Friday, March 25, 2016

Sashaying around San Francisco

It never hurts my feelings to go to California. And I was more than delighted to get to travel
Top L to R: Winding Road (Cynthia Ledbetter),
Cryptex in process (Marcia DeCoster)
Bottom L to R: Diffractions in process (Cindy Holsclaw),
Verona Wreath (Miriam Cielo Shimon)
to San Francisco to see one of my good friends and to wallow in one of my passions. Beading by the Bay is a retreat that brings a group of bead artists together to share their love of working with those addictive, tiny orbs of glass. My friend, Teri, who shares in the addiction, introduced me to this particular group. Our three instructors were Marcia DeCoster, Cindy Holsclaw, and Miriam Cielo Shimon; the meeting was sponsored by Swarovski, All Beads Cz s.r.o., Miyuki Co., Ltd., and TierraCast. The sponsors sent us bags of goodies we could use to design our own creations; the products were amazing, and ranged from necklaces, bracelets, rings, and earrings to hat bands, and purses. We also had fun learning from our three instructors. I’ve finished Miriam’s Verona Wreath, but I’m still working on Marcia’s Cryptex and Cindy’s Diffractions; I do have parts of each finished, and I can’t wait to get into my studio to complete these pieces.

Driving over the Golden Gate Bridge is fun, but I think I prefer seeing it from a distance so I can appreciate the visual it presents. The Golden Gate Bridge, a suspension bridge
Golden Gate Bridge
crossing the Golden Gate strait, is one of the most photographed bridges in the world. Completed in 1937, the opening celebration lasted a week with more than 200,000 people walking or roller skating across the bridge. President Roosevelt officially opened the bridge by pushing a ceremonial button in Washington, D.C. to signal the commencement of vehicle traffic over the Bridge. The Bridge was closed, again, in 1987 for the 50th anniversary of construction, allowing pedestrians to cross the bridge. This celebration, however, drew between 750,000 and 1,000,000 people; the bridge was jammed with about 300,000 people, causing the center span of the bridge to flatten out under the weight. For the 75th anniversary in 2012, bridge officials decided not to open the Bridge to uncontrolled pedestrian access. There are lots of things to see besides the Bridge. I also enjoy exploring Pier 39, particularly communing with the resident sea lions.

These noisy, funny, beautiful critters hang out around the pier, seemingly to entertain the
Sea Lions
tourists. The California sea lion (Zalophus californianus) has a natural habitat that ranges from southeast Alaska to central Mexico, including the Gulf of California. The males are larger (and more vocal) than females, and have a thicker neck plus a protruding crest. Although they probably prefer sandy or rocky beaches, they also haul-out on marinas and wharves such as Pier 39 were we saw them. Sea lions eat a variety of species of fish and squid, and are, in turn, eaten by Orcas and white sharks. And have I mentioned that they are noisy? Males bark and grunt almost continuously and with little or no provocation.  Females are much quieter, using their voices to call their pups. Though 
there seem to be plenty of California sea lions, in 2015 more than 1400 pups were found sick and/or malnourished. Evidently the lack of an El Niño weather pattern and resultant warmer water has reduced the number of anchovies, sardines and mackerel. The pups are not capable of swimming the longer distances and for the longer duration required to find sufficient food. NOAA has more information about the sea lions and what is being done to help the pups that are currently stranding.

Instead of staying in San Francisco, itself, we stayed in Burlingame. This suburb is located on the old Rancho San Mateo, a Mexican land grant given to Cayetano Arena in 1845, who
San Francisco Bay
sold it to William Davis Merry Howard. Howard planted groves of Eucalyptus, foreshadowing the labeling of Burlingame as the ‘City of Trees’. The land changed hands several more times before the San Francisco earthquake in 1906 after which hundreds of people left the city to start new homes nearby. Burlingame was incorporated in 1908 and an ordinance was passed that barring the mutilation, or destruction of trees. There are lots of things to see in this area and in San Francisco; I can’t wait to come back and explore some of them. And of course, I’ll evaluate whatever I do, where I stay and what I eat. For information about my rating system, see Reading the Reviews. 

