Say Hey! I do love San Francisco.
On two picture-perfect summer days, Claire and I have had fun exploring the food, the museum life, and – yes – the unexpected treasure of a Giants baseball game – in this city by the bay.
We arrived mid-afternoon on Friday, the 15th day of our cross-country tour, and we stopped just short of the city to have a light lunch.
Cavallo Point is a former army base turned into National Park and luxury resort. Their website shows a stunning shot of the Golden Gate Bridge with the words A View With Rooms. Truer words were never spoken. I had visited this wonderful place with colleagues a few years ago to learn about the ways the park service was working with private interests to re-imagine and reconfigure former Army bases. I was taken with it then, and I wanted to show it to Claire as part of our trip.
We drove into Cavallo Point as the clouds cleared from the bridge, and while my shot from the porch of the hotel is not exceptional, we’ll both recall the view, and the tasty meal at Farley Bar.
We then drove in and found our hotel near Union Square, in the heart of downtown. After some time to rest our feet, we headed out to explore the city and to end the evening with some wonderful sushi at Sanraku. One of the things I most enjoy about this city is the multitude of tiny restaurants found seemingly on every block, serving up some of the best food in the country.
This morning we awoke early, as we wanted to be at the Exploratorium when it opened. But first we had other business.
Claire once again found a fantastic place for breakfast on Yelp! at the nearby Farm:Table. There were three items on the menu – the daily toast (at the top) and an egg on croissant sandwich being the two that we chose. Claire got the almond milk latte, and I had a regular latte. There is one relatively small (6 people) communal table inside, a couple of sidewalk tables for two, and two standing tables affixed to the front of the restaurant. And on the street side of the sidewalk is a Kickstarter-funded Public Parklet, where I sat for a while until the table became available.
I’m here to say that I’ve seldom had a better breakfast. The Daily Toast was incredible, and the coffee was superb. We loved being out on the street as people came and went, stopping to talk, pet a dog or two, and simply taking in life. If you are in the Nob Hill area, this is worth a visit.
We made it to the Exploratorium about 3 minutes before it opened. Claire’s good friend Jackie is in San Francisco this summer, and she encouraged us to visit this incredible museum. Jackie was in DC last summer and this is a young lady who explores the heck out of every place she visits, so I took her recommendations seriously. The Exploratorium was a home run. Here’s how the web site describe it:
The Exploratorium is an eye-opening, playful place—in San Francisco and online—to explore how the world works. For 40-plus years, we’ve offered creative, thought-provoking exhibits, experiences, tools, and projects that ignite curiosity, encourage exploration, and lead to profound learning.
That’s an understatement.
We spent two-and-a-half hours here, and we could have spent two-and-a-half days without seeing everything that calls out for your attention and to engage your brain. This is sometimes described as a museum for children, but that is wrong. 90-year-olds were just as engrossed as 4-year-olds in these incredible, interactive exhibits. In the photo above, Claire is looking in a mirror that puts her in all the panels. Next to this was a similar mirror where – standing in the same place – she could not see her image.
Whether it was an exhibit showing the skeletal, blood, and heart systems; the pieces of a typewriter; artifacts that pulled forward questions about how the concept of “normal” has changed in mental health circles; countless pendulums; or a thousand other things, the museum really engaged the mind and the imagination. Highly recommended for everyone with a brain and a pulse.
Last evening, I had casually mentioned that the Giants had an afternoon game on Saturday against the Phillies. I had not planned to attend, as this is one stadium I’ve already visited (twice) in my bucket list drive to get to all MLB stadiums. But Claire – God bless her heart – said, “I’d be up for going to a baseball game.” Really? I love you too, Claire!
After a search on Stub Hub, we had fantastic tickets (third base line, lower level, in the shade, with knowledgeable fans all around) and arrived at AT&T Park with about 10 minutes to spare before the first pitch. I’m here to say that this is the best stadium in baseball…and I’ve been to 18 of the 30. Why?
