When I woke up, I did feel better and stronger. Still non-stop nose blowing though, which was so annoying and making the tip of my nose chapped and scabby. It was a gray day, but no rain and looked like it would be opening up in the early afternoon. We decided to go somewhere fabulous for breakfast (since my appetite was kind of back) and head to the Botanical Garden which was at Golden Gate Park. Then we were going to play it by ear, depending on how I felt.
We went down to the concierge and asked her where we should go, she said “Mama’s” in little Italy was the best breakfast in the area. She said it was only a mile and a half away, so we decided to walk. We also asked her about the best way to get to the Botanical Garden, if we decided to use public transportation, she said it was only 2 buses and so cheap! We decided to try that. We got to Mama’s and there was a huge line, but it moved pretty quickly, the breakfast was AMAZINGLY delicious, everything home-made and they had a lot of baked goods that made the place smell so good! We split an omelette and a stack of pancakes, all so delicious!
After eating we had to walk back towards the hotel to get to the bus stop we needed, the #7 with a transfer to the #47. On the way over we found this beautiful Catholic church, Saints Peter and Paul Church and said a prayer. We got on the #7 bus and there was a really kooky guy with a little chi hua-hua, who spoke really loudly to himself and the dog and was also bald and wearing women’s clothing and jewelry. It was a little sad because he just seemed lonely, like he wanted to talk to people, we smiled and told him his dog was cute. When we got off at our stop to transfer for the #47, we were having a little trouble figuring out where the bus we needed would be stopping. This very nice man came over to us and asked “Do you ladies need some help?” We explained where we were trying to go, and he was so sweet and helpful! He walked us over to the stop and made sure we were all set before going on his way. No ulterior motives whatsoever, just a good Samaritan.
The bus took forever to come. It got so bad, that one of the other people waiting with us started to get exasperated and started yelling out loud, saying things like “OH MY GOD WHERE ARE ALL THE BUSES???” Finally our bus came and this time, the crazy person was the driver! Ay Dios Mio! She was loud and weird and very obnoxious. She talked non-stop, mostly to herself. We decided to get off one stop before the one she told us was the closest to the garden and she yelled at us! I told her, “we really like walking”…we could not get away from her fast enough. It made me feel like we were in NY with all the crazies…
As we walked to the entrance to the park, we ran into even more crazies hanging out on Haight Street, mostly hippie types (like Asheville) and we realized this was probably due to the amount of marijuana dispensaries on this street. We didn’t have to walk very far to get to the gates of the Botanical Garden, it was so gorgeous! Even on a gray day, the flowers and foliage looked beyond beautiful. It was also nice and empty, we felt like we had the park completely to ourselves. The garden was divided into sections of different areas of the world. Australia, Chilé, New Zealand, South Africa all with plants native to those areas. They also have a HUGE succulent garden, we love succulents! After walking for a couple of hours, we decided to walk back down Haight Street and look at some of the kooky boutiques, find a place to eat and head back to the hotel early, to pack and maybe get some ice cream. The plan was to be in bed by 8:00 or 9:00 the latest.
As we were leaving the park, we saw the carousel, which was closed and this really beautiful playground with amazing sculptures made to look like you were at a beach, with sand and everything. There was a plaque that claimed it to be the very first playground in the U.S. built in 1887! There were many children playing and enjoying it, then we saw a sign that read “If you are an adult and not accompanied by a child, it is illegal for you to be in the playgrtound” YIKES! We rushed over to the nearest exit.
When we made it back to Haight Street we browsed around all the stores. The boutiques were filled with eye-candy and very unique items. There was a store with oddities (various animal skulls and taxidermy), a shoe store where the shoes looked like sculptures but were completely wearable and of course a holistic essential oil store right next to the marijuana dispensary. We joked that mom should go inside and get an evaluation done so she could get a lollipop to help her tinnitus, but we didn’t. We passed a tattoo store and Mom said “Let’s get tattoos!” I said…’No!”. We tried finding a place to eat on Haight Street but nothing looked too great, so we got back on the bus toward Little Italy and ate at this place called “Rose Pistola”, yummy thin-crust pizza and salad. It was 4:30 pm and our timing was perfect to stick to the plan.