Where we stayed:
Three and one-half carrots
The Crowne Plaza, San Francisco Airport (1177 Airport Boulevard, Burlingame, CA 
Double beds
94010, 650-342-9200) is a nice enough hotel with the amenities one would expect from this group. I was pleased that they had a free shuttle that brought guests from and took them to the airport. Although there was somewhat of a wait (it was not a good day for travel), there was frequent service with pleasant drivers. The hotel room was comfortable for two people, containing two double beds, a desk, and a chest of drawers. I was a bit surprised that there was no refrigerator in the room. The beds and pillows were comfy and there were plenty of outlets so we could plug in all of our technological devices at the same time. The bathroom was adequate, but there was no air return so showering filled the room with condensation. The maid service was very good, and the ladies we talked to were polite.

What we ate:
Four carrots

I had never tasted Burmese cuisine, so Teri and I ventured out on a dark and stormy night to
Left T to B: Menu, Partha
Right T to B: Lap Pat Dok, House Special Noodles
Mingalaba Restaurant (1213 Burlingame Avenue, Burlingame, CA, 94010, 650-343-3228). This restaurant has limited seating, so go at off peak times, or be willing to wait. Burmese food can be very spicy, so err on the milder side when you start planning your order. The portions are large, so we decided to share everything; there was more than enough. We began with Paratha, a naan type of bread with curry dipping sauces; one sauce was spicy and the other was rather sweet. They would be a good counterpart to the rest of our meal. The Lap Pat Dok (Tea Leaf Salad) was excellent; the tea leaves are ground into a pesto consistency, then mixed with tomato, cabbage, dried shrimp, fired garlic, sesame seeds, peanuts and yellow split peas. The flavors and textures are delightful; the yellow peas are actually crunchy, so it’s much like having tiny croutons throughout the salad. Our main dish was the House Special Noodle. This was flat noodles mixed with coconut chicken, and lime leaves with fried noodles on top. It was spicy! But it was oh so tasty, with dark meat chicken used instead of drier breast meat. This was a delightful dinner in interesting surroundings, served by an attentive and efficient waiter. The next time I’m in San Francisco, I want to go back to this restaurant.
Two and one-half carrots
The West Bay Café (1177 Airport Boulevard, Burlingame, CA 94010, 650-342-9200) is inside the Crowne Plaza. We had breakfast here every morning and dinner twice. The 
Top L to R: Falafel, Fish taco
Center L to R: Tuna, Cheese curds
Bottom L to R: Sliders, Swan cream puff
breakfast buffet was okay, if a bit pricy. You could also order off of the menu, and those foods seemed to be better prepared than what was on the buffet. I was surprised that the baked goods were more like what I would purchase in a supermarket than from a bakery. The quality of dinner offerings was highly variable depending on what dish you ordered from the menu. The first night Teri and I split two appetizers, fried cheese curds and fish tacos. The tacos were tasteless, neither good nor bad; however, the fried cheese curds were very good. For our second dinner, I ordered an Ahi Tuna Salad that was very good; the tuna was fresh and prepared to my liking, and the salad greens were crisp. An acquaintance of ours ordered a falafel; it appeared to have been pre-frozen and cooked in a toaster oven. She described it as eatable. Teri had sliders that were fresh, with caramelized onions that were quite tasty. We had one very good waiter; the other wait staff seemed thoroughly confused and overwhelmed with their jobs. While the restaurant is passable, the catering for our lunches was very good; it makes me wonder if the food was prepared in-house. We were also surprised that even though there was a full bar, there was not a happy hour – ever. A sign at the hotel entry stated that the management of the restaurant was changing; this is probably a good thing.

San Francisco Bay
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