Tag Archive | Lillie Hitchcock Coit

California Road Trip: A Day in San Francisco

In my last two posts, I described our morning at Alcatraz Island.  Once we got back on the ferry to the mainland after our trip to Alcatraz, it wasn’t even noon yet.  The day was still young!  We walked over to Ghiradelli Square so I could get some chocolates for my co-workers, and we took a couple of photos there.  To be honest, I’m not quite sure why Ghiradelli Square always tops the tourist lists of things to do.  I had trouble finding chocolate there that I couldn’t find at the grocery store back home…  Neither Jon nor I were feeling in the mood for a sundae, so that was a brief stop and then we were on our way again.

Ghiradelli Square - Why is this a Tourist Attraction?

Ghiradelli Square – Why is this a Tourist Attraction?

We hiked up the hill to our next destination – Lombard Street, aka “the Crookedest Street.”  We were there four years ago, on our first-ever vacation as a couple.  This section of the street has 8 switchbacks in one block, in order to make the 51% grade manageable for vehicles!  I’m not sure who ever thought that would be a good idea!  Apparently there is some dispute about whether it really is the crookedest street – it seems insane that some other city planner somewhere created something similar!  It was fun to get pictures at the same place at the base of the street.  Strangely, I was even wearing the same jacket!

Me at Lombard Street - the Crookedest Street

Me at Lombard Street – the Crookedest Street

Jon and Me at the Crookedest Street in February 2009 - 4 Years Younger!

Jon and Me at the Crookedest Street in February 2009 – 4 Years Younger!

After Lombard Street we walked over to Coit Tower – another place that we visited on our 2009 trip.  Coit Tower was built to honor the memory of Lillie Hitchcock Coit, who was a wealthy socialite who lived from 1843 to 1929.  She often pitched in to help firefighters of the day get their engines up the steep hills of the Telegraph Hill neighborhood, and was well known for wearing trousers and gambling when it was not appropriate for women to do so.  When she died in 1929, she left about a third of her wealth (about $118,000) to the City of San Francisco, with instructions to use it for civic beautification.  Coit Tower was the selected design from a contest that was held for ideas for a memorial on Telegraph Hill.

Me at the Base of Coit Tower

Me at the Base of Coit Tower

Coit Tower From Below

Coit Tower From Below

When you go inside Coit Tower, you find that the entire base is decorated with a series of murals, painted as a part of a New Deal employment project by the Public Works Administration during the Great Depression.  The murals are amazing – very detailed and well done, and they provide a thought-provoking social commentary that is still relevant today.  We spent quite a while going all around the base looking at the murals, but decided not to take the elevator up to the top of the tower on this trip.

Coit Tower Mural - Notice the Robbery at Front Right and the Car Accident at Rear Center

Coit Tower Mural – Notice the Robbery at Front Right and the Car Accident at Rear Center

Mural of a Horse at Coit Tower - And a Cow, But It's Awesome Because of the Horse!

Mural of a Horse at Coit Tower – And a Cow, But It’s Awesome Because of the Horse!

After Coit Tower, we walked back to the hotel, through Chinatown, and rested our legs and feet for a little while.  Then we navigated the bus system so Jon could make the trip over to the Haight-Ashbury district for a stop at his favorite record store – Amoeba.  The bus driver was really patient with us as we fumbled around trying to figure out which bus to get on, and she even gave us free fares!  It is nice to find people who are so helpful in big cities.  And Jon loved his record store visit as well (as if you had any doubts!).

After our Haight-Ashbury excursion, we had intended to head to North Beach to find a nice little Italian restaurant that we had been to before.  But there wasn’t a bus that would take us directly from Haight-Ashbury to North Beach, and we would end up in the vicinity of our hotel again and then have to transfer.  As we had been walking all day, and had probably been at least 8 miles at that point, we decided to find something near our hotel.  I had seen an Asian fusion restaurant around the corner from the hotel and we decided to check it out.  We were not disappointed!

We walked into E&O Asian Kitchen about 7, and it was just getting busy.  Even though we didn’t have a reservation, they were able to seat us right away at a small pub-style table near the bar.  We checked out the wine list and made our selections.  I ordered a French Rosé called Triennes, from Provence, which is made primarily from Cinsault with small amounts of Syrah, Grenache and Mourvedre blended in.  It was very tart and citrusy, and I enjoyed it immensely.  Jon ordered a 2010 Cristom Pinot Gris, an Oregon winemaker – his was good too, with more pear flavor, but I liked mine better.

