Tag Archives: alcatraz

Top Ten Tips for the San Francisco Traveler

Click to read past installments of this trip journal … 

Day 1 – Day 2 – Day 3 – Day 4 – Day 5 – Day 6 – Day 7 – Day 8

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(1) If you’re going to San Francisco, book your tour to Alcatraz in advance … or you will not get in. I am still way disappointed about this one. Yes, we did take a narrated boat tour around the island … but I wanted IN. I wanted to see the cells, the dining hall, the common shower area, the “Hole” (solitary confinement). I’m just curious (weird) that way. And I’ve promised myself I’ll get back there to see it.

(2) Leave any high-heeled shoes at home, even if it’s your wedding day.  The slope of half the streets you’ll be navigating will make you want to chuck them into the nearest trash can. Which brings me to my next point …

(3) Trash cans are not always easy to find. When you do find them, you’re likely to see multiple cans with labels like recycle, compost and landfill … and you quickly learn the sorting process. (Nicely done, California.) The problem is that you can’t always find them. While in Chinatown one day, I searched three or four blocks to find a receptacle in which I could discard a wad of chewed gum until I finally came upon this one on a busy city street.


Yes, that’s a padlock.

(4) If you have a hankering for cheese, check out Cowgirl Creamery in the Ferry Building Marketplace. I recommend basically everything in the place and give two thumbs up to their signature Mt. Tam cheese. (There’s a reason it looks just like butter.) And be sure to tell them ODNT sent you. But don’t expect it to get you anything … as they have absolutely no idea who I am.

(5) Try to knock out #4 on a Tuesday, Thursday or Saturday. That way, you can also check out their killer Farmer’s Market. There won’t be something you seek  that you can’t find there. Seriously, they have every vegetable and fruit imaginable. Did I buy any? Nah. I bought cheese, bread, wine-soaked figs, toffee, honey and other non-produce.

(6) While you’re traipsing all over town on foot, try to work the Filbert Steps into your walk. They run from the east slope of Telegraph Hill (coincidentally right where we were staying) all the way down to Sansome Street. The hills of San Francisco are sometimes so steep that stairs need to be put in for pedestrians. In this case, 378 stairs to be exact. (For reference, the Statue of Liberty has a mere 364.) And this long and winding staircase actually serves as a street for the houses along it, many of which are only accessible via this wooded and beautifully-landscaped climb. (Can you imagine? … “Hang on. I think I left it in the %$&#ing car. Be back in an hour!”)

(7) When in Chinatown, be on the look out for New On Sang Poultry (also known as San Francisco Poultry), located at 1114 Grant Avenue. A writing friend of mine turned me on to it but she could neither remember the name nor the address of the place. Melissa, telling me to find the “You Pick It, We Kill It, But No Pictures!” place in all of the 24 square blocks of Chinatown just wasn’t specific enough. (Yes, I realize the irony of not Googling the name and location of this place until I returned to New Orleans.) Anyway, Melissa dared me to take a picture of the ‘old world charm’ that occurs at New On Sang. And, for the record, I searched to see if anyone else had ever tried … but found nothing. So, maybe it’s best that I didn’t risk Chinese prison for the sake of what would likely be a very disgusting photograph.

(8) Allow time on your drive back from Carmel to stop at one of the many fruit stands and take advantage of things like TEN avocados for ONE dollar …. TEN ears of corn for ONE dollar … TEN artichokes for ONE dollar. Seriously. And then send them to me. I’ll pay you back.

(9) If you don’t want to give up a whole day to the wine country … or, like me, you’re not high brow enough for it and are afraid the kid you’re dragging along will be bored to tears … consider the San Francisco Half-Day Wine Country Tour. It’s the lazy wine lover’s dream. The tour doesn’t even start until noon and gets you back just in time for dinner. And, in only five or so hours, we managed to taste 18 different vintages. That’s good enough for the likes of me. I had to get back to town for some valuable t-shirt shopping and oxygen bar testing.

