Tag Archives: San Francisco

The North Windmill of Golden Gate Park

IMG_8973After seeing a post on Facebook about the Dutch Windmill located at Golden Gate Park I knew I had to check it out next time I went to San Francisco. One afternoon while Katie and I were and headed to the Sutro Baths we drove right past it. I mentioned that later if we had nothing to do we should go back and take a look. The last morning we were there while we were waiting for the Aquarium of the Bay to open at Pier 39 we headed over to the north end of the park and took a few minutes to see the majestic windmill.

After a little research I learned that the Dutch Windmill was constructed in 1902. The interior holds amazing paintings, but over the years insect and water damage has made this gallery unvisitable for the public. The windmill was also originally used to pump water but today, even after all the restoration, it can no longer do this. It’s not a complete loss. The blades still move and there is the Queen Wilhelmina Tulip Garden, which is quite beautiful, right next to it so you’ll want to explore the area for sure.

The Dutch Windmill is right next to Beach Chalet and is about 75 feet high. With the tree cover growing around it, it’s easy to see the top with the blades from the beach but difficult to see as you get closer. We walked into the beautiful garden around the base and all the way up close super where we could read the plaques cemented to the walls. We looked up to the windmill’s top and could truly see how immense it is. Standing right next to the base it is huge and the long blades that swirl around in the wind are magnificent.

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If you’re planning on going you might want to check out the Beach Chalet Visitor Center as well. Unfortunately when we went it was closed, but I’m sure that they much information about the history of the beach and park. Next time I’m exploring the Golden Gate Park I will be sure to stop in there and the South Windmill to learn even more.

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Ghost Walk in San Francisco

IMG_8971One night while Katie and I were in San Francisco we were wondering what we could do to have an entertaining night. We had seen a flyer in a hotel earlier that day for a San Francisco Ghost Hunt walking tour and decided that it could be fun, exciting and scary and that we would give it a try.

It was 6pm and with only an hour of free time to spare we had to quickly figure out how to get there. We read the bus schedule and jumped on the first MUNI bus headed in the direction of the tour’s starting point. There was so much traffic in San Francisco that evening that our bus came to a dead stop about 4 blocks away from where we needed to get off.  We asked the driver to let us off and walked the remaining blocks over to the Queen Anne Hotel at 1590 Sutter Street.

When we arrived at the hotel and people were already waiting outside for the tour to start. As the time got closer a few more people joined us from inside the hotel. Our group ended up with about 10 people in it. As soon as the clock struck 7pm our guide, Jim Fassbinder, came out of the hotel to join us. He escorted us inside into a banquet room where we waited a few more moments for any last stragglers.

He started with what only could be considered a magic trick where he picked three members of the group to pick out a card each. The first was Joy, the second Curiosity, and the last which was mine was Enchantment. He chose Fear and the remaining 4th card. Then he showed us all the cards and we had each matched the correct word with the correct card. It was a cute trick to start the night with goofy pictures on them.

He sat us down and told us a little bit about himself and how he came to be doing tours and what we were going to be doing that the night. Then we headed upstairs to start the tour in Mary Lake’s room, 410. He told us the story of the hotel and how it used to be a school for girls. Miss Mary Lake was the head of the school and she can now be felt in the rooms and halls of the hotel caring for individuals as she chooses. There are multitudes of stories where she has tucked gentlemen in at night and children have felt her presence.

We took a few minutes to explore the room and the rest of the hotel looking for Mary, but none of us found her anywhere. I thought we might get a picture with an orb in it, but no one’s pictures had any orbs either. Seems as though Mary was taking the night off the night we went. Maybe it would have helped if we had some female children with us or if some of the ladies were pregnant. We had heard she often is around when the group has a few of those people in it.

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We then headed outside for our walking tour to begin. We walked the streets of San Francisco stopping at different houses along the way. Some used to be schools, others used to be churches. They all had some story to go along with them. We learned a little about the architecture of the buildings and how the houses on the streets today used to be all very muted colors. In the 1970’s the residents started to paint them bright colors and that is why they look the way they do today. Also, the houses used to have little farms with animals where the garages are now.

