Wine and Raindrops in Fog City
I prefer a wet San Francisco to a dry Manhattan. - Larry Geraldi
Planes are like boats except for one critical aspect, when you get sick there's no side to retch over. Ok, planes are actually very little like boats, but at 30,000 feet up I was more seasick than I had ever been on the open water, and my clothes were soaked through. For some reason, a monsoon had swept through the Boston area the night of our departure for the west coast, and we hadn't had the presence of mind to call a cab to take us to the train station. We had lugged our cases over half a mile, our shoes quickly filling up with rainwater, through marshy streets and over flooded train tracks. At one point we had thought to turn back, a two foot deep gully stood in our path with no way around it. We resorted to throwing our cases, leaping over, and hoping that we wouldn't slip into the muck.
We had almost missed the train anyhow, but the conductor saw us coming and took pity on our nearly drowned selves and let us in. We stripped off all our outer layers and hung them up to dry on the luggage rack. By the time we reached the airport we had dried slightly, but everything was fairly damp. Things would remain that way for the next four days.
So, doing my best to keep down the hummus that was my dinner, I flipped through channels on the air-tv. History specials on the history of gun production, mind-melting sitcoms, and 80s throwbacks flashed across my screen. I switched it off and receded into an audiobook, willing the plane to land sooner rather than later.
Inevitably we arrived and as soon as my feet were back on solid ground my stomach settled. I felt an unnerving sense of exhilaration as the cabbie roared through the night at alarming speeds. Everyone in San Francisco drives like a professional maniac. They're expert maniacs, missing other cars and pedestrians by millimeters and becoming airborne at the apex of all the hills. Nobody fears for their life. This is routine mayhem.
After dropping off our stuff at the two-story townhouse in the Lower Haight, we wandered down the street to nab some late night grub at Nopa. It was pushing 1:00 AM west coast time, I wanted pancakes. Nopa did not serve late night pancakes. I ordered a beer and some French Fries and took in my surroundings. They weren't terribly interesting.
What we didn't know when we left for the trip was that San Francisco was bracing for the worst rainstorms they had seen in 5 years. USA Today reported:
"A system fueled by the 'Pineapple Express' is delivering a steady stream of moisture directly from Hawaii to the West Coast starting Wednesday. Meteorologists describe the Pineapple Express as a long, narrow plume that pipes moisture from the tropics into the western United States."
Yes, Pineapple Express, but more rain and less cannabis.
Fortunately we had most of Wednesday before the storm of the half decade would hit, and the crew decided that a trip to Sonoma was in order. You can't go to Northern California and not wet your palate with the wine, that would be sinful. So, around 10:30 we set off from San Francisco and headed to wine country.
The first stop on our journey was Lancaster Estate Winery, a picturesque vineyard with the most hospitable of wine tasting guides.
One of the most remarkable things about this winery wasn't necessarily the wine, which was absolutely superb, but where they stored the wine. They have designed a wine cave that could easily belong in the Shire. I asked our guide if they had any spare rooms for rent. He only laughed. I don't think he realized I was serious.
After a most delightful wine tasting, and deep discussions about the various flavor notes (fruity legs anyone?), we bought a case full of the magical liquid (Specifically the 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon) before moving on to the next winery.
What Medlock Ames winery loses in wine quality and style, they make up for in sustainability and general coolness. The farm is 100% organic and solar powered, and they even have sheep come in to mow the lawns in spring. They also grow olive trees on site, and sell some of the best olive oil I have ever tasted.
The storm had set in by the beginning of Day 3 and we were stuck indoors. Members of the troupe set out to get board games, I had articles to write. The morning was spent shoving my face with sourdough and drinking espresso. The rain came down in buckets.
By about 3:30, however, a few of us were starting to get a little stir-crazy. We arranged for an UBER to come fetch us from the townhouse and take us to the pier. The entire strip was abandoned, even the driver said this was the fewest amount of cars he had ever seen in these parts. We just nodded and pretended like we understood the contrast.
We milled around the mall for a bit, checking out odds and ends. We stayed until stores began to close and then headed back for a while. The night was dedicated to a museum called the Exploratorium, which is, in fact, the most exhilarating museum experience of my adult life.
We also grabbed dinner at the Boudin Bakery, you know, the famous one where they bake sourdough into crazy shapes like alligators and platypuses? Yet, the place is a tad overrated. Shock? Probably not.
In an act of near madness, with the storm still whirling around us, we decided to take a walking tour of Golden Gate Park. We met at the San Francisco Conservatory of Flowers where a little man with an enormous umbrella greeted us, and laughed at us. We were all quite soggy. So was everything else.
We set out into the world early Saturday morning because for the first day since our arrival, the sun was shining. I hadn't seen this great celestial being in days. I had begun to forget what it even looked like, and my personal stash of Vitamin D was leaking out of every pore. So, the weather switch was certainly just in time.
To the piers we went! To watch the sea lions and eat french fries by the bay we went! We also raided thrift stores in Mission Hill and feasted on delicious burritos. One thing San Francisco has to say for itself is that the Mexican food is spot on.
Unfortunately, our day was cut short by the RAMPAGING santas who had taken over the town. The annual santa pub crawl was in session. It was a madness. I have no pictures of these mad santas because I feared in a great drunken rage they would steal my recording devices from me.
So here are other things.
San Francisco is a pretty ok place. Earthquakes aren't that common and the food is fairly adequate. I hope to go back one day when the sun is shining and I have a bit of time to roam a bit more, for now, this tapas platter of Fog City will do me just fine.
© 2015 Joey Phoenix Photography