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with CATHY WIECHNIK

Cathy Wiechnik CTC

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SAN FRANCISCO

September 26th, 2011

Downing hot dogs and beer at a San Francisco Giants game, shopping our hearts out in Union Square, traipsing around the infamous Alcatraz prison, absorbing some culture at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, cheating the diet at Ghirardelli, walking the Golden Gate Bridge, hanging off a cable car and sopping up clam chowder with fresh baked sour dough… All this and more, packed into a long weekend, spelled a perfect Girl’s Getaway for me and three friends.

We arrived into San Francisco on a Friday morning, and after checking into the Sheraton Fisherman’s Wharf, we strolled — pausing only when the smell of freshly baked sour dough beckoned us for lunch, and again when the warm chocolate at the Ghiradelli chocolate factory drew us in to buy just a few chocolate bars…

The AT & T Baseball Stadium is home to the San Francisco Giants, and was our destination that evening. We found our seats, then happily progressed to sampling the wide array of stadium food from garlic fries to hot dogs — all washed down with ice cold beer! Although the Giants lost to Philadelphia, this, my first experience at a major league ball game, was so enjoyable that I am looking forward to taking in a few more. Maybe a trip to Toronto to watch the Blue Jays, or a jaunt to New York to cheer on the Mets.

No visit to San Francisco is complete without a visit to Alcatraz. It’s been decades since the likes of Al Capone were imprisoned there, but there it stands, still. A short 2.4 km from Fisherman’s Wharf, this gray fortress is a short ferry ride from Pier 33. The tours include an audio presentation which greatly enhances the tour of this chillingly haunting place. The voices you hear as you move along include former guards and inmates whose personal stories truly take you back, and bring the prison to life, albeit a sad and depressing one…

The cable cars that rattle between Fisherman’s Wharf and Union Square are a scenic way to go back and forth. You will find line-ups at either end, but along the route it is easy to simply hop aboard. Passes are available for single trips, as well as a few days or more.

For those who love to shop, Union Square is Utopia! We spent a few glorious hours exploring Macys and the Westfield Shopping Mall. Upscale stores including Saks Fifth Avenue and Tiffany’s have homes in Union Square too, and though our hearts were willing, our wallets were weak. There are several hotels including the Handlery Union Square and the Marriott, all just steps away from World Class Shopping.

One of the world’s most famous structures, the Golden Gate Bridge stretches across the bay from San Francisco. We decided a walk across it was in order, so took a cab to the base and proceeded to walk across to Vista Point. It was an enjoyable, most scenic trek, but once we arrived at Vista Point we realized we should have had our driver drop us off at the far end of the bridge. The Vista Point end turns into a freeway, and there are no buses or taxis there to take you back. Realizing our mistake, we turned around and trudged back. This turned out to be a happy blunder, since all that walking justified another visit to Ghiradelli, this time for ice cream.

The arts are alive and thriving in this vibrant city. Sunday morning found us inside the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Whether or not you are an art expert, the pieces displayed in this museum are well worth seeing. The exhibits include all types of paintings, lithographs, photographs, videos, and sculptures (including the porcelain urinal, “Fountain” by R. Mutt, aka Marcel Duchamp).

Although any time is a great time to visit San Francisco, the best time to enjoy warm weather is in the fall. During the summer warm, moist air from the central Pacific Ocean blows across the cold waters off the coast of San Francisco, creating fog — thick swirling clouds of it that literally roll in across the city.

This weekend was my second visit to San Francisco, and will certainly not be my last. As Tony Bennett so poignantly croons, “I left my heart in San Francisco”…

Cathy Wiechnik CTC