We finally stopped at a large mansion that used to be owned by a woman, I can’t quite remember her name. Her sister lived right next door and they did not get along at all. They often fought. It is said that someone might have pushed her down the front steps instead of the accident that was reported back then. Our tour guide, Jim, had the original key to that mansion’s doors. While the locks have been changed since new residents currently live, this key was unique. Standing there on the other side of the street and directly across from the house Jim placed the key in his hand. The key slowly turned in his hand on its own as if someone had put it into the lock and was trying to unlock a door. Because he knew we wouldn’t believe that he wasn’t trying to trick us he then had one of the group put out her hand where the key did the same thing in her hand too. It was spooky and eery and incredibly intriguing.

We continued our tour and Jim told us about Flora, the ghost that haunts California Street, Gertrude who possibly killed her husband and put him in a barrel of rum, and last put not least, the meanest ghost of them all, Mary Ellen. She was the richest and most powerful woman in San Francisco in her day. She was thought to know magical spells or voodoo and it was believed that she possibly killed her husband for his money, even though she didn’t need it. The trees along the street were planted by her and whenever there is a person who doesn’t believe in the story nuts are thrown down on them from above. Luckily, everyone believed the night I was there so no one got hurt.

Our tour ended not far from the starting point and while we didn’t see any ghosts that night or any orbs in our pictures when checking them the next day, learning the history of San Francisco and where some ghosts still reside was quite fun. Jim was extremely entertaining with his jokes, tricks, and stories of past experiences. So, if you’re in San Francisco and looking for something to do other than spend a night drinking at the local clubs and bars this is definitely something you should check out. It’s $20 well spent.

Split Pea Soup Andersen’s in Santa Nella

IMG_8973On the way home from San Francisco Katie and I stopped at Pea Soup Andersen’s for my first ever pea soup experience. Knowing that I don’t really like peas and not knowing if I would like pea soup or not I was a little worried. I had heard such good things though that I wanted to give it a try.

Pea Soup Andersen’s original location is in Buellton, California just north of Santa Barbara. Anton and Juliette started a prosperous horse and cattle ranch and dairy farm named Rancho San Carlos de Jonata. R.T in 1924. They had 5 children and came up with the idea of opening a tiny restaurant. They named it “Andersen’s Electric Cafe”. The most popular recipe with the customers was the split pea soup.

In 1965 Pea Soup Andersen’s was sold the Buellton restaurant to Vince Evans. He had a vision to create a new “Service Town” off of I-5, similar to what had been created in Buellton by the Andersen Family. He eventually opened their second location in Santa Nella, California and that is where Katie and I stopped.

As we pulled into the restaurant parking lot I realized that it was much bigger than I had expected. The classic windmill was the first thing to catch my eye, from the highway but the building itself was huge. We took a moment to admire the windmill and then finally found the main entrance. We stopped to take a picture with their head cutout board of their classic cartoon of the two guys splitting the peas and then headed inside.

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Once inside I immediately noticed their bakery and gift shop. I was super excited to see what they had and snuck away to get a better look soon after we were seated. They had cookies, strudels, eclairs, and pies. It all looked so good. The gift shop had all kinds of memory and special event pieces. They even had a Scooby cookie jar which I found super cute. You can even buy cans of their pea soup if you want to take some home.

Back at my seat the waitress offered for me to try the split pea soup before ordering it as a meal. What a great idea and I really appreciated getting to try a sample. Not having to buy it if I didn’t like it was a plus too. Unfortunately I did not like the soup. Maybe I just don’t like peas so much that pea soup just wasn’t a good choice. We decided on a burger and some chicken tenders, both of which were very good.

