Our last day in San Francisco started at 5:15 a.m. when one of my roomies decided she had laid in bed long enough. I snoozed for another hour, but 6:15 is still too early to get up on vacation, isn’t it? We ate at Denny’s again and drove into town.

Our first stop was Ferry Plaza Farmer’s Market. We wandered around the market for a while sampling fruit, cheese, meats, and chocolate. Alice and Glenda bought some fresh fruit and I bought Scharffen Berger’s dark chocolate. (As a matter of fact, I have savored it all week, and just finished off the last tiny square last night.)  We were a bit disappointed with the farmer’s market; there were only a handful of booths with fresh organic produce, but many expensive little shops.

We had discovered a free parking garage at Trader Joe’s near Fisherman’s Wharf the night before. We were Trader Joe customers (we went in there 4 times during our visit) and the employees told us no one was ever towed from the garage and it would be okay to park there for a while.

We bought Muni tickets which were good for the cable cars, the trolley, the bus system and BART, and rode the cable car down to Market Street to do some shopping. Alice and Glenda headed to clothing stores while I made a detour to Apple. I had been having some problems with my Macbook and wanted to ask for advice at the Genius Bar. While I waited for my appointment time (approx. 40 minutes), I sat in on an open training class on iTunes software and actually learned a lot. I use iTunes quite a bit for loading music and audiobooks on my iPod. The expert showed some tremendous tips that I have already implemented since I got home. After my Macbook appointment (the “genius” gave me some good advice), I met Alice and Glenda at Starbucks for a short break.

After a bit more shopping, we inquired about where to eat and a clerk in one of the stores told us we would find a great variety at the Food Court at the Westfield Mall. She was right; it was not the usual Sbarro’s, Hot Dog on a Stick, Panda Express and Paradise Bakery. We found Vegan, Japanese, juicy burgers, an organic bakery and many other unfamiliar, but deliciously fragrant offerings. Glenda and I chose the Japanese place after sampling a bite of teriyaki chicken, and Alice went for the Vegan fare.

Fully refreshed, we climbed aboard the trolley, and headed back uptown. That journey was an adventure as a large black woman decided she didn’t like her seat nor the people around her and spent several blocks loudly vocalizing her displeasure. Finally, after a couple of warnings, the driver stopped and kicked her off. The trolley was so crowded, we couldn’t see her, nor could he, so he asked, “Is she off?” and a man from the back answered, “Yes, can’t you tell?” Peace had returned.

We got our car from Trader Joe’s garage and drove to Golden Gate Park for a walk through the beautiful paths and gardens. I pulled out my iPhone at one point and discovered we were only a short distance from two geocaches, so we stopped to search and found those. One of them was Alice’s first find!

We used Yelp on my iPhone and Glenda’s Incredible throughout our trip to locate restaurants and shops. On our first night we had found a barbecue place just a couple miles from our hotel with marvelous reviews, but it was closed each time we drove past. We decided to try it one last time on our last night and to our delight, found it open! They were out of every meat except chicken and pork ribs, but those two suited us just fine. We asked for it to go (since that was the only way they served anyway! :) ) and took it back to our hotel room to dig in. It totally lived up to the Yelp reviews and we thoroughly enjoyed our last supper together.

Friday morning meant saying goodbye to Alice (we dropped her at SJC airport) and heading on down the road toward home for Glenda and me. That morning when we woke up in Pacifica, the temperature was 52°, and when we pulled into our hotel in Cathedral City that evening, the thermometer read 103°. What a difference a day’s drive made! Yelp located a tiny Mexican restaurant nearby and we had chimichangas and enchiladas before bed.

As we were checking out the next morning, we inquired about Hadley’s, and found we had passed it already (they sure don’t do a very good job with signage), but Shield’s Date Shoppe was just up the road. We made a stop there where I bought dates and cashew butter and Glenda bought pistachio nuts. We listened to a good audio book and pulled into Mesa at about 3:00 with the car thermometer reading 113°! Oh, for those 52° mornings and fleece jackets again!

