Click to read past installments of this trip journal …
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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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