Tony Bennett tried to warn me.

Do you ever feel like Winter makes me whiny and incorrigible?

I think so, too.
So does the hubs.

I'm not wearing make-up or doing my hair and more often than not I am wearing the jeans that are "roomy" in the rear.

It's been perfect.

Until lately. I am at the point now where I am painfully close to turning a purplish hue and rolling out the door, a'la Violet Beauregard. I blame the cabin fever. Ive been getting dressed straight out of the dryer.  I left the hearts up from Valentine's Day. They cheer me up in a weird sort of way. When it's March and the temps are 30* below normal and the snow keeps a comin', you hitch your wagon to any sort of Cheer that breezes past you. It's called Parasitic Polar Cheer Syndrome. PPCS. It's a real thing, just like "Polar Vortex" and "People Who Love Winter" and "Gee I'm Glad The Sun's Not Out AGAIN Today".

plus, I haven't been to San Francisco since... well I can't remember when.  It's always on my travel bucket list. I really miss living there. I love the cool vibe.

For so many years, I longed for the chance to live in ruralville and have a small parcel of land near the ocean. But lately, I've once again been jonesing for smack dab in the middle of urbanity just as much.  Loft life.  Walk to the store and my favorite restaurant.  The hipster - 'cause you know, that's where I am. Young and hip.  Hanging out with some cool cats and findin' my grove ...and I'm out.

The little town I live in now has never really been on my retirement list because of it's inability to get out of it's jammies and away from it's fireplace, good book, and hot toddy.  I mean seriously, how do you people get anything done?  Plus, you know, no ocean. 

However... I really miss living in the city, it's in my blood. Tony Bennett tried to warn me. thank you San Francisco.  So, for reasons that were a bit unique, read I don't feel like explaining it, I am finding myself on a last minute flight to San Francisco with a stop over in Las Vegas. Yes, a visit to Las Vegas will be nice.  I will see my grand kids. I'll bring presents and an assortment of boots and sweaters like I'm going outside.  I'll bring my stretchy jeans.

Once we get to San Francisco I'll go wine drinking tasting.  Pinot Noirville, yep I'll venture outside for that.

First day out, Acacia Vineyard.  Uh yeah, wasn't kidding about the wine tasting and seriously, the trip to Napa's wine country is worth the whole deal. Acacia Vineyard is in the heart of Napa Valley's Carneros district only a few miles from San Pablo Bay.  Acacia has the feel of a small, quiet, rural, out of the way winery.  On a clear day, you can enjoy an expansive view of Carneros vineyards, the North Bay and even some of the San Francisco skyline.  Although Acacia Vineyard produces some Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah, and Viognier, they are famous for the two varietals that excel in the cooler Carneros climate, namely Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs. Turns out what's cool about San Francisco is that wine country ruralville is just outside and I mean the kind they use for location shoots in movies.  I like scenery and stuff.

I like driving through scenery and stuff, this usually turns out to be my all time favorite part of the trip. I feel blessed to see these places. I want to lay down in the many fields of flowers, or churn butter near them. Some of the little towns are so quaint, I think the Keebler elves live there. Or Hobbits.

back to San Francisco. I thought I would take you on a little tour. Translation...Warning: long blog ahead. sorry.

Okay, so here we go...get up early and go to Fisherman's Wharf to check out the sea lions that lounge like giant, barking dogs, around Pier 39. (This, by the way, is the only thing you should do at Fisherman's Wharf, and only do it around dawn, before the tourists arrive.)

Afterward, head down Stockton St. into North Beach, the formerly Bohemian part of the city, and the city’s Italian quarter, isn’t a beach at all.  It’s a neighborhood of romantic European-style sidewalk cafes, restaurants and shops centered near Washington Square along Columbus and Grant avenues.  cool murals, graffiti, amazing pizza, City Lights Book Store, and the beautiful Church of Saints Peter and Paul. Get yourself a serious breakfast at Mama's, Dungeness Crab Benedict, Bacon, a Bellina, and a Bloody Mary.

