Road trip: Napa to San Francisco

Day four was our shortest driving day of all – about an hour and a half. Our hotel (the Napa River Inn – relatively cheap, very unique, and highly recommended)…

… delivered a complimentary breakfast tray from the bakery next door. Yum! That’s great coffee (even though we forgot to request milk), a breakfast roll and quiche for me, and a scone and fruit and granola for Kevin:

We drove through vineyards to get to 101. I continued to love all of the enormous birds, circling about. Someday, I should buy a book about birds of prey so that I can tell all of the hawks, falcons, eagles, etc. apart. I think they’re fascinating.

We had a rush of traffic when we hit 37, including this impressive pink “do no harm” hippie bus:

but for the most part the trip was no traffic and smooth sailing. We saw a tech company amidst all the vineyards (regi-something, with a huge swooping red line and black dot as a logo) – funny. We zoomed through Marin County, and across the Golden Gate Bridge.

Pretty! Once we parked, we had about 50 minutes to find a lunch place and eat before our tour boat to Alcatraz Island departed. We speedwalked through the Fisherman’s Wharf touristery to Pompeii’s Grotto (a restaurant I’d found ahead of time and liked the sound of). By the time we got there, we had only about 35 minutes to eat (and it was a pretty sit down place with a wine list, umbrellas and outdoor tables). Our waiter was amazing, rushed our order, brought wine, and we completely relaxed and enjoyed the fresh sourdough, and delicious crab sandwiches, and chowder, and were back on the street walking to our pier after 32 minutes. How awesome.

The Alcatraz tour was incredibly interesting. The weather was unbelievable for us (warm, clear, and sunny), but the wind on that island was fierce and I was only warm with three layers on. They let you explore quite a bit, including around buildings that burned in 1970, which was very interesting. Lots of historical signs/explanations, which I enjoyed. Great views. I didn’t realize that the island was a Civil War fort before it was a military prison before it became THE maximum maximum-security prison of the US. Very interesting to hear about the layers of history. There’s an audio tour around the cells that was very well done. There was a bit of tantalizing information as well about the children and families of the wardens and guards who lived on the island. There was an ice cream parlour and bowling alley, and a boat that took the kids to school in San Francisco, and an incredibly windy area where they played games and baseball. Fascinating.

For some reason, they’re encouraging seagulls to breed on the island and turn it into a rookery. Horrible smell, obnoxious birds, but it was interesting to see what baby(ish) gulls look like:

Me on Alcatraz (wearing my pretty audiotour gadget around my neck) with the Golden Gate Bridge in the background:

Kevin on Alcatraz, with San Francisco in the background:

And the view of the island on the boat ride home:

We stayed with Kevin’s college friend Chirag (a recent transplant to the city) at his brother’s place in Pacific Heights. Neat neighbourhood! We took a meandering, hilly route through residential streets to get there (the poor Matrix was deeply unimpressed). Great touristing and house-viewing for us! We were exceptionally amused to come across a Segway tour. I didn’t have the camera ready (so excuse the rear-window shot), but they looked like nerdy ducklings wearing reflective vests, following their parent all in a line. 😀 We laughed and laughed. Up there with Kevin and the sinking kayak. 🙂

Chirag was working in NYC doing financial stuff since graduation, but he decided to leave and now he’s volunteering with Kiva, a microfinancing nonprofit located in the Mission. I was really impressed at the way that they’re run (he gave us a tour) – sending college grads as emissaries to blog about the loans, using peer pressure to make sure the loans are repaid, due diligence for the local aid societies that they work with to make sure they aren’t skimming off the top, etc. Most people start small with their lending ($25 to $100), but the recycle rate and the increase rate were great. It’s so neat to find a classmate doing something inspirational. We were both impressed.

Once he’d shown us around, Chirag took us to a crazy loft bar in the Mission that had a rooftop deck that overlooked the whole city. Wow. Wish I knew the name of it, but I forgot to check. We stayed for a drink (I finally had caipirinha, after hearing about it for ages). Then we went for dinner to a great Senegalese restaurant – great food (including cous cous!) and delicious, unusual drinks, with ingredients like hibiscus and tamarind. An awesome night, and a great host. Yay San Francisco!

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