Thursday, January 22, 2009

San Francisco Trip

Well, it wasn't that kind of trip. Mrs. Troubadour is starting a new business, and we were in San Francisco to attend the Fancy Food Show, a three day trade show with hundreds of vendors from all over the world. I was there in my official capacity as escort and chocolate taster. We arrived a full day early so that we could see some of the sights.

We checked into the King George Hotel about 10am on Saturday and hit the town.

The King George was a little shabby, but very clean. The staff was nice, and although the hotel is technically in the Financial District, it is only a block away from the Tenderloin, a neighborhood apparently known for its dense concentration of panhandlers. Many times we'd walk out the front door only to see a panhandler stationed directly below the canopy of the hotel entrance. Most days we'd be accosted by someone asking for spare change at least three different times before we had even walked a single block. Some of the folks asking for money were obviously street people, but more often than not the "friend in need" was better dressed than we were. That's saying a lot. I'll never make GQ's best dressed list, but Mrs. Troubadour is no slouch when it comes to fashion. Maybe this is an accepted way for everyday San Franciscans to supplement their income. I really wanted and expected to love this town more than I did. Perhaps if I'd been able to take a single walk in any part of the city without being treated like an easy mark by almost everyone I encountered.

We did enjoy ourselves. Union Square is just a few blocks from the hotel. We hopped a trolley

and headed in to Chinatown.

We trusted the advice from our Lonely Planet guidebook and popped into a few highly recommended shops. They were full of the crap that you would expect to have a "Made in China" sticker pasted on the bottom , but there was something comforting about seeing the useless junk in its natural environment. A retail yin to the manufactured yang of eastern prosperity. It was worthless and oddly appealing.
After a few hours of hill climbing we stopped inside a likely looking basement restaurant for Chinese food. It was probably the best meal we had during our five day stay in San Francisco. I noticed that we were among only a handful of tourists in the crowded dining room, a very good sign when you are eating Chinese food.

Rejuvenated by a great meal, we decided to give Lonely Planet another shot, and walked to Stockton Street so that we could experience what the guidebook author described as "street market chaos." Truer words were never written. The pungent smells,

beautiful colors, and sometimes strangely disturbing shapes of some of the unfamiliar roots, fruits, herbs and fungi caused the massive crowd to spill out into the wide street as shoppers, deliverymen and tourists all vied for the same piece of ground.

After the market we ended our Chinatown visit at the mural depicting San Francisco life in the 1930's.

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