Monday, August 2, 2010

Day Five: San Francisco

Day Four of the family vaca brought our first full day in San Fran. After a great morning of sleeping in (until 9am - thanks, dad!), we got up and set out for our adventure for the day. 

First up was a walk to the San Francisco Art Institute that I HAD to check out because my bff and talented photographer, Ellen, is going there on August 19th. 

(Check out Ellen's pictures on her website ... girlfriend can take some pictures!)

So obvi I needed to see where she'd be going to school AND the guidebook mentioned it as a place for awesome views of the city - so perfect for the first day of touring. Ellen's school is in the "Russian Hill" neighborhood and wasn't a far walk from the hotel (though - those hills. OH those hills). 

The front of Ellen's school is this Spanish Mission style building. It looks old (I don't know the history) and is beautiful. You're greeted by this:
 A lovely courtyard. There are all sorts of galleries (since they are all artists) and of course the classrooms, studios, offices, etc. We went in one gallery with a famous fresco (was I allowed to photograph this? I don't know):
 It is called the Making of a City. And it is HUGE. So cool. 

When you walk on through the outdoor corridor of the school, you end up in this outdoor space that is the transition to the newer building, which is an entirely different style:
Here you can see the old meeting the new. 

From the new building, you get sweeping views of the city (it was very cloudy most of our trip = bad pics):
here's another of the new building, with the belltower of the old building in the background:

 After chilling at Ellen's school for a while (really, they were kind of creeped out by these Southerners poking around and taking pictures), we headed on to a major tourist trip: Ghirardelli Square. 

We took the opportunity to be as touristy as possible, though our guidebook warned us against it (he seemed a bit elitist). We had a lot of fun here, just checking out the cute stores, people watching, and enjoying the weather:
 Here we are being total cheeseballs:

We were given some time to explore on our own by head trip manager Dad. After subjecting Jake to looking at cute aprons, tea pots, and other frilly things in the stores, we went to this really cool diner and sat at the counter to order Vanilla Cokes. 

(note: I loathe canned Vanilla Coke but I adore fountain coke with added vanilla a la Johnny Rocket)

The diner was really fun - very theme-y and touristy, but isn't that part of the charm?

After doing some exploring, we needed some lunch. We'd been craving In-and-Out (and debating on what goes in and out, the people or the food...) and had spotted one by the Square. We hit it up. Note - I didn't get the fun sauce on my cheeseburger because I said pickles only. Who knew there was a sauce? Not me. Ask for the sauce. Really. 
While I was hesitant about this place, it was worth fighting for a table with a foreign family. The fries are hand cut, the burgers are better than most fast food burgers, and the experience is worth it. 

We then returned to Ghirardelli Square for dessert and to purchase cupcakes for two certain twins birthdays, which happened to be that day:
(Kara's Cupcakes, where we got the cupcakes, was featured on a Food Network challenge the night after we got those, by the way. Cool, huh?)
We retired to our hotel after a long morning/afternoon spent running around. We had to prepare ourselves for this:

Looming off in the distance in SF is Alcatraz. And we had booked a night tour! We rested before heading down to the Pier. We stopped by Pier 39 (definitely a tourist trap - book was right about that one) and got to check out the famous sea lions:
There they were, just laying around. They appeared after the '89 earthquake and there are sometimes hundreds of them hanging out. They weren't close to the pier so I couldn't get a good shot, but you get the idea. 

The tour to Alcatraz was definitely a memorable experience. We got on a boat (duh) to go over to "the Rock". We got there and were given headsets for a guided tour, which took us all through the prison. Once we were done, we got to pick from several tours led by park rangers (did you know it is a National Park?) and we chose the one on escape attempts. 

I can see why there is a fascination with that place... it was really cool (and eerie!). 

Coming next, we go to Chinatown, Union Square, Ellen's new house, and Grace Cathedral!

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