Day 1 in Review (or an attempt, anyway)

Where do I start???

My day started with the trek through Chinatown, where I was afraid I’d become a jaded traveler. 🙁 I’m sorry, but I swear that every Chinatown I’ve been through–Montreal, Toronto, Chicago, New York–is the same, dirty and filled with shops carrying the same junk. They just fail to impress me. 🙁 So, other than stopping for post cards and a gift for Neil, I went through the neighbourhood very quickly.

Breakfast took a surprising amount of time to find, so I grabbed a Starbucks soy latte upon exiting Chinatown, using a gift card Neil gave me. I eventually made it back to where I arrived last night, Market and Powell, and found Mel’s Diner on 4th Street where I had a breakfast of more coffee and some pancakes.

Replete, I ambled down 4th Avenue towards the Caltrain when I noticed the most bizarre plant I’ve ever seen. It took me a second to realise that I should perhaps be looking up. Yes, drum roll please, this plant was my very first sighting of a palm tree in its natural habitat!!!!!
(sorry, but I can’t get Blogger to recognize that I rotated the image!)

I was able to get such a nice clear picture of my first palm tree because a very helpful man moved people aside, helpfully telling them to ‘please back away and let the tourist take a picture of the tree.’ I’m not laughing. Really.

I got to the Caltrain station a full two hours after I’d left Neil’s and had just enough time to buy a ticket, wonder if the gold coins marked 1USD I got as change from the machine were legit, and get some ‘just in case’ literature (ie. a magazine), and it was time for the 10:37 train to leave.

The ride through Silicon Valley was most pleasant and I couldn’t help but note two things, one mundane, one not so much. The first was the xeriscaping, something I’m not used to seeing. The second was that, holy smoke, not everyone lives in hostile natural environment where the climate is an enemy.

Upon arriving in Mountainview, I took Neil’s advice and hailed a cab. At Google, a security guard told me to go to building 43 (‘hook a right up the stairs, then turn right at the dinosaur’). From there, a receptionist was able to call Neil for me.

He took me on a short tour of the amazing complex and then we had lunch. I couldn’t believe the amount of food there was to choose from and it’s all FREE. After witnessing first hand all the perks at Google, I informed Neil that I’m going to send him a resume and he better pass it around the office!

After lunch, we snagged free Google bikes to roam a little farther. I hadn’t been on a bike in five years, and I’d never ridden in a skirt, so it’s there that I realised that the adage is true–once you learn, you never forget! That was a lot of fun.

Neil then gave me directions back to the train station and I decided to hike. Unfortunately, I missed the train by less than a minute, so I had to wait a half hour for the next one.

I made it back to San Francisco for quarter to 4 and, since the California Science Academy and Steinhardt Aquarium were on the way ‘home’, near 4th on Howard, I decided to stop and see if the whole thing could be viewed in the hour I had before closing time. Yes!

This was so much fun and included a touching pool. Most amusing moment: when I asked if I could touch something at the way bottom of the pool and was told: “Gee, no one’s ever asked, but okay, if you’re feeling brave. But we wouldn’t.” (I put my hand down.) “Okay, that’s sad. A tourist is more brave than we are.” *ggl* My favourite part until then was the tiny crab climbing over my hand, but things were about to get better. I found… The snake exhibit! There was a beautiful python, a green snake (my absolute favourite kind of snake, and, yes, that’s its common name), and…. an anaconda!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I don’t think I’ve ever seen an anaconda before! It’s absolutely gorgeous–black with a uniquely shaped head. At one point, it moved around a bit and its gaze seemed to fall on me. It stuck out its tongue and I mimicked it. We then had a brief tongue sticking out contest. A guy behind me suddenly spoke up and said: “You’re not imagining it; it’s tracking you. I’m just waiting for it to pounce at you and bounce off the glass.”

An hour was more than enough time to see everything, so I went back up to Market and Powell, planning to meander my way home. I have a long list of things to do each day in SF and my list for today was done (!), so I decided to hop on the cable car that turns at Powell and spend the rest of the day wandering aimlessly in the general vicinity of home.

Before I left Howard street, I noticed something, and snapped a pic for Neil who laughed even harder than me. I present: How to Not Lock Your Bicycle:The cable car ride was amazing. Our driver, Jack, was absolutely hysterical and a crackerjack at customer service, favouring ‘tourists’ over ‘locals’, and dealing super well with an extraordinarily bitchy local woman. I rode the cable car right to the end at Fisherman’s Wharf, leaving my stomach somewhere across town as we zipped up and down breathtaking hills! Let me just say that driving a cable car looks like a lot of work! I have pictures of the cable car and Jack; I’ll upload them later since Blogger takes forever to upload and I’m beat.

Things were closing up at Fisherman’s Wharf, so I didn’t stick around. I hadn’t planned on staying long anyway. Neil’s place is near the water, so I figured that I could take a long cable car ride, then make my way home from the Wharf. At the Maritime Store, I picked up some reproductions of gold rush era documents that I’ll frame and hang in my study. I then decided to scout for dinner and found a Mexican place that looked promising. However, something told me to not eat just yet, so I left and stumbled on a pastel artist with absolutely gorgeous drawings of famous San Francisco landmarks. I immediately fell in love with one of Alcatraz, done in muted greys and purples and asked him, casually, how much they were. 20$, as it turns out, which was amazing value considering that they’re matted. But I was feeling cheap and would have paid 15$, not 20$. So, I walked off, slowly, sending out ‘I’m open to bargaining, but I don’t want to insult you’ vibes. Well, the man called me back and said that I could have my pick of any one for 15$! I’m very happy; this is the sort of souvenir that lasts a lifetime. I’ll have the picture framed when I get home and hang it in my bathroom since the colours will be perfect for it.

By this point, I was famished, so I decided to head home to drop off stuff and get more money, then focus on dinner. I determined based on the water’s positioning where home would be, roughly, and headed off. Sure enough, I came across a street I recognized, and then home was a mere three blocks away. I’ve got such a good sense of direction! 🙂

For dinner, I still craved Mexican, and I found little place with really good food and even better prices (10 bucks got me out of there stuffed and included beer), then I found a market where I picked up breakfast and snack items. I was beat by this point and planned to go straight home and crash, but I found a bookstore on the way back and decided to browse.

I’ve been looking for a certain book since the summer of ’05 and have looked for it in used bookstores in Gatineau, Ottawa, Wisconsin, Winnipeg, and Maine. I can’t believe how impossible it’s been to find. So, imagine my delight in finding it here, in San Francisco! The book? A hard cover copy of Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind.

I got home at about 8:20 and Neil followed just after. We settled down to watch an ep of Firefly, got in our giggling for the day, and then he went off to bed since he has an early morning tomorrow (cycling to Google–60km!).

It’s been a rich, full day. I’m wiped and off to shower and then sleep the sleep of the dead–and content!

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