For food, E&O does a lot of small plates, like tapas that are meant for sharing.  We ordered the Satay Platter, which came with four different types of kebabs, and you got two of each.  They were:

  • Hangar Steak – marinated with ginger, garlic and soy
  • Chicken – free-range chicken marinated with lemongrass, tumeric and peanut sauce
  • Shrimp – marinated in Thai basil and mango
  • Portobello mushroom – with a soy glaze

The dish came with pickled vegetables – carrots and cucumbers, which were a nice accompaniment to the rich meats and sauces.  We also ordered the local asparagus, which was seasoned with sesame, ginger, miso and egg and grilled.  And we had the wood roasted edamame with shiso fumi furikake and maldon salt.  To be honest, I don’t even know what that means, but they were amazing edamame!  This meal was one of the best of our trip!

E&O Asian Kitchen - Satay Platter and Local Asparagus - YUM!

E&O Asian Kitchen – Satay Platter and Local Asparagus – YUM!

If you think you might want to check it out, here’s their website: http://www.eosanfrancisco.com/.  My only word of caution would be that the dress code is a bit dressy/stylish/yuppie (as might be expected in San Francisco).  Jon was wearing a college hoodie sweatshirt and felt underdressed.  But don’t worry, nobody looked at him funny or said anything either…

And with the glow from that amazing meal, we wrapped up another day in San Francisco.  I took a bath in the clawfoot tub of the hotel to pamper my overused feet, and reflected on a fantastic day!

And you if you are interested in checking out what I wrote about our 2009 San Francisco trip, back when I first started this blog:

San Francisco Hill Workout – Part 1

The first airplane trip that Jon and I took together was when we had been together about 6 months. At that point, I think we were both thinking that we were in the relationship for the long haul. The extended stay trip is kind of a milestone in a relationship, because it is a great opportunity to assess different skills (how does this guy react when he is tired and cranky and the airline loses his luggage?) Plus, there is the other important factor to be considered: will being around this guy 24 hours a day for several days drive me to the brink of insanity? So, to test our relationship (or just to take a vacation, whatever you want to call it), we flew to San Francisco in February 2009. I had never been to San Francisco before, but Jon had been there several times. We flew into the Oakland Airport, and had decided that for this trip, we weren’t going to rent a car. San Francisco has pretty good public transportation options and we are both physically fit and not opposed to walking places. Once we landed, we took the shuttle bus to the BART station, to make our way into San Francisco. It was dark by the time we got to the BART, so we couldn’t see any of the landmarks, and it took us a couple of stops to figure out that we were going the wrong direction – we had gotten on the wrong train… Oops. So, we hopped off, went over to the other track, and got back on in the right direction. That boo boo cost us about 20 minutes, but we were none the worse for the wear, and made it into the city without further incident.

Once we got there, we went and found our hotel, The Baldwin. The Baldwin is located about a half block from the gates of Chinatown, with a nice central location. The pros, it is a neat historic hotel, with a big clawfoot bathtub. Our room had a view into the condo across the alley, which had some really cool artwork and furniture. Of course, we tried not to snoop too much into the lives of our millionaire neighbors, but hey, they left their shades open! Some of the reviews on one of the travel sites said that the garbage trucks going through the alley in the middle of the night kept them awake all night, but we didn’t have any problem with that. The cons, the bed was soft and creaky, and past its useful life. The hairdryer was attached to the dresser in the room, so you couldn’t really do your hair in the bathroom. That was really just a quirk, but odd nonetheless. They didn’t have a continental breakfast, but most big city hotels don’t. They did have coffee and tea in the lobby at all hours, but no coffeemaker in the room.

Once we got settled, we headed off in the direction of Chinatown to find something to eat. The shops were closing, so could couldn’t peek around into any of them, but we managed to find a conveyor belt sushi place that looked decent. We enjoyed a meal of sushi and chatted about what we were going to do in the city. We headed back to the hotel so we could be up early to do some touristing!

The first full day in San Francisco started out with no rain and somewhat overcast. We had a quick breakfast at Starbucks, and then headed out for a walk up the hill to Coit Tower. Wow, that is a hike! Once you are almost at the top of the Telegraph Hill, which is steep, you have to climb up a series of steps to get to the Tower itself. Luckily we weren’t in a hurry! Coit Tower has been a San Francisco landmark providing butt-burning workouts since 1933, when it was completed at the bequest of funds by Lillie Hitchcock Coit upon her death in 1929. When Lillie Hitchcock was 15 years old, she began a lifelong affliation with the Knickerbocker Engine Company Number 5. As the story goes, in 1858, the Knickerbocker Engine #5 was understaffed, and the men were struggling to pull the engine up Telegraph Hill. Lillie Hitchcock was on her way home from school, and threw her books to the ground and began to help pull the engine up the hill, imploring other bystanders to join in the efforts. The Knickerbocker Engine Company never forgot her efforts and made her an honorary member of the department. Although Coit Tower really does resemble a fire hose, the architects insist that it was not intended to portray any sort of firefighting equipment.

