pier 39. We were mostly interested in the otter exhibit. This is not a very large aquarium because its focus is mainly on the SF Bay area so there weren't any dolphins or whales like we have in Chicago's Shedd Aquarium. The exhibits focused on the local fish with a very long walkthrough tunnel. In the "touch zone" we petted a shark of some sort. We spent the rest of our time watching two of their five otters on display and hung out for "Otter Talk" to learn some more about them. They lighting was horrible so pictures turned out awful.

We were done at the aquarium around noon and walked back towards our hotel for lunch. Dave was very interested in having a dim sum experience. Dim sum is an Asian tapas bar of sorts where the food is brought around to tables on carts and you pick your items. In this restaurant, City View, they marked a card left on your table noting what you ordered. The place was packed with many people waiting. Luckily as a party of two we were seated right away. We've never been to a dim sum place before and found the experience very manic. As soon as we were seated a cart arrived. The lady rambled off what the items were but who the heck could tell what she was saying over the crowd noise. We grabbed something, and she marked our card with some Chinese writing in a certain column. How much was this? We spent our time eyeing trays and carts from a distance and started to get aggressive in drawing their attention our way. We had to flag down the lettuce wraps lady. It was so chaotic we didn't even think to order beers. In the end we sampled a lot of good dishes, we were full, and the bill was under $40.

We went back to the hotel to pick up our luggage and our car. We headed over to The Presidio for the Walt Disney Family Museum. This museum opened a few years ago and is dedicated Walt Disney as a person vs. Walt Disney the company. The displays were well done and presented information on Walt's parents and how they met, the different places they lived, Walt's inspirations as a child, early career "failures", etc. There was a lot of reading. A lot. We were burned out by the late 1930's. Fortunately by that point the exhibits started to focus on technical achievements - which we have seen in special exhibits in Chicago. Some of the show-stopper exhibits were the Griffith Park bench where Walt came up with the idea of Disneyland, the large model of Disneyland, and the tribute room for Walt's passing.

It was now 4:00 and our flight leaves at midnight. The weather wasn't as cooperative as it was the last two days and it was still drizzly and hazy. We discussed checking out Golden Gate Park but thought it might be too yucky. We opted to see if we could make the 5pm tour of the Anchor Steam Brewery. The price was a bit stiff at $25/each but we figured another museum would cost as much. There were about 2 dozen people on the tour (and this is 5pm Easter Sunday). Our guide started us off with a sample of beer, discussed the company's history and importance in America's beer culture, then gave us a quick walking tour of the copper brew kettles, open fermentation vessels, and storage tanks. We were surprised to learn this was Anchor's only brewing facility. The tour ended with a generous sampling of several products.
We needed to make one more stop before our flight home. We drove over to Ghirardelli Square for an ice cream sundae. We had one last beer at a nearby restaurant then got into the car for the trip to the airport. Red-eye flights are not fun but this time it helped us to have three full days in a very fun city.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Three Days in San Francisco - Part Two

Time to start another over programmed day! After a quick breakfast in the hotel we made our way through an empty Financial District to the Embarcadero and the Ferry Terminal. The iconic building is home to a great indoor market everyday, and a farmer's market 3x a week. There were maybe 70-100 vendors selling many different food items with varied ethnicities. We did not end up buying anything from the outdoor market since we were not hungry yet. We did end up buying some Italian style donuts from an indoor vendor. If we lived or worked anywhere near this place it would be trouble - so many great items for a lunch, snack, or to bring home and cook.

Our next stop was Alamo Square to see the Painted Ladies, or more popularly known as the Full House-houses. Parking in this residential area was a challenge, especially since we were not the only ones with this idea. A bummer about the experience was the park was under construction and mostly fenced off. These are not the only pretty homes in the area and if you want a fun game to play when you visit walk around with Zillow open on your phone.

We didn't stay in Alamo Square long because we had a lot more boxes to check-off. We drove over to The Presidio to take in a few attractions. First stop was the Yoda statue outside the Lucasfilm corporate office. We peeked in the windows and there were a ton of great items on display in the lobby. Too bad we didn't come on a weekday. After visiting Yoda we went to the visitor's center for our National Park stamp. It would have been a better experience if we remembered to bring our stupid National Parks Passport. We are always forgetting that thing.