Mom’s phone rang and it was a San Francisco number, it was Richard Vila and he wanted to know what we were up to. He said he was going to be near where we were in about an hour, picking up his little girl from preschool and did we want to get together? Mom was thrilled, she was dying to see Richard and meet his little 3 year old, Victoria. We finished eating and started walking in the direction he would be coming in. He picked us up and drove us to a place called “Romolo” it was about a 15 minute drive. I introduced myself and it was like we have known him for years! Such a super, friendly guy and so sweet and generous and comfortable with us, so much respect and love for family. It made quite an impression on me and Mom. Victoria was absolutely adorable and very precocious and lively with so much to say.
When we got to Romolo, we were introduced to the owner, who was a friend of Richard’s. It was a very cool bar with a full menu. We told Richard we had just finished eating but would love to get some drinks. Mom ordered a wine and I got some tea, my congestion was getting bad again. I tried so hard to fight through it but really all I wanted was to be back in bed. Such a shame because Richard was so fun and talkative and I was just not 100% myself. He said Jennifer (his wife) was on her way over. When she got there she was just as friendly and awesome as he was, Mom was having a ball! It was too bad we didn’t get to meet them while Juanita and Ces were still here. They finished up their food and wanted to take us to another bar.
We parked and walked a couple of blocks, Richard pointed out a really old, famous restaurant “Vesuvio” which had an amazing stained glass window. He also pointed out a historical building where Francis Ford Coppola stayed and wrote the “Godfather” movies. Café Zoetrope on the ground floor is where he also sat and wrote. Since Richard is in the restaurant business, he knows about all the restaurants in the area and has a lot of connections. The place he took us next was called “Comstock”, in this really great old space that has been a bar for over 100 years, but the newer owner has been there for the past 5 years and is his friend. The man behind the bar is Richard’s business partner for another restaurant he will be opening soon called “The Iron Mule”. I asked him about the logo for it and he said he had just received an email from the graphic designer and showed me the samples, the logo was so cool! I let him know about my business and talked about Elemental Creations. He seemed really excited about it and I was so mad at myself for switching purses and not having a business card with me! He ordered dessert for us to share and got us some more drinks. They could see I was suffering and knew we had to catch a morning flight, so we left around 10pm and they gave us a ride back to the hotel. If it hadn’t been for that he would have probably stayed out with us until 1 or 2 showing us around and bar hopping, such a fun guy! We thanked them for everything and said our goodbyes, it was a great way to end our trip.
When we got back to our room, I slowly realized how much packing I had to do, it was overwhelming. I had lots of souvenirs I had gotten for David and myself and was worried about making it all fit, somehow it all worked out. We packed for about an hour, took hot showers and went to bed (quite a few hours later than I had hoped, but totally worth it!). We set the alarm for 6:30am and just like that, the trip was officially over. 7 days of awesomeness to celebrate Mom’s 70th year on this earth, it was EPIC, unforgettable and was over way too quickly. We laughed, we cried and had the best time ever! We promised each other we would do it again for another milestone birthday, maybe Mom’s 75th… in Barcelona??? YESSSSSSSSSS
Monday morning and poor Suzy is not feeling great. Which really stinks because today is the day she finally meets her one client in San Francisco face-to-face for breakfast, Dave Kendrick the owner and founder of dogtrekker.com. Suzy has been doing work for him for the past 7 years and yet, up until now they have only met and talked via phone calls and emails. The plan was to meet at the hotel restaurant for coffee and breakfast. Angie and Suzy go downstairs to the Blue Mermaid restaurant and get a table, they were sitting around for a while and Suzy decided to text him and let him know. Guess what? He was already there, he had no idea what Suzy looked like and had walked right by her.
We all laughed about it and sat down. It was a nice breakfast, great conversation and we told him we really had no solid plans for the next two days. He gave us some great suggestions including going back to Golden Gate Park, he said, “If all you saw was the Tea Garden, there is so much more to do at the park.” The check came and he insisted on paying, which was so nice and gentlemanly of him, especially since Mom had breakfast too. We thanked him profusely and said our goodbyes. Suzy (I) was struggling not to look or sound too sick the whole time and after breakfast was over, told Angie that I really needed to go back to bad for a little bit. I wasn’t able to eat anything and my symptoms were getting worse.
