Friday, January 25, 2008

Day Trip -- Down the Pacific Coast to Santa Cruz

Friends of ours from the Midwest were visiting and Gary and I took them sightseeing for the day. These friends know the San Francisco area well and have already seen many of the traditional sights and sites, so Gary decided a road trip down the coast in search of sea otters, seals and sea lions was in order.

As we headed from downtown to the Great Highway, our first detour was to view the tasteful renovation of the Cliff House overlooking the Pacific Ocean and Seal Rock. There were no seals there, however. We gave our friends a history lesson about the long-gone Sutro Baths and Playland, instead. It was a good thing the bar wasn’t open yet, or I think Catherine and I would have voted to stay and try out the cocktail menu and drink in the view.

We didn’t get far. Just down the Great Highway is the Beach Chalet with its magnificent WPA murals. We chose to ignore the brew pub that now occupies the top floor of the building and concentrate on art, culture and history.

Our odyssey continued as we loaded back up in Gary’s van and wended our way down the spectacular Northern California coast line, stopping at a few of the rugged beaches to admire the pounding surf, wind blown trees and craggy coastline and looking in vain for our marine mammal friends.

Just above Half Moon Bay we stopped at the harbor at Princeton by the Sea. The majority of boats here are working fishing vessels of one sort or another and there are several fish related businesses on the pier. We poked around a bit and decided that since we didn’t have a cooler buying raw fish was not a souvenir we should consider when I declared I was hungry and I wanted fish. Now. We tried a colorful café overlooking the harbor. Barbara’s Fish Trap had fresh fish from rockfish (which Ferrol craved) to calamari. Preparations were simple, portions were huge. The four of us gorged ourselves on broiled fish with coleslaw, fish and chips (the fried fish was perfect, the chips less so), fried calamari rings (incredibly tender and moist with just the right crisp from the fryer) and the largest shrimp and crab louie that I have ever encountered. (The copious amounts of seafood were fresh and steamed until cooked through and not a second more, with a clean taste and a good texture, but I am sorry to say the sauce was a glop of sweet thousand island dressing and the lettuce was rough chunks of iceberg. I ate every bite, however.)

Satiated for now, we shoved off, continuing to explore the twists and turns of Highway One, past fields of Brussels sprouts growing on their stalks, looking like they would be harvested just in time for the nation’s Thanksgiving feasts. We stopped at the Pigeon Point Lighthouse and from the wind-whipped deck at land’s end we finally saw our marine friends frolicking in the waves – a sea otter and a harbor seal.

Mission accomplished, the decision was made to turn inland and head back via a faster (and straighter) highway. We had barely turned onto Pine Flat Road when Catherine, Ferrol (a big wine enthusiast) and I all yelled at Gary to stop. We had spotted the Bonnie Doon Vineyard Tasting Room. Luckily, Gary decided to be our designated driver, so we could imbibe to our hearts’ content. I’ll post more about our wine tasting experience in the future, but let’s just say after a full flight of wines that included a raspberry desert wine in a dark Belgian chocolate cup, I was ready for a nap or a mug of something caffeinated.

Now our route took us through the redwoods of the Santa Cruz mountains and when we popped out we were in the little town of Felton, which reminded me very much of a rustic Berkeley. We stopped at the White Raven Café, where they take their chai seriously. Their chai deserves a post of its own and will get one soon.

Then, somehow to our surprise, we were back on a major highway and on our way back to San Francisco. We’ve promised to visit them in Minnesota. They have a friend who keeps them supplied with fresh white fish and a friend who owns a Vietnamese restaurant. Sounds like it will be a great trip!
Barbara's Fish Trap, 650. 728.7049, no web or email, 281 Capistrano Rd., Half Moon Bay, CA 94019
Beach Chalet –
Bonnie Doon Vineyard Tasting Room:
Cliff House --

Pigeon Point Lighthouse –

White Raven --

Note: This originally appeared in Blog Appetit in November 2005

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Monkeys from Musee Mecanique

More on Musee Mecanique from BADSF at

Only in SF -- Musee Mecanique

The Musee Mecanique is like no other museum. It is full of working (cost you a nickel each) old arcade, midway and other coin-operated wonders. The collection, loving assembled by a father and maintained by the son, showcases fortune telling dolls (like in the movie "Big"), mechanical horse races, orchestras, Old Western towns, farms and more. Chuck a nickel or two in the nickelodeons and see what informed or scandalized folks back in 1900.