For some reason, I couldn’t shake the feeling of it being very similar to a Crackle Barrel and I’m not a huge fan of Crackle Barrel so trying to get that out of my head was difficult. However, all in all as a rest stop for a long trip, Pea Soup Andersen’s is a great place to check out. Try their pea soup if you like it and if not there’s plenty of other option to try. Just to set the record straight though, I wouldn’t drive all the way to Santa Nella from Los Angeles just for their split pea soup. But that’s just me.

Behind-the-Scenes at Aquarium of the Bay

IMG_8973Early one morning while in San Francisco Katie and I headed to the Aquarium of the Bay at Pier 39. We purchased two tickets and to make our experience even better we decided to take a behind the scenes tour for an extra $9.00. It was worth every penny.

Aquarium of the Bay has been around for over 15 years. It works to protect, restore and inspire the conservation of San Francisco Bay and its watershed. It is a nonprofit marine nature center affiliated with The Bay Institute. With it’s “Conservation Impact Programs” it reaches out to the local community working with partners to provide research on local shark populations, bring back native salmon, assist chefs, restaurants and consumers in selecting “Sustainable Seafood,” remove invasive species from marine and estuary environments, support endangered species, combat climate-induced sea level rise, enact policies that will create healthy fresh water flows back to San Francisco Bay, and create a series of original and ready-made temporary exhibitions that explore local and global environmental challenges.

Excitement filled my body as we walked into the aquarium and explored the first part of the top level looking at fish in small tanks and learning a little bit about those fish and the water in the bay. The bay is part salt and part fresh water and all kinds of fish can be found there including sharks. We took a moment to stop for a picture and then headed down under the ground to their aquarium tunnels, the real draw of the aquarium.

Arriving at the lower level it was very dark. Immediately after stepping out of the elevator we could see jellyfish in front of us. We took a right into the room and saw even more including the most popular, moon jellies. They flowed with the currents sent through their private tanks and gently glided around and around. We then headed to the huge tank with two long tunnels where 300 feet of crystal clear acrylic allow you to watch the fish swim around the tunnels above and to the sides. This tank holds 700,000 gallons of carefully maintained bay water. Light from above the tanks peers down through the water and on you in the tunnels allowing you to see where you are going and view all different kinds of fish. Approximately 30,000 animals live here including bass, white sturgeon, sevengill sharks, and California sheephead.

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At the end between the two tunnels there was even an octopus in its own tank. Suctioned toward the top it sat waiting or resting. I took a moment to peek my head inside the dome cut out to get a better look. Then we headed through the second tunnel.

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We got back to the elevator and went up to the “Splash Pools” also known as the touch pools. We took a few minutes to pet the starfish, sea cucumbers, anemones, and baby bat rays and baby skates as they swam around the pool. Then there was a short feeding where the employee asked everyone to keep their hands out of the pool for the next 30 minutes. She told us about the sharks in the pool which were resting on the far edge toward the center of the pool because they are nocturnal and were sleeping the afternoon away. She also spoke a little about the different animal’s feeding techniques. She eventually tossed food in so the bat rays and skates could eat. The bat rays vacuumed the food up while the skates swam over it and ground it up with their teeth. It was fun to watch. The school of fish in the center of the pool often reached the pieces first being attracted to the splash while the skates and rays took a little longer to find the pieces as they were attracted by the smells and waited for the food to settle on the ground.

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It was finally time for our Behind-the-Scenes tour and this is where things started to get even more interesting. We headed to the front desk to meet up with our tour guide. It was just us, a family of three and about 4 people about to become employees. We walked through some doors that read “Employees Only” and made our way to our first stop, the main water filtration machines.

Our guide told us about how most of the water in the aquarium is from the Bay. She showed us a sample of the water before it’s sent through the filtration center. The murky water is actually very healthy. They really only filter it because if they didn’t no one that visits the aquarium would be able to see the animals. The water is filtered through their system constantly for some of their tanks while others it’s filtered less frequently.

