cali friday1

We landed in San Francisco airport in the afternoon, which sort of makes it sound as if I were flying the plane, doesn’t it? Even if I could, I’m not sure I would ever be able to steel myself up for that part where it looks like we’re landing on the water. That and a dozen other neuroses are why I’m not a commercial airline pilot.

The taxi driver who picked us up at the airport and drove us to the hotel treated us to a lively commentary of the sights along the way while he narrowly avoided causing several accidents. I like talking people and I like learning things I didn’t know about places I’ve never been. Most cabbies seem to feel the same way and I suspect that most of them believe they’ll get a better tip if they share, but goddamn I wish they’d just sit there silent as a stone if they can’t divide their attention well enough to keep it between the lines. Our guy got so distracted telling us about the beach that he drove past the road he wanted to turn on. Naturally, he did what anybody would expect him to do: He stopped in the middle of the road, threw the cab into reverse and backed up to the intersection while traffic whizzed by us.

We were booked at the Seal Rock Inn on Point Lobos Ave in the northeast corner of the city. It’s a long way gone from downtown San Francisco and it was not the fanciest of hotels, but the price was right. Besides, we weren’t going to be spending a lot of time there. For the short time we were there, we had a pretty good view of the entrance to the Golden Gate, when it wasn’t socked in by fog.

After we dropped our bags at the hotel, we were feeling just peckish enough to want a bite to eat, so we walked down to a seaside restaurant called Louis’s for an enormous sandwich. Actually, we walked past Louis’s to a bistro called Cliff House, but there was a waiting list, even though I could see open tables. It felt kind of hoity-toity, too. So we punched out of there as brassily as only out-of-towners can and walked back up the hill to Louis’s, a perfectly suitable diner perched on the edge of a seaside cliff with a terrific view of the sea.

Then we went for an amble along the road that appeared to go to Lincoln Park on the point at the entrance to the Golden Gate. I wanted to see if we could eyeball the bridge from there. We had to amble quite a bit further than I thought we would to get far enough around the point to see it, but when we finally did, it turned out to be worth the walk. It looks just as majestic in person as it does whenever you see it in movies or artsy-fartsy photos, even from that far away.

B and I at the Golden Gate

The overlook was about in the middle of the trail that ran along the water’s edge in Lincoln Park, and B suggested that, instead of going back along the part that we’d already seen, we keep going to see what else there was. The park wasn’t all that special, but the view of the bridge got better and better. I successfully avoided the temptation to crawl out on the rocks with the rest of the tourists, partly because I’m not the daredevil I used to be, but mostly because there were signs posted along the way warning that other people who tried that had fallen to their deaths, and I didn’t disbelieve them.

It was about six-thirty by the time we came to the end of the trail on the other side of the park, so we used our handy-dandy smart phones to find the nearest bus stop and hopped on the first bus into town. Buying smart phones right before we went on this trip was about the smartest thing we did (I’ll get to the dumbest things later). We never got lost, and we could do things like look up bus schedules, although they weren’t always as accurate as they could have been.

We jumped off the bus at Hyde Street, then rode a cable car (our first cable car ride together!) to the waterfront. B wanted to visit a wine shop in the tourist district. There was nobody in the place except the host, a younger guy who liked to tell stories about all the places he’d been around the world. Said he’d been to 31 states and 50-something countries, and had the snapshots on his camera to prove it. He showed us his latest trip to Cambodia while he poured wine. A born salesman, he convinced us to tote quite a lot of wine back to the hotel with us. Well, quite a lot for us. I had the feeling he thought he was going to sell us quite a lot more.

After a long bus ride back to the hotel, we turned in late and slept the sleep of travellers who’d just crossed the country and spent all day walking around a new city.

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