(10) If you get the chance for a foot massage in Chinatown (or any massage of Asian descent), take it. They aren’t all hung up on propriety like the tightly-wound Americans. Clean water in the foot basins? Fancy towels? Privacy from other patrons? Screw it all. Close your eyes. There’s your privacy. What you get with the Asian massage experience is someone working their small hands and/or feet to the bone for you … using practices, in some cases, that are older than the Earth itself. And you’ll leave loose as a noodle for a very fair price.

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Thanks, San Francisco. We had a blast!

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ODNT Goes to San Francisco – Day 3

1:45 am

Wow. I don’t think I thought this whole trip journaling thing through. Beat the pavement (often severely inclined pavement) with six other people across San Francisco all day then return to the condo, get the kids to bed and wait for everyone to settle in so I can finally write everything down while the others sleep. Oh, yeah. And try to be interesting. And witty.

That’s hard for me even on a good day. Sigh.

But enough of my belly aching. Let’s talk about today. We did lots of planning so (spoiler alert) there’s great stuff on tap for the next few days. And we got out later than we should have (you hear this comment a lot on my family vacations) and started the day with the same one-mile walk from our condo to Pier 39 to try to charm our way into a (booked-until-August) Alcatraz tour. (My brother is known for these silver spoon moments in life.) Unfortunately, it didn’t work today so we settled for the next best thing: a bucket of Trish’s Mini-Donuts (36 in all) and hopped aboard the ferry for a San Francisco Bay cruise. The boat ride was awesome but (A) it was freezing and (B) the boat bar didn’t accept credit cards. (They could have made a fortune!)


Here I model for you my “snazzy,” new Mexican-made blanket-like pullover alongside my girl and my brother. I know. You are jealous. Not everyone can pull this look off.

But we braved the cold on the deck for the first half of the cruise and seated inside by a big picture window for the second. (I had to think of my hair at some point.)  And we took in a lot of great city views, sailed right under the Golden Gate Bridge and fully circled Alcatraz at a really slow, appropriately-eerie pace. Honestly, it seemed like they literally cut the engines for this part of the tour.


This might be the closest view I’ll be able to give you. Still bummed about that.

When we got off the boat, we did a little shopping and grabbed a late lunch (also known as an early dinner) at the Franciscan Crab Restaurant where we, along with (assuming the walls don’t lie) hundreds of famous people from the last century, ate seafood immersed in butter until it hurt to speak. (Bloated, after-dinner me just HATES menu-holding, wide-eyed, let’s-just-get-BOTH me. Come to think of it, still-suffering-from-late-night-indigestion me hates her, too.)

After dinner, we waddled over the Musée Mécanique, one of the largest working collections of antique arcade machines in the world. And, I have to admit, it was pretty cool. My kids loved it, too. Although half of the stuff in there was so very creepy. Check out this old relic called ‘The English Execution.’ The placard beneath it says “Place Coin in Slot and See the Last Rites Performed.”


Did I put a coin inside? Have you MET me?? 

Of course, I also found this one in the back of the arcade.


Check out the high scores below.


MRP = me. There was NO WAY I was advancing any higher than that.

But I learned I’m no longer cut out for 1980s video gaming as I gave myself a pounding headache in that place. Fortunately, everyone was ready to move on so we split up into a few groups. My brother and I took the scenic route back to the condo on foot with my girl. It was only a mile so we knew she could make it. And this time, instead of taking on the steep streets (say THAT three times fast), we opted for the rock wall of stairs. I honestly believe the Statue of Liberty has less.


The picture shows only about a tenth of the stairs we covered on the way up.

But we did it, with me only having to stop twice to massage my heart into submission, and we were treated to lots of amazing views along the way.


We escalated so high that I had to fight the urge to belt out “Climb Every Mountain” at the peak of our staircase ascent. It would’ve looked ridiculous, me being neither Julie Andrews nor a nun.

So far? I love San Francisco … but it’s definitely kicking my (hopefully decreasing in size because it’s not living its usual,  sluggish, 180-degree lifestyle) ass. We’ve got a lot planned for the next few days so I’m thinking I should get to sleep … right now.

