Monday, 31 August 2009

San Francisco: Day 3 - Have Muni Pass Will Travel

I slept like the dead the first night in San Francisco, courtesy of staying up for 20hours straight due to a 4am EST alarm call to be in time for our 7am flight to California. I wasn’t so lucky on the Saturday night when a domestic woke us up at 2.30am.

"You're a bitch, you're a f***ing bitch," I heard a guy shout out in the hallway followed by much slamming of doors.


I peered through the spy-hole wondering if I needed to call hotel security to see a man in a grey argyle jumper angrily stabbing the button to call the elevator.

Isn’t love grand? ;-)

At 6am I woke up for real and since I couldn’t manage to doze a bit longer and had no patience for my book I decided to take a very long shower and allow Sara to snooze a bit longer. Seriously I must be a nightmare to travel with as I wake up so early, although if Sara had protested and wanted to sleep in longer I would have taken a newspaper and whiled away a couple of hours over a latte at Starbucks if necessary. We were both good to go come 8:15am so we headed down to Powell St station, bought an $11 Muni day-pass and took the Judah line streetcar out to Ocean Beach for brunch at a restaurant, Outerlands, that I’d read a glowing report of in the New York Times.

As it happens we arrived much earlier than expected, about an hour before the restaurant was due to open, so we headed a few blocks to the beach clutching tea from Java Beach CafĂ© – love that place, it had such a nicely eclectic bunch of people in there when we stopped by - to warm ourselves against the frigid temperatures. It was much colder than I was expecting and my lightweight raincoat didn’t provide much protection from the elements.

While I’m not exactly what you’d call a beach person in the sense that I don’t like to lay on a towel in 80plus degree heat, smothered in coconut oil and burning to a crisp, I do love to walk along the beach once the heat of the summer has abated. I love to walk along the sand on a breezy 50-60 degree day and inhale the fresh ocean air. This is one of the reasons I love Ocean Beach in San Francisco. It’s not the prettiest of beaches and my parents – two people who love to slather themselves in coconut oil and frazzle like bacon (I think I must be adopted) – would hate it, but for me it has a certain serene beauty and I found it very calming to be by the ocean, a welcome respite from the insanity of my life in Manhattan. I felt so wonderfully calm there I practically attained enlightenment that Sunday and not a smidgen of yoga necessary. I think the argumentative couple back at the hotel last night could have benefitted from a trip to Ocean Beach ;-)

After our brief walk on the beach we headed back up to Outerlands to find they were readying to open at 10am, but since it was already 10minutes to and there was no-one clamouring at the door like there would be at popular brunch spots in Manhattan - especially in my neighbourhood, these Upper East Siders brunch early!!! - we whiled away a few more minutes by wandering the streets of Outer Sunset.

It's not something I can put my finger on, but there's something about this area of San Francisco that appeals to me immensely, although in theory it should be just the opposite. Like Russian Hill it suffers from a lack of greenery on the streets and has a desolate, barren feeling, maybe it's the proximity to the ocean that does it. Outerlands restaurant certainly helped. It was as wonderful a restaurant as the NY Times suggested and our fellow customers had a laid back vibe I wish I could have bottled and brought back with me.

The tiny place was heaving come 10:30am.

The food was incredibly delicious, Sara ordered the Dutch Apple Pancakes which were so tasty I almost wished I'd ordered them myself and would if I go again, however I'm generally not one to pick sweet foods for brunch, but generally go for eggs and that Sunday was no exception. I ordered the interesting sounding eggs in jail which turned out to be a dish my mum occasionally made for me and my sister as children, but which in our household was called sunshine toast, that is a thick slice of bread with a circular hole cut from the middle, lightly fried with two eggs cracked into the hole and fried and served with crispy bacon and the fried bread 'hole' on the side. Scrumptious!!

Pics of the food pilfered from Flickr below since again I got shy about whipping out my camera and looking like a tourist ;-)

Eggs in jail photo courtesy of Premshree Pillai.

Dutch Apple Pancakes courtesy of

Hunger pangs satisfied we vacated our table for other hungry diners and walked north along the side of the beach to Golden Gate park, which is 20% larger than Central Park apparently. I never would have guessed. We only skirted the edge of it as far as I could glean from my map, but my navigation skills leave something to be desired and Sara was desperate for the loo by this point, so we didn't want to venture too far away from potential conveniences.

Apparently this windmill by Ocean Beach boasts the world's largest windmill wings. Fancy that.

We headed out of the park when we saw a busy looking street off Lincoln Way that looked like there might be a loo in the vicinity, happily relieved we headed for the Judah Streetcar and down to explore the picturesque streets of Cole Valley - where I was rather taken with the boulangerie, a very cute little independent cafe and bakery, the likes of which seem to be somewhat abundant in San Francisco compared to New York where high rents seem to force out everything smaller than big box chain stores - which we'd passed along the way out to Ocean Beach.

This is a crap photo, but it's the only one I snapped of the area, but do you see what Cole Valley has on it's streets that certain other neighbourhoods don't? Yes....TREES!!!! And it's all the lovelier for it!!

A couple of days later, following a visit to the Golden Gate Bridge, I took the following photo looking down Judah St from 18th St in Outer Sunset as we waited for the tram. I was intending to show how barren the streets looked without any trees, but ironically I think the photo shows off the stark beauty of the area. I'd still like there to be trees though.

After a brief exploration of Cole Valley we walked down Cole to the Haight Ashbury where we had to laugh at the couple of crusties sat on the street corner holding up a hand written sign which said 'smile if you masturbate' while loudly counting the number of people that read the sign and smiled. "Oh oh oh look, she does, she does, that's four!!"

Houses in the Haight Ashbury

We rounded off the afternoon with a brief walk through Buena Vista parkdown to Castro St and briefly through the Castro before hunger pangs started to set in for Sara so we hopped on a ye olde F tram along Market St to the Ferry Building for a snack at Taylor’s Refresher – salad for Sara, diet coke for me followed by nectarines - love them - back at the hotel for me - to put us on before our 7.30pm dinner reservation at Scala's Bistro, happily just a short walk across the street from the hotel. After covering so much ground during the day I wasn't in much of mood to travel far afield for dinner and the buttermilk mashed potatoes were divine.


Kitty said...


I must come back tomorrow night when I have the eyeballs prepared to read. Right now, way too tired.

Funny because Mark and I were thinking of visiting LA and then driving up to SF, so your posts are much appreciated!!

hope you're having a good time of it, Fish!

fishwithoutbicycle said...

Thanks Kitty, hope you get some use out of the posts. It would be lovely to drive up PCH from LA to San Francisco :-)

Kitty said...

ha, I can relate to not wanting to look like a tourist. I've gotten over that, lol.

I can also understand how just being by the ocean can completely change your mood. Yknow, I think nature is healing, especially when you're around something obviously bigger than us.

So glad you got away. You've had a helluva year!

fishwithoutbicycle said...

Ah Kitty, you are the best, your comments always cheer me up. I think you are right about the healing power of the ocean. After this year I am feeling the need for some of that healing long term right now. This year I fell a little bit more in love with San Francisco for that very reason.

If you do end up doing your LA to SF trip definitely check out Outerlands for some fantastic food. It's an amazing place.