Our next stop was the Palace of Fine Arts, yet another park surrounded by beautiful buildings and homes. The small parking lot was a nightmare filled with impatient people and folks who were just oblivious to the world around them.

After a quick walk around the Palace we drove to the other side of the Presidio so we could visit Fort Point. We had to dodge and be mindful of 100's of oblivious cyclists taking advantage of the long bike path and challenging hills. The only thing we knew about Fort Point before visiting was that it was used as inspiration for Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. The fort was built during the Civil War to guard the bay. When they were building the Golden Gate Bridge they thought they'd have to tear it down but then someone figured out how to tweak the designs to build over the fort. The hassle of navigating through the masses was worth it for the views of the city, bay, and bridge. The fort itself is an added bonus.

Finally it was time for lunch. We crossed the Golden Gate Bridge and headed into Sausalito for lunch. Our chosen spot, Fish, was located in a marina north of downtown. There was a long line to order at the counter and limited seating. We split up so Dave could stalk tables while Holly ordered. There were some decent local beers on tap that went well with our fish & chips and crab legs. After lunch we ventured into crowded downtown. While pretty, it was just another tourist trap city. They took easy advantage of the folks that arrived into town via ferry from San Francisco. Sidewalks were too narrow to accommodate the crowds. After browsing a few shops we headed out of town to our next destination.

We heard Muir Woods would be crowded so we thought the strategy of hitting it late in the afternoon would work. When we arrived all parking lots were full. Cars lined the road for miles. We drove about 2-3 miles away from the park entrance before deciding to turn around. As luck would have it we arrived at one of the lots while a car was leaving. The attendant let us in. Score! One of the reasons the park was so crowded was a rare free admission day. So much for actually remembering the National Park pass. With limited time we kept our visit to the main path and the elevated path on our way back out. It was worth the trip and the parking hassle.


After an hour-long drive back into town we decided it was time to relax with a drink. Dave found Barbarossa Lounge via Map App near our hotel. It was a nice craft beer/cocktail lounge that apparently is deserted until later in the evening. We had the place to ourselves (which we consider a good thing) and got to relax. The bartender chatted with us for a bit and gave us a few local tips.

One of the reasons we picked our hotel location was proximity to Chinatown for dining options. We made reservations via OpenTable at Begoni Bistro. Their website was nice and they actually had beer beyond Asian styles and Miller. When we arrived at 8:00 it was empty, but filled up soon enough. It ended up being one of the best Chinese food meals we have had. We chose simple entrees like General's Chicken and Shrimp Pan Fried Noodles - they were just fantastic. Maybe we should visit Chicago's Chinatown someday.

Even though the North Beach nightlife was close-by we decided to call it a night after dinner. We had successfully over-programmed ourselves and the next day was likely going to be the same.

Here's the map of the area with circles around what we covered:

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Charity of the Month: New York-Presbyterian Hospital

Charity of the Month is a way Team Tizzel is helping to support some very worthy organizations. As part of this program, we will dedicate a post to a charity that we will sponsor through the month by donating Holly's training run money.

April: In April we supported the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute Boston Marathon Team. Our friend Kimberly was running to raise money and awareness as a survivor. Donation links are still live if you would like to contribute.

May's Charity

New York-Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital

By now you've most likely seen the video of Jimmy Kimmel talking about the birth of his son with the congenital heart condition Tetrology of Fallot. This is the same condition Dave was born with, but nobody knew he had this issue until almost 3 years later. Dave's surgery was successful thanks to the doctors and staff at Columbia-Presbyterian Hospital (now New York-Presbyterian) in New York City. When Dave was younger he attended hospital reunions that included celebrities, characters from Sesame Street, and a Mets baseball game. It was nice to be included in these event many years after the operation. One of his favorite memories was being at the hospital for his ruptured appendix surgery at age 4 and somehow making it to the lobby and wout onto the streets. That probably scared some folks. Check out their website to see all the good work they are doing today.

