San Francisco diary – Day 9: 9 Feb 2014


I think the hotel is on to us. After a week of taking two or three apples a day from the reception counter, they’ve stopped putting a bowl of apples out there.

We woke up lazily this morning, only being ready to leave by about 09:30, when the cleaner came around and knocked on our door just before we were ready to go for the day. We stopped in at Bar Norcini, an Italian-ish style coffee bar in the foyer of a hotel down Powell Street, so M. could get a coffee.

After that we braved the rain once again and caught a 38 bus west along Geary Street to the Richmond district. There we changed to the 44 bus south to Golden Gate Park, but only after stopping in at the Cafe Coco on the corner where the bus stops were to buy some bagels for lunch. The staff seemed confused by what we wanted to order, and eventually gave us four bagels, toasted and spread with a thin layer of cream cheese. This was close enough, so we went to catch the next bus.

When the bus arrived at Golden Gate Park, it dodged around the roadblock set up to stop traffic entering the park (I presume this is a thing they do every Sunday). In the park was a huge number of people. At first I thought it was a protest or rally or something, but it turned out to be a queue to get into the Academy of Sciences! The bus driver said it was a free entry day today, and he could drop us here at the back of the queue if we wanted, instead of driving all the way to the museum and the bus stop there. We said no, we were going to the de Young Art Museum, and a lady on the bus said that would be fine, as they weren’t having a free day today. The queue was astounding. It snaked a good three or four hundred metres, unsheltered from the rain, with about half the people huddled under umbrellas. This queue made the one at the Exploratorium last Sunday look tiny.

From one museum to another
Looking at the queue for the Academy of Sciences, from the observation tower of the de Young Museum.

The bus let us off right in front of the de Young Art Museum, and we scurried to the nearest likely entry point, which looked like it would be around the far side of the attached cafe. However a security guy ushered us into the cafe through a door and did a bag check on us, then let us proceed through the cafe to the museum entry hall beyond. We paid $8 each for entry to the permanent exhibits (which included a $2 discount for taking the bus there), but declined to pay extra for the temporary Bulgari art exhibit. We went downstairs to leave our coats and umbrellas in the coat room, and also left the bags with our bagels.

Back up to the ground floor, we started with the Native American Art section, which had exhibits of Mayan and Aztec works, including a room full of fragments of wall murals from Teotihuacan, and lots of pottery and ceramic sculptures. There was also some Olmec and a bit of Inca stuff, and a few things from other Mesoamerican and South American cultures. There was also a substantial section of Eskimo and Inuit art, much of it carvings of walrus tusks or whale bones, as well as some wood.

From here we transitioned to modern American art, with various contemporary sculptures, abstract works, and so on. There was a room dedicated to the building of the Bay Bridge, with archival photos of the construction process, as well as artistic lithographs of scenes of the bridge under construction, and architectural drawings. This section done, the time was a bit after midday and we felt like lunch, so we returned to collect our bagels from the cloak room, then sat to eat one each. We decided then to move to the cafe to eat the second one, in case we weren’t supposed to be eating there, but the cafe had a sign outside saying “no external food”. So we stood outside the cafe doors and ate our second bagels, then went inside and got some cups of water to wash them down.

Modern art
The modern art section.

Back in the museum proper, we ascended a level and started on the American paintings section. This began with works around the 17th century, mostly portraiture. It progressed through landscapes and still lifes, following the progression of European art. There were a few sculptures as well, and a selection of antique furniture and furnishings to show off the developing American styles. This section concluded with American impressionist works and the beginnings of abstraction. There were also other galleries full of native art from Africa, Oceania, and Asia, but we decided to skip these and spend the rest of the afternoon over at the Conservatory of Flowers, a short walk away through the park.

