Everything has its advantages. Everything has its disadvantages. We spent the morning in the city and the afternoon in the country. The morning was interesting and crowded. The afternoon was beautiful and calm. While we often picnic in the country on fruit, cheese, eggs and cookies in the countryside, our meal in the city was exceptional.
The Embarcadero is the old waterfront on the southeast bay where the main shipping piers were located. It was built on an inlet that had been filled in. The area has been improved since the 1960s, and Embarcadero now also refers to the roadway and walkway along the bay. Pier 1, Pier 1 ½, Pier 3 and Pier Five still exist. Is that where the Pier 1 chain of stores got their name? I did not research it. Now, while there are still some boats including those that take tourists out to Alcatraz, the piers seemed to be mainly shopping destinations.
When we came into the city the first time, we had great views but it was still hazy. This day was sharp and clear. A Saturday, everyone was out to take advantage of the beautiful weather. Nonetheless, as it was early, I was able to find parking on the street when in two instances cars pulled out at just the correct time. I have never won raffles, fifty-fifties, or lotteries, but I have always had good “parking luck,” something especially valuable when we lived and worked in D.C.
There are some weird sculptures along the way. “Cupid’s Span” was put up in 2003. I’m not sure when “Raygun Gothic Rocket Ship” was erected. They are both fun, but for the most part I believe “public art” is an oxymoron. I guess there are worse ways for cities to spend money.
After the Embarcadero, we moved on to that favorite tourist spot, Fisherman’s Wharf, which is just up the street closer to the Golden Gate Bridge. It is generally thought to run from the actual wharf to the Ghirardelli Chocolate Factory, now another shopping mall.
As it was lunchtime and we were at the famous Wharf, we went into Alioto’s #8, one of the two oldest restaurants on the wharf. Rose Alioto and her husband had a fish stall in the early 1920s and opened a restaurant in 1928. Rose fought to keep it going after her husband died leaving her with three small children. Men on the wharf would not sell her fish because she was a woman. A man who worked with her husband helped, and eventually son Frank built the business up. It is now run by the third generation.
Although the fleet is much smaller, fishing boats still use the wharf. Their boats can be seen from the third-floor restaurant. Thinking it was now just a tourist trap, my expectations were low. I just ordered a king crab bisque, a salad and glass of wine. It was superb. And the basket of sourdough bread, hot and crispy, could not have been any better.
After lunch, we continued down the street, followed 101 across the Golden Gate Bridge and stopped to let Michelle get some pictures. It was spectacular, and San Francisco Bay was filled with bright white sail boats.
The Pacific Coast Highway north of San Francisco, like that on the Central Coast, goes in and out from the shore. Just outside Sausalito, we took a winding narrow two-lane road over the hill to Stinson Beach. It was a different world and hard to imagine we were so close to the city.
As there were hoards of people out enjoying the weekend, we did not stop in the villages but only along the way for the magnificent vistas.
Michelle’s mental image was of a four-lane road (probably from movies made near Los Angeles) and my mental image was a narrow road by cliffs. Both are true at points, but most of the road is two-lane and much of it goes inland. In particular, I was surprised that the road by the Point Reyes National Seashore was inland and one could only take access roads out to the coast.
There were inns and lodges along the way displaying “no vacancy” signs, but we confidently headed inland to Sevastopol (the Marriott was full) and Santa Rosa where we got the last two rooms available in the same place we had stayed earlier when visiting Bob and Jan. Sunny coastal days bring the people out.