Another Trip to San Francisco

If I can say one thing with certainty about my third trip to San Francisco, it’s this: my photography skills have improved since last year’s trip. (If I do say so myself–we’ll see if y’all agree with me!)


We took a second trip to San Francisco to visit Teddy in February 2019.  It was another all-day journey, this time with a connection through Chicago, pictured above.

As usual, I am not a big fan of flying.  I pray the rosary non-stop until we are safely in the air.

We reached the city with daylight to spare, and found ourselves on the 11th floor of the Hyatt in the Financial District, with this beautiful view. (Thank you, Priceline!)  Teddy came to meet us and we walked into the Little Italy area to have dinner with him and one of his Notre Dame buddies.

Afterwards, we relaxed in the hotel lobby for awhile.  Though we were tickled by the names above, I actually just ended up with coffee.

And then it was time to rest up for the busy day we had planned.


It was a beautiful morning! After breakfast at the hotel, we started walking toward the starting point for our big adventure.

We were heading for Pier 33 to board a ferry for Alcatraz Island.  I had to buy these tickets before we left Knoxville, as they sell out well in advance.  We purchased a ticket for Teddy as well, but something came up at work so we were on our own.

The sky darkened as we approached the island.  And it did in fact rain heavily during our visit there, but happily we were inside when it happened.

One of the cool aspects of our Alcatraz tour is that it covered the entire history of the island, from its beginnings as a fort to the 1970s when Native Americans took over the island to draw attention to their unfair treatment at the hands of the U.S. Government.

Since the prison is what Alcatraz Island is most famous for, I was surprised and fascinated by all the history shared by the Park personnel and the movie we watched at the beginning of the tour.  It is also a surprisingly beautiful place, if a little dilapidated in spots.

The self-guided prison tour, accompanied by headphone narration, was masterful.  Voices of former prisoners and guards provided the commentary as we walked from site to site within the prison.

One of the hardest aspects of confinement at Alacatraz was the nearness of the city, always a visible reminder of the world outside.  Sometimes sounds of laughter and music would drift across the Bay.

Our visit to Alcatraz took most of the day.  I feel like this was the evening we went to see Teddy’s apartment–he had moved with a friend into a place closer to his office–but I can’t remember what we did for the rest of the evening.


Saturday was a busy day for me and a mostly restful one for John.  I started by leaving the hotel (above) in search for some good coffee (below).

On our last visit, Teddy had made it a point to take us to several local coffee establishments, which were all excellent.  Philz was the closest to the Hyatt, and I enjoyed my first ever avocado toast along with the coffee.

After I took John some coffee and breakfast, I went back out and headed for the Ferry Building and the Saturday market I had enjoyed so much on my last trip to San Francisco.

I bought some souvenirs to take home and then went back to the room, where I discovered John had neglected to pack his preventive asthma medication, which necessitated many calls to find an open nearby Walgreens and to get an emergency prescription transferred there.  There were many within walking distance, but because we were in the Financial District, most were not open on weekends.  So my next task was to go on a walk and return with the medicine.

By the time I returned I had already walked about three miles.  And it was time for more walking, since the day’s plan involved my meeting Teddy at the Museum of Modern Art, some distance away.

We didn’t have enough time to see the entire museum, but we saw a lot.  Here are a few things that stood out:

After the museum, we walked to Chinatown to meet John and to eat and stroll about.

I convinced John we should walk back to the hotel afterwards.  It was downhill all the way, which was a good thing since I ended up having walked around 12 miles all told.  We had drinks in the lobby and stared, mesmerized, at the giant sculpture below, which changes colors frequently thanks to an array of lights that are trained on it.


The next morning, we met Teddy behind the Ferry Building to catch the Sausalito Ferry.

We didn’t take the ferry for the view–although it was lovely.  We had a purpose for our trip.

We ate a quick lunch at a nearby cafe, and then hopped on a bus (tickets purchased in advance–this is not something you can do on the spur of the moment) for our trip to Muir Woods to see some giant redwoods.

It was, as you would expect, beautiful and peaceful, and very different from the forests on our side of the country.

After our bus ride back to Sausalito, we walked along the water in search of dinner.

We ended up at Scoma’s, which is funny since we ate at the one on the San Francisco side of the bay on our last trip to San Francisco and we did not know there was one on this side until we happened upon it.

