Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Hosting Jarka; Day Three: Muir Woods, Sausalito, Beach Blanket Babylon

The third day of Jarka's visit was, by far, our busiest. We got started at 9 a.m., first picking up Mary Ann who joined us, and then heading to Muir Woods.

The weather was warm and clear everywhere we went.

It took about an hour to get to Muir Woods, the Bay Area's very own redwood forest. Mary Ann and I realized that we just don't come here often enough and vowed to return soon. Not only does one see giant Redwood trees close up in this National Park, but one also gets to observe the animals and birds that inhabit the woods and to see all kinds of plants and trees that grow here.

The known history of Muir Woods dates back to 1905 when local businessman William Kent and his wife Elizabeth Thacher Kent bought the land in this California coastal valley to protect its uncut redwoods. Muir Woods is a remnant of the ancient coast redwood forests that covered many northern California coastal valleys before the 1800s. To ensure the proection of their redwood forest, the Kents donated 295 acres of redwoods to the United States government. In 1908, more than 100 years ago, President Theodore Roosevelt proclaimed these woods a national monument and named it, at Mr. Kent's request, for conservationist John Muir.

The main trails are paved and there are miles of unpaved trails, some of which lead all the way to the coast.

Since my last visit several years ago, the main trails have been made even easier to navigate. There are lots of benches along the trail, providing resting spots. If you visit with someone who does not wish to walk/hike very far, be assured that they will be content sitting on a bench, with all of nature within their view.

I always marvel at how calm and quiet it is even steps into the woods...a big contrast to the busy parking areas and café and gift shop. Muir Woods is truly magic. Muir Woods is just 12 miles north of the Golden Gate Bridge.

We stayed in Muir Woods a few hours, long enough to walk the main trail check out the gift shop and café. Although we did not eat in the café, I made sure to check it out. They offer an interesting selection of sandwiches, salads, and soups, all freshly prepared. They serve hot and cold beverages and snacks, also. Prices in the café are reasonable and there is seating both inside and out on a redwood deck.

Our plan was to have lunch in Sausalito, outdoors overlooking the water, if possible. We parked and walked along the main drag, Bridgeway, and wound up having lunch at Piccolo which Mary Ann remembered as having seating on an outdoor deck that overlooked the water.

The fare at Piccolo is sandwiches and salads; we all ordered sandwiches and lingered awhile enjoying the view.

We spotted some sea lions who were frolicking in the water and caught sight of a yacht with its own helicopter on it which was anchored not far from where we were lunching. It belongs to Montana billionaire industrialist Dennis Washington, Forbes' #292 among the world's richest people. The yacht's name is The Attessa III and, at 225 feet, was the 71st largest yacht in the world in 2008. Guess he was visiting the Bay Area.

With our remaining time in Sausalito, we strolled up and down Bridgeway, browsing in shops and wandering along the Marina and through part of Sausalito's houseboat community.

By now it was about 4 p.m. and time for us to head into San Francisco.

We had tickets to the 6:30 p.m. performance of Beach Blanket Babylon.

Since seating is not reserved within the section where you have tickets, it is a good idea to be at Club Fugazi, where the show is performed, when the doors open, an hour before the show begins; people start lining up about half an hour before the doors open. So, we had a little over an hour to wander around North Beach and to have a coffee and a slice of Sacripantina cake at Stella Pastry & Café. We shared the cake, Stella's signature pastry, a multilayered cake made with a vanilla sponge cake, zabaione (a delicate custard made with egg yolks, sweet butter, marsala and sherry wine) cream, and rum.

We stopped at Biordi to look at their imported Italian ceramics

and went as far as Washington Square where we went into Saints Peter and Paul church.

A bit of trivia: Joe Dimaggio marred his first wife (Marilyn Monroe was his second and they married at City Hall) at this magnificent church.

This year marks Beach Blanket Babylon's 35th year and they have added to their usual fast-moving topical repertoire, a special tribute to their founder, Steve Silver, and to more "famous" characters such as Mr. Peanut.

My preference for seats is at the cabaret tables at the front of the hall. We arrived early enough to have a stage-side table...a first for me in the dozens of times I've seen the show over its 35 years. The seats were terrific except for the finale which is better viewed at least a few feet back from the stage. I must say there are no bad seats in Club Fugazi, even the upstairs balcony seats.

The show was over a little after 8 p.m. and we then headed to the corner of Green Street at Powell, half a block from Club Fugazi, for dinner at Capp's Corner, a family-style Italian restaurant that has been in San Francisco for as long as I can remember.

The dining room walls are covered with photos of famous people who have dined here, including Luciano Pavoratti and Joe Dimaggio.

The meal format is that you choose a main course and all meals are accompanied by a tureen of Minestrone soup and a large bowl of salad which are brought to your table to be shared family style.

Mary Ann's main course was Linguine with Clams and Mussels,

Jarka's choice was Veal Tortellini,

and I ordered the Calamari Steak.

The average price per person is about $20, not including drinks, tax, and tip. For what it's worth, Capp's Corner's wine list includes wines priced at low as $3 a glass...and these wines are not bad at all.

We returned home happy and tired after our busy fun day.

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