After about a 2 hour siesta, I feel refreshed and get back into the spirit of touring San Fran! We called an Uber and decided to go to the amazing Mosaic Steps at 16th Avenue. We never would have heard about these steps if it wasn’t for Juanie, she found out about the steps and told us about them before we even got to San Francisco. We had put it on the list of things to see and unfortunately ran out of time to do it before Juanie left. They were beautiful and the story of them even more so, it was a community project donated by all the neighbors and over 300 people helped put them in. So colorful, a real work of art!
We called Uber again (WE LOVE UBER!) and got a ride over to Coit Tower, this was a suggestion by one of Mom’s friends on facebook who was following our posts. Coit tower was donated by Lillian Coit to help beautify the city of San Francisco, it’s Art Deco in design and stands 210 feet with murals on the main floor. Mom’s friend Sue Mackarness suggested we go there because her grandfather painted one of the murals! The view at the top was gorgeous, even on a gray day. Unfortunately, it was also very cold and rainy and the top was open, which really made my symptoms get bad again. I told Angie, “Sorry Mom but I really need to get inside.” We walked out and realized that we had accidentally gone up without paying…OOPS!
It was 4pm and we wanted to just go sit somewhere and maybe get some hot food. Mom really wanted to try a place that Dave had raved about called “La Mar” a Peruvian Seafood restaurant whose specialty was ceviche. We looked up the restaurant and it was not open until 5:30, so we found another restaurant close by, “Hilltop” which was open for happy hour. Mom ordered wine and I got some hot tea. They had fireplaces which was a nice surprise that helped me feel a little better. We ordered an appetizer, but I had ZERO appetite, surprising since I wasn’t able to eat anything at breakfast either. We talked and waited for 5:30 to come, I started to feel worse and worse. Finally at 5:15 we left and walked in the cold rain the 3 blocks over to “La Mar”. All the ceviches on the menu were super spicy and actually the thought of eating ceviche did not sound good to me at all. We got 2 appetizers, fried yuca and empanadas, I took a couple of bites and really could not taste much. Mom said it was delicious. Since the tower, I had been blowing my nose non-stop and felt like I had chills. It was time to get in bed.
We got an Uber and went straight back to the hotel. I took a hot shower and got into bed, it was 7:30pm. I felt terrible that this had happened the last 2 days, but I was a mess. We decided to order the movie “Bad Moms” and watched that before going to sleep, I prayed that tomorrow I would feel better. It would be our last day in San Francisco and I did not want Mom to spend it in the Hotel while I was sick in bed.
Morning came and we all said our goodbyes, Juanita and Ceci headed home it was very sad, but there was no time to dwell on it. Mom and Suzy had an 8:30 am Mass to get to at the Grace Cathedral. We went down to the concierge to get directions, and as luck would have it, the cable car stopped right at the cathedral! We walked down to the stop where they turn the cars and got on. The ride was so fun and the hills were so steep, we rode through part of china town and made it to church just in time. The cathedral was HUGE and looked like Notre Dame, there was a labyrinth in the main entrance hall and amazing stained glass windows. The mass was taking place in the chapel and was pretty filled up. The mass was Episcopal but we were both surprised at how it was almost exactly like a Catholic mass.
The concierge had told us about how there were many cafés and Italian bakeries near the church to have breakfast, so we walked instead of getting back on the cable car. We found a great little café and had some strong, hot coffee. Mom had the scrambled eggs and Suzy had a bagel and lox with cream cheese, everything was delish! After eating we continued walking to the hotel and accidentally walked right into the Crooked Street where there were lots of tourists taking pictures, we flagged down a Spaniard and he took a really great pic of us. He almost lost his balance and fell flat on his butt, which was kind of hilarious.
