For a 360-degree view of the surrounding neighbourhoods and superb 1930s murals, drive the winding street or head up the Filbert Street steps braving the occasional parrot, insult to reach Coit Tower. The parrots, who long ago escaped captivity and have bred unfettered, twirl and dart from tree to tree around the striking concrete structure.
Access to the fabulous murals depicting long ago scenes of the Bay and its inhabitants during the depression era, is free but a ride in the elevator to the top of the tower is a must. Don’t wince at the price of the lift; the views, especially at sunset are unforgettable.
Sunset views are also popular at George Sterling Park beside the incredibly twisted Lombard Street. Drivers must keep their wits about them as they hug the tight curves descending from Hyde to Leavenworth streets. If you’re in the neighbourhood, the Art Institute hosts a splendid mural by Diego Rivera.
KAPOORS ON THE ROAD
It was a long drive from Fresno, to San Francisco, with an extended detour through the Monterey Peninsula in order to see Pebble Beach and Carmel. It was made a little longer by missing some key exits into downtown ‘Frisco, but we arrived at Coit Tower just as the sun was about to set.
Without planning it, we were able to see an incredible view of the Golden Gate Bridge, bathed in golden light from the setting sun. This was our third visit to the Coit Tower, but the first time we realized that there was an elevator to take us to the top. Thanks ‘Lonely Planet USA’.
After taking in the views in all directions, and snapping loads of photos, we drove over to Lombard Street without telling Ajay and Neeta anything about the unusual road. I stood up on the seat, with my head sticking out of the sun roof, remembering Raj and Adia doing the same thing when we brought them there 25 years earlier.
The dark was settling in as we headed across the Golden Gate bridge and stopped for some photos at the north end. They didn’t turn out very well but seeing that it was our 39th wedding anniversary, we didn’t mind too much. Our thought then turned to finding a nice restaurant in Sausalito, but without any recommendations to go on, we searched in the pitch dark and almost abandoned the search.
Then suddenly, a lively trattoria appeared on our right. There were dozens of people enjoying the open air dining just outside the large from windows. It looked like the perfect place, if only we could get a table and join them. At that point, I didn’t even care if it was an exclusive restaurant, we just wanted to eat a good meal and not have to settle for a fast-food joint.
I guess we were late enough that there wasn’t a problem getting a table near the windows, with fresh salty air coming in from the Bay. I wasn’t sure if Ajay and Neeta were up for trying some unusual food, but they were real troopers and were more than willing to experiment. Anil selected a main course pasta dish, while the three of us each chose a different exotic salad to accompany an appetizer-size entre.
The food was delicious and the wine that the waiter recommended was fabulous. What a perfect ending to a very long day of driving and sightseeing. We don’t usually make a big deal of our wedding anniversaries, but this one was special because we had family from India with us for the very first time. Next year will be the really big one, let’s see what we can do to top this.
It was almost 11:00pm when we left Sausalito and we had at least an hour’s drive north to our hotel in Benicia. When we arrived, I asked the desk clerk if they had upgraded us as per our request, and learned that indeed they had. However, to our surprise and dismay, they had missed the fact that we were four adults and had upgraded us to a suite with a king-size bed. It was a Saturday night and the hotel was completely booked. The clerk was unbelievably unhelpful, just telling us over and over again that he couldn’t move us to a room with two beds.
I finally asked him to check with housekeeping to see if they had two roll-away cots. Fortunately for us, they did, but they were so soft that we just pulled the mattresses off the frames and put them directly on the carpet. Ajay and Neeta weren’t fazed at all, and told us in the morning that they had the best sleep since they arrived in the US. Most Indians find North American beds too soft for a comfortable sleep. We’d heard this complaint before. On the other hand, we had a tough time trying to sleep on hard Indian beds.
We thought we’d seen all the hotel could throw at us, but woke up in the morning to a power failure. No hot breakfast, we had to make do with cold cereal, yogurt and fresh fruit. We thought the hotel had let us down once again, but learned while checking out that the whole city was without power.
We were glad we were leaving and heading forward wine country – Napa and Sonoma valleys here we come.