Day One around San Francisco: Sausalito
This is the second post in the series “Three Days around San Francisco“.
We were technically traveling to San Francisco for work, so we rented a car from San Francisco International Airport and drove to our first location in Sausalito. My many years living in and around San Francisco told me that it was not wise to drive through downtown San Francisco on a Friday after afternoon.
Hordes of commuters were leaving their office jobs and assaulting several bridges, a subway tunnel under the bay, bus and rail lines and even bike lanes just to get home. Mostly however, it was cars. Many, many cars. A quick glance at the angry red lines on my phone app marking the traffic downtown showed just how much trouble we were in.
All that traffic made Sausalito even more attractive for a Friday afternoon. Yes there were cars, but they were moving. Downtown Sausalito had a gentle flow of drivers and walkers moving along Bridgeway, the main road through town just feet away from the waters of the Bay. Drivers and walkers alike craned their necks to catch a startling glimpse of the Golden Gate, the glittering San Francisco buildings, the Bay Bridge and the hills further away. On the other side of Bridgeway, untouchably expensive houses were stacked like Tetris blocks climbing up the hill so that each one had the same amazing view. Every. Single. Day.
“The City” was that magical name – so simple and ordinary and yet so emotional – that Bay Area denizens gave to San Francisco. “As if there were no other city on earth,” I used to sneer at my college friends who grew up in the Bay Area. And yet I came to believe in the magic along with so many other migrants into the area.
The first day of our homecoming visit to the Bay Area started with us taking the back way through an entirely different part of the City: The Richmond District, the Sunset, Golden Gate Park, the fog belt. I could not contain my excitement as I jabbed Charla – not for the first or last time – and said, “Here come the tops of the Golden Gate Bridge just over the next rise!” She smiled, both out of enjoyment and also to get me to stop poking her.
And there it was.
The Golden Gate peeked over the top of the next hill as the road ran relentlessly straight toward it. During my previous years in San Francisco I reenacted the opening scene from “The Streets of San Francisco” where the detectives’ car gets just enough speed to catch some air at the top of a hill and then hit the street with a satisfying bounce. I do not recommend this.
We continued through the City on this more direct route. Our little car avoided the epic downtown Friday traffic and rolled across the Golden Gate Bridge, one massive tower after another, dark rusty-reddish paint, summer-dressed tourists braving the cold wind, rows of cars inching away from San Francisco toward home in the suburbs, only to repeat the epic journey on the next work day.
Whether you are a first-time tourist or a longterm, seen-it-all resident, it is worth a stop at Vista Point, the first stop after you cross the bridge from San Francisco into Marin County. Fight for a parking spot – not for the last time – among other tourists, put on a thick jacket even in summer, bring your camera and take in the windswept view of chilly San Francisco and the choppy bay waters and look further out toward the sunnier hills, warmer neighborhoods and calmer waters further in the bay.
Something about looking across dozens of miles to see dozens of cities, millions of residents and a long line of approaching airplanes like a string of Christmas lights always catches my breath.
Work beckoned, so we checked into our hotel and grabbed a quick dinner at Bar Bocce in Sausalito. Bar Bocce is one of those restaurants in a town so unique, fun and characteristic that you want to go back for more. It has a stylish back patio space that opens onto a public beach and a – wait for it – bocce ball court where you can bring the kids or a date and have some dinner, play bocce, walk on the beach, taste wine or all of the above.
We worked through a well-executed dish of sauteed calamari on a bed of large israeli couscous, pine nuts and capers. Wine is not served by the bottle but rather poured from a tap, like beer. A growing trend, wine on tap may be a thing of the future rather than so many glass bottles that just get thrown away.
The next morning we stumbled into Philz Coffee, a tiny cafe next to the fire department, a popular local place that serves handmade blends of coffee, brewed on the spot at the moment you order. Despite the overused word “curated”, it is like a curated brew of my morning caffeine.
After I put in my order, the server told me, “I am going to make you a great cup of coffee”, with such self-assurance and confidence that I waited with baited breath until it came. My curated coffee did not disappoint.top