Tag Archives: California Academy of Science

Not According to Plan


Not According to Plan

September 1 – 5, 2011

Ever have a trip where everything does not go according to plan? Where despite your hours, days, and weeks of planning things just do not unfold the way you’ve planned it in your head? Well parts of Stacey’s and my trip to San Francisco in September 2011 was one such experience. Here’s what went “wrong”…

Being the researcher that I am I did my homework and scoured the guide books and the internet for San Francisco before we went on a 4 day trip in September 2011. I had each day planned out. At least the highlights. The in-betweens I just let happen as it will. A few things didn’t go as planned though …

Whitcomb Hotel San FranciscoFirst of all, the historic Hotel Whitcomb that I had researched so carefully online ends up being on the wrong side of the Tenderloin District. Strictly speaking by the street address I thought we’d be safe, but what  I didn’t know was that the street addresses don’t necessarily correspond with the building address. Don’t get me wrong, there is absolutely NOTHING wrong with the Hotel Whitcomb! It has a neat history. The lobby is breathtaking. The historic architecture is impressive. The rooms are apparently quite spacious in comparison to other San Francisco hotels. And there’s a Starbucks in the lobby. The only problem was if you walked out the door and turned right you were smack dab in the middle of The Tenderloin! We asked the Maitre D’ when we first ventured out of the hotel how to get to Union Square.

“That’s easy,” he said.  “Turn right and walk straight about 4 blocks. Then turn left onto Powell Street by the Cable Car turnaround.”

Sounds easy right? Well technically yes. It would have been hard for even a directionally challenged tourist like me to get lost with those directions. The problem arose in the line BETWEEN Points A & B. I was struck by the beauty of the architecture of the majestic old buildings. Stacey, on the other hand, was struck by the fact that many of the windows were barred and/or boarded up. And he noticed that many of the faces surrounding us were not Caucasian and did not appear to be very friendly! So while I was trying to take pictures of the men playing chess on the sidewalk, Stacey was literally dragging me the Hell out of there! (Needless to say we took the Streetcar to and from the hotel after that.)

Then we were with our friend Jeanne on the beach at the far east end of Golden Gate Park when a thick pea soup fog rolled in. It was like watching a wall roll over the Bay.  We did manage to see the Golden Gate Bridge before the fog enveloped it in the mists and we snapped a few pics before, during and after. That fog dogged our steps the rest of the trip on and off. And we never did get the clear photo of the Golden Gate Bridge that we wanted. But we did get to spend time with our friend Jeanne and she told us about the infamous San Francisco fog. And I think the pics of the Bridge disappearing into the mist may be even more powerful than the full Bridge may have been!


 But the piece de resistance was the venture into the Mission District to see the murals and to sample some great Mexican food that I’d planned for September 4th. We went to Grace Cathedral in the morning and I’d planned on munching on a burrito or something Mexican in the Mission for lunch. We headed to the BART (Bay Area Rail Transit) station and then we stalled. I had NO idea what train to catch. We tried in vain to figure it out for about 10 minutes. I even asked a couple of attendants for directions. They seemed as lost as we were. Then I happened to spy a couple of men in uniform – police uniform to be exact. I hesitated only a moment before I approached them with my hands pressed together in prayer.

Mural: The culture contains the seed of resistence...“Can you please help us”? I begged.

“Where are you trying to go?” one of the officers responded, smiling.

“We’re trying to get to The Mission to see the murals but we can’t figure out what train to take”! I said.

Now I had BOTH of their attention. They came out from behind the desk. One of them said, “you DON”T want to go there”!

The other officer said, “You’re likely to get stabbed, mugged or shot as soon as you step foot in the area! The Mexicans would look at your fancy camera equipment and see $ signs! Even WE do not like to go into that area”!

“In our opinion you should make alternate plans for the rest of your day”! they said together.

I’m still disappointed we didn’t get to see the murals OR have amazing, cheap Mexican food, BUT I am VERY grateful that we talked to those police officers!

Even though some of my plans went awry on our San Francisco trip I still see it as a great trip! Am I disappointed with the location of the Hotel Whitcomb? Sure. But it’s close to the action in Union Square where I wanted to be and it’s a grand old hotel steeped in history. Am I disappointed that fog shrouded the Bridge for most of our trip? You bet. But we got to witness that fog roll in like a steamroller and saw the Bridge seemingly disappear as if by magic and spend time with Jeanne. And finally, am I disappointed that I didn’t get to see those murals? Absolutely. But I didn’t get robbed and I DID get to go on a marvelously entertaining Hop On Hop Off bus tour, spend some time at the de Young Museum with Picasso, stroll under the fishes at the California Academy of Sciences, AND see the “Painted Ladies” and a street sign for “Cole Street”, or watch the best street tap dancing EVER at the corner of Powell Street– none of which we probably would have had time for if we’d gone to the Mission.


I guess the old saying is true: when one door closes another door opens!

And although it annoys the hell out of me, it has provided Stacey with ammunition to hold against me and tales to regale our friends and family with.