Time to start walking off some of that breakfast. Coit Tower, also known as the Lillian Coit Memorial Tower, is a 210-foot tower,. At best, it's a scenic lookout, at worst, a boring tourist-trap monstrosity. I'll leave it to the architectural critics to appraise the aesthetic merits, although it gives good views of the city, perched as it is atop historic Telegraph Hill. The views aside, you're really here for the murals. Inspired by the social-realism style of the great Diego Rivera, and commissioned by the federal Works Progress Administration, the paintings inside the tower were completed in 1933 and are amazing.

 Now it's time to take the stairs down — all 400 of them! It's worth it because, along the way, you'll get to see some beautiful houses, gardens and, most times of the year, brightly colored flora. Also, it's all downhill (if I were sadistic, I could have easily made this tour go the other direction). As you walk, keep a lookout for the wild parrots that live on the hill. Walk all the way to the bottom of the hill, then head east toward the Bay, to the Embarcadero, where you can pick up the trolley.

You won't find better entertainment value in the U.S. for $2. Hop on a historic trolley car on the Embarcadero (you're looking for the F line) and you can ride it all the way to the Castro. There are seventeen trolley cars in service, painted in the colors of the originals from the 1920s and '30s. Rest your weary feet as you rattle past the Wharf, down the Embarcadero and onto Market Street, one of the city's main thoroughfares.

If you feel like eating, hop off at First Street for lunch at Sam's Grill, a classic fish place; they have an authentic sourdough loaf on each table, and they don't serve farmed fish or endangered species.  Get back on the trolley, and take it to the Castro Street station, the end of the line. San Francisco's Castro neighborhood was initially settled by gay servicemen discharged here from the Armed Forces for being gay, during World War II. Historically, the neighborhood has always been in flux: At the turn of last century, it was known as Little Scandinavia; then it became an Irish neighborhood, until the Gay Pride Movement of the 1960s made it safe for all the ex-servicemen to come out. The Castro was one of the first gay neighborhoods in the United States, and it is currently the largest.

Grab a delicious cookie or brownie at Hot Cookie, and view the snapshots of store patrons showing off their Hot Cookie underwear. And next-door is the famous Castro Theater, a pristine, 1920s movie palace that shows excellent art and repertoire films and has a real live Wurlitzer player some nights.
From the Castro, you can walk to the Haight, it's a little less than a mile, or take Muni bus 33.

The birthplace of America's counter-culture, the Haight was Ground Zero during the summer of 1967, a.k.a. The Summer of Love, baby. Hippies used to live here, but at some point the Jefferson Airplane moved out, and affluent yuppies moved in, buying up all the colorful Victorian homes throughout Haight-Ashbury and replacing its head shops with high-end boutiques, chic restaurants and hip cafés. One of my favorite spot in the Haight is Amoeba Music, which is in a former bowling alley and boasts one of the biggest collections of CDs (new and used) in the world. From Amoeba, head west a block along Haight Street to its end. Cross the street and you're just inside Golden Gate Park, at famous Hippie Hill, which you'll either love or loathe, depending on your feelings about drum circles and wheat-free pot brownies. I think we all know where I stand on this.

Before I moved to the Bay Area, I thought New York City's Central Park was the coolest park ever.  But it's got nothing on Golden Gate and its million trees. Be sure to visit the Conservatory of Flowers which is the oldest Victorian greenhouse this side of the Thames, de Young museum, and the carousel. If you're feeling spry, walk to the western edge of the park to check out the herd of bison, then hop a trolley or bus back east, or call for a cab. Next stop: the Exploratorium in the Palace of Fine Arts, San Francisco's legendary science museum in the Presidio. Make sure you experience the tactile dome, a pitch-black maze that you have to navigate by touch, blow the world's biggest soap bubble, as big around as a beach ball; and dissect a cow's eye (ok, maybe not that one).

