My young daughter, Jena, is married to Drew, currently in the Army, and in Iraq. She lives in Germany, patiently waiting his return. At long last, his one 18 day leave was scheduled for the end of February!  She booked her flight into San Francisco, so David and I decided we needed a long awaited city fix. Any excuse, right? Add to that the fact that David asked me to marry him on Valentine's Day and we have more reason to celebrate!

We usually stay at the Queen Anne, but since the car break-in last July, and subsequent $5000 damage bill, I am a little gun shy of their un-secured parking arrangements. While I am looking for a new home-away-from-home, I might as well really look. Smoking hotels are getting more and more scarce. The list, so far, is here.

We gambled on the Buena Vista in the Marina District, picking not the cheapest place, but an inbetweener. What a goof.  The place appears to be great, free garage parking on the premises, light and airy, pastel colors, good neighborhood, three floors of rooms, coffee makers in the rooms, ice available on every floor, hair dryer, refrig upon request, large room with standard decor and minimal furniture.  Then you find your door doesn't latch. Then there are ants in the bathroom. Then the toilet doesn't flush. We are trying to rationalize that 1. It's not that bad or 2. We really are spoiled. But now we notice that the light from the hallway pours into the room.

David asked me what was planned for our weekend, and I said the biggest question was, once we leave the hotel, do we turn right? Or left? In search of dinner, we turned right. The winds cut through our jackets, but we found that smaller streets had smaller winds. Several spots we would have liked to eat were jammed to the brim, so we settled on Jones Sports Bar. Ok, we were getting desperate to get out of the cold, made colder by all the locals in shorts and sleeveless shirts. 

We were seated immediately, which should have been our first clue. No Drambuie or O'Dooles, but they did have a scotch and water and Beck's beer. You have to specifically request a glass for your beer. The music floated between native drumming, good old seventies music and loud, obnoxious punk.  Wood lined walls sport huge tellies, large booths and tables. They don't have bleu cheese salad dressing, just a house Italian of some sort. The salad is a work of art, and should be hung on the wall to look at but not eaten. It isn't worth the effort, but it was truly decorative. Cucumber slices and grape tomato halves adorn the edges of a fashionable square white plate with a few small romaine lettuce leaves and dressing. My salmon was large and good. I ordered mashed potatoes to replace my salad, and was relieved they didn't 'charge up' for the pots as advised. Dave's shrimp linguine was actually hot, and the shrimp linguine we know and love is not supposed to be spicy hot. Just temperature hot.  Add an unreasonably long wait for our food and we agreed we had found another spot we would take off our 'return' to list.

The next morning, we shower and get dressed. I had spied the one portion of coffee and asked for another. Good idea. A tiny shower head, no impressive spray but plenty of good, hot water. We did get up late, so I wonder how rush hour would have been. So what if the shower curtain is torn and worn? I make a mental note to bring our own soft toilet paper and tissues next trip. It is one super cold morning so we dress heavily in layers.

Let's do something reliable, breakfast at Mo's! Again, the bustling, crowded place (with a line of people waiting) was the reliable, hot, tasty food for a minimum of money.

Then we saw the Columbus Cutlery. Just our cup of tea. I realized that everything we do, crafts, wood, stained glass, cooking, gardening, sewing, all require cutting tools or scissors, so no wonder we appreciate quality cutting tools. I found an old, bone knife to replace my father's knife stolen from my car, then I spy hair cutters and a pair of scissors I just had to have. Great place, wonderful owner.

North Beach and the Haight. My favorite places, along with Chinatown and the Wharf. Stopped into Dreams of Katmandu, then a new store that had classic sixties stuff and God's Eyes, and wonderful clothes, the Goodwill for a lion boot scraper (you can only find something like that there) and of course, Genesis for jewelry and oils, peek in Discount Fabrics.  Positively Haight Street for two new bedspreads. Tibet Styles is new, and I own several of their lovely scarves now. The Beat Museum had a selection of hand drawn posters, I wondered if she had done the 'now gone and forever mourned 'Gold Spike. Three drawings down, there is was. Karma is good. A "Question Authority" button went home with us, too.

Off to the wharf to feed the seagulls again. The sea lions must have taken the day off, but we learned seagulls can be 'trained' to jump for every oyster cracker, and they know precisely which bird you are tossing a cracker for. New travel bags in the tourist shops at the wharf (to replace the one stolen from the car, sob) and dinner at another reliable place, the Fisherman's Grotto.  Our distinguished, professional, white haired, serious waiter was born to be a waiter. Back home to the hotel, exhausted, and no heat.

The hotel sent someone up to confirm the heater was broken. Yup. Coulda (and did) tell you that. They are booked solid and can't move us, but they will bring us an extra blanket and reduce the price of the room. Otay, too tired to move, too old, it's too late, otay. Sigh.  That's when the peeling wall paper, the torn shower curtain, the ants and the rough toilet paper really got to me. We agree to never return.

The next morning is spent turning on the bathroom heat lamp, over and over and over.  We check out to discover they certainly did reduce Saturday night's charge by a few dollars, but not Friday night's bill. The clerk at present was not 'able to do anything about that' so they received an informative email upon our return home.  

Breakfast at The Ramp, still our absolutely favorite breakfast place to eat. A slight wind doesn't chill our enthusiasm or my hot coffee, or either of our delicious omelets. The huge boat with the Yellow Submarine painted smokestacks is gone, and to our dismay we hear it was removed to Budapest for scrap.

We still have many hours before Jena's flight comes in, so we kill those by shopping, our least favorite pastime, at Bed Bath & Beyond, Trader Joe's but didn't have time for the Green Apple.  We did come to a screeching halt when we passed Cookin', not only still there, but open! Another $100 bill spent. We figure we will have a snack and a hot toddy at the Cliff House, but whoosh, they remodeled. Gone is the old warm wood and rich upholstery. It is also a three day weekend with little to no hope of being seated in this century. The crop circles cut into the beach were worth taking a picture of. Off to the airport, and thank goodness for that because Jena came in a half hour early.

The Hungry Hunter in Livermore is now a comedy club. The Cattlemen's saved the day! Instant seating, huge booth, lots of wood and cowboy atmosphere. Our cowboy hats fit right in. A Dave serves us immediately and with abundant personality and pleasant humor.  The salad dressings are incredible, the salmon fantastic, David's prime rib is one of the best he has ever had, Jena's stuffed mushrooms are heavenly.

Home, home, home, to our own little bed, (we spend the entire night in a king sized bed trying to find each other) our own little, warm, bedroom fireplace stove, our dogs and animals. We always say how wonderful it is to head up to the city, yet how wonderful it is to come home. Life is good.

Great sayings from this trip:
I am not afraid of storms as I am learning to sail my ship - Louisa May Alcott
Those who think they know everything annoy those of us who do - Author unknown

Amazing things from this trip:
A guy who, in a one way, four lane street in SF, at a red light, from the far right turn lane, made a left hand turn onto the cross street in front of everyone else stopped at the light.

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The sand circles at the Cliff House. There are two people in the top right corner: