Saturday, October 24, 2015

Fun at Fisherman's Wharf

Most of the shops of Fisherman's Wharf are located at Pier 39, although
there are more on other piers and along Jefferson Street. Lots of restaurants!

On Tuesday, October 6, the next stop after our morning on Alcatraz was Fisherman's Wharf. In spite of my research before our vacation, I didn't realize until we were there how much there was to see and do. Fisherman's Wharf is not a single pier, but a district that encompasses a much larger area.

Where we had lunch after our return from Alcatraz.

Since it was past 1:00 when we reached Pier 39 after our Alcatraz tour, we were more than ready for lunch. I'm guessing there are close to 100 restaurants in the Fisherman's Wharf district, but I narrowed it down to two I felt we could afford and enjoy: Hard Rock Cafe and the Wipeout Bar and Grill.

Dylan makes a new friend as we enter the Wipeout Bar and Grill.
October 6, 2015

I ate at the Atlanta Hard Rock Cafe in June 2013, when Ed and I flew to Atlanta, Georgia, right before our split. It was noisy and fun with its rock and roll theme and waiter participation, so I thought the kids would get a kick out of eating in this famous chain. I was surprised when they all agreed they'd rather go to Wipeout Bar and Grill, but not disappointed. It turned out to be a good choice.

A mural inside the Wipeout Bar and Grill..

The surfer-inspired decor of the restaurant was fun, the music was "rad," and the wait staff was awesome. They were attentive, friendly, and fast. Maybe even a little laid-back, dude!

Mark and Chris model their matching Alcatraz souvenir caps for Sarah.

Dylan and Mary wait for lunch to be served.

After being sick and not eating for so long, Dylan was craving a big, juicy burger.
Sarah thought that sounded good, too. They were not disappointed!

The only problem that surfaced had to do with Chris's lunch. He'd ordered his burrito with only the black beans inside, NO RICE. The waiter even repeated it back to him and we watched him write it down. After his lunch came, Chris took a couple of bites and then realized there was rice in his burrito. He almost just ate it anyway because he didn't want to slow us down, but I told him he had the right to have his meal the way he'd requested.

Mark also went for the burger while Chris chose a burrito platter.

As soon as Chris flagged down the server, the man hurried over and was extremely apologetic, but to our surprise the manager (possibly even the owner--he seemed very invested in pleasing his customers) had also joined us in an instant. He took over and immediately handled the problem, also apologizing over and over. We did have to wait longer for Chris's meal to be re-prepared, but the manager/owner gave him his burrito platter at no charge! Mistakes happen, but that's good service.

I got the California club. If "California" is in the name, you can bet it features avocado.

I loved the outer decor of the shops on Pier 39. Creative and 3-D!

After lunch, we explored the rest of Pier 39. There are so many interesting shops there, but of course we had to limit ourselves to the ones that were impossible to resist. There just wasn't time for everything. If I ever go back to San Francisco, I will spend a full day at Alcatraz Island and a full day exploring Fisherman's Wharf. And another full day for the rest of the city and beaches, maybe more.

Yes, there were two separate Dreyer's shops, right across from each other.

Someone in our group looked back and noticed the piano-key staircase.
No, it didn't really play music. Dang! But still cool.

Mark and Sarah strolling together along Pier 39.

Chris pauses at the end of Pier 39 to look back at Alcatraz Island.

When we got to the end of the pier and made a left, we discovered the sea lion colony I had read about. That was a lot of fun. They were noisy, barking at each other and even nipping each other sometimes, but also quite lazy, just lounging around and once in a while sliding over each other. Occasionally one would slip into the water for a moment and then rejoin his pals. What a life. I did film a bit of the sea lions, which I'll try to post on my Facebook page.

The sea lion colony at Pier 39, with a San Francisco backdrop.

Dylan took this very nice closeup of the sea lions.

Every so often I did a selfie to show I was really there on this trip!

Dylan likes magic shows, so we watched the silly craft of Big Al Catraz.

While we were watching the sea lions, Dylan heard an announcement about a magic show. He's fascinated by magic tricks, so he asked if we could go. We did. It wasn't what you'd call great magic, but it was humorous and it was a chance to sit for 20 minutes or so.

After the magic show, we headed upstairs to explore the upper half of Pier 39. We found even more intriguing shops there.

When I'm rich, I want this dragon for my coffee table...
The chest opens to hold your trinkets.

One of our favorite shops was a whimsical place filled with dragons and fairies and other fantasy creatures. We love those kinds of objets d'art and it was fun to wander through. I always wish I had a thousand dollars to spend in those places. Dylan did spend about $40 for a dagger with a pewter dragon curled around it. Pretty cool stuff.

Dylan's Dragon. The dagger slides out.

Mark, Mary, and Dylan with their new shades. Buy 2, get the 3rd pair free!
(When did I get so short?)

When we were on the Huntington Beach Pier during last year's Southern California vacation, I'd realized I'd left my sunglasses in Arizona, so I bought a huge, funky pair of white sunglasses at a little shop on the pier.

