Thursday, November 27, 2014

Postcards from San Francisco 2013

I had last gone and wrote about my trip to San Francisco in 2006. Even though I’ve been to San Francisco two other times, this visit was much different because my daughter came along. We did more of the touristy things this time. But, that's ok – we’re tourists and this is fun!

What We Saw

  • Alcatraz – ok, we did not get tickets. You need to book 3 weeks out at least. I know on 7/7 the first available date was 7/29. I tried Craig’s List and almost had one but it didn’t work out. That's fine - need to leave something undone for the next trip.
  • Walking ToursCityGuides is a program offered through the San Francisco Library and native San Franciscans volunteer as guides for walking tours. Just a heads up that since this is a free tour, the group can get a little large. For our Chinatown tour, we showed up 15 minutes early and were the first ones there (not sure if we were in the right place). By the time the tour was ready to move, there were at least 50 people, but fortunately they had 2 guides.  Our guide Bob was knowledgeable about history of the area, as well as the culture. The walking tour had frequent stops, which included the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory for a snack. We also walked past the fish markets and into a Shinto Temple. It wouldn't have occurred to us to explore those.
  • Our second walking tour was to the Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park. I’ve been there before and just strolled around and admired everything. With a guide, it was wonderful to hear the stories around the gardens and the families. The imprisonment of the Japanese citizens during WWII impacted the history of the gardens, down to specific plants that were saved by friends. 
  • Cable Car Ride – we considered taking the California line because Fodor’s said it was less crowded and offered good views. However, we went for the Powell/Hyde line since that had more dramatic inclines. This meant we had 1 hour wait in line at 11 am on a weekday. My daughter had her heart set on hanging off the side, but we forced her 67 lb frame into a front row seat. We had some other tourists come and hang off so that made picture taking more challenging.
  • Bookstores - we stumbled upon City Lights bookstore, which is a poet's holy ground.The poetry and world literature section is so exciting - books and journals I've only seen online are right there. Another bookstore that I liked was Chronicle Books. I wasn't sure at first because it smelled and looked too posh to be a good bookstore (thinking of the crickety wood floors at City Lights). However, this was the opposite. It's not just books I had seen online that were here, but online jokes or meme were their own books. They had lots of journals and artistic notebooks. I did buy a children's book there for a gift.
  • Children's Creativity Museum Yerba Buena - we just poked our heads in here as we were walking by. Annika's 12 now and this looked like it was geared towards younger children. However, they said they had claymation movie making. So, Annika and I spent 2.5 hours making a 10 second video! She came up with the plot, we made our figurines from clay, filmed it using iStopMotion with camera/backdrops. Then we took it to their sound editing room where Annika worked with someone to add voice and sound effects to her video. It's not that great because we didn't know what we were doing. However, it was a great experience!

 What We Ate

  • Viva Goa - the owner and staff are from Goa, India and it's refreshing change from the standard north Indian food you find at Indian restaurants. My husband's family is originally from Goa so he was excited about "home food." I had tried their Xacutti curry and was surprised. It tasted just like my husband's egg curry that he makes -- blending onions and coconut with key spices. I wanted to tell the non-Indians behind me "Skip the chicken tikka masala! get a fish fry masala because you won't find that anywhere else!" I wasn't thrilled with the ambot-tik sauce (sour-spicy), so there is a new flavor palette with this.
  • Kasa Indian - found this online as recommended for kati rolls, which we love. We liked the rolls and they offered different varieties. However, we still love Kati Roll Company in NYC the best.
  • Vik's Chaat Corner - this is in Berkely and again was rated highly online. We had trouble finding this one, but it's very open and clean layout. I was impressed with the way they had the ordering/food pick up organized. We had dahi bhata puri, which is one of my favorite chaat items (FYI - I could just subsist on chaat foods. I don't need real food. Elko Arcade in Mumbai is heaven for me.)
  • Tacubaya Mexican - this is in Berkeley and I wasn't going to leave CA without eating fish tacos. It was good, but Annika devoured 2 chicken tacos and still talks about it. Do wish I had one of these nearby. There was a woman reading a book with a bowl of tortillas and guac. That's perfect.
We had Chinese and Thai as well, but those were forgettable. The Thai was recommended to us, but it was quite ordinary and a little odd, in fact.

What We Drank

We had to hit Sonoma. So here are the wineries we explored:
  • Viansa - Enjoy the scenery. After a week of foggy and cold July weather in San Francisco, we were ecstatic to see the sun. Loved the view of the fields, mountains and trees from here. There was a wedding happening later and we were all jealous. We enjoyed the wine tasting experience here. If you become a member, their wines are quite reasonable.
  • Ledson - look for the castle! We slid in here right before closing and were happy the hostess spent a lot of time with us. She was great because she took it as a challenge to find wine that would suit or push our palettes.
  • Gloria Ferrer - we stopped here because we liked it so much last time. However, we didnt stay too long. Just felt more crowded there and not as easy-going as Viansa.
  • Chateau St. Jean - we stopped here, but didn't get to stay since they were closing for a private event. (Darn you people and your fancy events!)
In town, there were some other wine tasting rooms and the staff seemed quite appealing. However, we were seeking more of the vineyard experience.