Tag Archives: San Francisco

Musee Mecanique (San Francisco)

Luca and I visited the Musee Mecanique during our honeymoon last year. It is located at the Pier 45 in San Francisco and it includes a private collection of hundreds of mechanically operated musical instruments, arcade games, voyeurism slot machines and, possibly, the only existing steam engine motorcycle (built in 1912). The entry to the museum is free of charge and you will go by spending some quarters by playing to the different games, as we did. Fair deal.

The owner of the museum, Edward Galland Zelinsky, explains in its website how the collection originated.

Musee Mecanique

Musee Mecanique

We had a great time there discovering what kind of games were played decades ago in feasts, remembering the kind of games we did play in the late 80s and 90s and seeing the great commonality in the mechanisms that operate otherwise seemingly different games. The same or similar mechanisms are used to make games of soccer, baseball or ice hockey. Or the contrary, different mechanisms are used to conceive very dissimilar machines to play baseball.

See some of the pictures we took in the museum.

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We definitely recommend the visit to the museum as part of a walk to the Piers of San Francisco.

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Wells Fargo History Museum at San Francisco

While reading Warren Buffett’s 2013 letter to the Shareholders of Berkshire Hathaway a few days ago, I was reminded of the Wells Fargo bank and its History Museum at San Francisco, that we visited during our honeymoon last year.

As we could learn in the museum the history of the bank is very much linked to the expansion of the nation to the West in the XIX century, the discovery of gold in California, and mail and express services.

Both founders, Wells and Fargo, were prominent figures in the express services (what now would be UPS or FedEx). They had already formed American Express, and wanted to expand to the West, however most directors doubted about the idea, and Wells and Fargo decided to start that venture in 1852 independently, with the aim of providing express and banking services in California.

After a bank run in 1855, Wells Fargo emerged as a sound, dependable bank practically without competition in California. The fate of the West expansion was since linked to the bank, which provided not only banking and express services, all types of other services of transportation, communications, the iconic stagecoach service, the Pony Express, etc.

Thus, the visit of the bank’s museum becomes a discovery of some of the details and processes that helped and fueled the expansion to and development of the West coast.

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The museum is located besides the HQ of the bank at Montgomery Street, the entrance is free and I do recommend the visit.

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Bay to Breakers

While reading the tourist guide about California in preparation of our honeymoon, Luca discovered the race “Bay to Breakers” in San Francisco. We checked the website, the dates, we saw it was going to take place during our stay and so I subscribed to it.

For those who haven’t heard about it, Bay to Breakers is more than just a race. It is a city event. A party that has been going in San Francisco since it was first celebrated in the year 1912, partly to boost the city’s morale after 1906 earthquake. This year they celebrated 102nd edition. Bay to Breakers obtained the Guinness World Record as the largest footrace in 1986 with over 110,000 runners, while today they count with between 60 to 80 thousands. Another fun fact: it is the longest consecutively race in the world (not having changed length nor course along these 100 years).

The race is a kind of carnival, very much like the San Silvestre Vallecana in Madrid in New Year’s Eve. It goes from one side of San Francisco, Embarcadero (in Howard street), to the other by the Pacific Ocean, after 12 kilometres (see the map here, PDF).

The atmosphere was great, despite of the bombing in the Boston marathon having taken place just a month beforehand, for which we observed a minute of silence prior to the race in memory of the victims.

Most of the participants were wearing some costumes, perhaps more than in the San Silvestre in Madrid, as the weather is milder at this time of the year.

Not knowing the circuit nor the streets, my intention was just to run the 12 kilometres in less than 1 hour, that was the time I had indicated in order to start from one of the front corrals. In the end, I felt quite good running, even during the climb up in Hayes Street Hill I kept up running (I only needed to make a quick stop by some urinary at the 4 km :-)).

Bay to Breakers circuit.

Bay to Breakers circuit.

The views of the race were especially good at the beginning while running along the civic center area, where most of the cheering crowd was, and then at the Golden Gate Park, which was also the longest part of the race. However, in the final kilometres there weren’t many people cheering, which is the only weak point that I see of this race in the comparison to the San Silvestre Vallecana in Madrid.

Having pushed hard in the last 4 kilometres where the profile was descending to the sea-shore, finishing with a sprint after a turn by the Dutch mills of the park, I finished in 58 minutes, two minutes below my initial target. A very good experience for my first race in the USA.

Finishing.

Finishing. 

One final fun fact: at some points in the race I encountered groups of runners that were somehow chained to one another. I found it strange but not so much, as I have seen runners pulling a chariot, dressing in all kinds of costumes in coordination with other runners, etc. Only after having finished, I learnt that these were centipedes!

There is a special classification for centipedes, which are teams of 13 runners attached to one another. In fact the record of the Centipedes category (LinkedIn 2012) is 36’44”, which is over 1 minute faster than the best ever women time and way faster than I would ever dream to accomplish!

P.S.: For the San Silvestre team: shall we go for centipede team next time?

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Bubba Gump Shrimp Company

If in a previous post I described the feast of garlic we had in The Stinking Rose, now I will tell you about the shrimp feast we had in Bubba Gump Shrimp Company restaurant.

The restaurant is part of a franchise with about 40 restaurants in the world, half of them in the USA and the other half overseas (for the readers of the blog living close to one of them, this post will be nothing surprising).

If you were wondering: yes, the restaurants are named after the movie Forrest Gump. We learnt from the Wikipedia that just one year after the release of the movie, the idea came up and the licensing and setting up such a restaurant chain began.

