There are times and some places that make it is simply wonderful to be a tourist, San Antonio is one town, DC another and now I can add San Fransisco to the list as well.
Yesterday I hit Fisherman’s Wharf, the Union Square District, some great art galleries and was soaked to the skin in the process (the weatherman promised no rain and like and idiot I believed him).
Cable Car Ride. I am staying at a place in the Castro District which is 3 or 4 stops from Union Square. If you will be in SF for any length of time recommend you buy a transportation pass, I think they are sold for 1, 3, or 7 days. These passes provide access to all the trolleys, cable cars and subway in San Fransisco; however you must pay for your travel on BART separately. Basically this means you have the freedom to hop on/off the cable cars where ever or whenever you please. Since the subway is $1.50 and the cable cars cost $5 a ride the savings adds up quickly. Although I am in town for 5 days I bought the 7 day pass for only $24; I purchased the ticket where you hop on the trolley about two blocks south of Union Station.
The cable car ride was fun, No matter how cool it looks do not site right up against the window on either outside facing street; the bell is there. Anytime someone or something is blocking the cable car they ring that bell and continue to ring that bell until the person or thing is moved. The bell is right by the front window -I sat there on the way back to Union Station and trust me it was quite loud. If you can sit on the right side of the car you get some great views of the bay and one of the bridges.
Fisherman’s Wharf. Fisherman’s Wharf is the heart of the San Fransisco tourist area, tours to Alcatraz, bay boat rides and kitsch are king. Since visiting a former prison, surround by shark infested icey waters while in a nice drizzly rain isn’t on my top 10 list of things to do in SF, I opted to simply walk around. There are some interesting things to do down there that were fun as well.
Pier 39 is a disco lounge of sorts to seal lions. At some point they took over and now rule the roost. As you approach you can hear them barking and playing from more than two blocks away.
The sea lions come in a large variety of sizes, older males and juveniles, and are sprawled all over the docks. The picture to the right is of one very sad looking sea lion that was all alone and sleeping quietly. Most of the sea lions looked like they were carpeting the docks they were on and they weight made the docks look like they were drunkenly listing to one side or the other.
Apparently most of the loungers are male sea lions, no idea where the females hung out. There were a lot of snoozing sea lions as well as a bunch of them that were playing with each other in the water.
If you are interested, there is a sea lion center on the second floor of the warehouse buildings. There is a full sea lion skeleton in the window (it was wearing a festive santa hat which was rather macabre). But if the folks you’re with like sea lion anatomy or want to learn more about them, it’s the place to go.
After being thoroughly drenched I decided to grab lunch. The choice was difficult since there was chowder in a sourdough bread bowl at Boudin’s or I could stop at a stall along pier 42 and eat what looked like a pound or so of crab claws for cheap. Although the crab claws looked delish I was soaked and wanted warm soup inside to dry out a bit. The chowder at Boudins was filling and excellent; it had a wonderful buttery taste and the sourdough was really fresh and light. I’d recommend you sample this if it’s cold and you are at the wharf.
After lunch I head back to Union Square. I was looking for the John Pence Gallery as well as Larry Warnock’s. The John Pence Gallery is located at 750 Post street about a 6 block walk from were the cable car drops you off and it’s in the heart of indonesian and some vietnamese restaurants.
The John Pence Gallery space was enormous. There were three galleries in the main space with various shows as well as a seperate connected space next door that contained a drawing gallery, sculptures and a significant number of paintings. I am a huge fan of Greg Gandy and it was wonderful seeing so much of his work hanging.
I spent most of my time in the drawing gallery, they had two larger works by Robert Liberace, several by Juliette Aristides, some jewel portraits (oil on paper) by Travis Schlat, a pencil drawing by Jacob Collins and a host of other drawings. I almost purchased a small Greg Gandy painting but I couldn’t decide between that one or a small Schlat; so I decided to wait and sadly left empty handed.
I headed down towards Union Station and Larry Warnocks (he’s at 49 Geary Street) and stumbled upon a Harvey Dinnerstien Show held the Frey Norris Gallery on Post Street. The show was very interesting and on the two jewels to me were a tiny self portrait painted by Dinnerstein in 1952 and another one painted of a soldier at Ft Devins MA. Both were powerful and amazing.
Larry Warnock shares a retail space with Mr. Tate who specializes in photographs. He had these amazing small photographs made by Ruth Bernhard that had only 1 existing copy. Mr. Tate said Bernard had an assistant who was paid in work and the photographs belonged to the assistant. They were wonderful but tiny (I think about 1.5″x1.5″) and probably very desirable to a photography collector.
I then headed back to hotel to dry out. I met friends for dinner at chinese place called the Oriental Pearl which came highly recommended. Its recommended in a in a SF restaurant guide and one of their claims to fame is that Rachel Ray ate and filmed a section of $40 a day there. The food was disappointing and the service was fractured between a number of servers. I would not recommend this place and if forced to eat there – avoid the noodles and tofu at all costs. The fried tofu balls were bizarre, they tasted like they contained scrambled eggs inside. And while some people like silken tofu I prefer the pock marked ma’s variety-firm and caramelized. The noodles tasted like they were tired; kind of like how pad thai noodles on a lunch buffet taste at 2pm. Again, do not order these. Stay away from the chicken meatballs as well-trust me on this. The steamed dim sum was nice except for the shrimp dumplings, which had a strange translucent dough skin. Over all not a memorable or repeatable meal. Sorry but I am a foodie and if a place is that highly touted I expect the food to be good.