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California Dreaming, Part 3

[Editor's note: I am in Maryland this week to help celebrate my father's 90th birthday. I will write about this trip after I finish reviewing our California trip. Also, all Photoshop work on the photos below was done on my MacBook --- I hope the photos are up to my normal standards.]

Fisherman's Wharf After leaving the Monterey/Carmel area, we drove north to San Francisco. Ah, wonderful San Francisco. And among so many well-known landmarks, one of my favorites is the Fisherman's Wharf sign — not because of the sign itself but because of what can be found in this world-famous tourist area.

Sabella & LaTorre To be honest, the attraction for me is not the plethora of tourist traps but the wonderful seafood that can still be obtained here. My favorite restaurant is Sabella and LaTorre — and it has been my favorite ever since I first moved to the Bay area way back in the mid-1970s.

To explain my preference, I must first say that I like my seafood plain without fancy preparation and sauces. Most kinds of seafood have such a delicate taste that can be overwhelmed by over-preparation. It seems that many restaurants feel that they have to fancy it up to justify the high prices. Just give it to me fresh and plain — and I'm in heaven — and that's what you get from Sabella and LaTorre.

We all had steamed crab — Mizuki and Pi-chan also enjoyed some raw oysters and clams. And it was so good, we came back another day to do it all over again!

Seafood Cocktails Of course if you do not have the time for a full meal or if you just are looking for a snack, you can get one outside at any of numerous vendor stands. A shrimp cocktail, some crab meat, some oysters — even some clam chowder in a sourdough bread bowl.

If you are not hungry, there is excellent people watching to be enjoyed.

Live CrabAnd if your timing is right, you might catch sight of an attempted escape — no, not from Alcatraz but from the vendor stands. This guy accidentally knocked over the cocktail sauce as he was sneaking out. That probably alerted the crab pot keeper of the escape.

Cooked Crabs Unfortunately for them but fortunately for us, most of the crabs made it into the big pot of boiling water then onto the cracker's table. Now for a moment, I must digress for a bit of family history.

Soon after I moved to the Bay Area, so many years ago, my parents came to visit. Of course I was the model tour guide and showed them all the sights, sounds and smells of the Bay Area. I had told my folks in advance about the large Dungeness crabs found here — which are much larger than the Chesapeake Bay blue crabs that I grew up with — the latter being the ones that my folks are most familiar with.

So I had informed them that these crabs were so big that one is a full meal (which is true). So at the first opportunity, I took my parents to a restaurant that served Dungeness crabs — but my mom said she was really hungry and would probably order two. Well, I convinced her that she might want to order one initially and if she were still hungry, she could order a second. Of course, she could not even finish the first. Doggy bag, please.

Cable Car Of course, San Francisco is not only known for food but for the cable cars. These are perfect for public transport up and down the hills of the City, pulled by a moving cable under the street. I believe the cable cars of San Francisco are the only moving Historic Landmark so far recognized. Interestingly, they are so full of tourists that residents usually have to use the other modes of public transportation.

Cannery Cannery SingerNot far from the Wharf is the Cannery. This building formerly housed a working Del Monte peach canning factory but has been converted into shops and restaurants. Their web site touts, "THE CANNERY'S European charm, unique shops and restaurants, and award-winning architecture make it one of the finest shopping and dining experiences in the world."

In the center is a large courtyard usually featuring a performer to entertain the shoppers and diners.

Street Halfway to the Stars Transamerica PyramidWe all remember Tony Bennett singing, "I left my heart in San Francisco
High on a hill, it calls to me
To be where little cable cars climb halfway to the stars
The morning fog may chill the air, I don't care..."

The hills are everywhere — some straight up and straight down. Others point at famous landmarks.

And the chill is everywhere but that is difficult to see in a photo. Just remember that famous remark usually credited to Mark Twain (although the credit is disputed by some) — "The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco."

Sailing Ship

Other landmarks to San Francisco's past as a major port and distribution center can be found in various places. This ship is the Balclutha which is docked here and available for tours. For those who like the details of such things — the Balclutha is a three-masted, steel-hulled, square-rigged ship built to carry a variety of cargo all over the world. It was launched in 1886 by the Charles Connell and Company shipyard near Glasgow, Scotland, the ship carried goods around Cape Horn (tip of South America) 17 times. It required a crew of about 26 men to handle the ship at sea with her complex rigging and 25 sails.

Dynamite This guy is a human landmark and has been sitting just below Ghirardelli Square for as long as I have been coming here. This day I asked him his name and he said Dynamite. I am skeptical but no matter. He plays a little guitar — actually very little guitar — mostly engaging the tourists in rhyming patter, attempting to get them to throw some money in his guitar case. I gave him a buck (for the first time ever) and asked if I could take his picture. He was a bit shy and said I could but from the far side of the sidewalk. Thanks to the zoom lens, you can see what he looks like. A unique San Francisco landmark.

Ghirardelli Sign And please do not forget the world-famous Ghirardelli Square. It was formerly a factory for making Ghirardelli chocolate and was later converted into a complex of shops and restaurants. They are currently remodeling part of the upper floors into a "Luxury Private Residence Club on a Superlative Scale". I believe we can read that as "expensive".

Ghirardelli Shop One of the famous shops in Ghirardelli Square is this namesake soda fountain and chocolate store. I love it but my waistline does not — so I skipped a visit inside this wonderful destination.

Interestingly, Ghirardelli now has about four shops in the complex — although I recalled only this one. Each was a little different in what they offered. I wonder if they will keep all four after the renovation.

Tourist Traps Last stop on today's tour is the view of a few of the tourist traps just opposite Fisherman's Wharf. This has not changed much in my memory. I guess it has been attracting tourists for years — thus no need for a change.

To be continued...

 Life is good.

 B. David