(2009) SF – Museums

Playing “Tourist” One More Time

This was it: after only a year in the Bay Area I was leaving for the East Coast. Dan and I had “plans” to do some stuff in the city eventually, but that window was rapidly closing. The movers came and took everything on Friday and we took advantage of our empty apartment and fled to the city for the weekend. Sort of a last fling, if you will. We had no vehicles, no furniture and no food supplies. What better way to cope than to take a train to the city, stay at a hotel and eat out? Oh, and we did some fun stuff too.

August 22-23, 2009
Around San Francisco

The California Academy of Sciences. Ever since it opened it’s doors on September 27, 2008, Dan and I wanted to go. It was touted to be an amazing tour of rainforest, coral reefs and planetary visions. But we also heard rumors of crowds and lines and were hoping for a mid-week day that we could slip up to the city and enjoy the sights without the crowds. Oh well – it was now or never. I bought our tickets online and we planned to catch an early train/bus transfer to get there before the lines got really long. It was worth the effort: the lines were out the door but they moved quickly, and once inside we quickly lined up (again) to get tickets for the planetarium. Both Dan and I had done some research with our friends and were ready with our plan of attack: Planetarium tickets, “stuff”, planetarium show, rainforest, coral reefs then finish up with other “stuff”. It was a good plan and we were out of there surprisingly early, having only spent four or so hours within the building.

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Waiting in line for the planetarium – with a coral reef to gaze upon

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Tropical fish in the reef

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The roof of the Academy

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There are seven mounds on the roof

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Many native plants cover the roof

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We missed the key flowering time for the rooftop

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Eating area inside the Academy

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Thumb, for scale!

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Fossil in the research library (reproduction)

Once we watched the planetarium show, we headed for the rainforest exhibit. Three stories tall, we walked up ramps that encircled the main display area. As we ascended the rainforest, we were intrigued by individual displays (such as the frog and spider below) as well as the “free flight” displays (like the birds and butterflies). Naturally I kept looking for some monkeys, but there were none to be found. By the time we reached third floor, we could easily see down into the pool of water below us, the clear water giving us views of fishes of various sizes and appearances.

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Inside the rainforest

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Frogs and snails – yummy.

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Notice my lack of ornithological knowledge: yellow bird

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Reddish birds

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Brilliant blue bird

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More lack of knowledge: butterfly!

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Butterfly!

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Spider!

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TWO butterflies!

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It took me the entire time inside the rainforest to catch the wings open

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Looking back from the 3rd level

Only when looking down from the top of the rainforest and into the pool of water do you realize how ingenious this exhibit is. For down inside the pool itself you can see the visitors that were enjoying the coral reef underwater section. By taking an elevator straight down to the level below the rainforest we were let out in to a maze of reefs, corals, waterfalls and other marine displays, including a clear tunnel that allowed one to view our scaly friends from all angles.

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Looking back from the 3rd level

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Looking straight down into the pool of water

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Many tropical fish and reef systems

With the Academy explored fully (the Africa room, “swamp” room and roof top were also part of the tour), we now had the afternoon to ourselves. We started out by having lunch at Jenny’s – where they had a neat, rotating grill that the burgers rode around on. Then we sauntered over to China town where, with a little bit of luck and a lot of walking, we found the Asian Art Museum and was able to view it’s Lords of the Samurai exhibit. There aren’t any photos from here because they didn’t allow cameras inside. It was interesting – that about sums it up!

By now I was sick of walking. We still had to get to our hotel room, which we did without too many hills and no blisters. We settled into our room but then decided that we were hungry, and a movie would be nice. We found both within walking distance (which was still further than I wanted to walk, but I got a nice rest during the movie). Time to rest up for our adventure the next day: Alcatraz!

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Jenny’s Burgers

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Rotating grill

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Dan outside the Asian Art Museum

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A photo inside the main staircase of the foyer of the museum

Another “SF Bucket List” item was Alcatraz. I had made arrangements for a Sunday mid-morning boat ride to the island, where we could then take a self-paced audio tour. I highly recommend taking the audio tour. Naturally I initially scoffed at it, but at the behest of friends, I picked up the little gadget and was delighted with the information it provided. Dan and I spent a couple of hours on the island before catching one of the tour boats back to the mainland. The overcast day was warm, but it set a nice tone for touring a maximum security prison. Later that week we watched “Escape from Alcatraz”.

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Ancient post along the way

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Tourists and tour guides at the bottom of Lombard St

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Looking down Lombard St

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Looking up Lombard St

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Sunflower along the way

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Beautiful flora decorate some houses along Lombard

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Dan (patient that he is) stands for scale with the jade plants

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Gorilla advertising!

And we just made it in time to catch our boat to Alcatraz. I’ll let the photos speak for themselves.

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Coit Tower (Telegraph Hill) in view as we sail away

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Another tour boat coming back from “the Rock”

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Flag on our boat

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Resident quarters for the guards and their families

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Warden’s house with the main cell house behind it

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Officer’s club and power house

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Indian Occupation of 1969

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Decrepit staircase

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Water tower

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Inside the cell house

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Standard cell

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Dan, in place for scale

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Remains of the Warden’s house

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Warden’s house

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Detail of the Officer’s Club

(photo to come)
Sail boat in full run

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Looking back at the island

Now that we were back on land we had time only to get to the train station and get home. We hustled down the waterfront and caught a late afternoon train, getting us home in time for me to play my last hockey game of the season (I scored a goal and we won, by the way). What a way to leave the West Coast!

Tell me what you think! I want to know!