- It is impossible to beat the setting. Coors Field comes close with the views of the Rockies, but the water – on a picture-perfect day like today – in the midst of a thriving, pulsing city, is too much to overcome. Please, don’t tell me about Wrigley or Fenway. I love them both, as they have the city setting, the L Train by Wrigley, lots of history…but not the water.
- Every seat is good. I’ve tried 3 for full games, and I’ve walked all around this park on all levels. No matter where you sit or stand, you feel as if you are right on top of the action.
- The scoreboard is great. They give you terrific information in a way that is easy to read. Plus, the video guys have a sense of humor.
- You may get to hear Bob Weir and the Giant’s Third Base coach sing the National Anthem, and then have Bill Walton and Micky Hart lead the singing of Take Me Out to the Ballgame, as I did on an earlier visit.
- The attendants are incredibly friendly. Example #1: When I was stumbling to get my new Stub Hub app to come up on my phone, the ticket taker said, “That’s all right, Hon. I’ve been waiting all day for you to arrive.” After she scanned our tickets, she saw my Nationals hat and added, “Have a great vacation.” Can you beat that?
- The attendants are incredibly friendly. Example #2: Peter, who monitors the aisle in Section 126, greeted us, said, “You must know someone important” when he saw our terrific tickets, and continued to keep an eye out for us throughout the rest of the game. We chatted when we left, and I found out that he does this throughout the season (plus he does the 49ers games on Sundays in the fall). He was probably 70+ and retired, but loving his life.
- The kayackers in McCovey Cove. First, who else has a body of water named after Willie “Stretch” McCovey, the most feared left-handed power hitter ever? Then, who has anything even remotely resembling the kayackers out waiting for a splash home run? (Nope, the folks in the street in Fenway don’t rate.)
- AT&T Park has the best variety of food. Hands down.
- Finally, AT&T Park has great statues. Of course, having Willie Mays (see top of post) puts you so far ahead of the other stadiums that it really isn’t a contest. Growing up, Mays was my favorite player, and as I’ve mentioned before I still have at least one grade school friend (and now preservation colleague) who will call me “Say Hey!” Was Mays any good? Well, let’s return to that ESPN bio I linked to at the top of the post:
Voted into the Hall of Fame in 1979, he was the ninth player to be so honored in his first year of eligibility. But when 23 of 432 baseball writers failed to vote for Mays, Dick Young wrote, “If Jesus Christ were to show up with his old baseball glove, some guys wouldn’t vote for him. He dropped the cross three times, didn’t he?”
Say Hey! The best there is in my book, and as clear-cut a unanimous choice for the Hall of Fame as anyone before or since.
Now, to today’s game. Tim Hudson was on the mound, and he’s having a Strasburg-like year, with some great numbers but a so-so W-L record. Today showed why. He gave up 5 runs in less than 5 innings and wasn’t fooling the Phils. But the Giants bullpen came in and shut down Philadelphia for the rest of the game and got him off the hook.
The really bizarre inning was the bottom of the sixth. The Giants scored four runs in that frame while getting only one hit that was tagged (a double by Michael Morse, who was in Beast mode today), and with two balls that didn’t even leave the infield. One was a typical Phillies play this year, as a pop-up fell between the pitcher and the first and second basemen while all watched it land on the ground. In the eighth, the Giants took the lead and then held off the Phils in the 9th to secure the win. As Claire pointed out as we left the stadium, all three home teams won during our cross-country trip, so we expect some other teams to start plying us with free tickets!
We’re wrapping up our time tonight by – guess what – eating! Claire is meeting up with her friend Jackie and her family for dinner, and I’m off to hear some jazz at a near-by club. Sounds like a great ending to our time in the city.
And speaking of jazz, when it comes to music there’s only one Hall of Fame tune for many generations that captures San Francisco. It was one of my father-in-law’s favorite songs, and therefore it is one of my wife’s favorite songs. Candice, this is for you in memory of Pop-Pop, with love from Claire and David. I’ll see you Tuesday afternoon, my love.
More to come…