Friday, July 03, 2009

San Francisco

Last Sunday I went to San Francisco, which is a little less than two hours away from my home. My main reason for the trip was an evening concert in the Union Square area. Also on my itinerary were the Ferry Building (my first visit) and possibly Pier 39.

I drove an hour to Dublin/Pleasanton BART. I bought a ticket for $12.00 to cover 3 planned BART rides for the day. I sat alone most of the 45-minute trip, scooting over to leave room for another passenger as the car filled. A man got on in Oakland and sat next to me. I asked him where he was headed today. He said he was going to the Gay Pride Parade. I said I had heard about those. I told him I was going to the Ferry Building. Just a couple of stops later the train arrived at Embarcadero, the man and I wished each other a good day, and I got off.

The Ferry Building

When I got above ground, I could see the Ferry Building plain as day, just a few blocks away at the end of Market Street. I sure didn't need the F Line streetcar to get me there. With the Gay Pride Parades this weekend the streetcar was not running on Market, anyway. Piece of cake!

About a block from the Ferry Building was a group of tents with vendors selling their wares. I didn't stop to look. Once in the building, I strolled the halls. It turned out the place was kind of a mini-mall with lots of little food stores, restaurants and a bit of retail.
Sur La Table

I spied Sur La Table, a cooking store. I couldn't recall if I'd been in one before, but I'd heard about it a lot on PBS cooking shows. The store was filled with beautiful things for the kitchen. My daughter-in-law Laurie, a wonderful cook, would love this place! I text messaged her, letting her know I was there, asking if she needed anything. I've been looking for a bag to carry my lunch in to replace the plastic grocery sacks I usually use. I bought a ChicoBag, reusable and washable, made of umbrella fabric, about the same size as a grocery sack. It wads up and tucks into its own little fist-sized bag, which is attached to the inside. Very nice! My pretty peacock blue lunch sack was $6, a steal for a fancy store in San Francisco. It had been a while since I text messaged my daughter-in-law but I hadn't heard back, so I left the store. I could go back if I needed to.

I checked out the rest of the stores, then went outside in search of the outdoor barbecue place I'd seen on Food Network. The pictures below are from the bay side of the Ferry Building, where commuters catch the ferries to other cities around the Bay.
San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge
San Francisco Bay

On the bay side of the building were several restaurants, some with open-air dining. There was a book store, as well. I never did find the barbecue place. Darn it!


I went back inside to make sure I hadn't missed anything. I checked out Miette, a bakery, which I was sure I'd seen on Food Network. I chose a bag of lemon shortbread cookies. I looked at the chocolates for my daughter-in-law, but passed on them due to the very warm weather. They wouldn't have survived the trip, I'm afraid. Sorry, Laurie. As I paid, I told the cashier that I'd seen them on Food Network. She said they'd been on Cupcake Challenge. (I'd seen the show, but I don't think they won.)

It was time to get some dinner, so I headed back toward BART to catch a ride to Powell Street station, a couple of stops up. On the way, I checked my phone. I had a text message from my daughter-in-law about what she needed from Sur La Table: "Two of everything! I love that store!" I laughed. I stopped along the way to look at the tent vendors, who sold art, jewelry and such. I saw an art piece that I liked, but didn't buy it. I didn't have the money, and it would have been difficult to carry around.

As I walked the couple of blocks, I realized how much I missed being in San Francisco. It had been a couple of years since I'd been here. I've been through it on BART several times on the way to Pacifica, but it's all underground and you don't see anything while you're there. I love the big city. I love the hustle and bustle. I don't mind all the people, even the crazies and the homeless. I love the noise of the car horns, the buses, and the sirens bouncing against the skyscrapers. I love it all! Why did I wait so long to come here?

Back on BART, I was aware of how fast the train moved while I tried to gauge how far we traveled. I was so glad I'd chosen to ride rather than walk. I was at Powell in a couple of minutes rather than maybe half an hour. Once off the train, I headed for the food court of Westfield Mall, which connects to BART. I checked out the various restaurants, and was disappointed to find that Asquew Grill was no longer there. I considered a crepe place, but chose Buckhorn Grill, where I ordered a tri-tip plate. It was really good, but the food court was quite noisy. I kind of wished I'd eaten someplace quieter. Oh, well...

It was time to head for the concert at Hotel Nikko. I walked a block on Market Street and crossed to Mason. According to my map the hotel was just a couple of blocks up. The street was pretty quiet, not many pedestrians. I saw several homeless people along the way. Normally they don't bother me, but I was a bit uneasy and I decided I didn't want to go back along the same route after the concert, especially in the dark. I knew Powell Street was just a block over, and I knew it was busy till late at night.

I found Hotel Nikko at Ellis Street and took the elevator, which didn't tell me which floor the Rrazz room was on. So I chose the floor for check-in, which happened to be the same floor as the concert room. I looked for a restroom to change my shoes from tennies to dressy, to comply with the upscale casual dress code. Up till now I had my dressy shoes in a telephone book bag, all tucked into my big purse (which my daughter-in-law calls my Mary Poppins purse). I had planned ahead and wore black pants and a pretty t-shirt, so I was good to go. And get this...I put my tennies into the telephone bag, then into my new ChicoBag. The tennies wouldn't have fit in my purse, and the ChicoBag would be much more acceptable than a telephone book bag. Always thinking.