Until tomorrow, I’ll leave you with this lovely view of the city I took with my phone’s crappy “zoom lens” from the boat today.


Click to read past installments of this trip journal … Day 1 – Day 2


ODNT Goes to San Francisco – Day 2

12:50 am

Everybody slept in this morning. And by slept in, I mean like 8:30 or 9. (Fools. I was hoping for 11.) And we all took a while showering, making a grocery run and getting things together. Actually, I have no idea what time we finally got out as a group but it was getting close to lunchtime and, since we hadn’t eaten since the night before (in Phoenix!), we were all pretty hungry when we set out on foot in search of food. (Makes us sound like a pack of wild bears. Which fits.)

I think if I lived in San Francisco I could eat whatever I wanted and yet somehow manage to have a butt of steel. The streets here are pretty steep for a flatlands Louisiana girl. Don’t get me wrong. I love it. I’m a very pedestrian person, especially on vacation. If my family didn’t stop me, I know I could walk Manhattan top to bottom in one (albeit long and blister-inducing) trip.

So, after lots of fat-burning activity, we reached the Farmer’s Market at Ferry Plaza, located along the Embarcadero at the foot of Market Street. Behind this open air market is the Ferry Building Marketplace.

And take a look at what I found inside!


Holy cheese, I’m home! I found my people.


If you’re a true turophile, you should be able to SMELL this picture.

And, after sampling a quantity of cheese that most people would call a meal, I finally made my selections, bought them and went to enjoy everything with my mom and kids outside in the courtyard area.

Here’s what we had on the menu:

  • Herbed Fromage Blanc
  • Mt. Tam (their signature, award-winning, triple-cream cow’s milk creation)
  • Colston Basett Stilton
  • Port-soaked Figs
  • Rosemary Bread Rolls
  • Sourdough Batard
  • Chocolate Almond Toffee

I don’t think Johnny Depp himself seated beside me gorging on cheese with us would’ve made me more happy. FAT and happy.  I’d better look for lots of those San Francisco butt-busting streets to trek up an down tomorrow.

After coming down from my cheese high, we shopped the Farmer’s Market a bit then the boys splintered off to take in a San Francisco Giants game while the girls hopped a trolley to Fisherman’s Wharf, San Francisco’s answer to Times Square. (Sure, it’s touristy. Don’t judge. I AM a tourist. Duh.) The temperature was really starting to drop so I am now the proud owner of a Mexican-made, pancho-style hoodie. (Again, don’t judge. What is WITH you today?)

We did lots of mindless shopping in the area … and a little more mindless eating. My girl finally got the Clam Chowder in a Sourdough Bread Bowl she’s been angling for all day. Oh, and I got my palms read. And my chirologist said half of you are going to die and half of you are going to meet a mysterious stranger.  Wait … I wonder if all of these “mysterious strangers” have anything to do with all of this “dying.” Well, whatever. The next winning lotto numbers are 8, 11, 19, 27, 32 and 41. (If you win, I expect a nice cut. I’m totally serious.)

Anyway, here are just a few of the other interesting things I saw today:


It doesn’t say it will give you a lisp … but maybe it makes you sound like Jim J. Bullock?


I really want to know who’s buying “One for $1.00.” Honey stoners.


One of the only two sea lions hanging out at Pier 39 West Marina. Apparently, their numbers can get as high as 900 in the winter, but they migrate South to the Channel Islands for mating season this time of  year. I guess this dude has no aspirations of becoming a father.


Alcatraz, as seen from the stupid pier. I really hope we’re able to get a little closer before this trip’s done. Or we’ll be the only boobs ever to break INTO Alcatraz.


I’ve heard tell of this chain for years. We went inside to buy one of the four items on their menu but were totally dissuaded by the long line. Feel free to tell me if you think I made a mistake.

Anyway … I should probably go. My upstairs neighbors just got home and I’d hate to think that the clicking of my keyboard is keeping them up. So, I’m off to bed. See you tomorrow.

Click to read past installments of this trip journal … Day 1.