07 March 2012

Vacation Season, Part V: San Francisco Wrap-Up

It's been a surprisingly busy few days, for a person with nothing going on.  But back to our trip to San Francisco (probably the last trip I'll take for a while, so you can be sure the "vacation season" series is coming to an end).

The biggest reason I was excited about our last-minute trip was that my cousin, Nina, had just had a baby, and I was eager to meet little Kameli:

She exceeded all of my expectations for baby sweetness.  However, she hasn't allowed her parents much time for food preparation, so I tossed together a roasted vegetable medley (which I've refined from my first attempt here) for them from my farmers market purchases.

I actually have three cousins in the Bay Area.  One of them, Matt, doesn't have any cute kids, so although we did meet him for dinner one night, there's no photographic evidence (nice memories of good food and good conversation, though).

My cousin Malia and her daughter Kiera (and Kiera's Hawaiian American Girl doll, Kanani) were definitely photo-worthy.

They met us for lunch at the Presidio Social Club, a fantastic restaurant in a refurbished building in the Presidio that's bursting with mid-century charm:

Man, there's a lot of good food in San Francisco....

But back to Nina.  I took the bus to her house but was happy to walk the 2.5 miles back to the hotel. (For a city with so much public transportation, it sure didn't work very smoothly.)  That's when I saw this cluster of agaves:

In addition to these, there were a surprising number of succulents in planters in front of shops and restaurants.  I didn't expect that such a cool, moist climate would support succulents, but this military-industrial agave complex proves otherwise.

A little further down the road, this garden caught my attention.

It's more a sculpture/contemplation garden than a vegetable garden, but for a city with such expensive real estate, it's nice that someone (presumably the owner of the house next door) kept this lot in its (sort of) natural state.

Across town (by the symphony hall, I think) we saw this community garden in the works.

We also took in some more formal gardens when we visited the Conservatory of Flowers in Golden Gate Park.  The building itself is a striking whitewashed greenhouse.

As you might imagine, it's full of flowers and other plants.

There was a display made of plants attached to a chicken wire framework.  I loved these tiny variegated leaves, which were a fraction of the size of the chicken wire openings (visible in the top left corner).

There was also a display that incorporated more tiny plants around train track (with working trains).  Weird, but neat.

Outside, there were fields of anemones.

I thought they were poppies, but I figured out later that they were anemones.

All yellow...except for this one:

Although it was only February, flowers were everywhere.  We saw tons of these in Chinatown:

What to say about Chinatown?  Words can't do it justice.  I didn't get many pictures, but this one captured some of the spirit of the neighborhood:

I was tickled by this Bank of America.

Kind of a stark contrast with the Wells Fargo building a mile or two away in downtown SF:

Let's talk cable cars.  Did you know they run on actual cables running under the road?  The Cable Car Museum is the nerve center for the whole operation.

A bracket under each cable car reaches through a slit in the road to the cables running underneath and grips it to move forward (hence the guy in the center of each car who pulls a big lever back and forth).

And that brings us to our last day.  (Sigh.)  We started the day by walking down to Embarcadero, where we bought a pastry at the farmers market (not the same one where I bought the veggies) and sat along the water for a little while.  It was a perfect day to be outside.

After we had gotten our fill of waves and seagulls, we walked back to the park by our hotel, Yerba Buena Gardens, which has a striking MLK memorial fountain.

Behind the water was a series of MLK quotes, some of which were also translated into a variety of other languages:

Our last stop before heading to the airport was the Museum of Modern Art.  I don't think I get modern art, though, and the brick pattern on the outside of the building was probably my favorite part of the whole experience:

So there you have it -- five days of impromptu San Francisco sightseeing.  Delightful.

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