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.

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