Seattle, The City By Another Bay?
One morning while in Seattle during a short run with Kunal near Pike Place
we unexpectedly stopped at a local bakery. Kunal’s nose spotted a soon to be devoured Almond Croissant through the bakery’s window and stopped dead in the middle of the sidewalk. Me not noticing, rammed into Kunal with my face toppling the both of us down to the pavement. Quickly, Kunal rose to his feet and pressed his nose against the glass display. He’s always trying to embarrass me.
Hot breath fogged against the glass and Kunal’s mouth salivated over the croissant. I’ve honestly never seen Kunal act this way before and he’d tell you I was exaggerating this story. He’d also tell you that I was the one who abruptly stopped in the middles of the sidewalk and that it was me who pressed my face against the glass while foaming at the mouth. I would call him a liar but he would be right.
After I halted our morning run, Kunal knew there was no way to persuade me to continue. He did try, but he knew I had reached my finish line. That croissant was mine, even though I said I’d share it with him. For now victory was mine.
The man behind the counter was wearing an apron with flour heavily dusted on it. Before he could even greet us and ask what we were hungry for, I blurted out, “Almond Croissant!” I held no hesitation to point out my new buttery almond friend through the glass case. I had an idiotic grin drawn upon my face and eyes that grew bigger by the second. “Hello my precious” my hands rubbing together and eyes still widening. I’ll admit, I’m a little weird when it comes to food.
The baker looked at both Kunal and I with uncertainty. I’m sure he was thinking what mental institution I escaped from. Then he looked down and eyed our matching grey jackets with red bulky lettering. “San Francisco, the City By The Bay” the baker read out loud. “Please don’t judge us” thinking to myself. “You know, San Francisco is not the only city that has a bay”, the baker added while placing the croissant in a carry out bag. I only smiled with a closed mouth because I’d drool on everyone around us if it were open. Kunal handed him the cash and I grabbed the bag. “Why the matching jackets? Are you part of a cult?” the baker asked.
A cult I thought. Well, that would’ve been more of an interesting answer instead of the real one. Like most tourists visiting San Francisco, we bought souvenir matching jackets from a shop off Fisherman’s Wharf. But, for now on, I’m going to tell everyone who stares and points at our matching jackets that we are part of a San Francisco cult. A movement to inform everyone San Francisco is the city by the bay, but not the only city by a bay, just one of the cities by a bay. I then began to stuff my face with what I only can describe as a flakey and buttery golden heaven.
The City By The Bay
It’s true that San Francisco is not the only city by a bay and that Kunal and I are probably not the only couple who wear matching jackets. Although, I like to think we are a unique
couple that often dresses alike. It’s also fun when others take a double glance at us to make sure their eyes are not playing tricks.
It was March 2015 when we flew over to San Francisco. This was my very first time ever traveling this far west. I’m from a small town in North Carolina. The furthest I have ever traveled was to South Carolina. Wait, that’s not exactly true, I’ve also been to West Virginia.
Wes Craven’s Nightmare at Wharf Inn
During our time in San Francisco we stayed at a very nice motel located in Fisherman’s Wharf. Upon our arrival at the Wharf Inn we were about to be introduced to the front desk clerk who you would only expect to read within a Goosebump’s story book.
He had a hunched back that was dressed in a charcoal grey coat with a long skinny red tie hanging around his neck. He had a pale boney face and sliver eyes. Maybe he had blue eyes. For this story, I’m going with silver.
As we entered the inn’s office a bell dinged from above the door. “Welcome to Transylvania”, is what I expected the hunched over office clerk to say. Instead he welcomed us with an awkward a grin and a polite, “Hello.” He gently waived us over to the desk. “Checking in?” he asked. Immediately I volunteered Kunal by pushing him forward. I wasn’t afraid of the clerk or that he looked like Igor. Anyone standing in green fluorescent lighting with pale skin can look exactly like Igor. I offered Kunal because he’s the one that is always organized and has all the information handy to make sure we’re checked in. Also, I’m certain he tastes better than me.
“Do you have a reservation?” Igor asked Kunal. Organized and ready, Kunal pulled out a wad of papers clipped together. I’m sure the desk clerk thought he was about to be ordered a subpoena. Kunal flipped to a printed confirmation sheet and started calling out the reservation numbers. At turtle speed, Igor began striking each key. His hands clinched in a fist with his index fingers sticking out. It was a cartoon. His hands moved high above the keyboard and attacked each key individually like a bird diving into the ocean seeking out it’s prey, but in very, very slow motion.
