Saturday, February 2, 2013

In the City

We got up at about 7:30 with intentions of heading "uptown" around 9:00. You have probably heard the old saying about the best laid plans of mice and men, so in actual fact we caught the train north at 10:47

We had investigated the protocol the previous evening, and parked the car and got our tickets for the CalTrain. This train would drop us off right downtown and we could navigate around from there.

The station looks like a throwback to traditional train stations however it  is really only a ticket vending area. In fact, each of the stations has a different flavor in architectural style.

We looked down the track and in a couple minutes we could see the headlight of the train coming north. As it approached I noticed that of the people waiting on our platform, none seemed to be particularly interested in the approaching train. Then, with horrified fascination I looked across to the opposite platform and noticed the passengers their gathering their belongings and making ready.

You guessed it, we were on the wrong platform. I notified Scooterchick we had to get across, and we started heading for the end of the block to cross. As we walked, the train grew closer. We accelerated our perambulation, as the train approached. We broke into a jog, as we could hear the dinging of the bell, and Pat said we aren't going to make it. I said we can do it, as we broke into a wheezy run, we can make it. Scooterchick said we aren't going to make it. I replied come on baby, come in baby, come on baby!! We crossed over and approached the train and the conductor was holding the door for us. We got onto the train and collapsed in our seats.

I was winded and Pat was puffing and blowing and insisting, I'll just have my heart attack now and get it over with. Soon enough though we were able to recover our breath and wits and enjoy the scenery.

Pat asked me please to make sure we were on the right platform in future. I hastened to assure her I would double check next time, and every time after that.

Here is another station viewed through a dirty train window. The architecture on this one is much more colonial spanish. I like the way they put variety in each station, instead of adhering to a rigid formula like some other transit systems.

The track passes alongside Brisbane Lagoon on the way north. Hwy 101 passes on the other side of the lagoon. It looks very peaceful in the late morning light.

We come around a bend and see the city approaching. Technically we are approaching the city , but you know what I mean.

There is a lot of mosaic work in the area. This is the side of a building that has an arty feel to it.

when we got off the CalTrain at the city terminal, we set about arranging our urban transportation. The last time I was here the SF Muni. system offered a 3 day pass, but this has morphed into what is called a Clipper Card. We go two cards and loaded them with some transportation with the help of Jonnie, an employee at the Walgreen's which was our first stop.

I looked back briefly to take this picture of the train station, before we boarded a bus for downtown.

Here is a picture of one of the urban canyons we saw when we got off at Market St. So far we haven't seen too much, but bear with me, it gets more interesting from here.

This is the Chase bank building. It was built in 1907. Almost all the buildings in Downtown San Francisco date from 1907-8 or newer since 90% of the city was destroyed in the earthquake of 1906 and the fires which raged unchecked after it. The city had to be rebuilt from then onwards, and still maintains a young city feel.

We stopped in Starbucks briefly for coffee and cake, before proceeding. This outlet was full of people, and over 80% of them were, like us using some sort of wireless device. I did see one woman reading a book, but she occasionally glanced around nervously as though someone might disapprove.

Just next door to Starbucks is the Hearst building. When you think that it was a scant 100 years ago, that William Randolph Hearst built an empire based on his newspaper business and real estate holdings, and now we are in the digital age. Ask yourself this question. Do you even know someone who subscribes to a daily newspaper any more? I don't.

Lotta's fountain was donated to the city of San Francisco by Lotta Crabtree in 1875. it is  Cast Iron about 12 feet tall and served as a rally point for emergency workers during the earthquake of 1906.

Even the lampposts in the Historic Downtown district are adorned, which hearken back to a time when form followed artistic sensibility and not just function. This one has a native american on horseback and a dog and cat on the lower pediment. You can see Scooterchick doing something with her camera in the background.

This is Union Square. It's hard to believe that this area was once a tall sand dune, and was set aside by the city fathers for a park in 1850. The monument is a tribute to American Navy Sailors. Once a rallying point for troops assembling to fight the American Civil War, it is now a rallying point for San Franciscans, tourists and pigeons alike.

Here is my beloved, all smiles at the prospect of visiting on of the locations in her computer game "Big City Adventure - San Francisco". As you can see the sun is out, and it is almost overmatched by the radiance of her smile.

I had a few Shredded Wheat Squares in a bag in my pocket and the Scooterchick crushed them up o feed the birds. Needless to say, the birds were very much in favor of this exercise.

Here are your two intrepid travelers basking in the sun. We took a couple minutes to think about our next move, and to enjoy the warming rays. I already have my jacket off, hey it's over 60 F. sitting here.

We exited the square on the opposite side and saw our first cable car. we walked down the hill to the end of the line so Pat could see how they turn the cars around.

Passing the corner of Victory Square, I saw a field of flowers, just waiting for their picture to be taken. OK I'll oblige you.

As we walked to the Powell Street terminus, I noticed this strange "bird" in a flowerbed. It was the only one in bloom, so I thought it picture worthy.

This is the procedure when the cable car reaches it's terminus. at the right side of the picture you will see a small handle. The car is rolled onto the turntable by hand and brought to a stop. The handle is pulled and then the conductor and brakeman push the car as it turns around 170 degrees. The turntable chock drops into place and the car is rolled off, again by hand so that people in line can board, while the conductor resets the rail for the next car to arrive.

