Saturday, October 27, 2012

Water, Water Everywhere, Plus Books and Baseball

Where did we go, which people did we see and what things did we do during Carolyn’s two-and-a-half day visit to San Francisco? Hey, whirlwind tours here are my specialty! We spent time with special people, we spent time staring at ocean vistas and we spent time in assorted halls of learning. And yes, we watched the Giants and the Cardinals play.

The minute Carolyn arrived on Sunday, I whisked her off to brunch with one of San Francisco’s finest attractions – my family. We had lunch at the Duboce Park Café with Patricia, Joel and Milo. Then we headed north, over the Golden Gate Bridge. We stopped at a farm stand in Mill Valley to load up on whole-wheat fig bars and thick oatmeal cookies and then we meandered along the twisting Highway 1.

The Muir Beach Overlook, a scenic vista if ever there was one, is always a great introduction to West Marin. We then drove through Stinson Beach, around the lovely-as-always Bolinas Lagoon and on to a favorite spot – Bolinas itself. We walked to the water, dropped in at the funky surf shop and spent time with my friend Emmeline at her art studio. (See I always pick up a handful of note cards when I visit Emmeline, but on this day I also bought a small print, a picture of me in my oak tree incarnation.

We drove on to Olema in West Marin and stopped for an early supper at the Farm House Restaurant. Carolyn ate grilled oysters; I opted for the wild salmon. We shared an apple and pomegranate crisp for dessert. Then we headed home, driving past the tawny hills, the open grassland and the coastal redwoods in Samuel P. Taylor State Park. 

Monday morning, the sky cleared just in time to send us to the top of Twin Peaks for a panoramic view of San Francisco. Gorgeous! And I live here! Then it was off to Land’s End to see just that. ( At one time, what is now the entrance to San Francisco Bay was all land, all the way to the Farallon Islands, some 27 miles west of what is now the edge of the continent. We headed just up the hill to Fort Miley for another look at the ocean pouring into the bay, and were treated to views of water in at least half a dozen colors. The 75-year-old Golden Gate Bridge is to the east, beautifully framed by Monterey cypress trees. 

Water, water, everywhere – but we wanted to see more, so our next stop was the Warming Hut at the western end of Crissy Field, where you can pose for photos with the Golden Gate Bridge just behind and above you and then wander out on the pier to ask about the catch of the day. We watched a giant tanker head out to sea and then drove to the nearby Sports Basement store, where Carolyn added to her collection of outerwear layers, a necessity when hanging out in San Francisco.

For lunch, we popped in at the current incarnation of Cliff House, home to great food and even better views of Ocean Beach and the sea. The first Cliff House was built in 1863. (Check out the Victorian version, which burned in 1907, at  Carolyn opted for clam chowder; I went for the pot stickers and a salad. Then we headed to Fort Funston ( for one more outstanding view of the Pacific Ocean. The urge to watch the baseball game suddenly overcame one of us, so we went back to the apartment to cheer on our respective teams.

Tuesday morning, it was clear but a tad chilly, so we headed for the California Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park. (See We started by staring at rays and small sharks and then stopped to say “hi” to Claude, the albino alligator. We lingered for a long time in the four-story rainforest exhibit, where a blue morpho butterfly landed precisely on top of a picture of itself on a sign along the path. Until it twitched an antenna, I thought it was an exquisite plastic replica, but Carolyn knew right away it was the real thing.

In the aquarium, we checked in with the giant California octopus (a personal friend) and then stood in wonder, staring at fish, urchins and sea stars and waving kelp. The shaking house in the Earthquake Exhibit was closed for repairs, so we hung out on the living roof of the building. We visited the African penguins, examined tortoise shells from the Galapagos Islands and then observed a sleeping 15-foot-long albino reticulated python named Lemondrop.

Fish tacos (made with salmon!) and hummus were on the menu for lunch at Reverie, a small café in Cole Valley near my apartment. Next we made a pilgrimage to City Lights Bookstore ( in North Beach. I mentioned I had first visited the shop in 1982, but Carolyn had a better story – while in college, she attended a lecture given by Allen Ginsberg. That was exciting, even vicariously! We made our purchases and then walked along Grant Avenue in Chinatown. The street was established in 1845, back when San Francisco was known as Yerba Buena, and today the area is said to be the largest Chinatown outside Asia.

Carolyn’s friend Denise met us at the apartment and for dinner we went to Bambino’s in Cole Valley, where I favor the Il Sol pizza and any of their salads. After we ate, Carolyn and Denise headed for North Bay, where they planned to hike early Wednesday morning at Muir Woods.

Through the entire visit, Carolyn and I laughed and reminisced. We shared stories from our past, talked about our present lives and considered our hopes for the future. And that’s what friends are for-- thanks for visiting, Carolyn!