“Do you have the credit card to verify the check in?” Igor the Front Desk Clerk asked. Kunal quickly grabbed his wallet and handed over the card.
Igor placed the card on the counter and moved his upper half body perpendicular to the counter. His face was centimeters away from the card. I guess he had poor vision. His eyes stretched open as far as they could go. He crinkled his face and squinted his eyes. “What’s this? Is it a five?” “It’s a seven” Kunal replied. Then Igor began attacking the keyboard once again.
Igor’s eyes glazed over the information on the screen. He looked like he was in a trance. He glanced over back at the two of us and he smiled. “You’re all set.” We thanked him and scurried for our luggage. “Have a good night and enjoy your stay at the Wharf Inn” Igor concluded. Queue the manic laughter.
We never saw him again for the rest of the trip, but I’m happy to say that I’m very glad we did have the chance to meet Igor the front desk clerk at the Wharf Inn. I’m sure he could care less about us.
In-N-Out, Double Trouble
Soon after arriving in our room at the Wharf Inn we left to go grab a bite to eat at a burger establishment known as the In-N-Out Burger. A good friend of mine strongly recommended that I had to find an In-N-Out and order the Double-Double with a chocolate shake. The Double-Double is a burger with two beef patties topped with cheddar cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion, and whatever condiment you wanted.
We found the nearest In-N-Out near Fisherman’s Wharf and it was swarming with homeless zombies. Their eyes were glazed silver colored just like Igor’s, the Wharf Inn desk clerk. They wandered into In-N-Out mumbling nonsensical nonsense. “These burgers make me horny” one homeless man said to his other homeless companion. I like burgers too, but I’ve never thought about them in a sexual context until now. Another homeless man walked in and asked for the bathroom key code and was rejected by Kenan’s stand in. Kenan is the guy who was on SNL and played the part of an In-N-Out employee.
I’m sure In-N-Out Burger is considered to be an okay burger establishment. Some could argue that point. My experience was not so good. The food tasted horrible and the people agitated me. Also, it was very late in the evening and that most likely contributed to the disappointment. I hope you were not thinking that this was going to be the BEST burger in all the fast food franchises. The chocolate shake was enjoyable. It’s chocolate!
San Francisco, A Place That Has Diversity
Kunal woke me up early the next morning by opening the blackout curtains allowing the sunlight to wildly dance inside the room and sting my eyes. “Come on, we’ve got the whole day ahead of us” he said. I was still trying to digest the Double-Trouble burger and only wanted to lie still. Of course I had no choice of refusing. The blankets were stripped away while at the same time running shorts were being tossed beside me. “Let’s go running and catch the rest of the sunrise” Kunal said. I huffed and puffed and responded with, “Will there be breakfast?”
We ran along side of the bay. The sun was halfway above the horizon and light shimmered off the water. It was absolutely breathtaking. The cool wind grazed our faces as we ran.
For once at a brief moment I was not thinking about food. I was enjoying the city and it’s beauty. The sun’s golden light shining across the bay, the salty smell of air, the morning sounds of the city waking including the precious view of seals sleeping on vacant dock. “Wow. Imagine waking up to this moment everyday” I thought to myself. Then another smell whiffed around and inside my nose making my mouth salivate. It was the smell of food. To be more exact, it was fresh sourdough bread from Boudin. “Oh I can’t wait for breakfast!” exclaiming up ahead to Kunal.
For breakfast, we ate at the best bakery which served sourdough bread on Fisherman’s Wharf. You have not tasted bread until you’ve tasted Boudin Bakery.
That day we explored all over San Francisco. We visited historic and touristy places such as
Coit Tower, Pier 39, The Exploratorium, and Union Park.
We had warm Irish coffee at The Buena Vista Cafe. They’re not stingy when it comes to their whisky. I had one coffee with whisky and could barely walk out without holding onto Kunal’s arm for support.
Of all the places we visited in the city, one sticks out the most. China Town. Every big major city has one… I think.
We had teleported from San Francisco and gone to China was my initial thought. Although, the rolling paved hills and streets still resembled San Francisco. The buildings and shops had Chinese lettering and the food looked nothing like P.F Chang’s. The diversity of people had changed too, and they were shorter. We were definitely not in Kansas.
There were bright colorful dresses with floral designs stitched on them. It was not a dress you would find at J.C Penny’s. The dresses were much more elegant and charming.
