Tuesday, December 09, 2008

SFO: Mini donuts vs. Sea Lions

The thing about SFO was that it was never ever going to be a rushing around visiting every tourist landmark holiday. None of our holidays ever are. The main reason is not lack of interest, it is pure unadulterated laziness. The need to relax and take in what we can rather than tick every box in the book. I had done the tourist trail in SFO many many years ago. So long ago in fact that I remembered only snatches of it, vague flashed of images and associated names of touristy places.

Fisherman’s Wharf is an iconic SanFran tourist mark. Somehow all tourists find their way there at one time or another. Fisherman’s Wharf was my one solid memory. Hanging around Pier 39 for an afternoon with my newly-married-and-moved-to-the-Bay friend, sharing a bucket of freshly friend cinnamon sweet mini donuts, watching the really loud sea-lions yell their thing. It was a fun day and we had so much to catch up on that time and the donuts just couldn’t keep up.

V and I made a lazy start on our first sunshine filled San Francisco morning. We walked the mile or so to our recommended breakfast joint and joined the waiting line outside the revered institution of Mama’s at the corner of Washington Square. The green awning is like a hundred others dotted around the city. The line of hungry people outside is the dead givaway of fame. We read the menu in the window and I changed my mind a million times by the time we were ushered into the 'pay at the counter and then sit down' place. We both chose omlettes. V because he is boring like that (and believe me when I say he ALWAYS wants an onion and chilli omlette and went for the closest proximation of it. We (no make that I) fought through breakfast). Mine was a difficult choice. I was deciding between a stack of banana pancakes, cinnamon - orange french toast and an Italian sausage omlette. I had so confused myself by the time I reached the payment point that I just SHOUTED out the thing that was foremost on my mind: Washington Square Omlette. And was it an omlette!! About the size of a small ship, balanced on my plate, served with delicious grain toast and home fries (an American concept, of lightly fried chunks of potatoes – they really do go with everything – I vote home fries for England!), stuffed to the gills with peppers, onions, tomatoes and delectable italian sausage. Of course I ogled at our neighbouring tables, where french toast and pancakes were amidst the order. I was mentally trying to eat their food, complaining in my loudest hindi about how I had made the wrong choice blah blah blah, all while polishing, and I mean POLISHING off my entire (what felt like) 20 egg omlette.

It was all downhill from there. Thankfully this was literal as the road wound its way downwards towards the Wharf. We ambled along slowly and painfully with our very full stomachs. As we approached the Wharf I saw a Steve and Barry, a concept I have always been taken with ut never had a chance to look closely at. Went in to racks of clothes and accessories, very warhouse like, and came out with a pair of small gold sparkly hoops designed by SJP. At $4.99 they were a steal.

Then along Fisherman’s Wharf, taking in the seafood shacks and touristy shops and thronging crowds, till we got to Pier 39. Wandered in to have a look, past the gigantic Christmas tree with a lone busker beneath it. Clearly my memory isn’t what it was in my 20s or I am now a jaded tourist because it all looked more commercial and cheesier than in my mind’s eye. The bay and view of Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge were exactly how I remembered them though – grand and sweeping and with an air of mystery (and fog) surrounding them. V enjoyed the view immensely – his first experience of a city beside mid-town Manhattan (don’t ask) was turning out well.

The big fat sea lions were still bobbing up and down in the K-dock, on floating rafts purpose built for them. Instead of spreading themselves out nicely on the numerous rafts they all piled themselves into one another using only a fraction of the rafts, dangerously tilting some of them till one of them fell into the water. But that didn’t deter them, they’d carry on regardless, swimming right back and hopping up to find themselves a warm body or two to squeeze themselves between. It was a mesmerising few hours just leaning against the railing watching their antics and pillow fights. The bag of hot mini donuts no doubt helped. One of the sea lions did a little turn in the water for us, leaping up and down through the water like a sleek arrow, belying their huge girth and showing off their innate skill. A few others picked fights or courted their fellow sea lions - it was amusing to say the least. If I had to choose between taking home a sea lion and a bucket of mini dounts I'm not sure which way the coin would fall. Maybe I'd eat the mini donuts and then carry away the sea lion! Stomach and hands to good use.

We walked a bit more and generally chatted about nothing at all. To cap off our long day we finally took a slow mo street car all the way to Castro, crossing through the centre of the city, taking in the changing landscape of this up and down, hilly city, watching people mill around their city, going about their daily lives.

By dinner time our humungous breakfast was duly digested.

Mama’s: (On Washington Square) 1701 Stockton Street, San Francisco, CA 94133. No reservations. Closed Mondays.


  1. SFO is a good place, isn't it? Glad to know you are enjoying the trip.

  2. Aah the donuts.. I have always loved the donuts... The first special ones I had, was in birmingham - bullring.. the freshly made donuts wrapped in cinnamon and sugar.. they simply melt in your mouth.. have never had such donuts ever till now...

  3. Anonymous12:16 AM

    guess we know where niece#2 inherited her "change her mind a million times"...and where do you get these donuts?...40in2006

  4. Anonymous7:35 PM

    Really enjoying the blog - especially about SFO. Went there for the 1st time recently - what a fantastic place.