We collected our belongings from the cloak room and walked through the misting rain to this old exhibition style building, that looks like it is made form white rattan from the outside. We paid $8 each to enter and found ourselves in a tropical wetland, warm and humid and lush with greenery. We had to remove our coats and I also took off my jumper. Scattered amongst the foliage were dozens of orchids and other tropical flowers, in a wide variety of colours and shapes. We progressed around the building anticlockwise, entering another section where they kept highland tropical plants, and where the temperature was much cooler. Another section contained aquatic plants, with a large pond filled with lilies, rice plants, and other things. They had a model of a giant Queen Victoria Lily from the Amazon, which you could walk under to see the structures on the underside of the giant leaf, but there wasn’t a real one visible in the pond.

Purple orchid
Orchids in the Conservatory of Flowers.

Back through the lowland section and across to the other end of the long building, there was a room full of live butterflies. This was very cool, although it seemed to have only about five or six different species that I could distinguish. We checked we weren’t carrying any butterfly hitch-hikers as we left the room and finished our circuit of the conservatory. Then we exited and walked back to the bus stop at 8th Street, right outside the park. A bus approached as we were waiting to cross the road to get to the stop, and we managed to wave it down as the light changed and get on board.

We rode back to the intersection with Geary Street and changed buses on to a 38 heading back towards Union Square. We got there just before 16:00 and decided to see if we could get a table at the Cheesecake Factory for an afternoon tea. Bbt the wait for a table was still about 45 minutes. Instead, I got a slice of the carrot cake cheesecake to take away, and we went down to the Starbucks on level four, where M. got a mocha coffee and we sat at a window table, looking through the huge Dior banner out on to Union Square. The cheesecake was really more carrot cakey, but that was fine by me and it was delicious.


After that we headed back to our hotel room. We showered and changed into nice clothes for dinner. While M. was finishing up, I went downstairs to the lobby to book a winery tour of Napa Valley for tomorrow. We are taking an eight hour tour, which will pick us up from the hotel lobby about 08:10 in the morning. That done, we left our room to wait outside the hotel for Lisa and Rick to pick us up in their red Mini and take us to the dinner booked at Greens Restaurant.

They arrived on time and we piled into the small car for the trip north to the old military wharves where the restaurant was located. Mary was already there waiting for us, but Casey had begged out because of coming down with a migraine today. The restaurant was moderately large and full of diners. Panoramic windows faced west towards the Golden Gate Bridge, which we could barely see glowing with lights through the foggy night. On a clear day at sunset, it would be a gorgeous view.

The menu was impressive. We chose to share some first courses, choosing:

  • an Indian sampler of basmati rice, red rice, and chick pea salad with Hamada Farm raisins and cashews, warm coral lentil dhal, gingered beets, roasted cauliflower with lemon oil, pepper flakes and mint, pear-winter fruit chutney, and toasted cumin papadums;
  • roasted Hamada Farm figs and Burrata on grilled walnut levain, with arugula salad; and
  • and artisan cheese plate with Bellwether Farm San Andreas cheese, Andante Dairy Rondo cheese and Piccolo cheese, quince paste, Marcona almonds, and warm Italian bread.
Indian sampler
Indian sampler at Greens.

For the main course, I chose the butternut squash and sweet potato gratin with poblano chilies, grilled onions, smoked cheddar and fromage blanc custard, served with tomatillo sauce, cashew cream, grilled polenta and rainbow chard with pumpkin seeds. M. picked the goat cheese ravioli with savoy spinach, kale, spring onions, almonds, brown butter, pecorino fiore sardo, and crisp sage leaves. We also shared a bottle of Planet Oregon Pinot Noir with everyone, which was light and very transparent red, but full flavoured and complex for a Pinot. It was all really good. For dessert I had the banana cake, which came with a banana and coconut sorbet and chocolate sauce, also very good.

Over the meal we chatted about all sorts of things and had a great time, but eventually we had to leave. We split the bill, and it was lucky we’d remembered to get some cash just before going out, because we needed most of what we’d withdrawn so far to cover it. We said goodbye to Mary in the car park and then Rick and Lisa drove us back to our hotel and dropped us off. It was a lovely evening out, with good food and company, and a very nice way to finish off our Sunday.

Leave a Reply