We got another early start on the day, after eating breakfast in the hotel restaurant looking out over the ocean again. Then we headed into town to tackle Telegraph Hill and see Coit Tower.

We drove to the area and circled the block a few times looking for a parking space. There was a tight one on a steep street just a half block from the trail that led up the hill, and after measuring with our eyes, Alice jumped out to make sure we would fit. It looked like we had about 10 inches front and back, and Glenda is a good parallel parker, so we went for it. With Alice outside and me in the passenger seat, Glenda began the sashay to and fro of backing into the space. A nice couple ambled along the street, and the gentleman stopped and assured us we were going to make it. Then he started giving Glenda directions: “Crank your wheel all the way to the left and pull forward six inches. Okay, now crank it to the right and ease back eight inches. Trust me!” He said that several times. “Trust me! I’ve done this many times.” We continued sashaying, but didn’t seem to be getting any more into the space. So I asked the guy, “You DO know we are trying to get IN, don’t you?” And he doubled over in laughter and exclaimed, “Oh NO! I thought you were trying to get out!” He wanted to help us go the other way, but his wife said he had helped enough, and made him move along. Between the three of us, I’m proud to say we got her car back into the space with four inches to spare. :)

We climbed the hill; it was great exercise! There is a statue of Columbus at the top, and a nice lookout area. (I was going to tell you about the perma-potty in the parking lot, but it stunk just thinking about it.)

We paid $5.00 to take the elevator up to the top of the Tower, and really enjoyed the guide and view. The Tower was built in 1933 by Lillie Coit, as a monument to the firefighters in the city. Frommer’s said it was the best place to get a view of the entire city, and we could see for miles; at least as far as the fog would allow.

There are murals painted on the walls of the rotunda on the ground level. These were painted by faculty and students of a California art school.

We walked back down to our car (which was easier than climbing up) and began the sashay of getting out of our space. Where was the helper guy now? But, Glenda did it in three short reverses. Getting out is always easier than getting in. Then we headed to the Haight Ashbury district.

We ate at People’s Cafe right on Haight Street, which turned out to be our favorite lunch spot of the week. A Facebook friend had recommended it and told me it was owned by a good friend of a former Intel co-worker. They served breakfast, and soups, salads and sandwiches. Everything was organic and fresh, and delicious! Then we wandered down the street checking out the shops. You could get a tattoo, then go next door to pick up a bong, and buy a tie-dyed sarong on down the street. There were a bunch of teenagers on a scavenger hunt, and they stopped us to ask if any of us were born in the 60′s. We thanked them profusely, but sadly no… wrong decade.

We drove over the GG bridge to Sausalito for an afternoon of strolling through the shops. One glass works shop really caught our eye and we spent at least 40 minutes in there looking over the expensive art work and talking with the sweet lady who ran the shop. (I can’t believe this is the only picture I took in Sausalito!)

We opted for a quick happy hour stop before heading back across the bridge and into the city. We ate dinner at Fior d’Italia, near Fisherman’s Wharf, and it was our favorite dinner of the week. I snapped this picture after I had eaten my fill.

It was fogging over again as we made our way south to our hotel, where our room with the beautiful ocean view awaited us.

When I’m on vacation, I usually love to sleep in until 7:00 or so, but not my roommates! Alice was up and working on her computer long before 6:00 and Glenda jumped in the shower. I worked at waking myself up in time to sip the hot coffee Alice brought back to our room around 6:45. We discovered a $2 breakfast at Denny’s just down the road from our hotel, and had a quick bite there before heading north.

I had noticed on the sightseeing bus brochure that parking was free at the Vista Point north of the Golden Gate Bridge and we could catch the bus from there. After confirming with all the signs that it truly was okay to park there for the day, we hopped on and headed into the city. First stop: Chinatown.  We wandered down Powell Street a few blocks when suddenly we entered the shopping district. What a beehive of activity!

