Saturday, March 8, 2014

San Francisco, Part II: the reality

** This post was published in the Argus in November 2010 and is reprinted here with the permission of the owner. **


San Francisco:  The Reality

We can make dreams come true! I just had that mystical martini at the Top of the Mark, and now must return from a trip to San Francisco with my daughter. It was better than I could have ever imagined.

Our mission: three days to visit San Francisco, while staying somewhere comfortable and peaceful with a good view of the water. We decide on Sausalito, since there are many ways into thecity.


The place is enchanting. It had been designed and built with smooth polished redwood and walls of glass.  A magical yacht-like structure, anchored safely on the hillside above the bay. The entire Eastern wall of the five-story building (thankfully with an elevator!) is floor to ceiling glass, with vistas so captivating, they forced us to stop and simply stare out at the view.

Across the bay in the distance at night, The City sparkles like a huge craggy pile of bright shiny jewels that beckons to visitors. During the day, it lures us to cross The Gate and enter the kingdom of the money changers, where we are bombarded by the din of The City.

Cable cars, with riders jam packed together like sardines in red and gold cans, attached to rails that traverse the narrow streets. Taxis and buses, clinging to the pavement at steep angles as they navigate the narrow, crowded, hilly streets, fortified by row after row of dwellings with shared walls and no yards.

Fisherman's Wharf, an iconic destination that draws in tourists the way Mecca draws in pilgrims to worship at the Kaaba. It’s the same Pier I visited 50 years ago: Sabilas, Aliotos, Grotto No. 9. A sensual collage: smells of freshly cooked crab and seafood; huge vats of hot bubbling, scented water; persuasive voices of vendors hawking their products; workers calling out the orders; the greasy smell of hot fried dishes; the strains of eclectic music.


We eat fresh hot crab while straddling a near-by railroad tie, savoring the sweetness of the warm crab meat, drenched in butter that leaks down our fingers and moistens our lips until they shine in the sunlight.

After buying bread at Boudin's and chocolate at Ghiradelli’s Square, our last destination is The Mark Hopkins Hotel for the martini that is the essence of my return to this City after forty-seven years.

But we are stranded at the corner of Hyde and Beach with few cabs and the Blue Angels thundering overhead. Marooned in a sea of people coming and going and chattering in all languages while heading to places with purpose.

 Finally a cab shows up, and carries us up the hill higher and higher and then stops at a light. We are literally hanging suspended on a hill so steep that we are pressed back against the leather of the seat. At last, we pull into the circular drive in front of a tall, cylindrical hotel with the gold of the letters “Mark Hopkins” glistening in the sunlight.


 We ride the elevator to the 18th floor. I tell the woman at the desk how long I have waited to be there; could we please have a nice table by the window. "It is first come first serve," she explains. We round the corner, but there are no empty tables by the window. We take the next best one across the aisle from the window.


 It is a perfect table, and our martinis are promptly delivered: Bombay Sapphire straight up, with olives on the side for me, and a Lemon Drop for my daughter, which turns out to be a lovely thing in a glass rimmed with sugar.

Before we could take the first sip, the caring woman from the front desk places a slender oval tray -- adorned with 4 huge strawberries that had been dipped in chocolate –- on the table in front of us. "I am so sorry you could not find a table by the window," she says. "Please accept this as a token of our apology from the Mark Hopkins."

Neither of us expected this sweet, heart-felt gesture. Tears fill our eyes and flow down our cheeks. Unexpected gestures of kindness are always the most touching.

The song is right. I did leave my heart in San Francisco.




1 comment:

  1. I remember reading this the first time. Still enjoyable. Thanks.