Paul's plan for his special day was that he would wake up and head to the Golden Gate Bridge. He wanted to walk across it to the Marin side and back to the SF side - presumably this was a San Francisco version of me climbing the bell tower in Florence for my 50th last year.
Unfortunately when we woke in the morning the fog horns were blaring more than we had heard so far on the trip. This was not a good sign.
Before we set out the birthday lad admired the decorating job that Nancy and Joanne had done and looked longingly at the gifts . . .
Paul had decided that he wanted to open the gifts after dinner.
On to our adventure. We were not going to allow a birthday challenge go unmet because of some fog. We were still walking!
We wedged into the car (while advertised as a rental car capable of fitting 5 adults they clearly were not thinking of US) and headed off to the parking lot on the SF side of the bridge. John paid for parking and we were off. Joanne, who has a strong fear of heights found this to be a challenging task - even through the fog was so thick at times you couldn't see anything over the side of the bridge. I was unprepared for how the vibrations on the bridge (heck yes, you could feel it move) would make me queasy . . . to the point I thought I was going to have to lean over the side and feed the fish . . . so to speak.
The walk itself wasn't strenuous itself - it was cold and windy for sure - but not an extreme walk giving the nature of walking up ginormous hills in the city. The one thing you had to be careful of was the cyclists. They had the left side of the walkway as 'theirs' and they were not adverse to letting you know if you were edging into 'their' territory.
We waited a bit on the other side - Paul and Joanne had to go to the bathroom - which gave my stomach time to recover. :-)
When we were back on the SF side again we took the obligatory 'we survived crossing the Golden Gate Bridge photo' . . .
We were feeling peckish so when I was finally able to back up around the gauntlet of tour buses which seemed to think the parking lot belonged to them (it did not) we headed out to a diner overlooking the ocean which had been in operation since 1937. Louis San Francisco is the epitome of a 1950's diner - even though it was recently remodeled it still serves wonderful diner food with an amazing view of the ocean and the ruins of the Sutro Baths.
After lunch (which our friend Nancy bought for us - woo hoo ) we headed down into the ruins to explore what was once the largest bathhouse in North America. The Sutro District is the westernmost portion of San Francisco with dramatic views of the Pacific Ocean, Mount Tamalpais, and the Golden Gate Bridge (although those views were a tad limited with the fog). The Sutro Baths were once a massive public swimming facility that offered six saltwater swimming tanks of varying sizes, shapes and water temperatures. For all their glamour and excitement, the Baths were not commercially successful and the property went through a number of changes in ownership and use before a fire in 1966 destroyed most of the remaining facility.
What is left is a stunning space with trails, gorgeous gardens, and a sense of once existed here. We wandered around for an hour, trying to not judge the poor parent skills of the parents allowing their children to play on the cliffs where were barricaded off as very unsafe . . . OK, we judged 'em.
Once we headed back to the car I dropped the gang off at the house. Nancy and I made a short trip to Schubert's bakery . . . where San Franciscans have been getting their birthday cakes since 1911 . . . and picked up the Strawberry Cake Paul wanted for his birthday.
Back at the house we napped and relaxed for the rest of the afternoon.
Dinner was at the Slanted Door - Paul's favourite restaurant in the city. On each visit to San Francisco, I never miss a meal at The Slanted Door so I was really happy when Paul decided that this was where he wanted to go for his birthday meal. This is great and creative food. . . classic Vietnamese food with a modern rethinking by owner and chef Charles Phan. It was also was named the most outstanding restaurant in the US last year by the Beard Foundation.
We ordered two appetizers - the crispy imperial spring rolls and the crispy veggie imperial spring rolls, a papaya salad, shaking beef, claypot chicken, stir fry chicken, caramelized shrimp, spicy corn, and mixed cauliflower . . . everything was as amazing as ever.
As we left the restaurant we noticed that one of the buildings across the Embaracdero was still all lit up for Pride.
Back at the house it was time for some more birthday fun with cake, cookies, and presents!