Friday, February 17, 2017

San Francisco Sojourn #2

Hello! The second half of our trip to the Bay area began with a Sunday visit to San Francisco Botanical Garden, located within Golden Gate Park. It was another sunny, mild day, perfect for this outdoor activity. 

The microclimate of the Bay area means that this botanical garden has plants from all over the globe. We saw many plants we'd never seen before, as well as those that we'd only previously seen in conservatories. We were familiar with camellias and magnolias, but not used to seeing them bloom in February.

I took several pictures:

A large magnolia tree

This is called a paper bush.

This tree had an interesting form, I thought.

A close-up of its branches.

Vivid red camellia blooms, so nice to see when everything is gray back home.

There's lots more pictures I could have taken, but mostly I was in awe of the vast variety of plantings I saw. Redwood Grove? Check. Andean, Southeast Asian and Mesoamerican Cloud Forests? Check. Gardens representing the Mediterranean, Chile, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Temperate Asia? This botanical garden has all that too. There's even an Ancient Plant Garden, which was fascinating. And there were some other garden themes as well - Native California, Fragrance, Moon Viewing, and so on. 

So all in all, a very enjoyable visit. If you like botanical gardens, you definitely should check this one out if you visit the Bay area. 

Lunch (leftover food from the dinner we'd packed to eat at the airport before we flew out Friday evening) was eaten at the botanical garden - allowed, but people are discouraged from feeding their meals to the wildlife. We saw others ignoring this request, which probably explained the rather aggressive friendliness of the squirrels and Canada geese there. Saw one of the latter literally walk right up to a family eating on the grass near a pond, clearly expecting a handout. 

After visiting San Francisco Botanical Gardens, it was time to head across the Golden Gate Bridge to go to another hotel in San Rafael. Once settled there, we ate dinner at

Crepevine, in downtown San Rafael. This place has a big menu, and as you can see, it's not just crepes! They also serve sandwiches, salads, various egg dishes, even a few pasta items. I had the Mediterranean sandwich and my husband ordered the Kyoto Crepe. Both came with a choice of potato and a salad of organic mixed greens. 

Monday we headed up the road to Petaluma, a cute old town with many cute old downtown buildings. I headed straight toward one of them, Petaluma Seed Bank - housed, of course, in an old bank building. This store is owned by Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, which means you'll find seeds you won't see in the racks of your local garden center. I had gotten their catalogue, so I'd come with a shopping list. Nevertheless, I was still overwhelmed by rack after rack of seed packets. I did end buying several packets, and look forward to sowing them as soon as I can!

My husband and I wandered around a bit, and eventually ended up at McNear's Saloon and Dining House for lunch. Fun vintage tavern decor, but I can't say I was overwhelmed by the California sandwich I'd ordered. My husband said his burger was good though. 

We split up after lunch to mosey around to our hearts' content for awhile. Since it was a Monday, some shops were closed, but there were still plenty around to tempt me. I stayed clear of most of them, though. With Petaluma being a wine country (Sonoma County)tourist town, I figured the boutiques were likely on the pricey side. 

So what did I do? Visit a couple of downtown thrift stores, of course! And why not - after all, sales at Alphabet Soup benefit the local school system, while Sack's proceeds go to a hospice. I felt good about trying to help out both. I was sorely tempted by some vintage housewares at Alphabet Soup, but realized there wasn't room for them in our luggage. But it was a different story at Sack's, where fabrics were half off that day. I had no trouble selecting several remnants of vintage fabric. 

I took a few pictures around Petaluma:

Funky painted building; looked to be an old corner gas station, but not used for anything right now. 

The imposing facade of St. Vincent de Paul church. 

And across the street from the church, a small Victorian house with a large palm tree in its front yard. I love seeing palm trees growing, since of course they don't grown where we live. 

Yeah, I should have taken more pics in Petaluma, but to tell you the truth, I was pretty tired by then. It seems to take me several days to adjust to jet lag when we fly out west. (I didn't get a decent night's sleep until that night, our last night there.) 

So instead of traipsing further around Petaluma and more of Sonoma County, we headed back to our hotel in San Rafael. And when it came time to get dinner, we returned to Crepevine. This time I selected the Parisienne French Toast, which is French toast made with cinnamon-raisin bread. Very good! My husband had the tofu-egg scramble, which came with home fries and toast. Sometimes it's just fun to have breakfast food for dinner.

The next day, Tuesday, was fly-home day. It was sunny and in the mid-60's when we stopped at El Super Burrito in Millbrae for lunch before heading to the airport. We'd first eaten here in 1997, back in pre-Yelp days. We were staying at a hotel in Millbrae then and looked through the Yellow Pages for a dinner place. El Super Burrito sounded good and it was, so it's become a go-to place when we're out there. Their burritos are "super" indeed, as in super-sized. I got the steak and avocado, while my husband got one stuffed with shrimp. The women behind the counter also stuffed them with rice and pinto beans. We finished them at lunch - but were still full enough when we landed at Midway Airport (Chicago) several hours later that we didn't need any dinner!

And speaking of airports, we flew into Oakland and departed from San Jose. We've found that if the fares are competitive, it's much nicer flying in and out of smaller airports rather than the bigger ones. Far less congestion, both in the terminal and on the tarmac! We were lucky in that we got TSA pre-check both times. It took all of about 30 seconds to go through security at San Jose! Can't complain about that. 

We flew on Southwest Airlines. Because it was Valentine's Day when we departed, some of its employees passed out fancy heart-shaped cookies and lollipops to the passengers. I declined the candy but took the cookie. Ate it the next day, and it was very good! I don't know if other airlines did something similar that day, but I appreciated that Southwest Airlines had done so. 

We returned home to chillier weather and duller vegetation. Sure do miss the beauty and milder climate of the Bay area! But we were glad to have visited it again.  

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