I went to get in line to be seated for the concert by Spanish guitarist Ottmar Liebert. I stood there for a couple of minutes by myself while the maitre d' seated another couple. He came out and said You're not Debra, are you? Astonished, I said yes. We walked into the room, a small nightclub setting with 156 seats. I told him I didn't expect to get a table by myself. He said I wouldn't get a table by myself, but he'd put me in a neighborhood with some nice people. He seated me at an L-shaped table for six, and introduced me to the four people already there. He also named several other people in the room.

While we waited for the show to start, I got to talk to my tablemates a little. There was a couple from Oregon, who did most of the talking and a younger man next to them who was pretty quiet. The chair on my left wasn't filled yet, and the older man on my right barely talked the whole evening. I tried several times to engage him in conversation, but he was either very shy or just didn't want to talk, so I didn't push. Eventually the sixth table guest joined us, a young man from San Jose. He was the most interesting of the group, able to talk to all of us (except my silent neighbor) and I enjoyed listening to him. He seemed to be savvy about music, art and antiques, and knew something abouts quilts, as well.

All the while, the maitre d' would bring in new guests, introducing about half the room each time. Apparently he guessed many people's names out of a hat. I figured he guessed my name because I came in as a single woman, but there were several of us, and he guessed several single men, as well. He even guessed groups of people. How did he do it? He was amazing, a show within a show. The lady at our table asked him what his name was. Dartagnan. The lady wondered what kind of a name that was. Her husband and I said it was from The Three Musketeers. The lady thought it might be made up. Why would he make up a name? Maybe his mother loved literature.

The concert began, Ottmar Liebert playing solo guitar, which surprised me a little. His recordings seem to have other musicians with him. He made his own percussion by thumping on the guitar and he was enough on his own. Although I have several of his songs on my Ipod, I didn't recognize many of the tunes he played, which he said were from various albums. I could see only his right hand, as his left hand was blocked by a couple of heads. I never did get to see the left hand, which was a bummer. But the music was beautiful. There's something about Spanish guitar that strikes a chord with me, so to speak.

As Ottmar played, a photo slideshow displayed on twin screens on the wall. I wondered if the photos were of Spain. The first several dozen photos featured bright yellow in each one. As it turns out, all of the photos were taken by Ottmar himself. He lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico, which could explain the Spanish look. Other photos were from other parts of the United States and the world, and even included backstage photos from concerts. The color theme changed throughout the slideshow to red, blue and other colors. I mentioned it to the arts guy next to me, but surprisingly he hadn't picked up on it.

During a couple of breaks, Ottmar talked a bit and answered questions. He is from Germany, but has a heritage of Hungarian and Chinese, too. He started as an art major, but the fumes from the darkroom made him sick, so he changed to music, having played guitar since he was a young boy. In Germany, students could take one-hour group guitar lessons for just $20 per semester. Ottmar said his teacher must have seen something in him, because he would teach the group for half an hour, then send the students away while he spent the last half hour giving Ottmar a private lesson.

The concert came to an end. I asked the quiet guy next to me if he had far to go home. He said yes, by airplane. That statement kind of confirmed the hunch I had that he was there on business, that the concert was a way to kill time and he that wasn't necessarily an Ottmar Liebert fan. I didn't ask for any more details. As he got up to go, he said Take care. I said You, too. I gathered up my belongings, and asked the other quiet guy if he had far to go. He said Yes, South San Jose. I said bye and headed out of the room. Ottmar Liebert was selling CDs in the foyer, with Dartagnan assisting. I said Thank you, Dartagnan. I'm sure I'll be back. I stopped at the restroom, then headed out to the street.

I took a side street to cut over to Powell Street, where there would be a lot of foot traffic and would be safer for a woman alone. The sun hadn't gone down yet, and I decided it was too early to go home. At Powell, I headed up the street (and I do mean up) to Borders books. I arrived a couple of blocks later, headed to the crafts area and pulled an assortment of quilting books. I made my way to the cafe, ordered the equivalent of a Starbucks caramel frappucino, then sat down at a table to read my books.

About an hour later I left the store without taking any books home. I headed down the hill to Powell Street BART where I got on for the ride back to Dublin/Pleasanton station. The car was kind of crowded and I sat next to a man who was sleeping. As we got close to the end of the line I wondered how far he was going. I hoped he was listening to the driver calling out the stops. If necessary, I'd wake him up at Pleasanton. A few minutes later he sat up and looked around. I asked him where he was getting off. He said Castro Valley. Is that next? I asked. He said yes. Since I was sitting on the aisle, I said I'd move to another seat. As he walked away he said Good night.

A few minutes later the train arrived at Dublin/Pleasanton, end of the line. An hour drive home, I got back around midnight. It was late, but I had Monday off.

I love San Francisco. I've got to go again soon.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for thinking of me at Sur la Table! I am still waiting for my "2 of everything"!


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.