When we got back to the Argonaut, Suzy was not feeling right. Since the Wine train she was feeling a little off, like a cold was coming on. Mom and Suzy decide to take a little mid morning siesta and re-charge. Two hours later, they decided to take an Uber to the Muir woods. It was a 30 minute ride to the entrance, our driver was completely silent, until we got there. We realized there was no cell service and Suzy said, “Oh my God, how our we going to get an Uber back if we have no service up here?” That’s when the driver finally spoke and said, “When you ladies are ready to get an Uber back, if you have no service you should take the shuttle down into town and you will have service there for certain”. Phew! what a relief…
The Muir Woods is a magical place, as we walked to the entrance Angie finds a $5 bill! How lucky is that? We walk closer and Suzy finds a giant raven feather! We realized later that it truly was a raven feather, because there were giant ravens flying everywhere and no other birds that big with black feathers. The trails are relatively short, we hiked for about 2 hours and covered about 4.5 miles, each turn more breathtaking than the next. The trees went up forever and made us feel very small. The woods were green and lush but also seemed to have a red hue due to the deep redness of the tree trunks. The day was slightly gray but as we walked further into the forest we could see blue sky trying to break through the clouds. After our hike we went to use the restroom over by the gift shop and saw these amazing bear sculptures carved out of tree trunks that we posed for pictures with. The gift shop was amazing and about to close! Suzy got a couple of keepsakes, it was 4:50pm and we found out the last shuttle to Marin City was going to leave at 5:00! We rushed over to wait in line. Thankfully, the shuttle was late and had plenty of room.
The shuttle dropped us off in this very empty, random parking lot of an office building with no where to hide form the brutal, freezing wind. Thankfully, we had service and were able to request an Uber, however, our driver was completely confused as she tried to find where we were and we saw the car icon driving in circles in the app. There was one business, Glassdoor in the office building that had a security guard who noticed us suffering in the cold, he unlocked the door and let us wait in the lobby, our hero! Our Uber finally found us and gave us a quick ride back to the hotel. We were both cold and starving and didn’t want to think too much about where to go, so we just went back to good old Buena Vista Café and had burgers (turkey burger for La Sue). The place was PACKED, as usual. We sat at one of the big round tables that is for sharing, and shared our table with a nice couple from Germany (we think) and another couple that seemed really mismatched. We tried to guess what their story was but we never figured it out. It was still pretty early but Suzy was wiped out and the icy cold wait for the last Uber pick up didn’t help her head cold situation. We went to bed pretty early and got some much needed rest.
Today is the BIG day, the real birthday celebration for Mom. The day of the Napa Valley Wine Train Tour! We woke up to Juanita’s surprise of a champagne toast, we made mimosa’s and toasted the birthday girl. 70 years old and still looks like she’s in her 50’s…Happy Birthday Angie! We all got dressed a little on the fancier side, since we were riding the the First Class vista dome car! We walked over to pick up the rental car and of course stopped at our favorite breakfast place, Boudin (after all it was on the way). We had coffee and kept breakfast light, we had a big, 4 course lunch coming on the train and we did not want to spoil it.
Juanita drove us to Napa, where the train station was. It took about an hour and fifteen minutes, which just flew by because of our non stop conversation and laughter, great times! We arrived at the station about 40 minutes prior to boarding and checked in. We received our boarding passes and they also gave us each a special little pin that we were told to put on our clothes, it was so special and beautiful and unexpected! The station had luxurious couches, 2 wine bars (of course) and 2 very nice gift shops. We sat at a table at one of the bars and decided to have more mimosas…well actually the Birthday Girl had a mimosa and Juanie and Ces had cran-mosas, which were super tasty and tart.
The voice came over the intercom and it was time for us to board. There was a super cupie, old timey conductor guiding us in the right direction. We felt so special going to the First Class Car and when we walked inside it was gorgeous! The tables were set with white linens and shiny silverware and the dome was amazing. Shortly after being seated, our server came over and introduced himself, his name was Froy and he was very sweet and accommodating. He offered to get us wine and waters, poor La Sue was freezing and asked for hot tea, when he returned he brought her over a blanket, how cupe is that?