So fast-forward a year. This time I left the funky white sunglasses at home, but brought my prescription sunglasses instead. And left them at my Uncle Ernie's house in Fresno. Mark had left his sunglasses at the resort in Windsor and Dylan had left his (the ones we'd also bought for him on Huntington Beach Pier last year) in Arizona.

As luck would have it, we came upon a little sundries shop having a buy-two-and-get-the-third-pair-free sale on sunglasses. So we treated all three of ourselves to new pairs of shades. This time I got a pair that received everyone's approval. Last year, my family was a bit embarrassed by my funky shades. Except me. I liked them!

Aquarium of the Bay is located right on Pier 39.

I knew we would be near Aquarium of the Bay, which specifically showcases the sea life of San Francisco Bay and its tributaries, but I'd decided against planning to go there, to save on both time and money. After all, there are aquariums all over the world, right? But that didn't matter to my aquarium-loving family. As soon as they saw it, they begged to stop there. How could I say no? I knew it would mean giving up an item on my bucket list (if I had a bucket list), my desire to ride a San Francisco cable car, but the greatest joy of family vacations is being together and seeing your loved ones happy. An hour in an aquarium with my delighted children is worth so much more than an hour on a cable car.

This tank is mesmerizing. I'll post a brief video on Facebook so you'll see what I mean.
If I had one at home, it would be a great stress reliever.

I found Nemo! And Dory, too!

Still pictures of the creatures in an aquarium just don't cut it. The beauty of these animals is in their motion and fluidity. That's why I filmed several short segments while we were there, which I'll post (hopefully) on Facebook. You'll especially enjoy the one where Chris sticks his head in a tank with an octopus! That Chris, he'll try anything!

Mark got excited when he saw these striped bass. He didn't need the placard
to tell him what they were. He kept saying he needed his fishing pole!

Chris likes the petting pools in the aquariums we visit.

We spent a little over an hour at the aquarium, and then it was time to bid adieu to Pier 39. Around 5:30, we headed back up Jefferson Street toward the Anchorage Square parking garage to drop off our bags and souvenirs before continuing on to Ghirardelli Square.

Crab sculpture at the entrance to Pier 39.

Another sculpture near the entrance of Pier 39.

The McDonalds on Jefferson Street across from the Bay.
I love the 3-D signage!

On our way to catch our tour ship earlier, we'd passed quickly by all the interesting shops along Jefferson Street, but I'd hoped to have time to check out some of them on our return. However, it just didn't work out that way. I was determined to drive my kids down Lombard Street, "the crookedest street in San Francisco," before we returned to Windsor, and the day was whizzing by too fast to linger anywhere too long.

I even had to rush by this chocolate shop!

Along Jefferson Street we saw a Ripley's Believe It or Not museum (we went to one in Branson, Missouri, in 2009); a Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum; street musicians and performers; and even some drama between a pair of homeless people who were fighting loudly over their scavenged stuff, ending with the female laughing maniacally and running safely from the clutches of the male (for all I know, it may have been staged). We were very tempted to go into Madame Tussaud's. The after-5:00 reduced price was right, and we'd all had such a great time going to the Madame Tussaud's in Las Vegas in 2013. But we resisted.

Except for some time spent buying souvenir tee-shirts (and a "California" jacket for Dylan) at reasonable prices in a large shirt shop, there was only one other shop where we spent too much time, and not by our design.

Dylan checks out a new filter.

So which shop did we get roped into? A camera shop! When a merchant saw Dylan admiring the equipment in the display window, he dragged him inside before we even knew what was happening. He showed Dylan a new lens and a new filter. I admit, when he demonstrated (via closed circuit TV connected to Dylan's camera) the difference the lens and filter could make in Dylan's photos, even with Dylan's amazing $1,400 camera, we were all impressed, and Dylan was totally sold. Not even the merchant's quote of a combined price of roughly $700 could stop Dylan from giving me that wide-eyed, pleading look...

Even though Dylan had plenty of money put away to afford it, I told him, "Absolutely not!" After years of vacationing in Las Vegas, I'm all too familiar with these types of vendors, who push you to make a quick decision involving large amounts of money. I don't trust them. We got up to leave several times, and each time the merchant improved the offer. He could tell I wasn't interested and really meant to walk away, so he quickly dropped the cost of the lens by $300, offered to throw in the $70 filter for free, and agreed to cover the taxes himself.

So I let Dylan talk me into making the $350 purchase. I made him take the filter and lens outside and try them out before I paid (no bait and switch for me!), and when we returned home I told him to check online to see what the lens and filter would have cost us if we'd waited to purchase them online. As it turns out, the cost was almost exactly the same online as what we'd paid, but I made sure Dylan recognized how badly he'd have been ripped off if he'd simply paid the original amount up front. I'm sure the merchant thought at first we were a couple of rubes, easy marks, but you just don't mess with me when it comes to money! And the lens and filter truly are of excellent quality, which will benefit Dylan when he does his next three photo shoots of senior pictures for friends.

From now on, though, we'll breeze right by those photography shops while on vacation!

This sign is actually located near Pier 45, along Jefferson Street.
This was our last look at it as we walked toward Ghirardelli Square.

And so we left the camera store and continued toward Aquatic Park at the west end of Fisherman's Wharf, toward the enticing chocolaty world of Ghirardelli Square...

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