When I saw the movie I didn’t particularly like it very much. I thought it was too much of it. But then after some years I caught some sympathy for the character of Forrest because of being yelled “Run Forrest” at some times by someone thinking very funny of himself when you passed-by running and he was drinking some beer with his friends.

So, during the last trip to California I didn’t hesitate in trying out one of these restaurants, and we visited the one at Pier 39 in San Francisco. I loved the experience! (No need to say that I have always loved shrimps…)

Before entering the restaurant the chances are that you may take some picture as the one below (this one is from the Universal Studios restaurant, though):

Bench alike the bus stop of the movie Forrest Gump.

Bench alike the bus stop of the movie Forrest Gump.

The restaurant is fully decorated with images and memorabilia from the movie. I had not watched the movie in years, but it was nice to be reminded of it in that way. Catching up passages when seeing pictures, reading catchy sentences…

Some of those catchy phrases have turned into very useful things. E.g., in some restaurants it’s hard to catch the eye of an elusive waiter, no matter whether you want to order, to pay, or to ask anything. If they want to, the waiters will manage to avoid making eye-contact with you. In Bubba Gump restaurants this stress is eliminated by the introduction of two signs with the texts “Stop Forrest Sop”, to call for the waiter, and “Run Forrest Run”, to let him know you are OK.

"Stop Forrest Stop" signpost to call for a waiter.

“Stop Forrest Stop” signpost to call for a waiter.

Shrimp feast at Bubba Gump restaurant.

Shrimp feast at Bubba Gump restaurant.

Another thing that we kind of liked was the small quiz presented to us by the restaurant manager: she asked some 5 questions about the movie for us to earn the already ordered meal! (I think we failed the test, but they allowed us to eat anyway :-)).

Finally, I admire the fact of having built up a whole franchise based just in a passage from a movie. You may think of the many movies with which you could try that (e.g. a “007 Martini Bar” where all cocktails from James Bond movies are prepared and the place is decorated with memorabilia from the movies) but then I cannot recall having seen such opportunities being chased.

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Eating garlic at The Stinking Rose

Looking for a book shop in San Francisco we saw the exterior of The Stinking Rose restaurant:

The Stinking Rose, at 325 Columbus Street (San Francisco).

The Stinking Rose, at 325 Columbus Street (San Francisco).

It first caught Luca’s attention, and we went to check the menu and whether there was any description in the guide (which there was). The restaurant is a garlic restaurant started by an Italian some decades ago, meaning that all their dishes included garlic! I loved that and immediately tried to persuade Luca to get in.

I think that instead of giving a thorough description of the restaurant by me I can show you the description of the restaurant made by them:

Description of the restaurant.

Description of the restaurant.

Have you seen that sentence: “We Season Our Garlic with Food”? Take then a look at the first dish we ordered: garlic bread, with minced garlic with herbs plus garlic…

A good starter.

A good starter.

Finally, take a look at how the interior is decorated with garlic bulbs all over the place (it reminds me to “Museo del Jamón” in Spain):

Garlics all over the place!

Garlic bulbs all over the place!

I guess that many of the readers will think “yuck!”, as Luca did at the beginning. Well, this is because you have never tried it… do so the next time you are either in San Francisco or Los Angeles.

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Alcatraz

After many weeks here I am, back with the blog. Married and with a honey moon just finished, you can bet that most of the coming blog posts will be related to experiences we have lived during the trip. I will post them randomly, as I get to write them, without theme or chronological order…

Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary

This was one of the visits that we had arranged in advance. As you probably know Alcatraz was a high-security federal prison which is now closed, quite famous for having hosted some specific inmates such as Al Capone. There were many facts and stories about the prison that I wasn’t aware of before coming and called my attention. To name a few:

  • The fact of being a federal prison versus a state prison made that many of the inmates were not particularly dangerous in my eyes (as in serial killers, let’s say) but offenders of federal crimes such as tax evasion. On the one hand we could think tax evaders not as especially dangerous types so why would you put them in such a place, on the other hand and seeing the levels of corruption we suffer nowadays, it could be exemplary to put tax evaders right away in maximum security prisons, as indeed they’re committing a crime against all of us.
  • Contrary to some vague image I had in my mind, also due to being a federal prison instead of a state one (with fewer resources) made conditions in Alcatraz even better for the inmates (such as food).
  • The fact that within the island some officers’ families were living at that time, kind of uneasy feeling. But hearing the memories of some of the girls whose father worked at the prison, the island felt to them as an ideal place to live!

Together with the ticket you get an audio guide which provides a terrific amount of information and voices that really get you into the atmosphere and do guide you through the place. You get to see the cells of some famous inmates, isolation cells, the library, dinning room, you receive explanations about riots that happened within the prison and escape attempts, etc.

We took one of the night tours (and we recommend doing so), which departs late in the afternoon and includes a whole series of extra activities at night once the general visit is finished: a detailed explanation of the June 1962 Alcatraz escape (possibly the only successful one), a demonstration of the cells’ doors’ opening and closing system (see the video below), the hospital, etc. In the end we spent over 3 hours in the island.

See some of the pictures we took below:

Alcatraz from afar.

Alcatraz from afar.

Up close view of Alcatraz.

Up close view of Alcatraz.

One of the cells.

One of the cells.

In one of the corridors.

In one of the corridors.

Behind the bars.

Behind the bars.

Great views of San Francisco from the island.

Great views of San Francisco from the island.

Hole used in the June 1962 escpae.

Hole used in the June 1962 escape.

Listen to the slamming of the cells doors (the guide made some emphasis to us trying to think what did that sound convey us):

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