Coit Tower is decorated with dozens of murals that were commissioned as a project under the Public Works Administration, President Roosevelt’s Depression Era New Deal federal employment program. The murals were mostly done by students and faculty form the California School of Fine Arts and depict city and rural life, the disconnect between the rich and the poor, and other everyday subjects. The murals are incredibly detailed. You can read the titles of newspapers in the pictures, and each time you look, you will see something different. When we went, it was free to enter the rotunda where most of the murals are (I’m not sure if it still is) – you just have to pay to take the elevator to the top. Since we had never been, we did take the elevator up, and I think it was worth it to see the panoramic views of the City. I probably wouldn’t go up every time though. It is like the Seattle Space Needle, it is the type that you only need to see every 5 or 10 years.

Coit Tower Mural

While at Coit Tower, Jon’s friend Pablo joined us. Pablo and Jon met when Jon lived in Sacramento, and they have been fast friends ever since. Pablo made the trip from Sacramento to join us and spend a couple of days. It was my first time meeting Pablo, but I could immediately see why Jon likes him.

After we left Coit Tower, we headed over to get a look at Lombard Street. Jon told me it was really close to Coit Tower, and at the time, I didn’t know enough to not believe his distance estimations. It was, if I remember correctly, about a half hour away (remember we are walking), down one big hill and back up another big hill (remember this is San Francisco). Some of you have heard Lombard Street called “the crookedest street in the world”. Well, apparently it is not, but it sure is close. The block is so steep that in order to accommodate cars, the street was built with a series of extreme switchbacks. In between the switchbacks are little flower gardens. I’m not sure who maintains the flower gardens, but if I lived there, I certainly wouldn’t want to be out there digging in the dirt when someone came barreling down the hill with no brakes! My theory is that all the little flower gardens are roadside memorials to the residents killed by crazy car-wielding tourists. But it sure is fun to take pictures.

Next we headed over to Fisherman’s Wharf. This was a downhill walk from where we were, but sometimes walking downhill is just as difficult. This walk is dotted with mansions, and I think several are being used as embassies. Tough life working in a mansion… But on the way, we found Patagonia! No, silly, not the geographic area, that’s in Chile and Argentina. The store! And they were having a sale! I found a really cool laptop bag with room to hold extra stuff. It is perfect for traveling with your computer. The only thing that has kept Jon from trying to steal it is the fact that it is lavender, that that Jon’s laptop doesn’t fit in the laptop pocket. Of course, that doesn’t always help. Sometimes he just takes it anyway.

All that shopping built up an appetite, so when we got down to the wharf area, we experienced another of those big city traditions that we just can’t get at home – In & Out Burger! Sometimes I just crave a hamburger, and these ones are so good. I’m sure I don’t want to know how many calories are in them – because I’m convinced that they butter the buns. But after all that walking I think I deserved it.

Down at the wharf area, there is a little museum run by the California Parks Department. It is pretty cool. It shows the location of all the shipwrecks that they know about in San Francisco Bay. There is an exhibit about the dangers of the Bay and the hazards that the sailors experience from back in the 1800s to today. And it’s free! We poked around in there for a little while and then it was on to the big reveal – Fisherman’s Wharf.

Fisherman’s Wharf is one of those ultimate tourist traps. I knew that before we went, but didn’t really know what it would be like. It is built on a Wharf (duh) and is kind of like a big, outdoor shopping mall, with all the stores catering to every imaginable tourist desire. T shirts, music boxes, candy, expensive art and lots of over-priced food. We wandered around for a little while, but it really isn’t that big of a draw for me. I was really more interested in finding the sea lions, but there weren’t very many hanging out on the day that we were there. Locals told us that there have been fewer and fewer of them in the last couple of years (maybe they are all heading up the Columbia River to chow down on the salmon at the dam).

Alcatraz Island from Fisherman's Wharf

 

That night was Valentine’s Day, and the next day was our six month anniversary. So, to celebrate, we walked over to North Beach and found a little hole in the wall Italian restaurant that was actually huge on the inside. The three of us enjoyed a delicious meal and Jon and I split a bottle of wine. Sorry guys, I have absolutely no recollection of what kind of wine it was – something Italian – but it was tasty. Funny though, I still remember that I had some delicious gnocchi, and Jon had eggplant parmesan.

That dinner wrapped up our day, and we walked our overstuffed, happy selves back to the Baldwin. I swear I walked 20 miles that day (Jon says it was only really 7 or 8), so I slept well!