They had small desserts called Mooncakes. I’ve heard of Moon Pies, but never Mooncakes. Kunal finally bought one after me asking what it tastes likes a dozen times. “Mooncakes are a combination of lotus seed and lye water blended into a paste which gives it the smooth golden brown color” Kunal blurts out. He’s full of fun facts.
After finishing the last small bite of Mooncake, we walked across the street to the Chinatown produce market. It was like the farmers market back home except that the vegetables were radioactive and looked like they were grown to feed Godzilla. They had radishes bigger than my mothers Shitzu, eggplants tall as my niece, and other outlandish vegetables you only read about in fiction. I was now certain that we’ve left earth and ended up on another planet.
Later, we entered a shop that sold very expensive mushrooms. They had other items too, but I couldn’t pry my eyes away from the price of the mushrooms. “Seven-hundred dollars for mushrooms?” I thought. “Some people must really enjoy mushrooms. I enjoy them too, but not at that price.” Kunal and I browsed around more and came across the tea section. Even the tea was incredibly overpriced. “Who would pay this much just to eat or drink something?” I asked Kunal. “These are gourmets foods he said. “They’re not your regular day-to-day items that we buy at the supermarket. These are all extremely rare” he added. “Rare or not, they still end up in the same place after consumption” quietly stating to own ears.
I wanted a souvenir from Chinatown, but everything that I found interesting seemed a bit pricey. Even if the price was only two dollars, I still thought it was too expensive. I decided to leave the souvenir shopping up to Kunal. With his shopping expertise I knew he would find something worthwhile and I was right. He found a nice pair of decorative chopsticks with resting blocks and a box of Oolong Tea. I’m unsure of how much he spent because at the same time he was making the purchase I was distracted by a Chinese toy doll. He refused to tell me the price and insisted that he did receive the best bargained price. The receipt I found later said otherwise.
Do Not Pass Go, Do Not Collect $200, Go To Alcatraz
I would recommend while visiting San Francisco you should take time and cruise over to Uncle Sam’s Devil Island, aka Alcatraz. Kunal and I purchased tickets for an evening tour of the island, making the ambience more erie than if you were tour by day. But by all means you should go at a time that is most convenient to your schedule. It’s a lot of fun and you learn a brief history of all the good things that happened at Alcatraz during it’s time of inrcasrentaing the lucky inmates. Plus, you’re able to take in a breathtaking view of the city while taking your selfie right where one of the inmates most likely died. Say cheese!
Honestly, you should take the night tour. It’s a unique program limited to only a few hundred visitors per evening. From what we were told, it included activities not offered during the day and some of the programs had adult themed content. The boat cruise was most enjoyable as everyone took pictures and selfies, including myself. I dragged Kunal into the frame of my phone’s camera capturing a few quick pics. After a short while the island was larger and closer. It stared back at us as we stared back at it. The intensity grew wild and fierce. I could hear the haunting screams of drowned prisoners who tried to escape but instead drowned due to the treacherous waters. As most of us know, the movie Escape From Alcatraz only had one man, Mr. Connery, who escaped the island.
After we docked all the tourists including Kunal and I shuffled off the boat like prisoners, never to leave this god forsaken island and never able to eat another Inn-N-Out Double-Double burger again. Queue the lightning strike and manic laughter.
The tour guides were extremely knowledgable about the history of the island and did not bore us with textbook material. Instead they had menacing themed stories that made you make “ooh” and “ahh” noises.
After walking up and around to the top, there it sat boldly, the prison of Alcatraz. The sun was setting and the light was dissipating. “This is going to be super!” I loudly thought to myself while my body shivered with the chilled wind blowing in along with the night. Luckily, Kunal lent me his jacket which blocked some of the cold breezes.
Green florescent lighting filled the inside of the prion as we entered. “Gross” I thought. I felt like I was back at work under hideous lights filling up my cubicle space.
One of my favorite moments was looking inside a jail cell and seeing a filthy toilet. I imagined myself in the need of a restroom and that was the only toilet available. “I’d have to sit down on that with all these people staring at me? No thanks. I’ll hold it.” Then I thought about all the poor murdering prisoners who had no choice but to sit on the filth infested god awful stench of a ceramic throne.
“What do they do if they ran out of toilet paper?” I asked Kunal. He looked at me and responded with, “They probably used the hands of their cellmates.” My eyes melted with disgust and I walked away blinded.
It’s easy to get lost, especially if you’re like me, no sense of direction. Kunal took his time and visited each matching jail cell as if he were playing Spot the Difference. I frolicked around searching for a little excitement.
