Monday, February 24, 2014

City by the Bay

I was in San Francisco last week to attend the San Francisco Writers' Conference at the Mark Hopkins
Hotel on Nob Hill. It was my fourth visit to one of my favorite cities in the world.

During my week-long visit, I also had the opportunity to enjoy some of the sights of this city that I'd missed on my previous visits - I stayed with friends in Alameda, across the Bay, and found the old part of town charming, particularly the 1932 Alameda Theatre. We had a fantastic dinner at Burma Superstar, the best (and only) Burmese restaurant I've ever eaten at. Initially, I expected the cuisine to be a blend of Indian and Chinese cuisines and it was...kind of...but there was something else, too. My favorite dish was the Tea Leaf Salad, described as "a party in your mouth" and yes, that's accurate.

I took the Alameda Ferry several times, each time feeling dwarfed and not a little scared by the enormous container ships loading up in Oakland. After a handful of minutes sailing into the pea soup fog of the Bay, I would alight at Embarcadero. From there, I'd take a cable car up California Street through Chinatown to the top of Nob Hill.

Embarcadero Plaza was the scene of the largest pillow fight I'd ever seen on Valentine's Day (!), and I got a number of harmless hugs from strangers hanging out near the Ferry Terminal Building. I got caught on the wrong side of the Chinese New Year's Parade on February 15th, but I went against the direction of the parade to its source and then crossed to the other side where I needed to be. The crowds reminded me of negotiating the streets of Shanghai last year.

One gorgeous day, we crossed the Golden Gate Bridge and headed to Sonoma, the historic museum there, a wine tasting, and a savory lunch at The Girl and the Fig.

I met another friend at the de Young Museum in Golden Gate Park to see the Georgia O'Keeffe exhibition. I have seen a lot of her art in Santa Fe, New York, and Chicago, but had never seen this collection of paintings she did while at Lake George in upstate New York. Many of them were so different from what my artwork memory bank told me was typical O'Keefe and I was jarred into seeing her in another way. There were a number of her more well-known pastel flower paintings, which I learned were done at Lake George and not when she relocated to the Southwest. But the ones I liked most were those with lots of moody blues and browns, and autumn hues of scarlet, orange, and gold.

The Mission was fun to explore, though I didn't get to spend as much time as I wanted to there, and arrived too late to visit Mission Dolores. I stopped at Tartine (a half stick of butter in every croissant, or so I was told) and then walked along Valencia, inhaling alternating whiffs of taquerias and honeysuckle.

I am looking forward to my fifth visit to San Francisco. Maybe it will be more than just a visit this time.