Dave around age 2.  Squatting for kids with undiscovered TOF is a way to bring more oxygenated blood back into the system. Family members just thought this was another one of my quirky habits.

Below is a clip of Dr. Oz explaining Tetrology of the Fallot and its relation to the development of cardiac surgery.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Three Days in San Francisco - Part One

Our usual travel schedule got a bit of an overhaul this year because of our upcoming epic trip to Alaska. That meant we had to skip our February BVI trip. With only two marathons in the winter season we were itching to get out of town for a few days. We decided that Easter Weekend would be a great time to visit San Francisco. We visited San Fran quickly in 2014 when we passed through on the way to the Big Sur Marathon and 10.4 mile race. This trip would be a bit more of an immersive experience.

We landed Thursday night, checked-in to our hotel on the border of Chinatown and the Financial District, then climbed the steep hills to the Fairmont Hotel for our reservation at The Tonga Room & Hurricane Bar.  In 1945 Hollywood set designers transformed an indoor pool into one of the original tiki bars, making this a Mecca for fans of mid-century tiki culture. We lucked out with a poolside table near the boat-shaped bandstand. The 3-person group was kicking off their second set when we arrived. To our amazement, the stage started to float out into the center of the pool. We were thankful for reservations because the bar section became crowded real quick. Our dinner was good; Pu Pu Platter type food. Dave was in heaven.

Friday: With the two-hour time difference we woke up before the alarm. We had a full day of touring on the agenda. By boat we were going to visit both Angel Island State Park and Alcatraz. The reason we were visiting both was because me missed out on buying just Alcatraz tickets so we had to buck-up for the combined tour. It was actually a decent value considering the extras included.

We decided to walk to Pier 33 - a mile from our hotel. We wanted to look at Coit Tower / Telegraph Hill on our way. This was another encounter with a really long steep hill. We were tired and sweaty after climbing to the base of the building, but we were offered some great views. We found the best way down was to take the Greenwich Steps. We were thankful we were going down. The stairs were narrow and went on forever.

The trip to Angel Island allowed us to get some different angles on Alcatraz because of the boat's route. Once on Angel Island we received an hour guided tram tour that highlighted the natural beauty and military installations dating back to the Civil War era. Angel Island is considered the "Ellis Island of the West" since it was the second largest immigrant processing center in the country and served as a detention center during WWII. The hilly island offered wonderful views of San Francisco and the Marin County coastal towns. We had a decent lunch at the cafe on the island.

As we approached Alcatraz the first thought that came to our minds was "how are we going to avoid getting crapped on by those birds?" It was nesting season and there were so many birds flying around. Luckily we survived. Upon disembarkment a friendly park ranger "ordered" everyone to listen to her orientation - which was helpful. 

We jetted up the hill to beat the crowds for the prison audio-guided tour. The program was told as a narrative from the POVs of guards and inmates. We toured cells, solitary, the dining hall, intake, and the grounds where the employees lived. Interestingly enough, Alcatraz had a fort on the island before it was a prison.

When we arrived on mainland we went over to Pier 39 (against our better judgment). Good Friday with beautiful weather meant people were out in-force. We found refuge in a sushi restaurant and had beers and rolls. We escaped "The Pier" quickly and headed to a grocery store to pick up some things. We realized it would only be another .6 miles to get to Rogue's Public House (we went there in 2014) so off we went. After climbing the hills we swore we would cab to the hotel, but it was only .6 miles away. We walked it.

Dinner was a dress-up event. Restaurant Gary Danko did not disappoint. We enjoyed pre-drinks at the bar and excellent service the whole evening. Dave spilled something on his shirt and someone on staff noticed. A man discreetly delivered Shout stain wipes. Our meals were delicious and included all the little extras like an amuse bouche, little pastries with dessert, and take-home cakes. If we are back in SF we would not hesitate to visit again.

After dinner we went back to the hotel. With the time change and aggressive touring we were wiped out. The next day was shaping up to be just as busy.