Friday, November 23, 2012

San Francisco, Day 7

We're nearing the end of our trip, and our trusty CityPass booklet only has one place left on it; the Exploratorium. We got up early again and took the municipal transportation. Not quite understanding the vast variety of buses, we took the 101 Express, which was comfortable and fast. It would normally be a more expensive trip not covered under the CityPass, but the driver just let us on without paying because he was feeling friendly.

I'm not sure how many different ways there are to say good things about the Exploratorium. It was pretty much everything that I could have wanted in a science museum, mostly because there were lots of things to play with and an astounding variety of exhibits. My favorite things used heavy motors, like a chain that looped around from the ceiling. You could poke it in the side and watch the wave move down the chain and towards the floor, then back up the other side. There were magnets galore as well, including ferrofluids and magnetic sand. Oh, and a machine that dropped dry ice from a conveyor belt onto a flat pool of water, causing the tiny pieces to skate across as they evaporated. Alyssa's favorite was a pin art thing that you could press your hand against. Almost every single thing that we saw I wanted in our house. The only two problems that I had with the place were that there were too many children around (only a problem because they played with the stuff I wanted to play with), and I'm sure that there were almost certainly germs from all the wonderful things you could touch.

Bike that simulated which muscles work together when riding
Ben playing with magnetic sand
Impossible triangle illusion
Impossible triangle from the side
The giant pin thing that Alyssa enjoyed

Partial view of the museum

From the Exploratorium we headed north until we found a place to eat, which was right next to the beach. We split a turkey sandwich that had cranberry jam and a soft cheese on it, and Alyssa said it helped to make up for skipping a proper Thanksgiving dinner last night. They also had a sriracha hot chocolate, which had that nice spiciness that I like with a dark chocolate. I'll have to try to make that when I get home.

Almost the entire area south of the Golden Gate Bridge, called the Presidio, is part of the National Parks system, and so we had a long walk along the beach surrounded by lots of nature and a ton of signs that pointed out things of historical significance. The ultimate point of travelling was to get to Fort Point, an old military fort beneath the Golden Gate Bridge, but along the way was a swamp area, a warming hut where they brought shipwrecked sailors who were dying of hypothermia, and a large park area.

The domed building is the Palace of Fine Arts

Fort Point was luckily free to the public, and so we went around exploring the place. It's been one of the primary points of defense for the Bay since pretty much the time when San Francisco was being settled. There were lots of cannons to look at from all the periods of the fort, and even a sample missile from when the fort was used to defend from Russians. From what I can tell, Fort Point spent pretty much a century engaging in defense merely by being there; it never had to fire a shot or actually be used against anyone.

Fort Point is right under the Golden Gate Bridge, which was built over it. From Fort Point you get the closest view of the bridge short of actually being on it. I had been taking photos all day as we approached the bridge, but I think the best probably came from standing out on the battlements of the fort and leaning over. It also offers a nice view of the Pacific, which before this trip I'd never seen. It's funny, but for being a port city most of the actual ocean isn't important to the city; instead, it's the Bay. Of course, the Bay wouldn't be anything without the Ocean there for trade. While Lake Superior has lots of tankers, we saw several enormous ships filled with shipping containers, which were impressive because of how different they were from what I'm used to. I couldn't tell whether or not they were larger though.
Inside Fort Point
An empty officer's room

Looking down the hall through the barracks
Furnished officer's quarters
Ben going up the spiral stairs
Middle level where the cannons were fired from
View of the bridge from the top of Fort Point

View of the city from Fort Point
Pacific Ocean
Gun powder barrels stored in the basement
After taking in the sights of the Fort and the numerous exhibits and bits of history there, we decided to go back to the hotel. This turned out to be a little bit of a problem, because the nearest bus line was almost three miles away. Already pretty tired of walking, Alyssa and I embarked on what was probably the longest walk of our life. We also had the problem that Alyssa and I have opposite reactions to taking a rest; I feel loads better, she feels worse. After a twenty minutes of walking in the hot sun, we started joking that the long walk would never end, and after forty minutes of walking we started joking about not remembering if the walk even had a beginning. And then we kept walking some more. Eventually we found a bus and got home, but it seemed to take forever.
View of the city from our arduous walk home
Crissy Field
We walked by the Palace of Fine Arts as well

For dinner we ate at a sushi place suggested by our concierge, Hana Zen. I had the Icy Dragon roll, which had jalapeno, caviar, and shrimp tempura, with paper-thin slices of lemon and some raw fish on top. The lemon was a particularly nice touch, and I'd never seen that done before. Alyssa had some kind of heated roll with a bit of spice to it. For dessert, we had ice cream with a toasted meringue shell surrounding it, which was delicious. Best of all, the place was only two blocks away from the hotel, so our tired feet weren't taxed too hard.

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