Sunday 8 August 2004

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© 2004 Giles Orr

We were down in the lobby at 0805 to catch our "Super Sightseeing" tour. In fact the bus we boarded was collecting from hotels and we had to board a different bus after paying for our tickets at their headquarters. On the new bus we headed out across the Golden Gate Bridge (embedded in fog) to Marin county, and on to Muir Woods. It's in what would be a secluded valley if it weren't for the park itself. As it is, our driver took our bus through some very interesting curves.

The Muir Woods is old growth redwood, specifically sequoia sempervirens. They're very rare, as they grow in very few places (they have very specific climatic requirements) and were heavily logged. Further inland there's another type of sequoia that's bigger (remember the pictures of cars driving through trees?) but not as tall. So we wandered around there for our allotted hour and a quarter. Towards the end Barbara tried to buy some stuff in the gift shop but, just as our driver had said, they were so slow she had to leave. The trees are immense and impressive, many burned but still living. I guess that happens when you're several hundred years old.

From Muir Woods we took a short stretch of Highway One (hilly, narrow, foggy, dangerous, and beautiful, just as it is in South California) to Sausalito. Barbara and I would both rather have had more time in Muir Woods and skipped Sausalito but, of the three tour companies we looked at, that wasn't an option.

I'm not expecting good photos from Muir Woods - the light was fine for our eyes but inadequate for cameras. I tried with the mini-tripod, but options (and time) were limited.

Sausalito started out as a cottage community, became an artist's area, and was turned into a San Francisco bedroom community (and a very pricey one at that) by the Golden Gate bridge. It's very attractive with hundreds of houses perched on the hillsides, but not too exciting. We had expensive but good (and, I find after the fact, non-sustainable) fish and chips. Then we split up, her to the shops and me to take pictures. One of those pictures was a "For Rent" sign about 50 meters up the hill from the shore: one bedroom, one bath, $1900.

We were back at Super Sightseeing HQ around 1230 or 1300, and instead of taking us to our hotel they did as we requested and took us right to Grace Cathedral. The Cathedral has meditative labyrinths both inside and outside, something Barbara turned out to be very interested in. She walked the inside one while I took pictures. This is another Notre Dame clone - of reinforced concrete. This is San Francisco after all. The ceiling beams were very interesting, and nice glass too. Again, glad we went. We spent some time in their gift shop, where I bought some postcards (of the cathedral) and then wrote in the cafe, and Barbara eventually bought a two inch diameter labyrinth.

We looked around outside the Cathedral and then headed over to the Cable Car Barn and Museum. It's free and kind of interesting. It reinforced for me something I'd already known: cable cars are an insanely inefficient way to move people. They have to replace each cable every two weeks, and that's several miles of cable between four routes. Max speed 9.55 miles per hour. Two staff per car, and the main operator has to be strong and have very good reflexes because he's constantly pulling or releasing his two levers and/or standing with his full body weight on a brake pedal. They sell 10 cm chunks of used cable for several dollars. I was tempted, but it's useless beyond being a paperweight. Round paperweights aren't really a good thing.

We walked into Chinatown searching for sweet buns like the ones Barbara liked at the bakery. Instead, at three different bakeries/dim sum places, I bought a red bean ball, shrimp and veggie dim sum, har gow, and bok tong go. I ate nearly all of it, although Barbara tried them. Very good, I'll probably go back for breakfast tomorrow.

We ended up in Yoogo Gelato, which is on the junction between North Beach (Italian) and Chinatown. Everything is labelled in English and Chinese and they sell Bubble Tea alongside the gelato. The treated us to a video of Celine Dion perform AC/DC's "You Shook Me All Night Long" - one more indicator of the coming of the end of the world. Out the window I see a Taqueria, an adult bookstore and a topless club. Barbara ate a very messy and very tasty chocolate-hazelnut gelato crepe. I had lemon sorbetto, which seemed pretty accurate to the Venetian stuff. At the intersection of Columbus, Grant, and Hollywood.

From Yoogo we walked a few blocks and finally managed to get a cable car ride, up and over a hill along Powell and back to our hotel. Both of us chose to ride on the side boards, standing on the outside. It's a lot of fun, and I equally enjoyed watching the operator with his levers and pedal(s?).

We got back to the hotel around 1730 and I wrote almost straight through until we left around 1915.

We went to the hotel bar (open for the first time ever on a Sunday) and had Martinis (the original, although the bar had many novelty ones available). I'm glad we did it, but I've decided I really don't like them. I wrote some more, Barbara paid $2 for 15 minutes online to check her e-mail.

Then we walked the two blocks to the simple and busy Sanraku, both a hotel and a Matt recommendation. I had the "Sushi Lover's Platter" and a California Roll, Barbara had the Chicken Teriyaki. Both meals were excellent. She said it was the best meal we've had on the trip, apparently because it was better presented and included soup (very good Miso) and salad. King of Thai was definitely better value for money, but Sanraku was just better. But to me, they're equal because ... well, I just really like eating really good cheap noodles at a lively place.

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by giles