San Francisco 2018 diary, day 8

Friday, 2 February, 2018. Written later

On our last day in San Francisco we slept in, not having to get up early to go to my conference. We dozed until 08:30, then got up, showered, finished the last remnants of the breakfast cereals, packed our bags for the flight home, and checked out of the hotel, leaving our bags with the concierge while we went out for a last day of sightseeing before our evening flight home.

I realised we wouldn’t be able to take the hot sauce I’d bought for my mum onto the plane in cabin baggage, and we didn’t want to check luggage in, so we decided to mail the bottles back home. I searched online to find nearby post offices and found one that was supposed to be on the block that Macy’s was on, south of Union Square. I figured it might take some the post office, so went there while M. detoured via Blue Bottle to get a morning coffee. We arranged to meet at the front door of Macy’s. As it turned out, I couldn’t find the post office from the street, and so decided to go into Macy’s to use the toilets. As I was looking for signs indicating where the toilets were, I saw a sign saying that there was a post office in the basement! So I went downstairs and found it, a small office with some counters and not much else. I’d been hoping to find packaging materials, but there was a sign saying they didn’t have any. However, I found some prepaid mailing boxes, one size of which was perfect, and just needed a little bit of padding improvised by scrunching up the paper bag that I’d been carrying the bottles in. So that was fortunate. It cost $36 in postage, more than the hot sauce was worth, but it was good not to have to check bags in and then spend time waiting in Sydney before getting home.

Mara's Italian pastry
Mara’s Italian Pastry

We met at the designated spot and then walked up to North Beach through Chinatown, to Mara’s Italian Pastry, for an Italian pastry each and some water. I felt like fizzy water, and M. asked the old Italian guy serving if they had any, and he said, “It’s Italian, of course we have fizzy water!” while I located the bottles of San Pellegrino in the fridge. M. had had an apricot danish-like pastry yesterday and said it was delicious and soft, so I tried the cherry version, while M., who had thought it was raspberry and wanted that, elected to try a raspberry and cream cheese ring instead. They were nice, but a bit firm and not as soft as M. had raved about, which was a bit of a shame. While we sat, the proprietor sat at the next table with another customer and chatted with him, getting up every now and then to serve someone else who came into the shop.

Cherry danish
Cherry danish at Mara’s Italian Pastry

After this morning tea break, we proceeded to the Cartoon Art Museum, in its newly opened location in the block adjacent to Ghirardelli Square. We paid the $10 admission fee and went in to look at the displays. Most of the space was taken up by an exhibition of Raina Telgemeier’s artwork for her various books, including Smile, Sisters, Drama, Ghosts, and some work from The Babysitter’s Club comic books. Her drawings were really good, and reading the explanatory notes about the books and the art made me want to rush out and buy them, and also feel ashamed that I hadn’t got them already.

Raina Telgemeier art
Raina Telgemeier art for The Babysitter’s Club, Cartoon Art Museum

There were also some original art strips from comic artists who inspired Raina, especially ones from the San Francisco area, as she is local to the city too, including Charles Schulz and Bill Watterson. There was an emerging artist exhibit, featuring work by an artist of Indian background, about a girl exploring her family’s connection to India through a magic pashmina. And another room had artwork from a new series of comic books called March, about three specific protests during the civil rights movement in the US. Some of this was really brilliant and powerful stuff, with amazing artistic composition.

While we were browsing around, I saw Andrew, the director of the museum and Shaenon’s husband, walking around and taking business with a colleague. When he was done, I went over and said hello, reminding him that we’d met a year ago over dinner. We chatted for a few minutes about the new museum location and how busy he and Shaenon were now that their son is starting the schooling process. I didn’t hang around long because I didn’t want to interrupt his work, and we left soon after.

Aquatic Park Cove
Aquatic Park Cove, in front of the Maritime Museum

Next we walked across the small park in front of the block, which ran down to the small beach and along in front of the Maritime Museum building. All of this area along the waterfront is the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park. We were amazed to see people swimming in the water, which must have been pretty chilly. There were also warning signs indicating that there was danger of being bitten by sea lions, with the most recent attack occurring on 11 January.