Next on our stop was the kitchen where they prepare all the food for the animals. They have two big refrigerators and a walk in freezer containing fish, mice, squid, shrimp and more. Everything they need to feed the animals that live there. On a wall above the sinks is a big feeding chart that divides the animals by sections as to when they should be fed and how much. Some animals have special needs, such as Lenny one of their five white sturgeon who is missing his whiskers. Since whiskers are vital in food finding for a sturgeon they have taught him to target a big stick. Using that stick they are able to help him locate his food through a hole in the target. Later we were able to see the tank and stick that they use during his feeding process. Too bad we weren’t there on the day Lenny gets fed. I would have loved to see that.

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We went upstairs to the holding pools where they hold animals before they put them into the big tank. Sometimes baby shark or skates live there until they are big enough to join the rest of the animals. The day we went there were some wolf eels which rarely come out of their hiding places so it was lucky that we were able to seem their full body in the holding tank. Also some herring were in another tank that one employee was doing some studies on. He was trying to find out if fish can smell plastic in the water. He told us that this would be very helpful to know because there is so much plastic in the water and often the fish have bits in their stomachs that it makes its way up the food chain to us.

We moved onto the huge 700,000 gallon tank, but just before getting to see it we stopped at a smaller holding tank attached to it near the front of the room. This is where they would place fish in to acclimate them to the water before releasing them into the bigger tanks. This is also the same tank that they taught Lenny and the sharks to swim into to be fed. There was a school of herring in there the day we went.

We finally got a full look at the main pool from above. It was huge and quite breath-taking. The water was bright blue and crystal clear. You could see all the way to the bottom without a problem. The fish looked even bigger than they did from down below as we could see them occasionally cut through the surface of the water in the pool. Water was constantly being fed into the pool in what looked like mini waterfalls all along the edges. There was even a section I would like to call starfish island where multiple starfish had made their home just at the water’s edge. We walked over the metal track that ran through the center of the tank taking it all in, careful not to drop anything in. With the slits in the ground under our feet and the open railings, our tour guide told us that if we drop anything in we won’t be getting it back until the scuba divers went in the following day. I held my camera tight every time I pulled it out of my pocket.

As we reached the other side our tour guide showed us some more holding tanks. These were filled with baby sharks and bat rays. She also showed us the pods that the sharks and rays lay to make more babies. These can often be found empty along the beaches. As we held them up to the light we could see that there was definitely something in there. We headed back across the huge tank again and back to the holding tank attached to it.

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As our tour ended we made our way to our last stop, the medical room. There wasn’t much to see here as there was no vet on site that day because all the animals were doing well. Our tour guide told us a little about the lice and other parasites that live on the animals in the bay and how they try to make sure none of their animals catch them by isolating the new animals before they introduce them to the full population. She brought us back up the stairs and out to the main entrance of the aquarium, reminding us that in about 10 minutes the otters would have having their two year Anniversary Celebration.

We waited patiently for the event to start as the three otters rested in a high perch at the back of the exhibit. As the commotion around them grew it peeked two of their interest. They started to move around the exhibit in anticipation of the big occasion. The employees and volunteers finally made their way over to the otter exhibit with a ton of interactive toys from kongs and buckets of dirt to frozen fruit and fish layered cakes. The trainer stepped inside and kept the otters focused on her as the volunteers moved the toys into their exhibit. While one of the otters loves food and was completely focused on the trainer, the other two were very interested in what was going on behind her. They were able to get the stuff in and them out without incidents or loose otters. The trainer spoke about what they were doing and each of their personalities as we all watched them explore, play and eat their new way through a huge cake and all their new toys.

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Aquarium of the Bay is a great place to spend a few hours or a whole day. It’s great for all ages and for anyone that wants to learn about marine wildlife. There’s a ton to experience and explore throughout the whole place. And if you’re lucky and you go on just the right day you can have an entire experience full of surprise anniversaries too!

Sushi Club Downtown

IMG_8971After San Francisco’s 45th Anniversary of PRIDE Katie and I decided to get some sushi at a place called Sushi Club in downtown just off Market Street on 5th and Mission. Usually we check Yelp to see if the place is good, but we were starving and there were no other places that we felt like eating at close by so we took a gamble. Besides, the place had multiple people inside eating and they all seemed to be enjoying their meals.