Following the herd of tourists down the fluorescent suicidal lit hallway, I walked outside a doorway and was suddenly hit with a hard block of wind and a chill that could knock your dog unconscious. Cold tears drizzled from my eyes. “Crap. This is not the way I wanted to go.” There was no way back inside. More tourists were shoving their way outside. Moving with the cattle, I walked down concrete stairs and reached a nice area away from everyone. From there I could see the cityscape of San Francisco. It was absolutely beautiful.
Moments later, Kunal placed his arm around me which startled me slightly. Now, the moment was absolutely beautiful. The wanderer had been found and the city sat quietly by the bay below the night sky. My stomach rumbled breaking the moment of pleasantness followed by our laughter. Kunal knew warm food was next on our list.
All Roads Lead to Pacific Highway 1:
This day was very beautiful and unforgettable. We rented a car and Kunal drove across the Golden Gate Bridge to Highway 101. With scenic views looking down at the ocean from above was something I’ve never imagined I’d see with my very own eyes. It’s much different from the North Carolina coast.
We reached Muir Woods, the giant Redwood trees, a little before lunch time. These trees were massive and I expected to run into the wise but slow Tree Beard from Lord of The Rings. Everyone, including myself, was looking up and tiring their necks. “This is where I would have liked to of had my childhood treehouse” I told Kunal. He smiled and replied, “Just as long as you don’t build it.” I didn’t have the best craftsmanship when building anything. I remembered trying to put together a simple birdhouse that came with step by step instructions and ended up with what looked like the aftermath of playing a level of Angry Birds.
We left the red giants created by the earth god and drove over to Muir Beach. The waves crashed against rocks in an explosive but calming manner. Kunal walked ahead of me as I was preoccupied with taking as many pictures as possible. After capturing the hundredth picture I spotted Kunal climbing up on one of the tall rocks. I followed suit and climbed up next to him. (Please be advised not to do the stupid things we do. You might end up hurt.) We sat and watched the waves crash into the shoreline tumbling over the rocks. It was so peaceful until we were splashed by one large wave from below. I could hear Poseidon laughing.
After enjoying the amazing few of the Pacific Ocean we decided it was time to indulge ourselves in some fine tasting cuisines of Sausalito.
Sausalito has many great restaurants and our lucky winner was Barrel House Tavern because of it’s charming view and recommendations. The food was spectacular especially the lamb meatballs and the platter of different beers that were paired with cheeses that I could barely pronounce. Did I mention the view?
Our Last Miserable Day
For some reason the next morning I was not in the best mood after waking up. Perhaps it was the fact that this was our last day and I wasn’t ready to leave. Maybe it was the weather or maybe I was just hungry.
Kunal decided we should rent bikes and peddle our way across the Golden Gate Bridge. It sounded like fun. Then checked out of the inn’s room and entered into cold and cloudy San Francisco city.
We biked up a very excruciating hill with no end in sight. We peddled and peddled going nowhere. I eventually hopped off the bike and pushed the bike the rest of the way up.
Kunal watched as I struggled and met him at the top. “Good?” He asked. “I’m good” I panted.
Dodging additional bikers and pedestrians I caught up and rode along side of Kunal. I was ready to finish the biking and find something else to do. So, I smirked a mischievous grin and peddled as hard as I could. I left Kunal in the mist riding up ahead. I weaved in and around other bikers.
At one point of crossing the bridge, I reached a point where no one was around. The clouds were thick and the visibility was not clear. I stopped briefly and looked over the side. Waves crashed below.
Kunal was not very happy with me once he caught up with me. I don’t blame him. I was being a miserable prick.
Later that day we ate and had a few drinks at the Fog City Diner where we would watch the Indian Well’s Men’s Tennis final where Djokovic defeated Federer. Ugh. This day was not getting any better.
We left the diner and proceeded with more bar hoping. The day was closing and the sun decided to come out for a while. Kunal and I walked along Fisherman’s Wharf basking ourselves in the sun. I only wished that the sun had been out more that day.
Dinner time closed in as our stomachs rumbled. We had time for one last meal. Indian food called our names.
After the meal Kunal called a cab. I thought we were going back to the Inn to pick up our luggage. Kunal had one more stop to make before we left the city and did not tell me where it was.
The cab stopped and I followed Kunal outside. It was revealed to me that we were back at the Golden Gate Bridge. At this moment the sky was clear. We had no annoying bicycles. We walked hand in hand. It was the perfect moment for the ending of a vacation in San Francisco, the city by the bay.