The train started moving and we were on our way to our destination, the castle winery “Castello Di Amorosa”. The views form the dome were amazing (did I mention, it was yet another perfect, cloud free day?), winery after winery, even some names we recognized. We studied the menus and made our choices, each of us got different dishes so we could all try a little bit of everything. We also ordered a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc for the table, which seemed to pair best with our variety of choices and made Angie very happy (since she only likes white wine, ja ja). The four courses came out timed perfectly and were better than we even imagined.
After finishing our meals, Froy came to the table with presents! We were so surprised, he gave us each a champagne flute etched with the wine train logo and also gave the Birthday Girl a beautiful set of cork coasters, also with the train logo on them. Then he informed us that we were to be given a guided tour of the train….all the cars and kitchen. I don’t think we even realized that was part of the deal, what a fun surprise and so cool to really see it all. The train had some rail cars that were 100 years old and each one was a little different ranging from 1920’s Art Deco style to the Old West. The train stopped and Froy took us to the exit and we said our goodbyes, we had finally arrived at our destination.
We were loaded onto a limo bus (there were about 15 of us) and were driven to the winery from the station. On the way over, we saw some amazing homes and wineries and the landscape was looking more and more like Tuscany. When we drove through the gates we saw the castle up ahead, so big and beautiful. The castle itself was built not too long ago, but the owner went to great lengths to make it as close to a medieval castle in Tuscany as possible, even importing some bricks, stone and artifacts. Our tour guide was a great guy named Steven K. who looked and sounded like he could have been a Kane brother (Uncle John’s generation). We asked what the K stood for, and no, it wasn’t Kane but a name so complex we can’t even remember it. He was a fabulous guide, his love of wine and the winery was obvious in his passionate descriptions and stories. When we got to the tasting room we were given a list of all the wines we were going to taste. Angie was able to taste 2 of the 10 before she said “No mas…girls, I a little bit tipsy”. During the tasting we learned more about Steve, he was actually from NY and went to Manhattan college in the Bronx! No wonder we thought he could be a Kane.
We finished the tasting and the tour, we said goodbye and thank you to Steve and headed toward the exit. Juanita ordered some wine which was to be delivered directly to NY and La Sue got herself a cupie hat. We loaded up into the limo again which took us directly back to the station where our car was parked. Before heading back, we stopped in the gift shops and Juanie got David a really nice tee and one for herself too. Since La Sue was the only one who didn’t drink, she was in charge of the drive home. The GPS took us a different route and we actually drove through downtown Napa, which was very cool to see.
When we made it back to the hotel, Juanie and Ces dropped Suzy and Angie off, while they went to return the car (thanks guys!). We were all pretty exhausted and could not believe that Juanita and Ceci had to get an Uber first thing in the morning and head to the airport. How did it all go by so quickly? We chillaxed, talked and went over the happenings of the day. After getting our second wind, we decided it was time to head back out and do a little souvenir shopping. We stopped at the amazing gift shop at the Boudin Bakery where Juanita got some really cool stuff and then headed to pier 39. On the way over we saw Kenny the clown and Juanita paid him to make Mom a birthday hat out of balloons, he made this amazing tricolor creation that barely fit on Mom’s head, but she wore it proudly. There were lots of souvenir shops at pier 39 and a super awesome juggler performing shirtless. Mom had been looking at some charms with either a bridge or a cable car and she found one that also had her name on it, she loved it but she didn’t want to spend the money on herself.
After we were finished shopping we were all feeling a little hungry again, Juanita and Ceci wanted to try a famous In-N-Out Burger, there was one right on the wharf. La Sue was looking for some hot soup, she was feeling chilled again…(uh-oh). Mom went with Suzy back to Boudin where they got some hot tomato soup and Juanita and Ces went to the In-N-Out Burger which was just a few doors down on the way back to the hotel. We all met up afterwards, and went back up to the room so Juanita and Ceci could start getting their stuff organized. The sadness really set in when the girls started to pack and all of a sudden, La Ces tossed a bag in the air and said “For you Angie”. She had gotten the charm necklace for Mom, the one with her name on it and a cable car! Mom was so surprised….she couldn’t believe it. We all reminisced and talked about how awesome everything had been and how sad we were that Juanita and Ceci were leaving and never had a chance to ride a cable car. Mom and Suzy had that at the top of the list of things to do for the morning.