Here we can see the car rotating. Old technology that still works flawlessly year round.

Here we see the conductor and brakeman getting ready to set the car for the next load of passengers.

The passengers are kept in line by stanchions and cable. This is a section of the actual cable used to propel the cars at a steady 12 mph uphills. It needs to be changed periodically to maintain safety regulations, even though the cable is capable of withstanding far more load than it ever sees.

This is a notable San Francisco establishment. I searched in vain for historical references. I do know it has a place in story and film and it recognizable as an SF landmark.

As we crest the hill and head down towards Aquatic Park, the end of the line for the Powell Street Line, you can see Alcatraz Island in the distance. Alcatraz is a National Park Service site, and they offer audio tours inclusive of ferry fares.

This is a common sight in San Francisco. Because space is at a premium, bay widows are used to increase floor space and light coming in to upper stories.

Same building as previous picture, and one can see the circular tower windows on the corner.
Each building seemed to be in competition with the next to provide the most late Victorian decorative touches.

These 3 cable cars are lined up to go on the turntable at aquatic park. Since they seem to run every 10 minutes or so, this backlog will be cleared up soon.

Here is a plaque that gives details of the exploration of San Francisco Bay. It is interesting to see details of the foundation of a metropolis in the earliest stages. 

Across the street is Ghirardelli Square. The chocolate company was started by Domingo Ghirardelli in 1852 and they have been making the chocolate ever since. The original factory site is now a trendy collection of shops, restaurants, services and tony condos.

A row of planters features flowers and flowering shrubs on the plaza at Ghirardelli Square.

This is the clock tower and part of the original manufactory. Keep in mind that in the 1850's many people did not carry a timepiece with them, and clocks throughout the city would chime to let area residents and passersby stay current with the hour. This would also signal lunch hours and quitting time. It was not below the occasional unscrupulous boss to keep the clocks set 3-4 minutes late to get an extra couple minutes work out of employees.

This is a picture looking towards the courtyard and shows what was the cocoa building which is now condos. There is a listing here currently, 3bd. 3 ba. for only $3,400,000. What a bargain.

Her is another view of the plaza.

There is a firepit inside the square, and we rested our weary tootsies, and discussed dinner possibilities. The rested and warmed we continued on our way . 

Someone suggested we check out North Beach for dinner, so we hopped a #30 bus and roda a few block and got off at Washington Square. There was a small pond by the bus stop.

There was even a bronze statue of Ben Franklin drinking water by temperance activist and artist Henry J Cogswell. It was first erected in Market Street in 1879 and moved here in 1907 after the fire.

Here is the pond the statue is adjacent to. The water flows from the statue into the pond, and it is a reminder of the streams which once ran through this area.

There is even a small statue of the state mascot, the California Golden Bear guarding the park.

By now the hour was drawing late,and we were looking for something to eat. Nothing here.

Aha, we thought. a restaurant called Sushi Fighter, which acclaimed itself San Francisco's top rated sushi restaurant. Being sushi fans we entered without trepidation.

Yeah, perhaps we should have held on to that trepidation a little bit longer. This was a dish called a Volcano Roll. It was recommended as one of their most popular dishes. While Scooterchick and I both agreed it had some spice to it, Spice is no substitute for taste.

The tempura was unimaginative and greasy, Hey, change the oil!!!

The California Roll and Smoked Salmon Roll were nothing if not run of the mill.
Seriously if this is the best San Francisco has to offer, let me introduce you to some sushi chefs in BC who can show you just how mediocre and unappetizing your offerings really really!

Scooterchick seems more interested in her dining companion than the dismal sushi we received. Thank you baby for being so tolerant of substandard offerings.

Leaving the restaurant we saw a true San Francisco native. I'm not sure if this is a 61 or 62 but I recognized it immediately. You probably do too, but i'll give you a front 1/4 view to confirm your suspicions.

That's right it's an MGA. It has been stripped as though someone originally started a restoration. Missing (in order from front to rear) are bumper and bumperettes, turn signals, badging , rear view wing mirror, hood flashings, wipers, door trim, rear deck trim and rear bumper. This one is an original condition survivor and looks like a daily driver. All one can say to the owner of a car like this is "carry on then" and don't let any hater tell you otherwise.

Across the street  and in the middle distance we could see the Coit Tower.

At the other end of Washington Park, the church of St. Peter and St. Paul was accenting the city skyline.

We made our way to the Embarcadero, and caught a streetcar. A little sleuthing on this one indicates that it is probably a Peter Witt car, so named after it's designer, and it first saw service in Milan Italy in the 1920's. Still in service today.

This however is the tram on which we rode. Some simple investigation, revealed by the name plate over the front door, showed that this car entered service in 1941. 

It first saw service on the municipal line of Philadelphia Pennsylvania. As you can see it is still doing yeoman duty on the other side of the continent.

Having caught our southbound train back to Redwood City, the last photo of the night is the Oakland Bay Bridge as we head for some much needed rest.

We got back to the hotel and I managed to download my pictures but very little else, which is why I am now finishing this post on the evening of the following day. We have another busy day tomorrow, and if I can keep my head off the pillow a little longer, I'll tell you about today later.........cheers

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