Monday, May 31, 2010

San Francisco

San Francisco. View from Golden Gate Bridge.And now onto the very last stop of our trip — San Francisco. I will start with saying that usually I loath spending more than a day on a city and much prefer to spend my vacation exploring some park. The maximum that we did before was probably several hours walking around downtown before heading into the nature.

San Francisco was a big exception in all of this. I really loved it and I would happily spend more days there then we did as there are so many things that we didn’t get a chance to explore. Where do I start?

Our hotel room.Right upon our arrive to our Hilton hotel located on the edge of Financial District and Chinatown, and half a block from Transamerica Pyramid we were given a pair of adjacent rooms on the 24th Excecutive Floors. I just love free room upgrades thanks to our Diamond Hilton HHonors standing.

And I must also go ahead and thank Brian for pointing our the error of my ways of originally booking a hotel outside the city. Staying in the heart of things was definitely the right choice.

Golden Gate Bridge.Right after checking in we got back into our car and went to check out the most famous (at least to me) San Francisco landmark — Golden Gate Bridge. Apparently the day after all the area around it was closed off because of some major triathlon competition and people swimming to Alcatraz. Sadly the light conditions were far from perfect so the photos came out rather mediocre, but we worked with what we were given and that’s that.

At first we hiked around the southern side of the bridge and took some shots from several good points of view. The place is just crawling with people thought. So many tourists. I was happy to discover that the bridge has 2 great walkways which present a completely unobstructed view of the city and the bay. If I lived here that would probably be my favorite place for walking with a tripod.

View from Golden Gate. You can see the downtown on the right and Alcatraz on the left.We were able to get only to the first tower though since the bridge ended up being closed around it. We didn’t know why. We decided to come back, get into a car and drive across it and check out Sausalito — the town located on the other side. We got stuck in bad traffic. By the time we got to the first tower though we realized what was going on. The area on the pedestrian walkway was closed off and full of police. There was a guy on the other side of guardrail, holding on. I guess they were trying to talk him out of jumping.

Sausalito itself wasn’t very interesting — full of touristy shops, overbooked restaurants and not much more. After a short walk we decided to get back to the city, but what should’ve been a 15 minute ride turned out to be a painful 3 hour crawl, for the same exact reason as the way here — people are just too nosy and everybody must stop and take a look at a suicidal guy.

The crookedest street in the world -- Lombard Street.On the way back to the hotel we accidentally ended up driving right through the crazy part of Lombard Street. When we were heading up on the hill that leads to that crooked part everyone was slightly freaking out — especially Alёna and mama. It really does feel like the car is going to start flipping back over itself any second when you’re climbing that. I’m not certain if it indeed is the steepest road in the city or not, but there are plenty that do feel the same way. We started our next day with the trip back here to take pictures in better light.

Windmill in the Golden Gate Park.After that we drove around the city a bit going through some of the “featured spots” (per Gowalla) — Apple Flagship Store, Union Square, Contemporary Jewish Museum, Moscone Center, Twitter Head Quarters, SFMOMA among other things. In the end we ended up at Golden Gate Park.

Alёna, Boris, Daniеl, Mark, Oksana.That’s approximately when Mark called. We ended up meeting with him soon after on the western entrance to the park. I was really looking forward to finally meet him — after all, we’ve been exchanging correspondence with him for almost 3 years now and this was the first time we could talk face to face. And I think we ended up having a great time. We got to know him, he got to know us. Hopefully we didn’t turn out to be too scary, crazy Russian relatives. )

Synagogue built on the land that is a gift in the memory of A. A. Lanis.The first place we ended up going together was a synagogue that is built on the land donated by Mark’s grandfather — Jacob in the name of Avram Lanis, Jacob’s father. Avram Lanis also happens to be my great-great-grandfather. It’s an interesting and a strange feeling seeing a building built in his name. Some short time ago we didn’t know anybody, but our branch of the family that started from him. Now we know that his descendants are living all over the world — many parts of Russia, Israel, all over United States and who knows where else.

Mark, Daniеl and Boris near the gates of the synagogue.Then we hopped into Mark’s car and went back to our hotel. We left the car and went for a walk around the city. We were going along the shore starting from the Ferry Building approximately. I was hoping to reach the Fisherman’s Wharf, but my dad apparently had different plans in mind. He didn’t want to see the famous places that everyone else sees, but wanted to see small empty streets that are only known to the inhabitants of the city itself. This always happens to us. )

Ferry Building and tram ways that run by it.Anyhow, we ended up getting a dinner in Little Italy and we ready to turn in for the night. Everyone was tired and after all we had a plane to catch early next morning. We said our good-byes with Mark and hope to see him in our area some time in the future. I think it was a great day.

And in conclusion I will say that San Francisco has some special character that only a few cities do. We happen to be lucky to live in one of such cities, but you can be sure that we’ll visit San Francisco again. There are still so many things that we didn’t get a chance to do this time around. We’ll be back!

The view from one of our hotel balconies -- Coit Tower and the bay.P.S. There are many more little details that I left out or forgot. One such thing is that I was really impressed by the number of types of public transportation San Francisco has. The most nostalgic one to me was the trolleybuses — I haven’t seen any since Tashkent. And yes, there are still many more things that I forgot to include in this post.

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