There were many fruit and vegetable stands and meat markets, all selling Buddha only knows what. An array of fish and fowl with heads and eyes, tripe (which I understand is cow stomach), assorted mushrooms and oddly shaped cucumber-like orbs dazzled our eyes. I wasn’t tempted to buy anything.

We found a Szechuan restaurant that had posted its menu outside and it looked like familiar and edible dishes, so we ventured in. The hostess and waitress were glad to see us. There were guests at only one other table at the time. The food was delicious (yes, I found Asian food that was delicious!) and by the time we finished eating and paid our bill, the little dining room had begun to fill.

We moved on out of the food district and into the sundries area. A myriad of trinkets and clothing were available for next to nothing. As an example, I got Tshirts for Lauren, Nathan and Andrew for $1.88 each, and they are pretty good quality. I bought a few other items to put away for Christmas gifts.

Mid afternoon, we headed toward the next bus stop. We had planned to climb Telegraph Hill and see the Coit Tower, but it would have to wait for another day. We spent too much time shopping! The last bus pickup was 5:00 so we didn’t want to get stranded 25 miles from our car. We rode to Vista Point and all breathed a sigh of relief when we saw it was still there. We drove back to Union Square area, which we had just left, to eat dinner at Sear’s Fine Foods, one of the restaurants a Facebook friend had recommended. It had a fancy atmosphere, but the food seemed ordinary. Their specialty, pancakes, was not available on the dinner menu.

Back at our hotel, we turned in for some shuteye before day 3.

I went to San Francisco with my girlfriends, Glenda and Alice, over the 4th of July week. Glenda and I left Mesa on Saturday morning and drove as far as Burbank. We went out for dinner and to a movie that evening (“Knight and Day” with Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz) before returning to our hotel room. We got on the road the next morning in time to make it to the San Jose airport to pick up Alice, who flew in from Portland, at 3:30. We drove directly to our hotel in Pacifica and checked in. We could see the ocean from our room, but not well. Before we went looking for dinner, we stopped at the front desk to see if they had a better room available, and were told there would be one the next day.

We knew we were too late to make it up into the city to view fireworks, so we headed to the High Tide Cafe &  Creperie (specializing in omelets and crepes) close by for a bite to eat. After that we walked down to a public beach where folks had gathered with their own fireworks. It was rather amazing to us that fireworks are not illegal in California and everyone was shooting off cherry bombs, sizzlers and small rockets everywhere.  We decided not to stick around and risk getting struck, and headed back to our hotel area, stopping for one geocache along the way. Monday morning, we switched to a room on the outside of the hotel where our window overlooked the ocean. If the internet connection had been faster, the hotel would have been perfect. We really loved it.

After dropping our luggage in our new room, we headed into the city, and started our touring for the day at Fisherman’s Wharf. It was so cold, foggy, windy and overcast, that Glenda and I bought fleece jackets from a street vendor to wear over our sweaters and sweatshirts. We wandered around for a bit, then got a sourdough bread bowl full of clam chowder (for Alice and Glenda) and chili (for me) at Boudin.

Then we got tickets for the double decker hop on-hop off sightseeing bus. The tickets were good for two consecutive days, so we decided to stay on the bus for the full circuit of the city the first day, and hop on-hop off on Tuesday. We started out up top, but had to move down where it was warmer and out of the wind before crossing the Golden Gate Bridge. Alice snapped our picture with my camera as we rode around.

Along the way we passed the spectacular building that houses City Hall, the Pyramid building, and Union Square.

We got a great taste of what San Francisco looks like.

On the return loop, we hopped off at Ghiradelli Square, where YES! they do give out free chocolate samples. Of course, that just makes you want to buy more chocolate, which we did.

We thought we would eat at the Cliff House, and drove up there. It was still early (about 5:00) and we weren’t hungry enough to make the steep prices worthwhile, so after looking over the Sutro Baths,

we headed south and ate at Outback near our hotel, then hit the sack to get rested up for day 2.

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