I had considered taking the Pacific Coast
Highway the whole way but after looking at the travel times I
realized the entire week would be spent driving. And how many times can
you get a dramatic, sweeping view of the coast before it stops being
dramatic? Instead, we opted to fly to San Fran and drive from there. We
missed a lot of stuff along the way, but it gave us time to actually
see San Fran and other places.
If you're going to San Francisco be sure to wear some flowers in
|But first, stop off at the San Diego golf course cafeteria
for breakfast. The food is decent, but the view is fantastic.
Hummingbirds flitter over flowers in the gorge-cum-golf-course
with the city skyline in the distance and a tiny glimpse of the
pacific beyond. If only it weren't broken up by the occasional
passing jet and loudspeaker calls for tee-off times...
One plane ride, one train ride, and one cable car ride later, we
arrive at our hotel, San Reno, a very European experience, i.e.
tiny rooms, shared bathrooms, thin walls, and a staff chatting
away in a language we don't understand.
||The view from our room was great - if you wanted to see who
was staying in the room across the 4' wide courtyard.
On the plus side, it's a block from the cable car route, 2 blocks from
the streetcar, and on the edge of San Fran's Little Italy, one
of my favorite neighborhoods just for the food.
The last time I was in San Fran I wandered into
this neighborhood by accident. I stopped for a cup of coffee at a cafe
that reminded me of my favorite sidewalk cafes in Italy. I lounged in
the sun and struck up a conversation with an old guy next to me.
Eventually I pointed to a row of restaurants, "Which one of those serves
the best lunch?"
"Any of them."
"No, seriously, this is my last day so..."
"You could eat at any one of those places. They're all great."
So I walked across the street and checked the menus in the windows and
picked one at random and had a fantastic meal. Why mess with success?
This time EM and I ate at the same place, L’Osteria al Forno, just
across from Caffé Roma on Columbus.
|We started off with some roasted tomatoes covered in
breadcrumbs and olive oil. Simple but tasty. We split a half
bottle of wine, something light and fruity, perfect for a sunny
|I opted for a salami sandwich on focaccia bread, also simple
|But EM scored with homemade ravioli filled with homemade
ricotta. The cheese was bursting with flavor, nothing like the
stuff you get in tubs at the supermarket. Fan-fuckin-tastic.
After a pastry at a bakery up the block, we started our jaunt
around town. Since we were in the neighborhood and it was a
lovely day, we kicked things off with a trip up Coit Tower, one
of the must-do's of San Fran in my opinion.
this photo from my 2003 trip.)
|For a few bucks you get an elevator ride up the 200'
tower where you get phenomenal views of the city, including the
skyline, surrounding hills, Lombard Street, Golden Gate bridge,
Alcatraz - the whole town, framed in deco concrete triptychs.
As we walked out the door everyone froze. A flock of birds
was zooming past, cawing. I was beginning to think nobody had
ever seen pigeons before when I overheard someone say, "If you
look close you can see the green."
|EM and I had seen the documentary, The Parrots of
Telegraph Hill, and realized what the hubbub was about. We
followed the noise around the corner and spotted the flock in the
trees above us. I wished I'd had my serious camera rather than
my dinky digital, but the big old film camera just doesn't fit
in a pocket, so all you get is this little glimpse through the
trees. There were dozens of green and red birds chattering away
in the treetops.
||Back out into the streets, the steepest streets in the U.S.,
where the sidewalks are often cut with steps and everyone has to
park with their wheels cut toward the curb in case the car's
parking brake fails.
|Not only does EM work in a record store, she stops at
virtually every one she passes.
|This one also features a variety of interesting instruments,
including one of those big Riiiih-coooo-lllaaaa horns, electric
ukuleles and more.
I didn't ask if they stock any Richard Johnson, but they do
have a wall of cassettes in addition to vinyl.
We stopped at City Lights, the epicenter of the Beat movement, but my
phone rang. Former degenerate AH was in town and wanted to say hi. She
picked us up, baby in tow, and drove us around while we chatted. She
has moved out to Berkeley and doesn't really know her way around San
Fran any more. I was able to figure out our way back to the hotel with
the crummy map in the front of Let's Go better than she could
give directions. Or so I thought...
AH dropped us off at Amoeba, a record store about as large as the
average grocery store. It would make many degenerates drool just for
their Zappa selection alone...
After perusing a bit I headed down the street for a beer while EM shopped. She came away
with a handful of records but wasn't as impressed as I had been on my
first visit. She's jaded.
We stopped for a couple of drinks then looked at the
transit map in an effort to get home. We just missed the bus headed
toward the hotel (I have a long history of back luck with SF mass
transit) so we decided to walk a couple of blocks and catch the
Of course, the line on the map was underground at that
point and we ended up on a long walk. But we got to see some
interesting sights along the way...
By the time we got back to the hotel we were tired and hungry.
Unfortunately it was late on a Monday night and our neighborhood had
pretty much gone to bed. We took our chances and walked around the block
and found a place with a big sign advertising north and south Indian
cuisine open until 1 AM. "Perfect!" we said in unison.
|Inside we found a bar complete with pool tables and TV's
showing sports in a sprawling complex of bare wood run by a
cold, grumpy Chinese woman.
|We ordered a couple of plates of rice dishes, not realizing
we were getting enough food for 6 people. The food was ok but
the strange atmosphere didn't encourage us to linger. Which was
fine because after our unexpected march across town we were