Saturday, March 27, 2010

Beaches, Bridges, and Little Asias

Waking up early for the first time this trip, we were on a mission. A mission to save seven dollars!

We made our way down to the Japanese Tea Garden in order to get there between nine and ten in the morning, when the entrance was free. We may have overshot our estimate a little bit. Just after eight we rolled up, and stood in front of the great wooden gates. Now these gates were not locked, but pushing them open and barging in – that probably wouldn't go over well. So we waited. And we waited.

And then the screaming children showed up. Yes, screaming children led by over anxious grandma. She, “explain[ed] the rules about field trips,” to her wee ones. Then they ran off and hid, and screamed, and screamed and hid. This was too much before breakfast. But then the Japanese showed up. The racist, racist Japanese.

At nine o'clock when the gates should have opened, they remained closed. And for the next ten minutes Katherine and I had it explained to us that this would not have happened if that Japanese were running the gardens. No, instead it was the lazy Chinese. For years, we were told, the Japanese community had complained about this – it is, after all, not the Chinese tea garden. But the Chinese won the contract.

I had a hard time understanding how the employees were hired simply based on their ethnic origin, but I feared to entertain these thoughts, instead sending Katherine to talk to the man about the pretty colours of the flowers, thus switching topics, and allowing me free to read Jurassic Park.

And then the gates opened. First in line! First in line!

Stepping inside was like stepping into what I assume Kyoto will look like. I have no doubt that Kyoto will, in actuality, resemble a city and not a garden, but I'll know for sure in a few weeks.

There were stone paths over coy ponds, cherry blossoms in full bloom colourng the gardens white, pink, and red, and pagoda reaching up into the blue blue sky. Walking over the drum bridges, that seem to make little sense, aside from stylistic points of view, or to slow people down – perhaps not let them escape the wonderful garden- and twisting and turning down pathways, watching reflections change, and the cherry blossoms ebb and flow in number was a relaxing way to start any moment. And to find such a place hidden away in the city, well that's just part of what makes San Francisco such a charming place to visit.

From the peaceful gardens we headed back to the Golden Gate Bridge. I had forgotten to take a few much needed pictures there. It also allowed me access to the frozen lemonaid treats and that was worth the trip all on its own. As soon as a cafe breakfast was consumed (protip: the chocolate muffins there are amazing!) we headed down the pathways to the beach.

One mile will put you at a sand ladder. This is a sandy slope with wood hidden under it to bring you much pain. But then there's a bonus reveal as you reach the bottom – it becomes obvious that the far end, towards the magnificent views of the bridge, is actually a nude beach. There will be at least one naked man laying on the sun, messing up (or enhancing, depending on your point of view) you photos. Be warned. There is no beach access this way without the distressing naked man flopping around. Not as bad as Barcelona, but not delightful either.

The beach is cold, deadly to swim in due to bacteria and rip tides, and also a black hole for dogs. But the views? They make it worth the journey.

We had planned on more hikes but couldn't figure out how to hop from one section of the beach to the next, and so quickly gave up and jumped on the bus. It read NO SERVICE when we got on board, but clearly that was just a trick, because in no time we were getting out n Japan Town.

I've always preferred the name Little Tokyo, but no – Japan town here. And they have banners to go along with it. What is Japan Town? Well – I cal tell you this, there's a Goodwill here. A good will selling me books – cheap cheap books – and that's all I needed to know. But aside from that? Businesses. There's nothing fun, nothing colourful – so after a quick stop to unload all my newly purchased books (none of them being sequels to Shopaholic – because that would be terrible) we jumped on the California street car line and headed down to China Town.

This is what Japan Town should have been! China Town in San Francisco is better than Toronto's, and it hurts me to say that, because Toronto was ranked number one until this moment. Lanterns are hung across the streets, and shops of all sorts beg you to enter. The colours, sights, smells – it all comes together and makes you feel as if you're in the mysteries of China, but surrounded by the comforts of North America. So long as you're on the main street. You go to any other part of China Town and there are no comforts – you either speak the language, or just guess at how much things will cost, and what they will be. My pork bun turned out to be a carrot bun. Sigh.

The shops here offered what I wanted – all number of Japanese toys. Yes, you'd think Japan Town would have taken care of this, but no – it did not. China Town offered me the blind box toys and crazy figures, and other such things that I had been craving. Unfortunately, they didn't have the ones i was after. This was probably for the best, now that I think on it.

It pains me to think of how I'll be decorating any place I live in from here on out.

With the little Asian towns checked out, and enjoyed, I was off to fulfill a real mission of mine. I needed to buy a memory card, or USB stick. I would need a best buy. I also wanted to check out the Apple store to play their touch screen games, and think about how I might buy one when the next generation comes out.

This would mean finding these stores. And this was not as easy as it should be.

We headed down to the Finanacnial district to find two malls there – spanning four city blocks. But there was nothing. Nothing for my techy needs. Just clothes, and other such things.

Then we headed up to Market Street to the mall there, but once more we were unable to locate either of the stores I had my heat set on. However the security guard there was quick to point us in the right direction. The Apple store was just across the road. I couldn't convince Katherine that she needed one – why would she need to use internet, or play games on her mp3 player? This was a good point – but still, people may have said the same about their “word processing machines” (computers, yo) decades past.

Trying to get her to sit through the seminar that they were doing? Not going to happen. I love this marketing – offering power point presentations explaining the tech to people in the store. They're very good at what they do, these evil apple people,

And then it was off to Best Buy which required going south of the overpass, where the magical nature of this city starts to fall apart and the urban sides are revealed for what they are. These are the areas you don't feel quite as safe in at night. Lucky for us the sun was just setting as we stepped off the bus.

I'm sure if I knew the city it would turn out to be fine, and needless to worry – but that's the charm of unfamiliar ground.

In the Best Buy I was able to grab a new 16GB memory stick for all my backup needs, and then get on out, and miss the bus twice – this being important as it allowed me time to realize that I would have been headed the wrong was on the bus.

And then back to the city centre, which I knew and loved.

Before me stood one final obstacle. I had to buy more shampoo, body wash, and tooth paste. Oh you think this is an easy task – and I understand why you'd be so naive. In the Wallgreens, there were all the things I needed. But they were not going to make this easy on me. No – every item was locked behind glass. Why the Fructus shampoo needed to be locked away, while Head and Shoulders didn't was beyond me – but four times I needed to rind the staff to get them to bring a key over. And four times it felt awkward as all things. But by the end of the night, I had obtained Axe Arctic Blast body wash (ohh Arctic Blast!) and the aforementioned Fructus shampoo with conditioner, some toothpaste, and deodorant. What a day, what a day. Excitement abounds!

And now, just one full day remains... What mysterious adventures will it hold?!

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