Saturday 7 August 2004

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© 2004 Giles Orr

Roxanne's Cafe was recommended by the desk at the hotel. Expensive for breakfast at $22 (for both of us), but filling. I had a "Bay Shrimp Omlette." It's a block and a half from the hotel. We returned to the hotel, where we bought bus tour tickets for tomorrow and Barbara bought herself one for Sonoma for Monday (I'm not going).

The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) is about six blocks from the hotel. We walked, stopping at the local Ghiardelli store, where I was horrified to find that they'd stopped making the dark chocolate with raspberry bars. Those were fabulous. Oh well. I bought an incredibly rich brownie.

We spent about three hours at SFMOMA. Not as enjoyable as the Tate Modern to me, but nevertheless quite good. It's true, I don't like Andy Warhol. They had two Ansel Adams and a Weston on display in the Photography section - the former were a disappointment, relatively small and either poorly lit or too dark. I've never seen an Adams print in real life before. Or Weston for that matter.

I bought a sherbet orange SFMOMA pen at the store and a deck of partly transparent playing cards printed on plastic. Kinda cool souvenirs, both look like they'll last a long time. I used the pen to do a lot of writing during the trip - it's top heavy but it feels good.

From SFMOMA we took a MUNI bus into the Mission, to Taqueria San Jose. The Mission is extremely battered. Dollar stores with security barricades. Groceries, restaurants, all cheap. The Lonely Planet guide and my food passions sent us here after burritos - this neighbourhood is predominantly Hispanic. I wouldn't want to be here at night! And yet the book warns you most about the Tenderloin, which I'm now officially afraid of.

Taqueria San Jose was recommended for their al pastor (barbecued pork) burritos. The things are $5 and the size of your calf. Huge. Neither of us finished.

I put too much expectation and hope on food experiences, and that's probably why guide-book recommendations disappoint me while personal "finds" thrill me. The latter are no better, but the expectations were different.

From the Taqueria we caught another MUNI bus, headed for Japan Center. The guidebook took us to St. Mary's Cathedral a couple blocks from Japan Center first. I'd considered skipping it because the book calls it "ugly." It certainly is arresting. But the stained glass inside and the use of colour and light is just breath-taking. Like so many churches, I don't expect my photos can do the interior justice. In some ways it's ugly, a 1960s concrete structure, but the glass!!

Japan Center is a large, oddly arranged and surprisingly quiet mall. A lot of restaurants (including a sushi bar with small plates on little boats circling the bar on an oval water track!), small halls, few open spaces. A tiny store that sells nothing but incense where I spent too much on a small pack. Almost all Japanese businesses, something I've never seen before. Very cool.

From Japan Center we took Muni to Fisherman's Wharf and walked to Pier 39 to go to Aquarium of the Bay. They had several traditional tanks with some very interesting animals to start us off, and then you take an elevator down to walk in a long underwater (plexi-?)glass tunnel. They want you to think you're under the Bay, but it's more controlled than that. Still, incredibly cool. Up another elevator to their equivalent of a petting zoo: we stroked bat rays, another form of ray (both very soft), leopard sharks (about two feet long, rough skin), starfish (hard, almost rock-like, bumpy), sea urchins (unsurprisingly pointy), and the very soft and mushy sea cucumber. At the end was a store, and I liked their polyester-fleece jacket. I went back and forth on it several times and finally concluded that I could and would use it, so I paid my $28. It's dark blue with their rather attractive logo in green and blue on the chest.

It was cool and windy out when we left the aquarium, so much so that Barbara used my sweatshirt over her sweater. I wore my new jacket and found out it was quite warm.

Still in search of seafood (and armed with a list of sustainable seafood resources from the aquarium - including the knowledge that the locally popular Dungeness crab is highly sustainable) we went to Fisherman's Wharf for dinner. It's a tourist trap, but turnover is so high it can't avoid being fresh. We juggled price, availability of crab, and busy-ness to end up at Cafe Eight. We waited ten mintudes and accepted an outside table. Fortunately we were warm enough. Barbara was unimpressed by her crab cakes. My clam chowder was good but not great, the shrimp was really good and so was the half Dungeness Crab. Of course it was a long and messy fight to get all the meat, but tasty.

We walked to the cable car turn-around and after waiting a few minutes decided to walk a bit further and catch MUNI. The cable car turn-around line-ups are perpetual. MUNI got us back to the hotel where we thought we'd use a two-for-one coupon at the hotel bar to satisfy Barbara's desire to have her first ever Martini here in San Francisco. We arrived just as they closed at 2200! On Saturday! They close at 2200 all week.

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by giles