Then it was back to the city to rest before our final day.


Before we left the eleventh floor for the last time, I wanted to record the terrifying drop to the lobby below.  We were grateful not to have any small children with us, particularly considering the small children we once had, who would almost certainly have tried to climb over the drop if they had an opportunity!

We checked out but left our luggage in storage, and took a nice walk along the waterfront, making our way to the Maritime Museum, where we had planned to meet up with Teddy.  Here are some sights along the way.

The museum itself was incredibly cool and I’m a little surprised I didn’t take any pictures of its art deco architecture and decor.  Pictured below is the tiny craft in which a young Japanese man once crossed the Pacific to reach San Francisco.  Please take the time to read his words in the second picture, which I found incredibly moving.

We ate lunch at a nearby restaurant before heading to the San Francisco Maritime National Park, just a couple of blocks away.  This included a museum showcasing displays on the history of the city, and admission to the Hyde Street Pier, with its fleet of historic vessels.

The Eureka, pictured above, was my favorite–a ferry that carried people (and cars!) across the Bay every day until the bridges were built.  Below are a few more pictures of her.

Below is Hercules the tugboat:

And there were older ships as well:

I got some nice shots as we left the pier:

From there, the three of us headed to the Buena Vista Cafe, famous for Irish Coffee.  Teddy had treated me to one during our epic walk on our last trip to San Francisco, and I wanted another one.  That was the last thing we did together before Teddy left us to go back to work.  We made our way back to the hotel to get our luggage and head to the airport, where we ate dinner before taking another redeye flight home.

And tomorrow we will be heading out for our third trip to San Francisco.  The most important item on the agenda this time is meeting Teddy’s girlfriend. 🙂

You can follow along on Instagram or wait till I post about it here!