The Presidio was used at different points in its 230-year history to house soldiers from Spain and Mexico before it became a U.S. military base. Its armed past notwithstanding, you won't find a more bucolic spot in the city, thanks to its abundant eucalyptus trees and yawning lawns. If, at this point, you want to fortify yourself with a cocktail (or two) or dinner, a great place for both is the Presidio Social Club, an urban hipster kind of a joint, which was once an enlisted-mens' barracks. (The Club has one daily cocktail hour, followed by one seating for dinner. If you miss them, not to worry. You can grab dinner later at the Ferry Building.)

From the Presidio, you can walk to the Golden Gate Bridge, which isn't really golden at all — it's more like a rust. The bridge is an engineering marvel and simply beautiful, if it's not too windy and foggy, walk across it. The Golden Gate Bridge is said to be one of the most photographed things on Earth.

Next stop is the Ferry Building. The one good thing to come out of the Loma Prieta earthquake of 1989 was the revitalization of San Francisco's waterfront. The earthquake damaged an elevated highway that cut off the waterfront from the rest of the city; the highway was torn down, opening up the area and transforming old warehouses and docks into yuppie commercial real estate (that, and the ferry to Marin County). There's a fabulous Farmer's Market on Tuesday and Saturday and no shortage of great places to eat. For burgers and shakes, go to Gotts Roadside. For amazing Vietnamese go to The Slanted Door, one of my favorite restaurants in the city. Your best bet is to eat at the no-reservations bar. Order the shaking beef, cellophane noodles with crab and the rum cocktail made with essence of clove and fresh nutmeg.
Oh! Lordy just thinking about the food nearly makes me weep.

Here are a few more of my favorites, in no particular order.

Frances (apple-wood-smoked bacon beignets served with a rich and smooth maple crème)

Zuni Cafe  (roast chicken with bread salad, Bloody Mary's...RIP Judy Rodgers)

Swan Oyster Depot ( Dungeness crabs, clam chowder, and the Swan Special, shrimp cocktail and a beer, they are only open for lunch)

Bar Tartine croissants, pain au chocolat, bread puddin, Banana Cream Tart, enough said.

Aliotos for sand dabs, bay shrimp louie salad, wine, awesome views and old times sake.

Cable cars, most fun, ever.

Chinatown. The entrance at Grant Avenue and Bush Street is called the "Dragon's Gate." Inside are 24 blocks of hustle and bustle, most of it taking place along Grant Avenue, the oldest street in San Francisco. This city within a city is best explored on foot;  exotic shops, renowned restaurants, food markets, temples and small museums comprise its boundaries. Don't forget to buy your ancient potions from herb shops, relax and enjoy a "dim sum" lunch or watch them make fortune cookies.

On foot is the only way to really see Russian Hill - the stairways and alleys and up-close views of the many incredible residences tell the story of how grand and charming this neighborhood really is. Yes, it has Lombard Street and the Hyde Street cable car, but it's also got amazing bistros and boutiques, Macondray Lane and the views from Ina Coolbrith Park.

Ghirardelli Chocolate Company, dude, chocolate!

Boudin Sourdoigh Bakery and Cafe for the best clam chowder in a sourdough bread bowl.

The Wave Organ, it's cool and it's by the ocean.

Nob Hill...Top of the Mark for cocktails and jaw dropping panoramic views, and the breathtakingly gorgeous Grace Cathedral.
Climb the mosaic-tiled steps to the top of the Grand View Park (Turtle Hill). This blows me away, every. single. time!!!

anyone still there?


Classic San Francisco Sourdough bread

4 3/4 cups bread flour

  1. In a large bowl, combine 1 cup flour, sugar, salt, and dry yeast. Add milk and softened butter or margarine. Stir in starter. Mix in up to 3 3/4 cups flour gradually, you may need more depending on your climate.
  2. Turn dough out onto a floured surface, and knead for 8 to 10 minutes. Place in a greased bowl, turn once to oil surface, and cover. Allow to rise for 1 hour, or until doubled in volume.
  3. Punch down, and let rest 15 minutes. Shape into loaves. Place on a greased baking pan. Allow to rise for 1 hour, or until doubled.
  4. Brush egg wash over tops of loaves.
  5. Bake at 375 degrees F for 30 minutes, or till done.


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