Monday, September 03, 2012

Vacation Day 1: San Francisco, Stairs, and Irrigation

SUMMARY: Having a good time.

Yes, I'm doing things I want to do! I used to futz with broken & malfunctioning irrigation a lot, but then I stopped getting around to it, and now there are many issues. I'm liking getting my hands dirty and figuring things out!

But mainly what I did on Day 1, Saturday, was to go up to San Francisco for the day with my parents and a good friend who's been in my life for a very long time indeed.

We looked at some cheap camper vans for possible future rental, then bipped over to Pier 39. This is, indeed, a tourist spot, but it's a nicely done one. Lots of interesting shops, plenty of good restaurants (mostly specializing in fresh fish), and always gorgeous displays of flowers.


Looking out to the Pier 39 harbor in the bay.


Looking away from the bay towards land, you can see Coit Tower atop Telegraph Hill nearby and the top of the famous triangle of the Transamerica building.

I bought a ton of fudge but managed to stay away from the ice cream shop. At the Italian/seafood restaurant we chose for lunch, this was the view from our table: San Francisco Bay, Tiburon, Alcatraz in the upper right, and plenty of sea lions on their own private docks (beyond the boat) with a railing where the tourists can enjoy them:


Pier 39 has quite a bit of entertainment, too: a farmer's market with fresh fruits and vegetables, a carousel, a little stage for performers, and other things.


For example, The Aquarium Of The Bay, which a small but nicely done touristy aquarium, with plenty of messages about saving our oceans, our water, and the water's inhabitants. Some gorgeous displays.


Several displays had jellyfish swooping their way around their tanks, with sometimes amazing lighting and colors.


The aquarium included two long tunnels through a giant tank in which fish swam above and around you.

Mom and Dad with a shark over their heads.


Sea stars (old fashioned name: "starfish") come in an amazing variety of shapes, textures, and colors, and there's a tank where you can touch them.

The back side of some sea stars.

And the back side of an abalone!

After that, we went in search of stairs.  First up, my dad wanted to find the bottom of the stairs up to Coit Tower. He's been up to the tower itself, but never up or down the stairs.  You can see only the first maybe 60 or 70 steps from the city streets, tucked back in alleyways redolent of stale trash bins.

The two sets of stairs have 378 and 397 steps. My friend and I walked up the first 100 steps and already got a bit of a view, but my legs weren't up to doing the whole thing, especially with mom and dad down in the car with nothing to do.


After that, we zigzagged across the city, up occasional steep hills and down the other side like a roller coaster drop-off, along lengthy boulevards sometimes with no traffic, me driving and my dad navigating via paper map (they've always done a lot of exploring and he knew quite a bit about the city streets).  That included a trip through the Robert Levy Tunnel (that's my dad's name, although --full disclosure--the tunnel has a different middle initial than his).

While we were stopped at a traffic light, my friend suddenly pointed out that City Lights Bookstore was right across from us! I was able to snap a shot before the light turned green.


We took a random detour along Broadway, across the top of a hill looking out over the city and the sea with the most amazing mansions that I had no idea were there.  As with many mansions around the world, this one had a giant 10-foot-tall robot overlooking the street.  Upon closer examination of the photo, I am able to determine that it appears to be a male robot. I wonder what their neighbor mansions think of that?


Just up the road from Giant Robot, we found this set of serene landscaped steps off Broadway leading down to who knows where.

But what a great view out over the lowland homes of the proletariat to the sailboats in the bay. (No sign of the America's Cup World Cup racers, just signs everywhere along the Embarcadero about it.)

Taking another random zigzag towards our real goal (coming up in a moment), we chanced upon this gorgeous church, Saint Ignatius, glowing with a golden tint in the late afternoon light.

Say what you will about religions, they sure have contributed some art and architecture that touches one's aesthetic heart. We pulled into a convenient parking spot, got out, and took a zillion photos. Here's one close-up

Directly across the street is the more subtle Carmelite Chapel and Monastery of Cristo Rey, but it had its own treasures:

(My experiment in black and white photography for the day:)

Then, finally, we arrived at our main destination: The Moraga Steps. It's a mere 163 steps straight down the hill to 16th Street. Looks pretty ordinary from here.


But here's why were were looking for these steps:


If you like this, I've posted another dozen photos showing details of the steps.

Then it was home and back to work on the irrigation!

6 comments:

  1. Very nice vacation day. They step pictures are very cool. Love them

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    1. Thanks. I've been seeing photos of parts of those steps come around for a while, but only recently learned that they're just up in SF, not some exotic location. Fun to have seen them in person.

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  2. Wow...does this bring back memories of our trip to San Fran last October. We didn't see all of what you've seen, but quite a bit. Did not see the tiled stairs thought, that would have been awesome! Glad I got to see it through you.

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    1. The Moraga Steps are tucked away in a quiet neighborhood a lonnnng way away from where tourists are normally likely to go. You'd have to know about them and where they are to see them, so no surprise that you didn't see 'em.

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  3. Those mosaic stairs are so cool! Fun to be a tourist in your own town.

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    1. Isn't it, though? Well--not exactly my own town, but certainly close enough for a half-day trip. I also have never been up to Coit Tower, which supposedly has great views and amazing murals inside. So much to do, so little, well, you know.

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