Manifest Destiny 2015

The Day We Conquered San Francisco

This was the day that we truly did conquer San Francisco. All of those cool famous places in the city? Saw em. Those things people say you have to do when you go there? Did em. How, might you ask? Well, the hop-on, hop-off tourist bus was a really big help. All 9 of us ventured down to the wharf to get on the buy tickets and get on the bus. We were eventually assisted by a tall, middle-aged man with a visor and diamond earrings that was attempting to get Justin and Owen to dance with him to “Do You Remember” by Earth Wind and Fire. All of us joined in, with the exception of his targeted victims. They appeared to be mortified.

We hopped onto the bus and began planning our stops along the bus route. I knew that I wanted to go to the Presidio to see the Disney Family Museum. This was a museum owned exclusively by the family of Walt Disney, completely separate from the Disney Company. So of course I wanted to see it. We looked on the map and saw that it was at the same stop as the Presidio, so we asked the tour guide how to request a stop. She told us that that stop was unpopular, and started talking to us about it as if to change our minds. I wanted to say “Look lady, let me plan my own vacation.” So Mom and I took that stop anyway, leaving the rest of the family behind. We planned to meet them at Golden Gate Park.

We walked through the Presidio on our way to the Disney Museum. We had acquired a companion, an older woman touring the city while her husband was in San Francisco on business. She too was heading to the Disney Museum, so we walked together. On the way we were trying to figure out what exactly the Presidio was. It looked like a cross between a military base and a college campus. We later found out that it was a former military base historically held by the governments of Spain, Mexico, and the United States. Now it’s a state park that boasts well manicured gardens, pretty views of the bay, and a few museums, libraries, educational buildings… Just a hodgepodge of stuff. It was a nice place to walk.

We got to the Walt Disney Museum, and immediately, before even stepping into the main exhibits, my jaw dropped. All of Walt Disney’s Academy Awards were on display! I hopped in front of the case and looked at all of them in awe. Even the honorary Snow White Oscar with the seven mini Oscars attached to it! I knew it was going to be a fun place. And it was. It was set up in a timeline, showing the extended family history of Walt Disney and eventually the events of his life. I learned that Walt was actually named Walter after losing a bet with another family who was also expecting a child. He was named after that child’s father. I also got to see the earliest known drawing of Mickey Mouse from the train ride home from New York City. It was circled, as if he said “Yep, that’s the one!” I liked this museum, especially since most of the stories that were written on walls or told over the loudspeaker were from the words of Walt Disney’s family members. Roy, Lilly, Diane, they all had stories to tell. It was really well done. I may have shed a tear or two in the room that showed all the magazine clippings about his death, showing Mickey and the gang crying. It got a little too real. Mom and I wrapped up the museum by buying little pencils that look like paintbrushes. We also found that the downstairs was decorated with all kinds of Mary Blair art. I worship Mary Blair. She was one of the first women who was prominent in the creative department at Walt Disney Studios, and is the genius behind the Small World art. She’s amazing, and I love her.

Mom and I continued on our journey to meet up with the family at Golden Gate Park. First we had to hop on another bus, which would take us there. After following the mile long trail along the Presidio Esplanade, we made it to our bus just in time. There were only eight of us on that bus, and our awesome tour guide. This guy was hilarious. He was poking fun at everybody on the bus, making fun of the annoyed teenager from San Diego, asking her if she could look any more disinterested. He was making fun of the German people in front of him, who admitted they couldn’t understand his “accent,” (which he did not have). According to him, “New Hampshire over here is all smiles,” just because we were laughing at every word that came out of his mouth. He briefly convinced Mom that Aladdin was filmed in a Russian church before saying, “No, New Hampshire, I am kidding; that movie is a cartoon. It’s hand-drawn.” His best was after we went over the Golden Gate Bridge: “Whoa, wasn’t that fantastic? It was windy, it was cold, it was way more miserable than you thought it would be! And what’s better than going over the Golden Gate Bridge once? Turning right back around and doing it all over again, here we go! I’m going downstairs.”