We woke up early and walked down the wharf back to the amazing Boudin Bakery, we couldn’t resist going back. They have a big picture window where the bakers are making the dough and you can watch them in action and the smell is just intoxicating. Breakfast was so delicious! Angie and Suzy split 2 of the best dishes on the menu, a ham, egg and cheese english muffin sandwich and a giant waffle… oh my God sooo good! Ceci had the crab eggs benedict, also very tasty with fresh lump crab. The bakery has a very nice gift shop with gourmet style kitchen gadgets and very french themed aprons and things, super cute! We all said we would be back yet again to buy some souvenirs.
After breakfast we walked 2 blocks to Enterprise to pick up the rental car. Juanita drove us over to Golden Gate Park (which is huge!). As we were driving over, we were amazed by the view of the bridge, the fog was in a perfect line across the bridge and the sky was perfect and clear above and below. We parked in the lot and walked to the Japanese Tea Garden. The garden took our breath away, it was so lush and green and manicured so perfectly. We felt like we stepped into Japan, the ponds were filled with giant and very colorful Koi, there were birds everywhere and the sculptures and buildings were beautiful. Walking through the garden was so peaceful and quiet, it was a very special place. Before leaving, we visited the gift shop and Suzy bought us lucky fortune cookies! She also surprised Angie and got her a little cat charm!
We made it back to the car and Juanita drove us to San Jose which took about an hour and twenty minutes to the Winchester Mystery House. We checked in, and luckily this time Ceci was able to get a ticket, yay! We had a little bit of time before the tour started so we walked around the gardens. It was another perfect day, dry and sunny, not a cloud to be found. We started the Grand Estate Tour and our guide was a very funny man named Jeff who seemed just a little bit too obsessed with Sarah Winchester and her life. The house was very old and typical Victorian, the Tiffany stained Glass windows were unbelievably beautiful. The wallpaper was all original, very ornate with embossed detailing and there was a lot of built-in, functional furniture that was Sarah’s invention. She even had an Otis elevator in the mansion and an indoor greenhouse with its own sprinkler system. The behind the scenes tour was creepy! We went down into the basement and had to wear hardhats, the basement went on forever and it was at least 10 degrees colder down there and just plain scary! We stopped by the gift shop on the way out, they had a ton of stuff, including a photo they took of us at the start of the tour. Suzy surprised us all with getting each of us a 5×7…we told Angie she should take them home so Juan could make cool frames for them.
Before heading back to the hotel, Angie wanted to stop at Poquito, a restaurant on 3rd street that is owned by Richard Vila (Angie’s cousin). We were hoping he was there but he wasn’t, we told the bartender who we were and let him know to please let Richard know we stopped by. We took a look at the menu and decided to try it out and have a couple of small plates, OMG SO DELICIOUS!!!! We tried the empanadas de aire, empanadas de hongo, llapingachos and the ceviche, they really did it right! When we attempted to pay the bill, the bartender wouldn’t allow it. He said, “Richard would kill me if I let you pay!” Such a nice surprise! We did leave the bartender a really good tip, he was great! When we walked back to the car we found a really cool gallery store that sold functional art, the place was called “Workshop Residence” amazing stuff. We parked the car for the night and made it back to the hotel just in time for sunset, we sat and relaxed for a couple of hours, had so much fun chatting about everything and laughing nonstop. These moments were the best of the trip, the bonding time between the four of us, so special.
At dinner time we decided to go to Ghirardelli Square, it was just a few blocks away. It was a very chilly night, good thing we packed jackets! We decided to stop at Buena Vista on the way, we all wanted a quick wake up Irish Coffee and really wanted Ceci to see the place where it was invented. The place was packed and the coffee was STRONG and I’m not talking about the caffeine!