The first thing that should have tipped us off was that they have no restroom. We were informed that we could use the one at the hotel next door. I brushed it off thinking that maybe due to the parade they didn’t want a bunch of people trying to use their restrooms. We ran next door and there were no issues.

We came back to the small restaurant with a bar on one side and about eight tables on the other and took a seat at one of the tables. We ordered drinks, Katie a hot saki and I got a mixed drink. That should have been my second tip. The drink had so much alcohol in it I could barely swallow, but I chalked it up to my lack of drinking lately and being a lightweight and someone that doesn’t really like the take of alcohol. Katie on the other hand really liked her sakis maybe I was being too harsh.

We ordered a rainbow roll, dragon roll, and some orders of salmon. The dragon roll was quite good, maybe that was due to the fact that it has eel instead of fish. The rest of it had a very strong fishy taste that even the eel sauce couldn’t completely hide. I’ve only ever eaten sushi that tasted like that once before and I never went back. This restaurant will have the same fate.

Later I checked the yelp reviews and notice that they only have 2 stars. Now I know why the food was not the best and kind of wish we had gone somewhere else. Neither of us got sick so that’s a plus, but maybe next time we’ll  check the reviews first.

Equality Without Exception at PRIDE in San Francisco

IMG_8973The LGBT community has been fighting for visibility, dignity, and equality for many years. 1970 was the first year of their Pride Celebrations and Parades in the cities of San Francisco, New York City, Chicago and Los Angeles after a police raid on the Stonewall Inn in New York’s Greenwich Village sparked the Stonewall riots in 1969. This year, on June 26th 2015 the US Supreme Court announced that Same-Sex Marriage is legal nationwide. With the 45th Anniversary of San Francisco’s Pride Celebrations and Parades occurring on that following weekend, June 27th & 28th, they couldn’t have had more perfect timing. I had been planning on going all year long and now I was even more thrilled to be a part of these exciting events.

Ready to celebrate, Katie and I awoke on Sunday morning and got a ride to the train station.  From there we bought tickets and jumped on to head downtown to Market Street where the festivities were taking place. Not exactly sure where on Market Street to get off, we followed the crowd dressed in rainbows and brightly colored clothing and exited about the fifth stop with them. We came up to the street level and found ourselves at the end of the parade route. Making our way to the street to where everyone was set to watch.

We caught the beginning of the parade. The first group to pass us was the AIDS Life Cycling Team. They were quickly followed by the San Francisco Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Pride Committee who I must say did an amazing job putting the parade together. In true form they carried signs that read “Equality Without Exception,” their theme for this years’ parade, and rainbow flags. They wore rainbow clothing and behind them was a big float with a balloon made rainbow, rainbow colored globe, and performers riding on it.

The diversity of the groups supporting within the parade was immense. From local community public safety departments to professional companies and even some schools. It seemed like everyone wanted to be a part of the parade. We saw the San Francisco Fire Department, San Francisco Police Department, Irish pipers, marching bands, percussion bands, cheerleaders, and other companies such as animal rescue shelters, Apple, Wells Fargo, Facebook, and even Netflix. There were people in costumes including Tigger, Chip, dogs and clowns, people on stilts waving at the audience, and floats that were magnificent. Everyone was smiles for miles, laughing and having a great time.

One of my favorite groups were the Golden State Warriors. There was some down time before they arrived as a small break in the parade. There percussion band, wearing all yellow, was the perfect pick me up the crowd needed. We could hear them coming down the street and the energy of everyone increased more and more as they got closer. They worked the crowd getting close to us and drumming their own beats when the unison song was ended. They were amazing.

My next favorite groups were Netflix, the animal shelter, and the Recology and PG&E companies. Netflix had characters from a few of their original shows standing on their float with those characters acting exactly how they would act in person. Crazy Eyes from Orange is the New Black was on point! The animal shelter had dogs walking in the parade wearing rainbow skirts and hats. Recology and PG&E companies had their mascots in toe. These last three were too cute for words.

