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Day 74, Vacation, Alcatraz & San Francisco

Photos by Fr Michael Butler, Jul 28, 2011

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[28 July 2011] This morning we got up early and made it to the ticket office for Alcatraz by 7:15. Alas, the line was already long, and the office didn’t open until 8. So we stood in the cold, foggy morning until 8, not knowing whether or not we would be able to get tickets. YES! We got some of the very last ones to be sold; we heard the announcement that they were sold out while we were walking away from the window.

So Alcatraz is the No. 1 tourist destination for visitors to San Francisco. It was a good tour, with great personal audio sets and a lot of information. Beyond that, there is nothing to report.

After we got back from Alcatraz, we were starved, so we found some lunch, then collapsed for naps, because we sometimes wear ourselves out on vacation seeing things and going places.

In the evening, we set out for Fisherman’s Wharf again, because we remembered that there was a comedy club at one of the Italian restaurants. We got reservations on line, laughed our *sses off at routines, then wandered around Fisherman’s Wharf afterwards for a while, just people-watching. I have never seen so many Interesting People all together in one place.

I have to comment on one of them. He’s in the pictures above. This old black man had a big green branch in each hand and was hiding behind them on a little stool. Now, this is on a sidewalk, where there aren’t any bushes for yards around, but people would go by, paying no attention, and he would yell Boo! and wave the branches at them, and scare them out of their wits. Now here’s the cool part: they would all throw money in his can. There were several of us standing behind him, watching this happen time and time again, and sure enough, every time somebody got scared, they’d throw money in his can. Not that any of you are hard up for cash, but I’m just sayin’…

Very, very interesting people in San Francisco. If you’re a people-watcher, like I am, I don’t think I’ve been in a better place to see folks and what they do.

But that was about it for San Francisco. Tomorrow: Yosemite.

Day 73, Vacation, San Francisco & Muir Woods

Photos by Fr Michael Butler, Jul 27, 2011

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[27 July 2011] BTW, for anybody planning to go to San Francisco and is unfamiliar with the city: it is cold. And foggy in the morning and in the evening, which means “cold and clammy.” Rather like English beds, now that I think about it…

Today we took a bus downtown and caught one of the cable cars, because you have to ride a cable car while you’re in San Francisco. We later saw the Cable Car Museum, which actually has the big engines that move all the cables for all the cable cars in the city, all of them, right there for you to see; so the museum was better than we expected it to be. Worth a few minutes of your time if you find yourself in the neighborhood.

We got off the car near Nob Hill, visited Grace (Episcopal) Cathedral, because it’s big and beautiful, and I had seen it years ago when I was in San Francisco for an AAA/SBL (American Academy of Religion/Society for Biblical Literature) conference.

We wanted to eat Chinese food in San Francisco, so we walked downhill to Chinatown, called up the appropriate app on my Droid phone to find local restaurants and discovered we were right across the street from Sam Wo’s. We didn’t even know it was a restaurant, given the outside appearance, but the on-line reviews raved about it, so in we went: through the greasy kitchen and up rickety narrow stairs to the tiny second floor dining room. Apparently Sam Wo’s is a Chinatown legend, with extremely surly waitresses, service slow as molasses, and cheap, plentiful, outstanding food. Also, it was a famous hangout of the Beat poets back in the day, so Jack Kerouac and Lawrence Ferlinghetti, and Allen Ginsberg once sat at these very same tables (Lord knows they were old enough for the poets to have sat at them). The service was not so slow or surly, but the food was indeed divine and cheap. Jeremy noted that it was the first time he had eaten Chinese food and not been hungry half an hour later.

After lunch, we went back to the hotel and got the Jeep and went to Alamo Square, to look at  a few of the beautiful old Victorian houses, locally called “the painted ladies.”

We then went to the neighborhood around Haight-Ashbury. This was my idea. (Verily, it’s true.) Chris proclaimed the place “half-past cool,” which, of course, I already knew, but he didn’t. For all the aged hippies out there reading this, however, I have to say that the Flower Children have sold out. They’re all a bunch of money-grubbing capitalists now (what I paid for a t-shirt for Chris, yikes!). Sell-outs, just like Abbie Hoffman joining The Establishment. Sham freedom-loving lay-abouts, sham environmentally-conscious lovers of the earth (read: shills for Greenpeace eco-terrorism), sham peddlers of mind expansion (read: sellers of the latest over-priced New Age fake “energy” enhancers). But Chris was amazed, Jeremy was offended, I was amused, and Annette just shook her head (a $69 price-tag for a tie-died skirt opened her eyes to the scam). I count that a smashing success.

After Haight-Ashbury, being very near the Golden Gate Park, we went to the Japanese Tea Garden, because I wanted to see it, and walked around. Now that’s a beautiful place, meticulously kept, and exquisite in that perfectly Japanese way. I could visit it every day.

After the Tea Garden, we stopped very briefly at Our Lady, Joy of All Who Sorrow Cathedral, the one of Geary Ave. that St John (Maximovich) built, and where his incorrupt relics lie. I got one of the workers in the bookstore to let me in, and I had a few minutes alone with St John, to present to him in person all the specific things I had been praying about for a long time. Alas, the time was too short. But I did get a couple of bottles of oil from the lampada which hangs over his relics, so I’ll have that for everyone when I get back to St I’s.

Regrettably, the day turned foggy again by mid-afternoon, so none of us ever got a good picture of the Golden Gate Bridge, but we drove across it anyway, and seeing a sign for Muir Woods, we went there late in the day, and saw the giant California cypresses that grow there. Very fine trees, if you’ve never seen trees of that size. Only sequoias are bigger

From there, we were beat, so we went back to the hotel and crashed.

Day 71, Vacation in San Francisco

Photos by Fr Michael Butler, Jul 25, 2011

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Got the family from the airport okay, though they were ravenous after a 5 hour flight. In-N-Out Burgers, which I was told was a local favorite, sated everyone’s hunger.

Our hotel was on Lombard Street, a few blocks from the “crookedest street in America,” so we walked there first. Alas, city maps of San Francisco are not topological: it was very much uphill. Very much.  Uphill. We shall have calves of steel by the end of the trip.

I’ve got several pictures of interesting people scattered throughout the photos: people taking a Segway tour, the odd guy with a green mohawk, new friends in Haight Ashbury,  street theater, that sort of thing.

Made it to Fisherman’s Wharf, which wasn’t too far away from the hotel; had dinner at an Irish pub, then found our way to Chinatown around dusk.

Not bad for our first few hours of vacation.

Vacation destinations

The last month of the sabbatical will be vacation time, R&R, with my family. Here’s where we plan to be. (If you click on “View Larger Map,” below the picture, it’ll take you to a Google page that has more information about the places we’re planning to be.