Just a thought… One day if I go to heaven…I’ll look around and say, “It ain’t bad, but it ain’t San Francisco.” [Herb Caen]
San Francisco is a city so steeped in character that it’s almost impossible to capture it here. But we’ll give it a shot! And yes, I went there without flowers in my hair but found a doorway that worked just fine!
Home to what’s known as the crookedest street in the world (what? not Pennsylvania Avenue in DC?) a one-way street in a private neighbourhood, Lombard Street has eight hairpin turns. It’s a great walk, a challenging drive and a must-see when you’re in the City by the Bay.
One of the most whimsical and interesting spots along the bay shoreline is Pier 39. An amusement park vibe fills the air: restaurants and outdoor snack bars abound, there are captivating street performers and, oh yes, this lovely carousel.
It’s a definite highlight, although the view of dozens of sea lions and seals just lounging in the warm August sun was a treat for many visitors.
A vibrant coastline ferries tourists close enough to Alcatraz to get a good view (which is what we settled for last time when we couldn’t get tickets for an actual tour) and there are whale watching boats too. These folks wore plastic ponchos to minimize the ocean spray. Can’t blame ’em!
We encountered a little taste of home (in more ways than one) while in San Fran, too – a Toronto street car!
I was a little disappointed to learn that it wasn’t one of the original TTC vehicles; the city has salvaged street cars and outfitted them to resemble the transit vehicles from various cities known to have them. Still, it was nice to see our own alongside the cars from other countries (like Italy) and several American cities. A lovely little reminder of our commonalities in these times of such vast differences.
And speaking of a taste of home – and things we have in common – I had a lovely surprise during our visit to Alcatraz. It’s funny: just that morning as we were packing up to leave Berkeley, I almost said to Rob, “I’m going to meet someone from Toronto today.” I didn’t. But that is exactly what happened.
As we toured the prison, I was off in my own world listening to the audio guide and a former prisoner describing the dining hall as the “gas chamber,” so nicknamed by inmates because of the cannisters of tear gas poised to drop from the ceiling in the event of an insurrection. I felt a gentle tapping on my left shoulder. And then I felt it again. I turned around to see a pretty face – a woman resembling Madonna just a bit – and she said, “Erin! It’s Gwen!”
Sure enough, a lady with whom I’ve been in correspondence over the past several months, a CHFI listener and journal visitor, was on The Rock with her husband and daughter that very day. We hugged, chatted, and took a few pictures. She joked about worrying that I’d think she was stalking me and I said – and I’ll keep saying it ’til I die – I am honoured and very happy when someone comes up to say “hello.”
Many a time people have written and said they saw me and were afraid to bother me. Are you kidding? I miss the connection we shared for all of those years. And I am waiting for the hugs and handshakes that accompany next year’s book tour and public appearances!
So ended our visit to San Francisco. Oh, but not before there was one last moment I’m happy to share: we were coming into the city on one of its many toll roads and – newbies that we are – we were in the Fast Pass lane. Of course, we didn’t have one, only cash, and because the top was down on our MINI, I was able to turn and look back over my right shoulder, make eye contact with the driver next to us and put on my “sad/desperate/pleading” face.
You’d be amazed at how that works: when other drivers actually see you as a human being, they’re not so fast just to ignore you and push by. Because that man in the SUV let us in, we paid our and his $4 toll at the booth ahead. They waved “thanks” and on we all went. I loved that moment. I was able to show my appreciation to someone in a real way for doing something nice. And who knows? Maybe they saw the Beautiful British Columbia license plate and thought, Huh. Canadians are OK!
Tomorrow: off to parts of California we’d never seen before and a heads up on something you’ll want to see at home this weekend – wherever you are!