Monday, August 4, 2008

San Francisco, Day 1: Long Flights, Surviving Vladimir, Local Pubs

Back from San Fran! The first 3 days were spent sightseeing; the remainder of the trip I attended a writer’s conference in downtown San Fran.

I have no idea what day or time it is, considering my Eastern time zone self has been immersed on the West Coast this week. I have a newfound respect for anyone traveling to Europe, not only in the time difference factor but just that the flight is LOOOONNNNGGGG. Atlanta to San Fran is 5 hours. How people fly 13 hours to go somewhere amazes me now.

I was fine until hour 3, when I began feeling a bit antsy. Two hours remaining in this metal tube going 500 mph at 30,000 feet? Next to the kid whining about how SpongeBob is never on TV when he wants it to be? Ah, the joys of coach airfare. We had a bumpy landing but hey, any landing one walks away from is a good one.

Then came Vladimir, the Russian shuttle driver who would be taking us to our hotel. (Note: his name has been changed to protect his Mario Andretti alter ego.) With a thick accent, he barked orders over the phone about picking up new passengers, stopped and started with the ease of someone driving a stick shift for the first time, and I was personally surprised that he didn’t knock off any taxi doors as he sped and wove his way through crowded San Fran streets. Somehow, an hour later, we arrived at our hotel in one piece.

After taming my hair (it was temporarily stuck straight out in wind blown mode from Vladimir’s shuttle), we went to a local pub/restaurant recommended by the hotel. This is when San Francisco instantly become one of my favorite places…mixing with the locals in their environment, away from tourist traps and crazy drivers. We were in the Marina District (in “Cow Hollow” for those who know the area) and this little place (called “The Brazen Head”) was amazing.

It’s one of those places that doesn’t even have a sign on the door. “Look for the green awning” is what the hotel rep told us. Apparently the owner has 2 other successful restaurants in San Fran, and this was the local hangout he wanted for friends and locals who would only hear about it by word-of-mouth.

The bartender knew most people walking in by name. We sat at the bar and chatted awhile, talking to locals who offered sightseeing advice. The drinks and the company were wonderful, and I was delighted to discover the food was incredible as well. Best steak I’ve had in forever. If you’re ever in San Fran, check it out! The Brazen Head, near the corner of Buchanan/Lombard streets.

Thus began a week of living among the locals and seeing one of the most beautiful cities in the world…more to follow.

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