A Visit to the Windy City

Y’all may remember that I’m a big fan of the writing of the late Father Andrew Greeley.  One of the things I love about his books is the way he brought to life the city of Chicago and its environs.  His stories couldn’t take place anywhere but there.  So I was excited to get the chance to finally visit the city last month.
The purpose of our visit was twofold:  to attend a wedding, and to visit our middle son, who interned at Kirkland and Ellis this summer.  We had a great time, and I took lots of pictures.
We drove up on a Tuesday.  It’s approximately an eight hour drive, and I’d seen most of it before, until the point at which you turn off to head to Notre Dame.   Aside from the various downtowns we drove through, this was the most interesting sight to me:
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I find these wind farms supremely creepy.  Is that weird?  They weren’t moving when we drove by, and they looked like some kind of alien being that might suddenly decide to go conquer the United States or something.  I also find large expanses of flatness unsettling.  Coming from hilly East Tennessee, I am not used to being able to see so far!
Our accommodations were on the outskirts of Chicago and they were adequate–meaning there was free breakfast and wifi.  Which was enough, as we spent very little time there.  Our first evening we met all the wedding folk in Greek Town for dinner.  Teddy joined us there, which was the highlight of the evening for me, and the three of us ordered a family style meal so we got to try lots of interesting Greek dishes.
Wednesday morning John and I ventured downtown to the Field Museum, near Soldier Field.  If you visit Chicago, don’t miss this museum.  It is amazing.  But don’t park where they tell you to! It’s $40, and there are cheaper options available if you do a little research.
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Seriously, y’all, plan a full day in this museum.  We were there for about five hours and it wasn’t enough.  Not only do they have permanent exhibit, but you can pay extra to attend one or all of several temporary exhibits, and all of them were excellent.
The big thing that everyone knows about this museum (or at least what they know if William is their child) is that it has the largest, best preserved, most complete T-Rex skeleton, and her name is Sue.  She was as impressive as you would imagine.
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The bottom two pictures are of Sue’s ACTUAL head. The one on the skeleton is a reproduction, because it’s too heavy to mount that way.
The first “special” exhibit we entered was about Vikings.  I loved this exhibit and learned a lot of things I did not know before.  For example, “viking” originally referred to going on an expedition, which many people did at some time in their lives.  They did not call themselves Vikings, nor did anyone else at that time.
The exhibit focused on the peaceful daily lives of the people, and revealed them to be quite different from their popular portrayal.  Here are some shots of my favorite artifacts:
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The skull of an actual “Viking.”  To see this, and wonder about this man, to know that he had thoughts, feelings, experiences, and family–just like us but so long ago–made me feel almost reverent as I looked through the rest of the displays.
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Men, warriors or not, were often buried with weapons.
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Above is a nice example of a Thor’s Hammer.
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The above are artifacts from the Christian era, including a Thor’s Hammer emblazoned with crosses.  I found it very interesting to learn how the Vikings combined Christianity with their original beliefs.
Next we headed to the Mammoth exhibit.   We learned about all kinds of prehistoric elephants, like this one:
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Saw a very well-preserved baby mammoth:
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Experienced the size of the largest mammoths:
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Met one of the mammoth’s contemporaries, this ginormous bear:
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(I don’t know that person; I included her for scale.)
And, of course, we learned facts about the range and types of mammoths and when and why they became extinct.
Next we saw a 3-D movie that was primarily about the discovery of all the mummies in the Egyptian Valley of the Kings.  Then it was on to the Egyptian exhibit.
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This is Bastet and the picture above her is a shrine in her honor.  In addition to grand temples there were many such small shrines to lesser gods.
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This was one of many mummies on display.  Am I the only one who feels uncomfortable looking at mummies, kind of like I am being disrespectful of the dead?
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And that’s a pharaoh; I don’t remember which one.
Here’s something new I learned:  While I’m sure you’ve heard of pharaohs burying all kinds of gold and food and other things that they wanted to bring along with them to the afterlife, eventually it became customary for the less wealthy, who could not afford this, to bury replicas of the things they wanted.  It was believed that it the afterlife the models would transform into real goods!
Here are some highlights from the next special exhibit, on China:
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By the time we finished with this exhibit, we were close to running out of time.  We took a quick trip through the Evolving Planet section, including an incredible collection of dinosaur skeletons.  Many “skeletons” you will find in museums are replicas.  At the Field Museum, a high percentage–I think 95%–are genuine, and if they are not, they are clearly marked as such.
I wish we had had more time to look at the many other displays in this incredible place.  We are already making plans to go back and take the kids.
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When I was a little girl and we first got cable television, one of the first and best stations was WGN in Chicago.  I remember the news segments would always be talking about the wind blowing off some lake or other. 🙂 So we decided to go on a short walk to find this lake.  Turns out it’s kind of hard to miss, y’all:
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We sat down next to it and enjoyed the view while we tried to figure out what we were doing for dinner.  I will spare you the comedy of errors which followed, but we finally ended up meeting Teddy for a late dinner here:
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We ate outside and it was very pleasant.  Unfortunately I developed a migraine and didn’t enjoy myself very much.
Luckily, I was better the next day, when the plan was to go downtown and eat lunch with Teddy, see his office, and do a little exploring before time to leave for the wedding.
Here are some shots of Teddy’s building:
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We ate lunch at Chicago Cut, a renowned steakhouse that’s right there in the building.  Then Teddy went back to work and we went walking (and taking many pictures!):
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I wanted to see Holy Name Cathedral, which was less than a mile away.  I was expecting the ornateness typical of such an edifice and was surprised–and I admit dismayed–to find that the original stained glass had been removed and the interior stripped and modernized somewhere around the time of Vatican II.  I would love to see pictures of what it used to look like.
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We made a quick trip to Teddy’s office to see where he spent his summer.  Here’s his view:
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The big event–the wedding–was next.  Weddings are always a good time, and it was especially fun having Teddy along with us.  It was a late, late evening as John always likes to stay to the very end, and then we still had to drive Teddy home which was basically in the opposite direction of our hotel!
The big plan for the next day was lunch in Chinatown and then a little sightseeing.
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John and I had already decided that going up in the Sears Tower (well, that’s not what they call it these days, but that’s what it is!) was a priority.  So that’s where we headed after our late lunch.
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You’ve probably heard about how you can walk out into a little glass cubicle and stand on glass 108 stories above Chicago.  We did not do that. 😉
Here’s what we DID see:
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And here’s one last picture that proves we were really there:
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That’s the end of my pictures, but not quite the end of the story.  From here we went to meet Teddy so we could see where he lived this summer.  We walked to a neighborhood pizzeria, and after dinner went back and saw his house, and helped him pack a little bit since he was relocating the next day for his final week in Chicago because his sublet was up.
We drove back to Knoxville the following day.  There are so many places to visit and so little time, but I think we will be back to Chicago.
A Visit to the Windy City