We got to Ghirardelli Square and walked around, there were a lot of very cute cafés and stores there, but we were mostly interested in buying chocolate for the 2 Davids and Juan. They had so many different flavors and a café of their own that included a Sundae Bar! After we finished shopping we were all hungry for some food, except Angie. We tried going to this cool looking diner but it was closed, we ended up going back to the hotel restaurant, The Blue Mermaid. We sat outside, they had really cool fire pits and heaters. Their outdoor seating was in a courtyard that had an ice cream parlor, “Norman’s” which claimed to be The Best ice cream in all of San Francisco. Angie couldn’t resist! She got herself a scoop of espresso and indeed it was delicious, she said it was better than Ben and Jerry’s! The rest of us had wine and appetizers, we went to bed full and happy!
We woke up super early, still getting used to the time change. Juanita wanted to work out, so we all went downstairs to check out the fitness center. Afterwards we walked over to the Boudin Café on the wharf, which we walked by last night…it is a sourdough bakery, known for its amazing sourdough bread. We had an excellent breakfast, strong coffee and egg sandwiches on fresh baked english muffins. We walked slowly back towards the hotel waiting for Ceci to arrive, we kept in touch with her via texting and all of a sudden she was there! We were so filled with emotion we all got teary, but Ceci actually cried… it was a very special moment.
We went back up to the hotel to get our plan in order, Juanita surprised us all with a gift of these amazing silver necklaces that have 2 beautiful heart charms on each of them! So beautiful, delicate and cool that it matches the heart shaped skeleton keys from the locks of love! Mom, then surprised us with Halloween Goody Bags! Filled with treats and jewelry, we feel so lucky and grateful! We decided to walk from the Hotel to the bridge and then walk across the bridge. The walk is super scenic and part of the Golden Gate Park…with beaches, Fort Mason and The San Francisco Marina along the way. We walked about 3 miles and realized we were running out of time, if we were going to make our 4pm boarding on the boat to Alcatraz Island off of Pier 33. So we called Uber to have them drive us to the other side of the bridge so we could walk back over. Our driver’s name was Robert, he was super nice and funny, but not the best driver in the world. He almost ripped Ceci’s leg off when he started to drive away before she was fully in the car and the door was still open! Thank god she was quick and paying attention….OY! He didn’t even know his way around and kept asking us where to turn…as if we knew! Somehow we figured it out and made it to a safe place to get off at the other end of the bridge.
When we started to walk over the bridge, we couldn’t have asked for a clearer day, not a single cloud in the sky. Everything was so blue and bright (almost too bright!). The view was breathtaking and there were so many people walking and biking across the bridge. The wind picked up a little but not too bad. The full walk across is 1.7 miles long, we saw sail boats on the bay, little mini islands and seagulls everywhere. Not to mention the amazing views of the city and Alcatraz, so unreal! Mom kept asking us to pinch her…but HARD, none of us really wanted to actually do it but she wouldn’t stop asking. We didn’t see any place where people have placed locks before, which was weird…because it has been done. We guessed they probably cut them off periodically because of the weight it adds to the bridge. We picked a great spot by a suicide helpline call box and kind of hid them behind it hoping they wouldn’t get cut off too soon. Locked them in and took some photos. La Sue didn’t have time to get one made for Ceci (since we only found out at the very last minute she was coming), but Sue did manage to find a little lock for Ceci to lock up with ours too. After we made it across we grabbed an Uber to Pier 33 where we were supposed to catch our boat to Alcatraz. We checked in and tried to get a ticket for Ces, but the boat was sold out until November! We were all so sad, but Ceci actually seemed a little relieved, she was exhausted from the flight and the time change and was looking forward to some siesta time at the hotel. We had some time before we needed to get on the boat, so we grabbed some appetizers and cocktails for Happy Hour at this great restaurant, “Butterfly”. The food was great and had a little bit of an Asian flare with amazing views of the bay and the island.
At 4:20pm we said goodbye to Ceci and boarded the boat for a chilly ride to Alcatraz. When we got to the island we walked the nature trails outside, there were birds everywhere…even hummingbirds, it was absolutely gorgeous. Our tour guide was a park ranger named Wendy, Alcatraz Island is actually considered a National Park. You could tell she loved her job, she was so knowledgeable and excited about showing us everything. After walking the trails for about an hour we ventured inside, it looked exactly like the prison in the movie “Shawshank Redemption” and the creepy feeling was overwhelming. We toured the cells and then went down into the “dungeon” that used to be the place for solitary confinement. That’s when things got REALLY spooky. They turned off the lights to give us an idea what it was like when you got sent down there, it was completely pitch black! Riding the boat back to the wharf was beautiful with the sun going down, the views of the Golden Gate and the Bay Bridges were spectacular.