He wasn’t kidding. The first time we went over the bridge it was a little cold, but nothing we New Englanders couldn’t handle. When we turned around and went the other way, it was ten times worse, because now we were going against the wind. It was freezing, my bangs were going every which way, I could barely open my eyes, my face felt like it was in one of those gravity rides that pushes your face back… Luckily we had gotten our pictures on the way out just fine.

We met up with Memere, Auntie Brenda, Matthew, and Auntie Stacey at Golden Gate Park. The boys had gone to play Frisbee golf. We were in there briefly, but long enough to smell the pretty eucalyptus trees and see some of the gardens. After getting a snack and a coffee, we boarded the bus again to head to Haight-Ashbury, the neighborhood famous for starting the hippy movement in the 1960s. From the words of our next tour guide: “Oh, you people are done smelling eucalyptus trees, you want to smell another kind of tree!” She was not kidding. There was plenty of tree smelling going on in this neighborhood. According to the next tour guide we met, this neighborhood looks almost exactly like it did in the 1960s, and I think the people are still in the same crowd. There were lots of “pharmacies” and gift shops that provided recreation for that certain crowd. We saw some members of that crowd, let me tell you. This neighborhood was quite the circus. Let me say that I oftentimes refer to myself as a hippy. But by that I mean I recycle, buy the occasional free trade item and use the phrase “free to be you and me” a lot. If I had been alive in the 60s I probably would have gone to one war protest rally and then gone home to my middle class house and listen to my Annette Funicello records. I would not have been in Haight-Ashbury.

Our next stop was much more my speed. Alamo Square is a neighborhood famous for painted lady Victorian houses. Painted ladies are any Victorian home painted in three or more colors, and the ones we saw looked like they had used every crayon out of the box. They were gorgeous. Justin was underwhelmed, but I’m not sure what he expected, he chose to go see houses. I’ve realized throughout my travels that I love architecture, and these are quite possibly some of my favorite architectural entities I’ve seen. They’re gorgeous. As I’ve said about many of the places I’ve visited on this trip, I plan on moving into one shortly.

Next we stopped in Union Square so Matthew could take a potty break. We used the Westin, cuz we’re classy. Then we were onto Chinatown where we did a little shopping. San Francisco’s Chinatown is really nice. The streets are clean, the shops are well kept and full of fun stuff, and everyone seemed really nice. That’s a point for San Francisco. Catch up, New York. We missed the last bus and had to take a much longer walk than anticipated to catch the next one, but we made it. We didn’t get to get off at the Lombard Street stop, but we could see it from our bus. Other than that, we had seen everything we had wanted to see! Except for one thing…stay tuned…

We had dinner at a seafood place on Fisherman’s Wharf. I can’t remember the name of the restaurant, but it’s slogan was “if it swims, we’ve got it!” Everyone got a crab sandwich for dinner, because we had seen crabs everywhere! It was time to eat some. It was delicious. We were expecting it to be kind of like a lobster roll, but it was more like a tuna fish sandwich. I still liked it a lot. They asked us if we wanted dessert, but we all turned away because we had other plans, for we were next headed to….

Ghirardelli Square and the original Ghirardelli Soda Fountain! The promised land! The one in Downtown Disney knew me well, considering I worked about ten feet from it. But now I was at the source. Where it all began! There was a whole little area that surrounded Ghirardelli: shops, restaurants, fountains, little seating areas, but we headed straight for the soda fountain. We all placed our orders: some got sundaes, some got cones. I was crossing my fingers that strawberry cheesecake, my favorite that had been discontinued in Florida still existed here. But alas, it was gone here too, so I settled for cookies and cream. It did not disappoint. Also the cone was coated in hardened chocolate, so I was a happy camper. It was really crowded inside the restaurant, and the line had been long, but Grampa scored a great table and we were all happy with our ice cream.

San Francisco was one of my favorite cities. It, like Boston, kept a lot of its historic charm, which I loved. Everyone also just seemed really friendly. All of our waiters, the shopkeepers, the concierges at the hotel, random people we passed on the street: everyone just seemed nice. It was a great city. Onto our next adventure!

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