My first trip to San Francisco was also my first plane ride and my first time away from my family. It was 1981 and I had just graduated from St. Joseph Elementary School. My godfather had business in California and invited me along to keep his 12-year-old daughter–who was more like a cousin to me–company.
Almost 40 years have gone by but I still remember parts of that trip with clarity–eating shrimp cocktail at Fisherman’s Wharf, attending my first baseball game (that went to 14 innings!) at Candlestick Park, dinner in Chinatown (my first Chinese food!), the cold and the fog for which we were totally unprepared . . . I truly left a bit of my heart in San Francisco and longed for years to return.
Then in July 2017 a piece of my heart left for San Francisco, giving me a suitable motivation for traveling there. We visited Teddy in February 2018 and 2019 (on his birthday, which has conveniently fallen during the three-day President’s Day weekend) and will be returning next month. I love San Francisco even more now than I did then, and I’ve taken many pictures that I want to share.
Originally this was going to be one big post, but then I saw I had nearly 100 pictures from our 2018 visit. So let’s just start with that one, shall we?
One cannot fly direct from Knoxville to San Francisco, so it took us all day; we arrived after dark and took a cab straight to our hotel. After meeting Teddy for a late dinner (very nice Greek restaurant, his treat), we explored a little before bed, and took the pictures below.
Both of those are shots of the Ferry Building. Before bridges crossed the Bay, ferries were the only transportation and the Ferry Building was a busy place. Nowadays it’s mostly retail space after a period of desertion and disrepair.
The Embarcadero used to be a raised freeway. San Francisco redefined progress by removing it and reconnecting the Financial District to the waterfront.
Of course we had to walk down to the water and get a picture of the Bay Bridge.
I got up bright and early Friday morning to do a little exploring. We stayed in this hotel in the heart of the Financial District, because it was close to where Teddy worked at the time.
I was so excited that I just kept on walking until I found myself in Chinatown.
And while there I happened upon a parade celebrating the Chinese New Year! It was a complete surprise to me!
There is a Catholic church in Chinatown. It’s staffed by the Paulist Fathers, just like my own parish church. Now called Old Saint Mary’s, it used to be the San Francisco Cathedral. I took lots of pictures:
I was on a roll by now. I wanted to see if I could climb to the very top of the hill I was on, so I did.
Pictures don’t really do justice to the hills. That last one, with a view of Alcatraz, comes closest. I am not exaggerating when I say that I was scared to walk back down and was grateful that some of the sidewalks actually have steps cut into them.
I decided to walk back another way and here are a few of the sights I saw:
Below is a cool view of the Transamerica Pyramid (which was how I found my way back to the hotel–you can see it from everywhere) juxtaposed with Columbus Tower aka the Sentinel Building, owned by Francis Ford Coppola.
Later in the day John and I walked along the Embarcadero down to the Fisherman’s Wharf area, where we met Teddy for dinner at Scoma’s, an amazing seafood restaurant on the water. Here are the pictures I took that evening:
I headed out first thing in the morning (while John slept in) to the big outdoor Farmer’s Market at the aforementioned Ferry Building. In addition to food, many artisans ply their wares on the street leading to the market, so I purchased souvenirs to take home.
I snapped the above photo behind the Ferry Building during the Market. I cannot now recall why this statue stands there, but I like it nonetheless!
Below is my photo of a poem that brings tears to my eyes when I read it, describing the destruction of the elevated freeway that formerly divided the city from the waterfront.
I returned to the hotel and John and I took an Uber (this was the trip where we learned all about Uber!) to Teddy’s house, which he was sharing with four other young men. After he showed us around, we went out to explore the neighborhood(the Marina District). I took the following pictures at what Teddy called his favorite place, the Palace of Fine Arts. Note the random person in the picture below to understand the scale. It is an amazing sight.
After lunch at a neighborhood pizza place, we took another Uber to Golden Gate Park. We did not have any idea how big it is or what we would do there. It’s definitely somewhere I want to revisit, specifically to see the Japanese Tea House, which was closed when we were there.
We thought it would be fun to walk across the Golden Gate Bridge, so we got an Uber across. After taking a few pictures, though, we realized that we had just missed–by seconds–the deadline to get onto the bridge before security locked it for the night.
After this disappointment we decided that since we were already across the bridge we would Uber to Sausalito for dinner. We found a nice little Tuscan restaurant, then headed back to the city for ice cream at Ghirardelli Square.
Sunday morning I thought it would be fun to drink my coffee on the roof of the hotel. Which it was until some guy came up there and started smoking weed. At like 9 a.m. Smoking marijuana is legal in SF, but not out in the open. But everyone does, and the smell is EVERYWHERE.
We went to Mass at the church I showed you above. Father Tom Tavella is the pastor. He was formerly at our parish, and in fact baptized Teddy, so that was a cool reunion, and his homily was just as good as I expected from past experience.
We wanted to have lunch in Chinatown, and Father Tavella suggested a place nearby.
After lunch we did a little sightseeing and shopping.
I then wanted to re-attempt to walk across the Golden Gate Bridge. John wanted to go back to the hotel and have a rest. So we agreed to meet for dinner, and Teddy and I took another Uber to the far side of the bridge.
This is the only picture I snapped while on the bridge. It was so windy that I was frankly afraid to take my phone out. It was a little scary honestly but I am glad to have done it. I would like to do it again on the opposite side some time.
After the bridge we just kept walking.
Past the National Cemetery.
All around the Presidio.
By this statue of Phineas Farnsworth. And around Fort Mason. And back to Teddy’s house in the Marina District. And to the gym so he could work out for a few minutes. In short (it was not short) we walked all the way back to the hotel. I was not going to be the one to stop! By the end of the day I had walked 12 miles. After we finished dinner (we ate at the very nice restaurant attached to our hotel), I had a difficult time getting out of the booth and up to the room! Teddy and John went to a movie but I was happy to rest.
We checked out of our hotel Monday morning (leaving our bags in storage) and hopped on a double-decker tour bus for one of those two-hour tourist trips around the city. That was when I snapped the above picture. Later we met back up with Teddy and went shopping for ingredients so I could bake him a red velvet cake for his birthday (a bit difficult as the kitchen was not fully equipped for baking, but it still turned out okay).
Then it was time for good-byes, a trip to the airport, and the red-eye flight back home. We managed to have fun until the end with this cool exhibit at the airport:
And that’s the end . . . but I will post the pictures of our 2019 trip in a few days.