We met Ceci at the wharf and walked back towards the hotel. We decided to eat some dinner at this place called Pompei’s Grotto, delicious hot crab and corn chowder in freshly baked sourdough bread bowls and some wine. By the time we got back to the hotel we were EXHAUSTED. Juanita checked her apple watch and it said we walked 33,000 steps!!! That included her 3 miles on the treadmill, but even if you subtract that, it means we walked 12.5 miles…BIG DAY!
It’ a gorgeous day in San Francisco when Juanita and Angie land into the airport at 10:30am. They go down to baggage claim and wait for Suzy’s flight to come in. She gets there pretty quickly and the adventure begins! It’s our first time using Uber and our driver is a super sweet, his name is Abel and he reminds Mom of one the family’s chauffeurs in Cuenca who was also named Abel (crazy coincidence!). Our ride was quick and exciting, seeing the streets of San Francisco for the first time. While we are riding, I tell Mom about how I found the Grace Cathedral and they have Sunday Mass at 8:30am on Sunday, which prompts Abel to give us some religious pamphlets about being saved and the bible. It was a little awkward, but it was also very sweet, since he said he only gives them out to special people.
The Argonaut hotel is centrally located, on Fisherman’s Wharf and so nice! We are very pleased with it, but unfortunately our room was not ready. We leave our bags at the desk and head across the street to Capurro’s for a bite. La Sue handed out some presents, they were silver heart shaped locks with each couple’s name engraved on it to lock on the bridge! Everyone was super excited about doing this and they each came with a skeleton key with a heart shaped handle and a silver chain to keep as a remembrance of the trip. We walked along Fisherman’s Wharf and browsed the galleries, posed for pictures with wax statues of Al Capone and Mark Zuckerberg and saw the sea lions on Pier 39. They were surprisingly LOUD and hilarious to watch. We found a great little store of Russian nesting dolls, that was run by the cupiest little old Russian lady. Apparently there is a pretty big Russian population in San Francisco. We loved all the dolls but they were very pricey. Lots of cool things going on at the wharf!
When we got back to the hotel, our room was ready. After settling in, we rested a bit and took in the amazing view from our room. We got a free room upgrade with views of the Golden Gate Bridge, Ghirardelli Square and the turning of the cable cars just because Juanie told the really nice girl at the front desk it was Mom’s birthday and talked hotel Biz talk with her! We were also surprised with complimentary snacks with a cute little note on them and a bottle of red wine. Next to the snacks there were some bottles of water, La Sue grabbed one and ripped the little note on it and started to drink, she started to read the note out loud thinking it was another “enjoy these complimentary snacks” note. Unfortunately, it was quite the opposite. It was a note informing us that every bottle of water consumed would incur a $3.50 charge to the room…OOPS! After unpacking and establishing where the ice machine was (very important to La Sue), we decided to venture out again. We wanted to get a little something to eat and the concierge recommended the cool little corner place we saw on the way in called the Buena Vista Café where they claim to have invented Irish Coffee. The place was very old school…built in 1896 and had so much character. The food was surprisingly delicious, Suzy had the Crab Melt, fresh lump crab and sourdough english muffins baked that day from a local bakery. Juanie tried the Irish coffee (Strong!) and chocolate covered bacon, covered in Ghirardelli Chocolate… both sweet and salty. Mom tried it too, they both said it was very “unique”. There were some curious diners with Irish accents that leaned over and asked what Mom and Juanie were eating, Juanita told them and offered them a piece…they said the same thing…”unique”. La Sue said, “Uh…none for me, thanks.” We walked backed to the hotel and decided to make one last stop, Ben and Jerry’s next door! Mom loves her Ice Cream and she just couldn’t resist. After that we called it a night, we were pretty wiped out.