We walked west along the waterfront, passing in front of the Maritime Museum building and its oddly curved Art Deco design reminiscent of a ship. Around the small bay we reached the public wharf near the entrance to Fort Mason, and walked out along its length, curling around to the east to form the sheltered bay where the people were swimming. I thought this was the wharf with the wave organ sculpture at the end of it, but I must have been mistaken because there was no such thing when we reached the end, only some fishermen dropping lines, and a large Pacific gull messily disembowelling a crab.

The tourist shot
Us in front of the Golden Gate Bridge, from the Aquatic Park public wharf

The sun was hot and we had removed our jacket and jumper by now. It was amazing how warm it was given it’s still winter here. Mary had said the other night that it was bad, because winter is usually the rainy season and California relies on winter rain to get it through the dry summers.

We walked back to dry land, and stopped briefly to investigate some sign boards nearby. They indicated that the slope up from the area near the wharf to the hilltop of Fort Mason was going to be renovated to restore the historic gardens that once inhabited the slope. The slope now was a tangle of dead and overgrown vegetation, clearly in need of some attention, and hopefully it should look much better once the restoration work is done.

C.A. Thayer
Schooner C. A. Thayer moored at the Hyde Street Pier

Our next planned stop was a late lunch at Golden Boy Pizza in North Beach, but we decided to walk back via Fisherman’s Wharf rather than the shortest route, to give us a bit more time to build up an appetite. Along the way we stopped to have a look at Hyde Street Pier, where several historic ships are berthed as tourist attractions. These were ticketed entry, so we admired them from the wharf as we didn’t have a lot of time to spare. Maybe another visit we can take a closer look. But there was also a working boatyard and repair dock. A man was scraping marine growth off the bottom of a small boat, and across the wharf another man was scraping off layers of old cracked varnish from the wooden rim of another boat. I stopped to have a chat with him and take some photos. He was a volunteer who came here a few days a week to work on boats, because he loved doing it. He said, “It’s hard work. If you don’t love it, don’t do it!”

The boat repairer
Volunteer boat restorer at the Hyde Street Pier

Skirting past the tourist shops near Fisherman’s Wharf and Pier 39, we turned inland back to North Beach. By the time we reached Golden Boy Pizza we were hungry. We got seats at the wall bar table near the back, and I got a slice of pepperoni while M. got the vege pesto. I also got a pint of Prohibition ale, the same one I’d liked at Cafe International the other day. The pizza was as good as I remembered from last year, and I grabbed a second slice, this time of the sausage pizza.

Pepperoni pizza at Golden Boy Pizza

Following this late lunch, we walked up Stockton Street until we hit Washington, then turned west up the hill to the Cable Car Museum. I’d been here before, but I showed M. around so she could see how the system worked and the various historic equipment and displays.

After this, we crossed Mason Street to the Gallery Cafe on the adjacent corner, where M. got a coffee while we rested for a bit. This cafe is a really funky place, with decorations inspired by old science fiction movies, puzzles and games and old toys everywhere, and humorous signs stuck up all over the place. (Even their website is retro.)

Once done here, we walked back to our hotel, the easy way, downhill to Grant Avenue and then south to Market Street – as opposed to up and over Nob Hill on either Mason, Powell, or Stockton Streets. We picked up our luggage at the hotel and then went to the Powell St station to catch a BART train to the airport. We got a train just a couple of minutes before 17:00 and the evening rush hour, so managed to get seats for the trip.

The airport wasn’t busy, and we had it easy through check-in and security, although the check-in lady told us that our flight was very full. We hadn’t managed to pre-book exit row or bulkhead seats, so I’d chosen seats in front of an exit so we could recline our seats without any concern for anyone behind us. We sat next to guy who I chatted with for a bit – he’s from Austria and has been living in Sydney for the past 18 months working for Atlassian, and had just had a business trip to their office in Mountain View. He was enthusiastic about how wonderful and beautiful Sydney is.

Sunday 4 February

The flight was fairly eventless, and we arrived in Sydney right on 06:00. There was a slight hiccup getting through immigration as the automated passport gate didn’t want to recognise M.’s photo and she got shunted into a manual processing queue. But we still managed to get out before anyone got their luggage, and there was no queue at the taxi rank, so we were home right on the stroke of 07:00.

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