April 23, 2009

On the road again

I bring you the third installment of my San Francisco travel diary.

Well rested after a packed day one and two we were ready once again to take on San Francisco. We were up fairly early finishing off our cheese, bread, and fruit from the day before and plotting out the bus route to Golden Gate Park. Our mission for the morning and early afternoon was leisurely strolls in the botanical garden and Japanese tea garden.

We entered Golden Gate Park at Haight Street. This gave us a little tour of the children’s park where you must be accompanied by a child to enter, the lawn bowling club where I would have enjoyed pretending to know how to play, and some soccer and baseball fields where I was interested in neither. Around a little bend and there we were at the botanical garden.

Neither of us is much into gardening but we certainly admire the work of others. At the botanical garden there is a lot to admire. There are more species that I could ever hope to remember. (Though we both quickly, and correctly, identified the squirrels and the ducks.) It was really jaw dropping to see so many things in bloom and so green at the end of March. I captured as much as I could on camera. I’m really glad we gave ourselves plenty of time to get lost here, both literally and figuratively. It was the best possible way to spend a Sunday morning.

botanical garden

Once we realized time was getting away from us we made our way the short distance to the Japanese tea garden. As soon as we entered the gate we knew we were in for a treat. But first, my stomach was grumbling and our late lunch reservation was still two hours away so we had some tea and snacks at the teahouse.

tea for two

The garden is a lot smaller than we imagined it would be but that gave us plenty of time to explore every nook. Of course the plantings were beautiful with azaleas in bloom and cherry blossoms just passing their peak. My favorite parts of the park though weren’t the plantings. The pagoda was just amazing if not a bit in need of a spruce up, though the peeling orange paint was pretty fantastic. I also spent quite some time staring at the peace lantern and the Buddha. Both just gave off such a sense of tranquility. Finally, there was the koi pond with a great little stone pathway that passes near the waterfall and leaves you looking directly at the great Drum Bridge.

japanese tea garden

But enough of nature we had to eat! And eat and eat! Our late lunch reservation was at Zuni Café. If I lived in or near San Francisco Zuni Café would become a regular stop. I had read in many places that their roast chicken with bread salad was a must have and have it we did. But that takes an hour to prepare so we had to fill the time. We filled the time and our bellies with a lovely half bottle of wine, a half dozen west coast oysters, and a salad. Everything was delicious and took the edge off our hunger as we sat back and awaited the arrival of our bird. The next hour left me staring into their open kitchen watching salads, pizzas, and desserts being prepared. And the chicken came. I’m not sure we said anything more than, “Do you mind if I take that piece?” right up until the point it was all gone. It was magnificent. Then the dessert menu came out and the waitress jokingly said she’d be surprised if we still had room. Little did she know I am, and the dudely has become, a serious consumer of dessert. So it really was no trouble at all for us to have a rich, chocolatey flourless cake dolloped with whipped cream and ice cream truffles. Oh, and coffee to wash it all down.

zuni lunch

We waddled back to the bus stop and returned to our hotel for a quick refresh before we headed out for another night of jazz. (The dudely tells me it was a very big deal back in the day to have recorded your album in San Francisco. People had tried to fake it on albums only to be found out.) This time we went to the Palace of Fine Arts for a performance by the Branford Marsalis Quartet. You’ll get differing opinions about what the best part of the concert was. For me it was the slower songs but for the dudely it was the fast, almost out of control songs. Whichever way you call it, it was a perfect end to a perfect day.

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