Playing Tourist in San Francisco

Nick attended at the MacWorld conference in San Francisco last week from Thursday through Saturday, so we seized the day and booked a hotel room in downtown SF for Friday-Saturday nights, and spent the weekend up there! It was a big weekend for San Francisco as the 49ers were in the Superbowl – unfortunately not a win for us, but still a great time to be in San Francisco all the same.

San Francisco is such a beautiful city. I had been there many times for work, but never had the chance to just walk around and explore as a tourist.

On Friday night, we went to a restaurant called SPQR based on a recommendation from our concierge. It was AMAZING. We sat at the chef’s counter, so we were in the middle of all the action, and the food and wine were just perfect. The only thing I will say is that at SPQR, you should probably stick with the pastas. The pastas were out of this world, whereas the one beef dish we ordered, while perfectly seasoned and cooked, was not at all inventive compared to the pasta dishes we tried.

We were very impressed with the “smoked fettucine with sea urchin”, which was like a carbonara, except that the egg was a tiny perfect quail egg, and there was silky-smooth sea urchin mixed in. I don’t normally like sea urchin, but this dish was just fantastic.

We also had a duck lasagna, which had so many layers, it looked like a work of art (sorry for the food photo, Aunt Donna):

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The BEST part about dinner though, was that we sat next to a guy at the chef’s counter who was in town from Dallas for a conference. We struck up a conversation and it turns out that he is originally from Toronto and that his brother knows one of Nick’s cousins! It is SUCH a small world.

The next day, Nick attended some sessions at MacWorld and I met a friend for a lovely long brunch at Olea in the beautiful Nob Hill neighbourhood of SF. I took some photos on my film camera, and I’ll post them once the film is developed (if they’re any good).

After brunch, I met up with Nick back downtown and we hit the SF MoMA for the afternoon. I’m not a big museum person, but I loved a few exhibits this time around. One of them was an exhibit of the work of Jay DeFeo, whose most famous work is called “The Rose“, and is a combination of sculpture and painting. She layered a TON of paint on a canvas, waited for it to dry, and then carved out her piece. It took her eight years, and by the time she was finished, it weighed over 2,000 pounds. I thought it was just such a beautiful piece, and her other artwork very much touched me as well.

The other exhibit that Nick and I both really liked was an interactive exhibit in a big, dark room with a huge screen on one wall and projectors along the other wall. The way the exhibit worked was that the closer you were to the projector, and the larger your image was, the louder the volume was. Where you stood along the room determined which radio frequency was playing. People were having a lot of fun with this exhibit and I just sat there and watched for probably a good 20 minutes:

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After MoMA, we were pretty exhausted, so we just had a quiet dinner nearby at the Thirsty Bear brewpub, where I continued our tradition of getting really excited by beer samplers:

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After that, it was early to bed for us, and early to rise! On Sunday, we decided to walk up from our hotel through Chinatown to Fisherman’s Wharf. It was a long walk, but awesome to be in the middle of the action in Chinatown as everyone visited the Sunday morning markets, and set up for the Chinese New Year parade! It’s too bad but neither of us got any pictures of how crowded it was, and how TALL we felt…we were at least a head-and-shoulders taller than most people around us!

After stopping for brunch along the way, we made it to Fisherman’s Wharf, where we wandered around for a bit. We also got taken for $10 by a scam artist on the pier, who told us he was collecting for local soup kitchens. He was quite the fast talker, showing us an official-looking “charitable organization” badge and everything — but unfortunately, seems like it was definitely a scam, since I can’t find anything about the city of SF awarding these badges. Guess we got a little too into the “Tourist” mindset!!

We saw a few cool things on our wanderings, including a kite shop, a giant warship, and a warehouse full of old arcade games:

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After we had wandered for a bit, off we went on a tour of Alcatraz. I had been on this tour before and absolutely loved it. The audio tour has (deservedly) won awards, and it’s such a cool place. We planned to spend 3 hours there, and ended up wishing we had 4 or 5. There is so much history on the island, the prison tour is really just scratching the surface. Two of the most famous stories are the Battle of Alcatraz and the 1962 Escape from Alcatraz. Oh, and of course, it’s haunted too!

Here are some of the pics we took on our tour:

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We then had an early and absolutely delicious dinner on the pier, at Fog Harbour, overlooking the boats in the harbour as the sun set on an amazing weekend playing tourist in a very cool city.

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