We had seen the majority of the floats in the parade when it eventually stalled to a halt. It was past the time the parade was supposed to be over by according to the website so rather than wait for the parade to start moving again Katie and I decided to walk the rest of it. Not exactly the way a parade works, but it got us through a few more floats before we decided to call it a day and get some food.

San Francisco PRIDE  was a blast. With all the floats, characters, colors, and spectacles I was pleased with the outcome and the decision to take the trip north to check it out. I might go back next year to see it again. It’s definitely something you should experience once in your lifetime, no matter what age you are.

Sunset Reservoir Brewing Company

IMG_8971After a trip to Lands End Lookout Katie and I were extremely hungry. We decided to try Sunset Reservoir Brewing Company just down the road from Katie’s friend’s house in San Francisco. We walked down her street and onto the main street. A few blocks later we arrived at the front door. We almost missed it as they don’t have a sign or anything posted other than a small menu in the window.

We walked inside and were seated right away in a wooden booth. It wasn’t that busy for a Saturday night. I had expected it to be a lot more crowded, but the small groups were generally relaxed and chill. We ordered the Sunset Burger and Bowl of Wings. Both of which were really good.

We split our orders. The wings came first and I thought the sauce was super spicy. Katie, however, thought it was perfect. With or without the sauce the chicken was scrumptious. Next came the burger and it was delicious as well, with bacon, cheddar cheese, and 1000 Island dressing. Katie got a sampler of their beer to try as well.

We finished our meal and drinks and headed back to Cathy’s house, full of yummy food. If you’re in San Francisco and looking for a place to eat you should check Sunset Reservoir Brewing Company out.

Lands End at the Sutro Baths

IMG_8973One of the many places I wanted to be sure to check out while I was up north in San Francisco was the ruins of the Sutro Baths at Lands End Lookout. I had heard about and seen gorgeous pictures of the ruins over looking the ocean, large bird and seal covered rocks jetting out of the water, and a tunnel that leads to a rocky ridge where hikers are discouraged from going. I wanted an opportunity to see and explore it all for myself so late in the afternoon Katie and I headed to the far corner of San Francisco. Parking was extremely easy as there is a lot right across from the center. We took a moment to take in the view and then headed inside.

The Lands End has been around for many centuries. Native Americans, specifically the Yelamu Ohlone tribe, were the first to walk there as early as 10,000 years ago. They found everything they needed, fresh water, shelter, and food. They often traveled by foot to fish and hunt for otters, sea lions, and sea birds. Their children would run and play in the sand dunes and their families built fires on the bluffs to tell stories and sing songs around.

In 1769 the Spaniards began to explore the area for the main purpose of establishing permanent military and missionary compounds. With their arrival of settlements in 1776 the Yelamu Ohlone tribe’s traditional lifestyle was ended. Not only did the Europeans bring disease which took with it much of the Indian population, they also expected the Indians to convert to Christianity, cleared lands for agriculture, housing and irrigation and  prohibited the tradition of long controlled burns that assured an abundance of wild food plants. By the time Spanish rule had waned a few decades later the damage was irreversible.

As time passed Americans came to Lands End to see sea lions at Seal Rock and race their horses at Ocean Beach. By the 1860’s several taverns had opened to accommodate their needs: Seal Rock House, Lakeside House, and Cliff House, which is still there today. In the 1880’s Adolph Sutro began buying property in San Francisco and actually ended up owning 1/12th of the city by the end. He especially loved Lands End and used his fortune to protect the area, purchasing Cliff House, the coastline and using his influence to make Seal Rock a marine sanctuary. He was no angel though, as he created his attractions he dynamited cliffs, tunneled through rock, damned coves, planted countless non-native trees and flowers and built acre-large buildings. He eventually opened his attractions gardens to view at Sutro Heights, a place to swim at Sutro Baths, a museum and a rebuilt Cliff House.

