As our flight came in low over San Francisco Bay, I knew I was in for a long weekend’s journey unlike any I’d had previously. Though I have spent time traveling across Europe, I have not travelled around the USA extensively. I’ve been to New Mexico, Tennessee, Louisiana, New York and all around the WI-region. I had never been to the West Coast though.
Whenever I fly, I ask for a window seat. Being up in the air allows me such a unique viewpoint that I never pass up an opportunity to return to it. Our Airtran plane cruised over landscapes that were very different from what I was used to in Milwaukee–the firm grid of Iowa and Nebraska fields, the dynamic topography of the Rocky Mountains, and finally the hills and bay of San Franciso.
While Rachel had been to San Fran once before, as a child, I had never been to the city. We were going out for a short vacation, based on a good fare Rachel had found online. We were to be in town from Thursday afternoon till Monday morning. Our “base” would be at the Hotel Kabuki in the Japantown neighborhood, west of downtown. From the Kabuki we would be able to ride the bus or walk to downtown; from downtown, we could explore Union Square, the Embarcadero, Market Street, Pier 39, Alcatraz–the list goes on and on. One thing we learned about San Francisco is that there is so much to do that a second or even third visit will someday be needed. Here is a short list of high-lights from our journey!
The Food. In our short visit, we had meals of American, Italian, Korean, Chinese, and Mexican cuisines. With as diverse a population as San Francisco has, it is certainly a cosmopolitan city, with meals to satisfy nearly any nationality.
The Neighborhoods. We saw the Painted Ladies along Alamo Square, walked beneath the banners of Chinatown, peered in shop windows in Haight-Ashbury, shopped in Union Square, and climbed the hills of Coit Tower and Lombard Street. The neighborhoods are all quite distinct; the houses are lovely and the people-watching presents a never-ending stream of humanity.
Art Galleries. One night, we paid a visit to a colorful gallery Rachel had seen from our bus. Turned out to be the well-known Martin Lawrence Gallery and those colorful images Rachel had glimpsed were Andy Warhol screen-prints! Within minutes we were surrounded by world-class art by Miro, Salvador Dali (watercolors!), Picasso, and many others. The super-friendly staff even loaned us a magnifier so we could examine the Rembrandt engravings more closely. It was like being in a fine art museum!
In Sausalito, across the Golden Gate Bridge, we happened into The Lough Road Gallery, featuring the work of landscape photographer, Rodney Lough Jr. To call his work spell-binding might begin to do it justice. Color and landscapes are not genres into which my interest often goes, but Lough’s work was hard to stop looking at. Well-printed and nicely framed, the works were quite lovely.
While walking up towards Coit Tower, my eyes caught a postcard in a gallery window. The card was for an exhibition of photographs by Edward Weston, at the Layton School of Photography…in Milwaukee, WI, 1976! The gallery owner saw us at the window, invited us in and so began a delightful visit with an old-school photographer from the Midwest! John Perino, the proprietor, was born in Chicago, but spent many of his growing years in Milwaukee and after many years, travels, and, he confessed, wives, found his way to San Francisco. We really enjoyed his B+W darkroom prints of street photography from various countries.
A few weeks after this was posted, I sent John a small package with a photo of him that I took, and sent him an email too. He replied, elaborating on his connection to Milwaukee:
However, I’m very much from Milwaukee. 39th and Capital until I was 5. Bayside until high school and then Whitefishbay class of 70! thank you very much. I also did as many as 3yrs at UW Milwaukee during parts of the 70s and 80s and got my fine art photography degree from there, after studying at other Universities and having other professional experiences and jobs around the country.
I first learned Black and White photography processing around the time JFK got shot at Maple Dale school in Fox Point, and still do it today.
I remember meeting you and your wife and discussing Three Brothers Restaurant.”
THE Highlight, On Two Wheels. What was likely the most enjoyment we had came in renting bicycles from Blazing Saddles, at their location near Union Square. Rachel and I rented bicycles and spent the day biking down the Embarcadero, along the bay, and over to Fort Point. We explored Fort Point, which is right beneath the Golden Gate Bridge, granting a unique perspective on the bridge, and then continued up and across the Golden Gate. We took our time crossing the bridge, spent even more time at a lookout, looking back towards the bridge and the city, and then coasted downhill into Sausalito. We locked up our bikes and walked through the shops and streets of Sausalito, marveling at how the houses perched on the hills. From Sausalito, we loaded the bikes on a ferry and came back across the bay to downtown.
This was a GREAT way to see the city, as it is exceptionally bike-and-pedestrian friendly. You’ll note HOW great this city is for pedestrians, in that we had to buy Rachel a new pair of kicks at Niketown-Union Square, as Rachel had worn a hole in one of her shoes from all the miles we’d put in! You can see her putting her old shoes into a recycle bin (a program which I’ve written about in the past!).
In our short visit, Rachel and I saw a lot of the city. When looking at a map though, we realized how much was still to be seen. This exciting city, with its unique location, is certainly going to be in our travels again someday.