Sunday, December 4, 2011

Meandering, Muppets, and Mysteries

Hot on the heels of Halloween came Thanksgiving.  Since we hosted both our families for Thanksgiving most of the years we lived in the Mosher house, it was weird to not be planning for the holiday.  Our friends in Santa Cruz invited us to come to their house for Thanksgiving.  

Our Florida friend Lisa was part of the Thanksgiving crew at the Mosher house for many years, and since she is going to her parents' house for Christmas this year, she decided to come visit us over the Thanksgiving holiday.  Lisa arrived the night before Thanksgiving.  I managed to avoid locking my keys in the car.  w00t!  It was great to see her, and we did some catching up and before long realized it was 1am.  That was 4am for Lisa.  Good thing we weren't heading to Santa Cruz until 1 the next day.  

Several years ago, Conery used the ham bone from a Thanksgiving Honey-Baked Ham to make split pea soup.  He hadn't attempted to recreate that legendary soup, so this seemed like the right time, especially since it wasn't going to be 80 degrees on Thanksgiving.  

Before doing any prep for the holiday meal, Conery made us breakfast.   YUM!  We got to our friends' house, and Conery made a beeline for the kitchen.  I don't think anyone could keep him out of their kitchen if they tried.  We had an awesome meal, played some games, and laughed ourselves silly.  We all missed our families and made phone calls to wish them well.

This was Lisa's first trip to San Francisco, so the next day, we headed into the City.  The day was clear and cool.  You could actually see all of the Golden Gate Bridge, which isn't always the case.  We started our day off at the Buena Vista Cafe and enjoyed several of their delicious Irish Coffees.  With warm bellies, we walked around Ghiradelli Square checking out the shops.  

On such a clear day, getting a good vantage point is essential to really get a sense of the city.  Since Conery's company is on floors 33 - 36 of one of the Embarcadero Center buildings, we went there.  The place was empty as it was a company holiday, so we could walk around and check out all the views.  

When we left Conery's office, we walked to Union Square for the lighting of the Macy's Christmas tree. 

On a normal day, the area around Market/Powell and Union Square is hopping, but on Black Friday, it was madness.  It was the kind of madness you want to experience…once.  WOW!   We got to Union Square, and there was a stage for various performances near the 80 foot tree.  The front of Macy's faces Union Square, and people were already camped by the huge windows on all floors of the store to watch the tree lighting.  The tree was mammoth and gorgeous.  There is even an ice skating rink in the square. 

Union Square Christmas Tree

Our next stop was dinner.  We were pretty close to the Ferry Building where there are several restaurants we've been looking for a reason to try.  

Market Bar in the Ferry Building

Conery called ahead and got reservations for us at Market Bar.  We were all in the mood for seafood.  Lisa ordered a bowl of Cioppino.  It's pronounced "chip-een-o" and originated in San Francisco's North Beach area where fishermen would chip in their catch of the day along with some vegetables and herbs to make a meal, or so goes the legend.  I had some tasty swordfish, and Conery decided to forego the seafood and go for a burger.  With full bellies and tired feet, we headed home.

Saturday started off with breakfast at the CeeDub (aka Country Way).  It was there that we hatched the day's plan.  We bought tickets for the Winchester Mystery House, and the tour started at 3:30.  We'd been talking about seeing The Muppet Movie and figured out how to fit that in before the mystery house.  We are all muppet fans who had been looking forward to seeing the movie.

The movie did not disappoint.  It was a time machine of sorts back to our collective childhoods.  I hadn't seen a muppet movie on the big screen in years, so the whole experience was even more magical.  

Conery and I first learned about the Winchester Mystery house from the Travel or History channels.  It seems like another oddity that a Bay Area resident should experience once; luckily, Lisa was curious as well.  The house is just off of a busy San Jose street and doesn't look too massive from the front.  

Winchester Mystery House

The house has all kinds of strange architectural conventions as it was in a constant state of construction/renovation for 38 years.  Our tour group was comprised of about 20 people from all walks of life and ages.  It was funny to hear the questions the kids in the tour were asking.  By the end of the main tour, we had walked a mile through the twisty path throughout most of the rooms of the house.  We also signed up for the behind-the-scenes tour where we wore hard hats as we were going into some precarious places with low ceilings.  The BTS tour was cool.  We got to tour different buildings on the grounds as well as areas of the main house the general tour didn't cover.  There was a bird aviary in the house and three elevators whose weird mechanics we got to see.  None of the house seemed too mysterious until we went into the basement.  All the doorways were pretty small and the one into the basement was no exception.  We went through doors to the basement which were like the exterior doors which lead to a root cellar (or so I've learned from movies).  There were all kinds of passages and doorways throughout the basement.  The house had been spared really bad damage during the two major earthquakes (1906 and 1989) because all of the rooms had their own foundation.  I guess this was a result of the foundation not being a fixed area as sections of the house kept being added on to.

The next day, we went back to San Francisco and started our day with dim sum in Chinatown.  We tried a new place called the Great Eastern based on a recommendation from a friend.  It was delicious.  We were stuffed and only paid $21.  We walked it off as we shopped in Chinatown.  

After all the walking, we decided to see some sights from the comfort of the car and headed West to Golden Gate Park.  We drove through my favorite part of the park, the Music Concourse, on the way to the windmills on the Pacific Ocean side of the park.  There are two windmills there which used to pump all the water needed to service the park.  Their function has long since been replaced as they are no longer in working order, but they still stand at the two Western corners of the park.  

We'd passed by them a few times, but we didn't have a chance to stop and check them out.  We remedied that.  The windmills are set in a pretty wooded area.  One of the two has been restored which the other one is rustic looking.

The Restored Murphy Windmill

The Rustic Dutch Windmill

We had enough time to check out the location of the San Francisco office of Lisa's company.  It is in a super cool part of the city near the Financial District.  Now Lisa has to figure out how to talk her company into relocating her.  :)

We decided to end our day in the place it started, Chinatown.  Rather than setting ourselves and our guest up for a possibly disappointing experience, we went back to the R&G Lounge.  We had a great meal with a great friend.  We were sorry to see Lisa go, but there were tons of things she didn't get to see/do this time, so we hope she comes back soon. 


  1. Wonderful post it makes me want to come back now and go to see all those places. I bet the food in the cooler was great and hot. Sometimes you just have to turn your head and eat. :-)

  2. now that you are getting a good view of the Bay Area. I'm lad you are have fun with your adventures.