I had an opportunity to visit San Francisco a couple weeks ago.
Between work and keeping up with things around here we rarely go anywhere, so despite being the busiest time of the year for gardening—not to mention work—I couldn’t resist. I have a good friend and neighbour who checks in on our horses and sheep while we’re away, but it seemed a bit much to ask her to look after the garden, greenhouse and bedding plants as well. So I overwatered the plants, left the greenhouse open a crack, prayed we wouldn’t get a frost and away we went.
San Francisco is a beautiful city full of vibrant, friendly people. It is also full of hills. It has 43 altogether and all of them are steep.
We took a tour bus down to Pier 39 and on the way the guide mentioned a place on the pier called Norman’s famous for making the best ice cream in San Francisco.
That caught my attention. Despite my healthy intentions, I have a weakness for ice cream. Tell me it’s the best ice cream in a city of almost a million people and my hand is already twitching towards my wallet.
I once wrote about our trip to the Maritimes a couple years ago that was punctuated with daily waddles to a local ice cream franchise called COWS. By the time our holiday was over I was packing seven extra pounds home with me and it wasn’t in my luggage. It was ill gotten gains from too much choosing between Wowey Cowey and Gooey Mooey instead of apples or carrots.
After a walk about the pier we stumbled across Norman’s—in other words I sleuthed it out after a frantic search.
Vowing this would be a one-time indulgence rather than a daily deal like when we were in the Maritimes, we even opted for a small serving in a cup instead of a waffle cone.
When Darcy suggested we walk back to our hotel instead of taking the bus to burn off some of the calories, I agreed and headed for a small table outside the door of Norman’s. Darcy struck off down the sidewalk.
“What? Right now?” I asked, with my spoon poised in front of my face.
“Why not?” said Darcy. “We’ll eat as we stroll.”
There were 43 “why not’s” and all of them were hills. As we climbed and climbed and then climbed some more we passed a couple fellows training for possibly Mount Everest.
They ran down the hill and then up again, only this time backwards.
We waved our ice cream spoons at them as we passed. By the fourth block we had done the unthinkable.
We had ditched uneaten ice cream — the best ice cream in San Francisco — into a trash can. It was impossible to eat with our tongues hanging out. And then it got worse.
For reasons we are still working out we managed to get hopelessly lost.
In most Oceanside cities it is easy enough to get your bearings. If you’re going uphill you know you’re going away from the ocean; downhill and you know you’re going towards it. Such is not the case in San Francisco.
The ups and downs are meaningless. Darcy finally summoned Siri on his iPhone and asked for directions to Union Square.
He failed to mention we were in San Francisco. We had made our way up and down seven more blocks before we discovered there is also a Union Square in New York and Siri was attempting to guide us through that fine city instead.
Eventually we found our way to our hotel. Having burned up a gazillion calories we could very well have ended the trip by leaving a few pounds—along with our ice cream—in San Francisco. We could have.
Unfortunately we spotted Macy’s on the edge of Union Square. Or more importantly, the restaurant within…The Cheesecake Factory! The sun shot out from the fog, angels sang and we stumbled on aching feet towards the elevators and shot up eight floors to our new goal.
What little I tasted of Norman’s ice cream was pretty darn good, but sitting down to that plateful of cheese cake was bliss.
Oh, and the Golden Gate Bridge, the Giants game, the Golden Gate Park with its incredible Japanese gardens and finally getting to see Haight and Ashbury were all pretty good too. And coming home to happy, healthy animals and a garden that somehow managed to double in size in only six days? Priceless.
Shannon McKinnon is a syndicated columnist from Northern BC. You can catch up on past columns by visiting www.shannonmckinnon.com