It was one dreary, rainy morning in SanFran. We hopped off of the ship too early to enjoy any of the shops along Fisherman’s Wharf or Ghirardelli Square, which led us to make an impulse decision. We did the most touristy thing possible: bought tickets to a Grayline Coach Tour, complete with headphones and a pre-recorded audio tape in seven different languages. Naturally, we chose English and enjoyed the lively voices and sounds of San Francisco from the comfort of our second-story air conditioned seats. While we are a family that enjoys guided tours and indulging in tourist attractions (you have not seen how my eyes light up in Times Square Every. Single. Time. I. Go.), this was an extreme example of traveling with the masses.
This kind of travel usually results in our frustration with those around us, who displayed no manners in general, but especially on exiting the bus. It was enough to make my dad lose his religion and proclaim, “There are some rude-ass people on this bus,” which was easily a highlight of the tour for my mom and I, who rarely hear Carl David lose it like that. We’ve actually given him the nickname Captain Other-Sides because, no matter what the circumstances, he is always there to offer what the other person must be feeling/thinking. It’s the most frustrating thing he could possibly do when all I want is for someone to agree about how right I am in any given situation. We finally got to play this role with him, “David, maybe they didn’t realize you wanted off the bus too, I’m sure they weren’t trying to selfishly push themselves in front of you.”
The tour lasted 3 1/2 hours, which was about an hour and a half too long, but we got to enjoy dreary San Francisco from the top of Twin Peaks to the bottom of the Castro District (insert gay joke here), and everything in between, including Mission Delores. Now, we aren’t a very reverent family. Appreciation for art, culture, and old Catholic churches generally evades us. After our time in Europe last year, one would think we’d learn to just shut up and take it all in. This video proves otherwise (please excuse my terrible editing skills – I’m teaching myself how to use iMovie):
With that irreverence, we find ourselves more amused at homeless men disguised as trees. Let me explain: after our tour and a delicious sourdough bread bowl at Boudin, we decided to walk to Ghirardelli Square. On our way, right after I got distracted by an In-and-Out Burger Joint (I heard so much about these, especially via Twitter recommendations, that seeing one in person was like meeting a celebrity), a giant green shrub came to life and scared my mother and me to death. It’s really hard to describe this, which is why I took a video, but this homeless man hides beneath a couple of tree branches and pops up at unsuspecting tourists and then demands, “Hey, you pay for your thrills!”. Apparently he’s a YouTube sensation who’s fairly well known to those in San Francisco, but we could not get enough of watching him. I hope you enjoy this video:
While it cracked us up, it really did warm our hearts. This guy is so down on his luck, but he’s still got a great attitude and sense of humor. It was neat to watch people’s reactions – although some walked away in frustration, others laughed along with him and paid up for their thrills. We even saw a cop donate a couple of bucks. It’s instances like that, where random strangers come together in laughter, that you can’t capture on a prerecorded audio-tape inside a Grayline Bus. Times like these are the reason I love traveling – you just never know what you’re going to find.
After this, we explored around the city a little more, including a stop in the Ghirardelli Chocolate Shop. Here, we ordered Decadent Drinking Chocolate, which Mom promptly spilled on my lap. C’est la vie. In case you were wondering, Decadent Drinking Chocolate, which is basically melted chocolate with whipping cream, is really hard to get out of jeans and does not make for a flattering stain when walking around Fisherman’s Wharf.
This was not going to get in our way of enjoying the afternoon. By this point, the rain had stopped and the sun came out enough for us to stroll around Pier 39. The shops at Pier 39 were like the manifestation of every infomercial I’ve ever seen. These were not your run-of-the-mill mall shops (I wish), they were quirky little shops, like one dedicated to left-handed people or a speciality jewelry store that sold backless earrings (they thread through your piercing– I had a hard time getting the thing out of my ear). There were also tons of chocolate stores, so I was in heaven. Not that I didn’t have enough chocolate for the day.
Back on board, we disembarked from San Francisco in a fashion that blew our coach tour out of the water. We had a great photo op of Alcatraz and, at the perfect moment, a giant rainbow formed over the island. What a juxtaposition – rainbows over a high-security prison. I guess there’s hope for us all.
Finally, we passed beneath the Golden Gate Bridge, so now the Epperly family has been on and under the famous landmark. The sun was shining, everyone was onboard with cameras in hand, and it was a wonderful way to end the day in San Francisco.
Our night continued with a meal at Chops, the specialty steak restaurant onboard, and a quick stop by the Crown & Anchor members event, where I was the youngest attendee by 30+ years. I earned my Platinum membership, right? Might as well enjoy the free champagne with my 80-year-old peers.
P.S. I’m going to go back and correct this from my San Diego post, but I wrote it in such a hurry that I didn’t do the following story justice:
On Coronado, the men we saw running along the beach were Navy SEALs, this is the base at which the most elite men in the Navy are trained. The wave of patriotism experienced while on the island was especially heightened because of Osama’s recent death – when we stopped by one of the famous Irish Pubs often frequented by those in this rank, there was a giant sign hanging that read, “Mission Accomplished.” It was really an amazing spirit and atmosphere of pride and, for my family and I, Coronado still ranks high as a favorite experience on this trip so far.