THE WORLD'S BIGGEST TOURIST
22 January 2005
San Francisco has a reputation of being one of the most popular tourist cities in the United States. It and New York probably rank among the top 5 cities for tourists to visit.
Since I lived in SF for the first 18 years of my life, I know The City very well and frequently am in the position of acting as a tour guide for out of town guests. Today Linda, from The Last Session group was in town with her physicist husband, who was here to attend a meeting, leaving Linda with time on her hands. I volunteered to give her "The Grand Tour."
You take tourists around the city and they take lots of pictures, shop for souvenirs, and ooh and ahh about the sights they are seeing.
However, the biggest tourist of them all is--ME!! I guess I really soaked in my father's genes. He loved the city and that is one of his good qualities that I got--in spades.
I love it when people come to town because it gives me an opportunity to take lots of pictures, shop for souvenirs and ooh and ahh about the sights we are seeing.
I worried about today because there was heavy fog most of the way down from Davis. In some spots vision was severely impaired. I love San Francisco in all weather, but it is obviously much prettier on a nice day.
Well, the gods were kind. By the time I had reached the Bay Bridge, the weather was sunny and while not exactly clear, it was easy to see through the haze. It was not, for example, crystal clear on top of Twin Peaks (where I usually start the tour), but it was clear enough to take a very nice photo.
After we left Twin Peaks, we drove out through the Haight-Ashbury District. Linda was in the middle of telling me a story, so I very nearly didn't get a chance to point out to her that we were traveling through an historic part of the City, where the hippie culture was born...but she was suitably awed when we stopped at the intersection of Haight and Ashbury.
Next it was out Golden Gate Park. I usually make the loop that goes by the DeYoung Museum, the Japanese Tea Garden, the band shell and the Academy of Science, but there was massive construction going on and the road was blocked, so we skipped that.
Instead we drove past my very favorite thing in the park, The Portals of the Past, and then out past the buffalo enclosure and out to Queen Wilhemena's tulip garden (where the tulip greens are just beginning to pop up through the earth), with its tall windmill.
We stopped by the beach for a bit to watch the waves crashing on the shore and think, sadly, of the power of the tsunami waves and what it must have felt like to be in the path of that powerful force.
We headed back inland via the Palace of the Legion of Honor, with its statue of Rodin's "The Thinker" in the middle of the courtyard, through Sea Cliff, pointing out Robin Williams' house, and then down under the Golden Gate Bridge, for more photos.
I suspect that I took more photos than Linda did--and all of hers have me in them, while many of mine were of my big love--The City itself.
We reached old Fort Mason right in time to make our noon reservation at Greens Restaurant. It's my favorite place to take tourists for lunch because you have an unobstructed view right at the Golden Gate Bridge and on a clear day it's breathtaking. I had been afraid it would be hidden by fog, but luckily no. I suspect that I appreciated the view more than my guest did! Greens is a vegetarian restaurant and I always have something unusual there. Today I had soft tacos made with squash, plantains, onions and chilis, with a dollop of creme fraiche on top of it. Linda had chard ravioli, which she pronounced delicious.
We had one more stop before we started the round-about trip back to the hotel, and that was at the Palace of Fine Arts, which is my favorite building in San Francisco. Designed by architect Bernard Maybeck, the Palace of Fine Arts is a remnant of the old Panama-Pacific International Exposition of 1915, and so beloved by the citizens of the city that when the exposition was torn down, they left this building--and in the 1970s, when it was crumbling, it was taken down to the ground and rebuilt, thanks to a generous donation by philanthropist Walter S. Johnson. (I have some huge pieces which were removed from the original building when it was knocked down.)
Since she had been in SF before, about 30 years ago, we didn't do the crooked part of Lombard Street, which usually has a back-up of cars waiting to make the trip. Instead, I took her to a lesser known thrill ride, just one block away, down Filbert St., the steepest drivable grade in The City (31.5 degrees). It never fails to take away the breath of the tourists--and mine as well....and I know that it's safe!
We ended the tour with a drive through the financial district and then to the most esoteric site on the trip--the house where Steve stays when he visits San Francisco (I thought that since Linda is a friend of Steve's, and has communicated with the guy who lives in the flat, it would be nice if she could put it into context the next time Steve talks about coming to San Francisco).
All that was left was to make my way through downtown traffic to Union Square and her hotel, and drop her off. I was early enough that I was able to drive home before rush hour traffic started--and once I got over the Bay Bridge and headed for the valley, I got socked in with fog again. It looks like it's been grey in Davis all day, so I'm thrilled that we had such good weather.
I think Linda had a good time. I think I had a better time because I got to engage in one of my favorite activities--looking at the city that I love and showing it off to somebody new.
I am the world's biggest San Francisco Tourist (but I have enough sense not to expect it to be warm in June!)
Note: This all happened the day before the puppies came; I didn't go off and abandon the pupplies!
PHOTO OF THE DAY
The waves were just breathtaking today