Sunny San Francisco

Greetings from the Pickwick Hotel in downtown San Francisco. The city by the bay is as beautiful as I recalled it. In the past I've always stayed in the San Jose area and made day trips to the "city" which popular music accuses of collecting left-behind hearts.

We made a mistake on this trip. Staying in down town it is not necessary to rent a car. In fact it is better NOT to rent a car. A pass on the local mass-transit system will cost less than a day of parking. This does not include even the convenience factor of not having to locate scarce parking.

On Thursday night when we got to town we took a dinner cruise. We had a thoroughly enjoyable time with views of a spectacular sunset as the sun slipped below the ocean and we slipped under the Golden Gate Bridge as the electrical lights took over from the solar globe. Adding to the enjoyment was a pair of enjoyable fellows sitting at the next table, a couple of friendly competitors in the chemical business.

Friday brought a day to visit Alcatraz. Having been here a few times in the past I'd never made it to the fort turned prison and latter day park. Visiting The Rock in the early summer means there is a larger than usual portion of the island that is off-limits to bipedal visitors of the human variety to ensure the greater success of our avian cousins in their nesting pursuits. It is worth noting that there are tickets sold every morning so even if you can't wait for the next reserved slots you can make an early-morning trip to pick up some tickets.

Prior to the early-morning pilgrimage to get the Alcatraz tickets the Regal Princess had arrived at it's berth at Pier 35. Early in the morning there was a stirring about the ship but it did not reveal how active the street would be just a few hours later. Turning on to the Embaracadero the ship rises large above the piers that flank it.

Following an entirely forgettable (except in the pocket book department) breakfast at the hotel we spent much of the day on Pier 39. The overly commercial area was bustling with the comings and goings of the passengers who were headed to Alaska. The fresh fruit stand, made up to look like a local market, sells Sunkist branded fruit at nearly nine dollars a pound - a price to make even the most enterprising airport marketeer proud.

The semaphores flap and pop in the wind as they provide colorful decoration to the ridge of the ship while it sits in port. Walking along the street end of Pier 35 one sees a classless gathering that pairs the maintenance worker, police officer and corporate suit in the wake of the good-humor cart. The sounds of the semaphores in the wind mix with the rough scraping and clanking of the historic street cars and the collection of the scavenging gulls and pigeons.