The main reason we went was that [eldest] was going to be a bridesmaid in the wedding of her best friend from high school. It would be the only way we would see her this year (although we had seen her, but not daughter-in-law, at spouse's mother's funeral). Spouse & youngest had never seen San Francisco, and the only time I was there was in 1970. We had then visited Chinatown, and my parents' friends the Hellers, and that was all. I also had the opportunity to meet face to face a friend I had only known by e-mail and other remote meetings, and we planned to visit a science-fiction bookstore called Borderlands; there is no such bookstore in this area of course.
We flew, and that meant flying Delta, an airline about which I have complained in the past. On we got to the Birmingham Airport the Delta computer system was down. A Delta employee told us that it seemed to be more important to pay the CEO $24 million per year than to upgrade the computer systems. It took us nearly an hour to check in because it took almost an hour to get the computer to respond. Thus we had no time to buy much-needed food before we got on the plane. Youngest gets hungry fast and she also has a bigger appetite than she used to. We are all allergic to overpriced airport crap, but sometimes there is no choice. Anyway, the Delta operation in Detroit and the one in San Francisco didn't give us any trouble, surprisingly (In previous years we have had problems with Atlanta but none with Boston; is there a pattern here?). Alas, on our return to Birmingham we had to wait about 20 minutes for my wheelchair, although that's not terribly much longer than it takes in other places.
Because we need a fully accessible room, our hotel choices are limited. We ended up in the Sheraton on fisherman's wharf, which is I think the most expensive hotel we've ever stayed in. It did have the advantage of being located in the heart of the tourist district. We were able to walk almost every place we went, which saved money. Although, San Francisco Mass transit is very wheelchair friendly, and not very expensive, so it didn't save us a lot of money. Everyone but me did get some exercise.
When we first got to the hotel they put us in a room that was not, after all, fully accessible. It was two o'clock in the morning, and we didn't notice until the next day. By that time we had unpacked everything and had to re-pack it for the move to the other room. Two things we still haven't found. By way of apology for our inconvenience they gave us five vouchers to their vastly overpriced breakfast buffet. We made sure to use all five vouchers. The buffet was good, although the variety was only moderate, and the price was $25 per person. This would've been a bargain if we were all football players! Aside from that, the hotel service was excellent in every way.
Friday, eldest and DIL were not yet in town. We explored Fisherman's Wharf. Before we did that we ate breakfast at IHOP. It was very convenient and we were very hungry because some of us had slept very late. Fisherman's wharf is all about tourism, but it is fun nevertheless. For me the highlight was the aquarium. It contains denizens of San Francisco Bay, which is saline enough that the wildlife is marine wildlife. They have a lot of jellyfish, sea anemones, brightly colored fish, one octopus, vast numbers of sharks, skates, and large fish, and plenty of other things. I really liked best the tanks, where you can get close to the reef organisms, but they did have a cool tunnel that went “under the Bay.” Actually, an air-filled tunnel is inside a water-filled tunnel, but it's big enough and the lighting is such that it looks quite realistic. The tunnel that has water in it is full of fish and starfish for the most part.
I think it was later that day that we went to Russian Hill and looked at lots of Art Deco homes. Beautiful houses, large flowering tropical plants, and an astonishingly steep hill.
The wedding was Saturday. It was probably that morning that we went to the North Beach area. It was really a lot of the same: steep hills, beautiful architecture, and an incredible church on Washington Square. It wasn't that easy to find a wheelchair accessible taxi driver willing to drive to the wedding site. It was across the Golden gate Bridge and up a long 1.5 lane winding road in the mountains (Sequoia trees) and then up a long winding driveway. As soon as we got there we started hunting for a driver to take us back at eight o'clock that night. The one we found was a local man who was off duty, but he never turns down disabled people: Lucky for us! The wedding was in a large and beautiful lodge way up in the mountains and we had the place to ourselves. There were probably about a hundred people there. The wedding was outside and the day was uncharacteristically hot. I doubt that it was a record, but it definitely was close. It was sunny and 90° and I had to stay in the shade of the porch. Finnish DIL stayed with me, not being used to temperatures that she considers to be typical of the surface of the sun. The reception was right after the wedding. The food had been chosen using taste as the sole criterion, and it was definitely the best food I've ever had at a reception of any kind. Most of the bride and groom's friends are self-identified geeks, and even though we are too, we felt a little out of place. It is not a monolithic subculture. We definitely had fun though, and enjoyed the attack of the pirate ninjas.
Eldest and DIL left Tuesday morning, so we only had two days to hang out with them after the wedding. Sunday we went to Ghirardelli square with them. At one time it was part of the original Ghirardelli chocolate factory, but now it is a small mall. Very crowded. We bought some chocolate. So did thousands and thousands of other people! I'm sure we did something else that day, besides eat at IHOP again. For DIL, IHOP is an American icon, and she simply had to eat there. She liked it so much that we did that again on Monday.
Monday we planned to meet a friend of mine whom I had never met face-to-face before at the borderlands science fiction bookstore in the Mission District. We ended up being late, because we foolishly did not realize we had to call two hours ahead of time to get a wheelchair accessible taxi. We ended up taking the streetcar, for which we only had to wait 10 minutes. It took a long time to get us to eight blocks away from our destination, from which point we had to walk. It worked out okay, and it was a really nice bookstore. Everybody bought some books. Then we went to a nearby restaurant, rather expensive, as are all San Francisco restaurants, but the food was good. Spouse and I split one dish, and she finished what youngest ordered. Then I finished the dessert that youngest ordered. Everybody had plenty to eat! In the meantime, we had met a friend of eldest and DIL, whom they had also not previously met face-to-face. She ate with us. We said goodbye to my friend and then the rest of us walked over to the Castro. We wandered around a bit and went into a tiny bakery, an odd little store, and a small bookstore. The famous gay and lesbian bookstore we had wanted to visit had gone out of business, which we would have known I suppose if we had googled them. I thought what everybody wanted to leave when we left, but it turns out eldest wished we had stayed longer. I would have been happy to, although it was starting to get cold. San Francisco wasn't really very cold, we had checked out the expected temperatures, but we didn't realize that it is very very windy. The wind was high enough to make 70° in the sun barely tolerable for me.
After eldest and DIL left we were still there Tuesday and half of Wednesday. Wednesday we didn't go terribly far, but we did find a cute little store where they sell nothing but candy: “It'sweet.” On Tuesday we went to Chinatown and to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Chinatown is like all Chinatown's, although this one is pretty large. We ate dim sum, which spouse had always wanted to do. We didn't do it the cool way, but we did eat five different kinds of things and we were very full when we were done. We went to the art museum because they had a show of photographs by Cindy Sherman. I knew of her work, but really didn't know very much about it. The show was comprehensive and large. Sherman's art is all about society's portrayal of women and what that means about women and about men and what it does to women. All of the photographs are of her. If you've never seen her work, this might sound rather limited. The range of works she has produced is almost mind-boggling and they are all good. One of the things we saw was a short black-and-white film featuring her as a paper doll. We saw most of the rest of the museum, although we hurried through about half of it. We all like modern art, although I at least don't like all of modern Art. The museum is large and has plenty of really good stuff.
I could say more about the trip, but this letter is already extremely long.