This Kona Babe took a break from island life and ventured across the big pond to San Francisco, Napa and Sonoma for a few days with my hubby, Steve. Our time wasn’t all spent playing touristas – Steve actually factored in a few business meetings and site visits to legalize the trip. We spent three nights in the big city, right smack on Union Square in the midst of everything that we moved to Kona to escape from. Now that we are rural, it’s a great pleasure for us to make brief forays into energized metro zones full of great people-watching opportunities. There are other reasons that we make a point to travel to large cities: restaurants, entertainment, shopping, culture, four distinct seasons (!) – all of it!
In San Francisco, we did the cablecar to the wharf; enjoyed Irish Coffees at the Buena Vista; bought chocolate at Ghirardelli Square; lunched at Nieman’s; attended the Merola Opera’s Young Artists Recital at the San Francisco Opera House…
…ate fresh crab cocktail at the Wharf, visited the Presidio; rode a double-decker tourist bus, bought a couple of knock-off designer purses from a street vendor; and narrowly missed getting caught in a “Free Syria” major protest in Union Square. We feasted at Scala’s and hung out at the Campton Place lounge across from our hotel.
As for taking care of business in the city: a morning meeting at the EPA’s building in the business district was an eye-opener. It always nice to associate a face with the people that I email and speak with on the phone from Kona. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that “glorybush” grows in planters leading up to the front doors. Glorybush (tibouchina) grows rampant on the highway leading to Mountain View on the way to Volcano on the Big Island. When it’s blooming, the show-stopping purple flowers take your breath away. They were even more spectacular in front of the Environmental Protection Agency’s granite exterior.
After dropping our purses, jewelry, belts, briefcases, laptops, iPod, cells, underwear, false teeth and fake eyeball on the conveyer belt for the CT scan, we were ushered through the metal detectors, wanded, and hand-patted just for insurance. Fortunately, we left the Glocks under the mattress in the hotelroom, where housekeeping was probably on Craigslist, hawking them at this moment. The detail remained jovial and friendly, asking us why on earth we would leave sunny Hawaii to visit foggy San Fran – that obviously looked suspicious to them. After Steve passed the “yes, I have a replacement hip and a bolt in my knee from a motorcycle accident” interrogation, we were ushered into another room where two women eletronically fingerprinted and microchipped us (just kidding about the chip). While they peered into their computer screens, and possibly finding out that I had just paid my Nordstrom bill so I could charge more items on this trip, I innocently asked why all the tight security was necessary at the EPA. One woman looked very surprised, and with a serious expression answered, “because they might blow up the building!”. I valiantly supressed a giggle, while Steve muttered to me that the only people on the planet that would want to blow up the EPA would be a few Big Islanders who received large fines for ignoring the “NO GANG CESSPOOL” dictum issued by their office.
While enjoying our meeting and discussing some project issues with our contact at the EPA, I noticed that employees enjoy a wonderful benefit of having in-house daycare for their pre-school aged children, who were being supervised outdoors in a private courtyard playground. Watching them playfully skipping through the lobby and happily waving at us seemed in direct contradiction to the stern surroundings and security staff paranoia. I guess that after Oklahoma City and 9-11, every governmental agency is on high alert – and rightly so.
Back out into daylight and personal freedoms, we headed for a corner coffeeshop for well-deserved caffeine fix and to jot down meeting notes and impressions. I won’t relay every detail of our journey, but highlight a few memorable experiences. Next Experience:
A recent stroll through the San Francisco National Cemetery (which is located in the Presidio) afforded a unique view of the fog-shrouded Golden Gate Bridge. We were alone in the memorial park and stood amongst the white headstones watching a large truck crane place substantially sized utility pipe in a trench that ran parallel to the highway below us.
Steve and I spent the better part of a day walking the Presidio grounds because the scheduled shuttle failed to show at the designated time – or any time. The red brick buildings are beautifully intact and internally renovated by a private developer, affording (or not so affordable, actually) a myriad of rental options available for those wanting to live in a peaceful and historic locale.
We shared brunch at La Terasse, located at the Main Post Transit Center, and opted to sit outdoors in order to enjoy the panoramic bay views while wagering whether or not the wayward bus would show up during our meal. Fortunately, we both wore light jackets (and I packed a few scarves just for this kind of moment) to protect us from the northern breeze that chilled the umbrella-shaded patio. The café is an apparent locals-favorite judging by the tables filled with families, friends and sleeping dogs on leashes. After placing our order, we eavesdropped on neighboring conversations to get a feel for what’s happening in vibrant San Francisco. Apparently all is well, especially with this group of diners, as there didn’t seem to be any tension or concerns voiced about the state of California’s economy. There was mention of former Governor Terminator’s untidy scandal – with lots of snickering – however the topic was dissed as old news, and predictable considering the offender.
Our food arrived shortly: mine was the California Eggs Benedicte ($14) – poached eggs on toasted English muffins, with bacon, tomato and avocado, nicely blanketed with a rich hollandaise, and accompanied by roasted potatoes and fruit salad. Steve’s Spicy Chorizo & Eggs Scramble ($12) came with tortillas, salsa, roasted potatoes and a dollop of refried beans that resembled poi (really – look at the photo), but fortunately tasted like beans.
A pungent aroma filled the patio as the waitress hurried to the next table with a sizzling order of Escargots in Garlic Butter ($9) and what appeared to be classic French Onion Soup, topped by the perfunctory crouton that was pillowed with melted gruyere ($9).
The espresso machine seemed to be working overtime as the hiss of steam remained constant above conversations, and just about everyone there had either a glass or bottle of wine on the table. Since we were taking public transportation and were basically “lost”, we decided to stick to non-alcoholic beverages and save the grape buzz for later when we were safely near our hotel.
The Presidio is a wonderful national park with it’s own website, events, maps, schedules and lots of history. I would recommend planning ahead and reading the site, downloading brochures and of course, checking in at the visitor’s center upon arrival. Cabs and public transportation do not run on weekends in the Presidio – as we belatedly realized. We hiked out and hailed a cab across the street from the entrance as it was getting late in the day and we were in unfamiliar territory.
Back at Union Square, we found our bearings and were ready for an evening in the big city.
More to Come!