San Francisco, January 2001
San Francisco has quickly become one of my favorite places to visit. Jennifer and I just got back from a short vacation there, and I've got a few pictures to show from it -- mostly from our walk to the Golden Gate Bridge. Jennifer was there for business and I joined her at the end of her trip for four days. We booked a room at the Serrano Hotel, which was a fantastic place -- next to the Hotel Monaco, where Jennifer stayed once before, and owned by the same company. We highly recommend them both.
The first day was kind of rainy, so we stayed around the Union Square area and shopped. Then we went to see Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon at the Metreon, a palace of entertainment that includes stores and attractions based on both Maurice Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are and David Macaulay's The Way Things Work. It was quite an place. After the movie, we headed up to the Tonga Room for a drink, since we just missed our opportunity to do so the last time we were in San Francisco. For those of you who don't know, the Tonga Room and Hurricane Bar is something not to be missed. It's not just a bar -- it's not even just a Tiki bar -- it's a restaurant with a lagoon in the middle that is subjected to a hurricane every half-hour or so. Have a drink there and you'll never be impressed by the Rainforest Cafe again.
The next day we decided to be tourists. We took the cable car down to Fisherman's Wharf, did some shopping at Ghirardelli Square, and started to walk towards the Golden Gate Bridge. We'd recently watched the Building Big episode on bridges and I really wanted to see the Golden Gate up close. It was a beautiful day, so we thought we'd walk as much as we could and then catch a bus the rest of the way. We walked through Fort Mason, part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, and caught on film the first of many picturesque views of the bridge.
The rest of our walk was along the water in the Marina District. The Marina, which has the feel of a seaside resort, was built on landfill created for the the Panama-Pacific Exposition in 1915. The Exposition celebrated not only the completion of the Panama Canal, but also the rebirth of the city after the 1906 earthquake. I'm sure the irony of that is not lost on the thousands of people in the Marina who had to rebuild their houses after the 1989 earthquake destroyed so much of the area.
The Palace of Fine Arts, designed by Bernard Maybeck, is the only building left from the Exposition. Like all the Exposition buildings, it was originally built in plaster, but when the rest of them were destroyed to develop the Marina district, the Palace of Fine Arts was spared. It was, however, left to decay until 1962, when it was finally rebuilt in reinforced concrete. Looking at it now, and looking at pictures of the other buildings that were built alongside it, I find it hard to imagine how they could have torn any of them down, but I'm sure the people who live a stone's throw from the bay, with beautiful views of the Golden Gate, have no quarrel with the decision.
After the Marina, we entered the Presidio, formerly an army base but now part of the National Park Service. Walking along the beach, we found not only more great views of the bridge, but some very happy dogs and their people playing in the water.
After our detour to the beach, we hopped on a local bus that takes you to the Golden Gate Bridge Visitors Center and joined the crowds of tourists already there. I've always loved the Golden Gate Bridge, and it was thrilling to see it up close and even walk on it. It's an extraordinary piece of engineering and design, one that complements the landscape rather than detracting from it.
The bridge was built from 1933-1937, at a cost of $35 million. The twin steel towers, which are hollow, are 746 feet above the sea, while the bridge spans 1.7 miles. The center span alone is 4,200 feet. Most astonishingly, the two cables are each 7,650 feet long, and contain 80,000 miles of steel wire, enough to circle the earth at the equator three times.
The bridge stands above Fort Point, which was built in 1861, but soon was rendered obsolete was was closed by 1900, never having seen any battle.
We finished off our trip by reprising our wine country excrusion of last year, this time visiting the Russian River Valley. Once again, we were joined by Evan and Marisa. It was a very different experience -- less touristy, and more about fine wine. We ended up bring back a full case of wine from five different wineries, and had a great time in the process.
An honorable mention must be made of the fact that both drinks at the Tonga Room and the dinner that followed were with Bryan Sivak, co-founder and chief techno guy at Electric Knowledge, a small dot com that specializes in natural language search engines and not in fancy Aeron chairs and Foosball tables, which is perhaps one reason why they've survived the recent dot com crash. Disclaimer: This statement does not necessarily endorse Electric Knowledge or any Electric Knowledge products, but is rather the result of Bryan giving me grief over not mentioning him on this page when I first wrote it.
© 2001 Matthew S. Burfeind
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Last revised Sunday, March 25, 2001
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