The musee is literally right behind Fisherman's Wharf. There is no entry fee. There are wonderful photos and other displays of the bygone Playland by the Sea amusement park and a small gift shop. And a coin machine for change, of course, in case.

It is a great place to bring kids and teens, but I always enjoy going, too, and it always surprises and delights visitors of all ages.

Here's a link to an SF Chronicle story about the place with photos and a sound clip with comments from owner Daniel Zelinsky and the cackle of "Laughing Sal" and some of the music of the machines playing in the background. To get there, click here, then select archives and then look for the "penny for his thoughts" feature. There is no direct link to photographer Mike Kepka's wonderful short interviews and photos of the city. While you are on the site, check out some of his other photo and sound vignettes of the city.

Here's a youtube clip of laughing sal. While she is probably the musee's most famous machine, she's not my favorite. I like the older action games and more musical pieces better. I like this one of one of the mechanical orchestra. You can't see much of the action, but I love how it sounds. Here's the index at youtube for the Musee Mecanique, but don't check out too many of the videos, you'll lose that element of surprise and awe when you finally do get to go there yourself!

(Next time I'm at the musee, I'll snap a few photos of my own and update this post. In the meantime, here's a youtube video I downloaded on the monkey band.)

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Dine Around Program Offers Discount Meals

Check out Blog Appetit (the parent blog if you will) for info on San Francisco's discount Dine Around program for 2008. From January 15-31 selected restaurants will be featuring specially priced lunches and dinners. Check it out!

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

SF in Your Ear -- Touring San Francisco with Your iPod

If seeing is believing, what is listening?

I thought it would be interesting to search out aural resources. Here’s some downloads for your iPods, MP3 players or just your computer to help you enjoy your trip to San Francisco.

This link is for Metroblogging San Francisco and has a good list of resources on how to “San Francisco-ize” your iPod, including tours, maps and music.

Another site with a good list of resources is the San Francisco Convention Center. It lists members' iPod and MP3 resources, many of them free. Among the offerings, free podcasts from Geogad for tours of several of the city’s attractions, including Fisherman’s Wharf, the Ferry Building and Union Square.

Sparkletack has an interesting list of podcasts, history or travel related. The S.F. history site also has its own quirky set of podcasts.

Pod City Guides are free (although you must register) and seem to be like a guide book in your ear. The guides are meant to function as a “travel book” with information on events, restaurants, hotels, sites and shopping.

AIA San Francisco has a series of what it calls ARCHCASTS highlighting significant San Francisco buildings. The free service has podcasts on the Federal Building, the JP Morgan Chase building as well as a tour of San Francisco’s common spaces and more.

Stroll San Francisco will give you a taste of its 33 walking tours for free. You can download one to sample, but the rest will cost you (but not all that much.) Chose from the 1906 earthquake, Carol Doda and San Francisco’s topless past, Chinatown, the Haight Ashbury, the cable cars or the Wells Fargo Museum.

City Story Walks offers a San Francisco “overview” for $9.99 and a comprehensive walking tour for ($19.99, or buy both for $24.99). You can check out a list of the 14 sites and check out a sample on the website. Also on the site is a sample of the overview with links to some of what City Story Walks considers insider information on where to shop, what to do with kids and more.

The San Francisco Chronicle invites users to “get behind the headlines” with its free podcasts and tours of the 1906 earthquake, North Beach and more.

If you plan on traveling with your cell phone instead of your iPod, this company offers downloadable walking tours for your mobile.

I guess I’ll make this Part One, still to come, more on food, art, culture, and well, just more.

About the photo illustration (my first): It uses two free images from MS Clip Art.

Friday, January 4, 2008

SF Photos Worth Clicking About

Above is a photo I took just after midnight of fireworks exploding above San Francisco on January 1st.

I know that I like to "preview" a city before I travel to it and thought it might be helpful to feature photo sites that feature some "only in San Francisco" shots on Blog Appetit Does San Francisco.

Here's a few I found that I thought were worthwhile. I'll add to this list as I come across more.
If you know of a site with great Bay area photos, please leave a comment below to share it.

Flicker -- SF group

A different photo for every day

SF Axis has lots of photos as well as a lot of other information for tourists and locals. (See my post on SF web basics for more info.)

SF Photorama has wonderful photos. It sometimes takes a bit to load (at least on my computer with my dsl) but is well worth the wait. (Be sure to scroll down, the pix tend to be toward the bottom of the page.)