Friday, June 9, 2023

Happy Birthday to Me!


It's my birthday today! I'm 42, which is strange because it feels like just yesterday I was 35! I'll blame the pandemic for warping my sense of time. 

I consider myself very blessed, without being clich├ęd about it, throughout my 42 years.  

Also celebrating today - Michael J. Fox (Canadian!), Johnny Depp, and Natalie Portman (same year as me).

Thursday, June 8, 2023

Vacation Recap - Part 2 - San Francisco

This is Part 2 of our recent trip to California.  You can read about the first part here.

I will start off with this - whenever I told someone I was going to San Francisco, or since I've been back and said that's where I was, the first thing that 95% of people mentioned was the poverty and homeless problem. They would suggest we go to Napa, that there wasn't much to see in San Fran, and warned me about the subway and the vagrants.  I was surprised how much people mentioned it. Now, to be clear, there is certainly an abundance of homeless people there, and if you go through the Tenderloin district, which we did not do on this trip, but I had done when I was there in 2019, you will see many people living on the street, open drug use, etc.  I saw people in Berkeley and in San Francisco who were in crisis and shouting in the street.  When we would sit in a park, I would make a comment "check for needles".  BUT, this was not much different from what I experience in Toronto on a regular basis, and it did not prevent me from enjoying our stay. It's part of the fabric of city living and there is plenty to do and see without it being the focus.  Not that I'm trying to minimize the issues that people face, I just think it is a shame that it's the first thing people say about San Francisco (and increasingly Toronto).  You should always be careful of your surroundings when travelling, but at no time did I feel unsafe. There are gritty parts of the city, but also really nice parts, and I think people need to keep an open mind.

Anyway!! Enough of all of that, onto my trip recap:

We took an Uber to our hotel in the city and were able to check in right away.  We stayed at The Stanford Court on California St.  This was our view.

We set off for a walk down to North Beach, through Chinatown.

We ate lunch at Mario's Bohemian Cigar Store Cafe. I had been there for drinks when I was visited last time and was happy to be back.  We had some drinks in the sun and ordered some Italian sandwiches. 

Classic cable car.

Grace Cathedral dressed up for Pride.

We got changed and went for drinks at The Top of the Mark. This is at the Mark Hopkins Intercontinental Hotel, next door to our hotel. 

The tradition of buying drinks for servicemen (and women) goes back to World War II as they set out for Japan. Here are some squadron bottles.  Shots from these bottles are free if you show military ID.

We had reservations at Empress by Boon in Chinatown. It was a prix-fixe menu, and we added the duck (which was recommended).  Everything was delicious and it was a great experience.

Walking back to our hotel.  I took this photo upside down as that is apparently supposed to be better lighting.  I think it worked!

We were up bright and early the next morning to catch the cable car to breakfast. 

This is our hotel.

We went to The Buena Vista Cafe, home of the original Irish Coffee.  

Then we decided to rent some scooters to take us along the waterfront.  Despite having never ridden a scooter before, we quickly caught on.  

We went to the Farmer's Market at the Ferry Terminal, walked around, got some coffee and a pastry, and did some browsing.  There were a few really nice food and wine shops that I could have spent all of my money at if we weren't just starting our day out and about.

Sitting on the pier.

Then we walked for a bit before deciding to get scooters again for our next destination, the Mission Dolores Park.  The scooters were a good idea for zipping along and through some of those grittier areas I noted above.  We parked our scooters and did some shopping before getting a fresh juice and hanging out in the park.

Then we found a place at the corner of the park selling craft beer and empanadas and set ourselves up there for a bit.  It was a great place to people watch.

Waiting for the streetcar to take us back to Union Square.

We stopped in at Target and then walked up the hill to our hotel.  Dave took this photo for the boys.

Relaxing in our room with some of the things we bought at the craft beer place.  

We went across the street to the Tonga Room at the Fairmont. It has a pool in the middle with a boat on it that takes the live band back and forth (we were too early for the band though) and every fifteen minutes there is an indoor thunderstorm (it's like a Rainforest Cafe for adults).  It's a scene!

We ordered Mai Tais and then Dave wisely switched to a beer while I got another sugary drink.

And then we sent to the baseball game.  The Giants were playing Baltimore, and although we cheer for neither of those teams, we do like baseball and I love seeing stadiums in different cities.

We had great seats, about four rows up from left field.

Good night San Francisco.

We set our alarms for 6:00 am to watch the F1 race and then got ready for the airport as our flight was leaving at 11:40.