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A San Francisco Getaway

Author: Adrienne L.
Date of Trip: January 2011

Saturday afternoon found us driving into San Francisco, one of our favorite cities. No matter how many times we cross the Bay Bridge, the city skyline never ceases to energize us. It is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. As we entered the city we were once again spellbound by the magic that is San Francisco. It offers beautiful architecture, shopping, dining, cultural activities and the seemingly endless number of sights to be found around every corner.

We had ventured into the city to attend two major events, the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition at Fort Mason Center and the Chinese New Year’s Parade at Union Square. For a short itinerary, we had no time to waste. Our hotel of choice for this weekend was the Handlery on Union Square, which allowed us to be only steps away from the parade route. We could see that Union Square had already been transformed into a VIP viewing section complete with bleachers and television reporting locations. The very atmosphere was electric in anticipation of the evening’s events. After all, this parade has a 150-year history and is the largest Chinese New Year’s parade outside of China.

After checking into our hotel and grabbing a quick lunch of minestrone soup and an organic hand-ground chicken sandwich we hopped into a cab and headed to our first event at Fort Mason. The San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition features more than 300 wineries, all medal winners who bring their offerings to the Festival Pavilion to pour for more than 5,000 people. Very few events deliver this much wine in a single setting. In spite of the cold rainy weather, the event was well attended by a very jovial crowd who was quite hesitant to depart at the end of the afternoon. Finding a cab to take us back to Union Square proved to be challenging. After waiting 35 minutes for a cab, we decided to start negotiating with a limo driver. A deal was struck and we were off — on the ride of our life. Our driver handled the limo like he had the pole position in the Indy 500. We knew that he was in a hurry to deliver us and come back for more passengers. His concern was profit — ours was survival. After a wild ride across the city (and I do mean wild), we paid the driver, kissed the ground and counted our blessings.

Back at the hotel we noticed that the crowds were already gathering to enjoy the Chinese New Year’s parade. So we donned warmer clothing and went out to join the reportedly 800,000 spectators who had come to celebrate the Year of the Hare. The parade was a pageant, a sensory feast of beautiful colors, exquisite costumes, live music, martial arts demonstrations and larger-than-life floats.

Sunday morning found us at one of our favorite people watching spots, the window seat near the entrance of the Starbucks at the corner of Powell and O’Farrell. While sipping our tea, we were entertained by a kaleidoscope of humanity in every possible shape and size (and hair color). In a matter of a few minutes we saw people representing all walks of life and we were reminded of the joy of being alive and part of life in a vibrant city. There is absolutely no place like San Francisco, the city by the bay. Once again we were spellbound by its magic and can’t wait to visit again.

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