As time pasted and a new generation craved different seaside attractions such as arcade games and rides Playland at the Beach was formed in the 1950’s. With this new attraction, Sutro Baths was less popular and transformed into an ice skating rink. It was soon shut down in 1966 and later burned in a fire. Playland didn’t last very long either. It was closed in 1972. Realizing that this land needed to be preserved, National Parks Service acquired both Lands End and Ocean Beach area by 1980 allowing them to become a part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area as well.

As we left the center feeling full of information I couldn’t wait to get a closer look at the ruins. We could see them from the lookout and headed over to the stairs that led down to them. We slowly walked down the stairs trying to choose which path to take. There were several different paths each leading somewhere different and by the end of our exploration we had seen them all. We started with the main Sutro Bath area, climbing inside what might have been changing rooms, but now looked like closed brick and cement chambers without any doors.  It was hard to tell what was what.

We continued to the tunnel, deciding to come back to the pool after. The tunnel looked about 1/8 of a mile long. It was dark and cool inside. Midway is a cool outlet to the ocean where you can watch the waves crash and light peek in. We made it to the other side which had a wire across it trying to stop people from continuing any further. As I watched others climb out onto the rocks, clinging for their lives as the scrabbled and inched there way around I remembered the warning sign stating that people have been swept off the rocks and died here. I was not about to try it, especially with the sneakers I was wearing that day.

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We walked back through the tunnel and continued our exploration of the baths. There were cool things to see everywhere. A section of the wall crumbling down due to the weather, another little tunnel that was closed off, wide open water space with seagulls swimming, the beach with amazing rock formations coming out of it. I took picture after picture as we walked along the walls with the water on both sides of us careful not to drop my camera. The water itself was disgusting, but made for great pictures. Even the rock wall from when the baths were operational was still there.

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The sun was slowly lowering and we headed toward the south where Cliff House is located. Not sure what we were exploring, we found a wall covered in sand carvings, more stairs, little rundown rooms, a steel pipe leading to nowhere, and beautiful flowers. We ended up back near the top overlooking the whole place and decided to continue exploring to the north, over the tunnel. We came to another overlook and even saw a mother caring for her baby seagull, a little grey fuzzball. From here the rocks out in the ocean looked like they had a heart inside them. We even found a shark spray painted on a piece of cement.

It was time to leave as the sun had set and there was only one route we had not taken yet, the  one through the thick forest of trees. Just a few feet away from the oceans edge a canopy covered the sky from view. It greatly contrasted the wide open fields of grass and beach that we had been previously exploring. We followed the path which brought us back to the center and starting point of the lookout. We took some time taking in the view one last time and finally headed back to the car content with our experience and feeling as though we had completed all there was to do there.

Lands End is an absolutely beautiful place. If you are in San Francisco and are looking for something to do you will not be disappointed checking this place out. Save a few hours to experience it. I’m positive you won’t want to rush this one and I’m sure you will want the extra time to look in every nook and cranny this place has to offer.

The 25th Anniversary of the “Sea Lebrities” of Pier 39

IMG_8973One of my favorite things to do while I am in San Francisco is to see the sea lions at Pier 39. Since Katie and I were at Fisherman’s Wharf for lunch we took the short walk to check them out. We walked over to the end of the pier or K dock where the sea lions can be seen.

The sea lions, now often called the “Sea Lebrities” of Pier 39, started arriving in January of 1990 after the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. At first there were only 10-50, but quickly their numbers grew to over 300 within a few months. Today, the numbers reach over 900 in the winters, many of which are male.

Early on San Francisco became aware that their “Sea Lebrities” could be a problem for Pier 39. The sea lions were overtaking the dock space and making it too dangerous for the boaters to dock their boats safely. San Francisco decided to make and dedicated docks specifically for the sea lions. Once they did the sea lions quickly realized this space was for them and there hasn’t been an issue since.

