Our first stop was the Pacific Heights neighborhood of elegant homes as big as hotels perched tightly together on a terraced hillside facing the water. We parked the car and walked the almost deserted streets to take in "drop dead" views of the Bay, bridges and countryside in the distance; tiny postage stamp gardens overflowing with enormous roses and tropical flowers; and architectural styles from Tudor to Saint-Tropez. Beautifully landscaped steps along the edge of the Presidio led us down the hillside and a street so steep we had to walk on our toes and hold on to a handrail brought us back to the car. So this is how the other 5% live.
On to the graceful Palace of Fine Arts surrounded by Venetian style homes in the Marina District. We took a leisurely walk through the impressive classical columns arranged in and arc around the central domed temple. "Just why have those maidens at the top of the arcade turned their backs to us and what are they looking at over the top of the wall?" we wondered.
After finding our car and checking our map, we turned into the Presidio and took the scenic drive out to Baker Beach in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area where we found a spectacular view of the Golden Gate Bridge.
A drive through the exclusive Seacliff neighborhood clinging to the rocks above the Pacific was followed by a short stop at the Palace of the Legion of Honor and the historic Cliff House. The road then dropped to a wide expanse of beach where San Franciscans of an earlier time enjoyed relaxing at a large amusement park. Along side the giant windmill at the NW corner of Golden Gate Park we turned our car East and traveled down the full 3+ mile length of the Park to a small bakery where we picked up sandwiches, apple/rhubarb cobbler and a piece of delicious chocolate moose cake for a picnic in the park.
Following a quick drive through Haight Ashbury and a frustrating 30 minute search for a place to park we enjoyed our lunch in the Shakespeare garden serenaded by machinery at a nearby construction site.
The next destination, the Victorian style whitewashed glass Conservatory of Flowers, was by far the highlight of the day for me. It is a giant hot house filled with more than 1750 species of tropical plants and flowers. The aquatic plant room was so steamy that the lens on my camera fogged as I tried to capture the delicate beauty around us. Seed pods hung in clusters or spirals above our heads. Flowers of every size, shape, and color either displayed themselves shamelessly or hid camouflaged among the foliage. One tiny three pronged orchid gradually transformed from an intense red at the center to an equally vivid orange at the edges. I am eager to capture the color and structure of the unique flowers in colored pencil drawings.
Our afternoon at Golden Gate Park ended with a stroll through the Arboretum. After a drive through the elite Presidio Terrace, Gary wanted to check out more neighborhoods, but I had my fill of mansions for the day and was ready for a margarita.
We stopped at a Mexican restaurant and bar located on Geary in the Richmond District for margaritas touted as among the best in the city. Tommy's was truly an experience. We sat at the bar facing a wall of what seemed like hundreds of different Tequilas. Overwhelmed by the choices we told the bar tender to surprise us. He proceeded to hand squeeze limes (5000 pounds per month) and mix our drinks to perfection as the patron next to us consumed a margarita made with 35 year old liquor at $72/shot.
With our stomachs full of Tequila and tasty enchiladas, we checked the car in shortly before it was due at 6:00 pm and returned to our hotel tired and completely satisfied with our day.