Homer's Travels: Vacation: San Francisco - Day 2

Monday, March 31, 2008

Vacation: San Francisco - Day 2

Day 2, after the frenzy of reservation making, unmaking, and rearranging, started in Santa Clara, CA. We had looked at our itinerary and, after a few calls to the Alcatraz and Angel Island tour people, decided it was impossible to reschedule these tours this trip. We would follow the original itinerary as close as possible and try to fit in all the Missions and a few of the easier side trips.

After a good breakfast at an IHOP down the way from our hotel, our first stop on day 2 was Mission Santa Clara. The Mission is located on the campus of Santa Clara University. The campus is very attractive and the gardens surrounding the Mission were in bloom. The Wife was amazed at the wisteria that clung to an arbor. We toured the church and I took pictures. There was no store near the Mission so we asked a student-looking fellow if he could direct us to the university bookstore. He gave us good directions but, unfortunately, the store was closed. No Santa Clara swag today. You would have thought that Easter weekend would be a great time to visit the Missions but you would be wrong. Three of the Seven that we visited on this trip were closed. A few pictures of the Mission can be found here.

We left the Mission and headed to the nearby Winchester Mystery House. After missing our turn a couple times and watching an Ambulance drive the wrong way on a busy street, we managed to get there. We bought our tickets for the Mansion tour. We had about an hour to kill before the tour started so we perused the overly commercial gift shop (most of the items in the shop had nothing to do with the Winchester House) and had a humongous M&M cookie. The cookie, about 10"-12" in diameter tasted really good but sat rather heavily on top of the breakfast we'd had earlier that morning.

I wandered around the gardens taking pictures until it was time to start. Our tour guide was an a young lady of college age who was versed in all the lame tour guide jokes about the house. She walked us through the 161 room house built by the widow of William Winchester of Winchester Rifle fame. After the untimely death of her husband and young daughter, she consulted a spiritualist who told her that they had been killed by the spirits of all those who had been killed by the Winchester Rifle. She too would die if she didn't do something quick. To appease the spirits she moved to Santa Clara and bought an unfinished farm house and began having work done on the house. She thought that if the house were ever finished she too would die. Thus began the building of the Winchester House, a house that was never finished and where the building continued 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and 365 days a year. The construction often didn't make sense. There were doors on the third floor that open to open air. There were stairs that rose to the ceiling with not outlet. There were closets 1 inch deep. The passages and rooms became a maze. Some say the chaos was to confuse the spirits. Others believe that Mrs. Winchester was just a bad designer who didn't plan well.

The house, convoluted as it was, was very nice with expensive furnishings and Tiffany glass windows and chandeliers. For all the chaos on the inside, the outside is attractive and coherent.

We didn't see any ghosts or vengeful spirits during the 65 minute tour but it was interesting. Most of the inside pictures didn't come out very well due to the lack of light - I really need to get me a tripod - but the pictures I did take can be found here.

After the Winchester House we decided to try to do Mission San Jose on the way to San Francisco. I looked at my directions and I thought I had a good plan to get to the Mission. As we drove north I noticed a large body of water on our right - San Francisco Bay. It should not have been on the right. If anything, it should have been on the left. Oops. I should have turned onto 101S instead of 101N. We decided to skip the mission for now and headed into the city.

I just want to make clear right away that I do not like one way streets. They are a royal pain in the a$$. San Francisco is full of one way streets. I was kind of prepared for this but I was not prepared for all the No Left Turn signs. No Left Turns can be worse than one way streets. We ended up making five turns to make a simple left turn onto Broadway.

Our hotel, the Royal Pacific Motor Inn, is located on the corner of Chinatown and the red light district. We'd stayed there the last time we were in San Francisco and we knew what to expect. It's not the best hotel and the area feels pretty rough but when we go on vacation we aren't going for the hotel room. The room is just a place to sleep in between all the fun and interesting stuff. The Royal Pacific fits the bill nicely. The view from our room was pretty good with a clear shot of the Transamerica Building and the Bay Bridge.

OK, a question: why do four and five star hotels charge you for wireless internet access while the crappy hotels offer it for free? Doesn't make much sense to me. The Royal Pacific only had access in the lobby but it was free so I couldn't complain.

After we checked in, we headed out to one of the Wife's place's of interest: The City Lights Bookstore. The Wife is interested in the Beat Poets and City Lights was one of their hangouts. We'd been there before but the Wife needed another poster for her classroom. The bookstore is only a couple blocks from the hotel so it was a very easy stroll. We walked through the store which, the Wife and I agree, was full of giants. Everyone seemed to be over six feet tall. We bought the Wife's poster and we walked through the back alley, known as Jack Kerouac Alley, and read the poetry inset into the pavement, the murals painted on the wall, and the strange graffiti.

By this time we were both a little hungry so we started looking around for a place to eat. We ended up at the San Francisco Brewing Company, a nice old Brew Pub with a lot of history. While we ate dinner the Wife asked our enthusiastic server the best way to get to Mission San Francisco de Asis. The directions to the mission involved taking Market Street to Dolores St. When the server left, the mentioning of Dolores was too much for the Wife. A few tears flowed.

We finished our meal and asked our server if there was a convenience store where we could by some snacks. She gave us directions to a Walgreens not too far from our hotel. Actually she gave them to us twice. We didn't listen very well the first time (we were a little tired). The second time she actually pantomimed the walking and turning in such a way that even we could understand them.

We left the pub and started following the directions. We reached a corner where a right turn was called for. We looked down the street and couldn't see a Walgreens. We asked a guy who came from that direction and he said he hadn't seen it. Soooo, we took a left and walked a block or two before we gave up and walked back to the corner. This time we turned right like the server has said and less then a block later ... Walgreens. This would not be the last time we didn't follow directions on this vacation.

That night I scarfed down a bag of Twizzlers Pull-n-Peel (Cherry) which, added to the half of a giant cookie, probably didn't do me good. I woke up in the middle of the night feeling like crap. I made it to the bathroom where I had to sit down since my legs were getting a little noodly and my stomach wasn't feeling so hot. I'd felt like this before when I'd had food poisoning. I was really afraid since food poisoning would knock me out for the next two to three days. I made it back in bed (The Wife slept through all this) and I slept through the rest of the night. I woke up feeling fine so I guess it wasn't food poisoning.

That was our busy day 2. Here a few San Francisco Pictures.


  1. Wow, that is quite the busy day. Never made it to the Winchester myself, on list of things to do. I read somewhere that occasionally college kids try to draw up plans for the house and they never succeed.

    I so hope you're planning to take MUNI around SF rather than driving...

  2. GH: Now you tell me! Ha. Actually, we didn't do too much in the city (More post to come to fill in the details) so we ended up walking to a few places and driving to others.