The marina’s protected environment with its plentiful dock space and it’s bountiful supply of herring is the main draw to the sea lions. When Katie and I arrived we could immediately see that it was their 25th Anniversary. As we got closer we read signs posted by the Sea Lion Center that the males migrate south during the summer months. There were 4 on the day we were there. These four had decided not to take the trek south to mate for one reason or another. Two of them were slightly skinny, but very active males and the other two were even younger, still fuzzy, less alert males. One of younger ones looked as though he had been bitten by a shark.

We headed up to the Sea Lion Center to ask about the poor little guy that had been bitten. Of course they knew about him and were watching him and monitoring his recovery. The rescue team had been contacted, but only intervene when it is a man-made issue. Everyone was hoping and praying he would make it and while it sucked and he was definitely having a bad day I was told that his wound looked like it was healing nicely and they all thought he would make it. The Sea Lion Center’s employees were a little happy though to see his wound. To them it meant the Bay was healthy and there were sharks in the area.

We took a few more minutes exploring the center. Feeling the different seal and sea lions’ fur, looking a pictures, learning where different seals and sea lions live, and a little about sharks their main predator. They even have a life-sized skeleton right when you walk in the door and sea lions and a shark hanging from the ceiling. And the best part is that it is all free. Free to see the sea lions at the end of the pier and free to take a few minutes to walk through the Sea Lion Center. But don’t forget to donate a few dollars to them so they can continue to do amazing work helping to save our marine life.

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Memories Ignited on San Francisco Carousel

IMG_8971While in San Francisco Katie and I stopped by Fisherman’s Wharf and Pier 39. After our lunch and visit to the Musee Mechanique at the Fisherman’s Wharf we walked down a few piers to Pier 39. As we got closer we could hear classic music coming from the center of all the shops. We turned a corner and there it was, the San Francisco Carousel. It’s not everyday you see a two tier carousel, so we decided to give it a try.

The San Francisco Carousel is absolutely beautiful consisting of 1,800 twinkling LED lights that are on both during the day and in the evenings. It was hand-crafted in Italy and arrived at the pier only several years ago in December of 2008. With it’s delightful hand painted pictures of all different attractions around the city including Alcatraz, Coit Tower, Golden Gate Bridge, Lombard Street, and sea lions at Pier 39 and it’s 32 different animals to ride, it draws a big crowd. Children are constantly standing in line at the front entrance eager to ride an array of horses, dragons, sea lions, dolphins, and even mythological hybrid horses with mermaid tails and those more adventurous will enjoy the spinning tubs.

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Katie and I made our way to the ticket booth to purchase a $5 ticket for each of us. Suddenly, a kid walked up and asked us if we were going to ride the carousel. Of course, I exclaimed. He handed me two tickets and ran away before I could even get out a thank you. It was super nice of him and I couldn’t have been happier. What a nice surprise.

We quickly made our way through the line and were let in as the last two to ride. We made our way around and around, but we couldn’t find any open animals. We came back to the front and the ride operator had us wait for the next one. She stated that maybe she miscounted. A couple of the animals were broken so she was probably right.

The ride stopped and everyone exited, then she opened the door and we were the first to get on. We ran up the curved stairs and picked our animals. I rode a dolphin and Katie rode a sea lion. We enthusiastically and impatiently waited for the carousel to start. On the top level we got a closer look at the paintings and a higher vantage point to view the rest of the pier from.

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The ride started and we went around and around and up and down faster and faster until the carousel reached its full velocity. It was so much fun, just like being a kid again, smiling and laughing the whole way. It reminded me of when I used operate a Merry-Go-Round at an amusement park and how children would try to jump from horse to horse without the me seeing. None of that was happening on this Carousel, mainly because it was too packed.

We tried to take a few moving pictures as the carousel eventually came to a slow stop. We got off our animals, walked back down the stairs, and exited the ride area. We decided that once was enough for us, but I could see that some of the children wanted a second or third go at it. This carousel is definitely fun for all ages. Whether it’s your first time or hundredth time on a carousel, riding with a friend will be sure to give you new memories and bring back childhood memories for you to share.