Road Trip 2009: Day Five

Now I know why my mother, the National Park junkie, wanted to come with us on this trip.  We visited several amazing National Parks and Historic Sites in and around San Francisco, and were blown away by the beauty and history of this city.

We decided to start the morning off at The Presidio, the original Army base that has been converted into a National Park and Historic Site.  It’s perched on the hill, overlooking the bay, and the view is incredible.  We stopped by the original “Officer’s Club,” which is where the park’s Visitor Center happened to be.

Outside of the club were two cannons, both dated 1671.  Turns out these are Spanish cannons from when the Spanish owned the site (before it became a Mexican posession and finally a United States Army base).    They are also the oldest cannon anywhere in the United States.  Three hundred and thirty-eight years old.  What history they have seen–what history they have been part of!

Fort Point and the Golden Gate
Fort Point and the Golden Gate

Going inside, we found a building that had been restored in the 1930’s (and again in the 1990’s).  It was huge and impressive building, and off in one anteroom we saw a strange assortment of wall decor, furniture, and more.  What we found out was that this room had nearly 300 years of history in it.  The walls of the building are original adobe, built by the Spanish.  In the mid-1800’s the US Army built wooden walls around the already standing adobe, and all restorations have been built around these original walls.  As Robyn and I said, “To think of how many generations have stood in this room–the history they have made–that they have been witness to.”

We drove by the old brick barracks, which are being converted into museums and more, and also saw where they are building the Walt Disney Family Museum, which is being opened by Walt’s family and will house historical documents, pieces of Disney’s personal history (including the Carolwood Pacific, the miniature train from his backyard in the Hollywood Hills).  It opens in September.  Man, missed it by one month.

From there we went to Fort Point, an 1830’s fort built on the entrance into San Francisco Bay.  It was built to garrison more than 500 men and is the exact same style of fort as Fort Sumter (where the first shots of  the Civil War were fired).  It sits right below the Golden Gate Bridge, and in fact, was saved when the architect of the Bridge saw the amazing brickwork and declared it a perfect example of the mason’s art.  So impressed was he that he actually built an arch into the underside of the bridge to frame it.  We climbed through the entire fort, all the way to the top, standing under the Bridge and looking to the Pacific Ocean.

From there, it was a quick stop at Crissy Field, the oldest original air strip in the United States, then we headed into town to find the famous “Painted Ladies,” classic examples of Victorian architecture.  After finding these, and parking right in front of them so we could get Robyn’s picture, we were thankful once again that we had driven.  We were able to see so much of the city on our own!

My View from the Front of the Cable Car
My View from the Front of the Cable Car

We then went for a traditional tourist activity: the San Francisco Cable Car.  After buying the round trip tickets, we boarded.  Austen and I stood on the rail the entire trip and I have to admit, it was one of the most fun things I have ever done.  Austen had a blast, and it was tough to actually keep him from swinging around on it once he finally realized it wasn’t going to go 100 miles an hour.

We ended up in the shopping district, caught the next available car back and ended up at Ghiradelli Square, where we ate delicious sundaes for dinner.  After that we took what is called the 45 Mile Scenic Drive and saw some of the most beautiful sites.  I’ll post more on those later.

All in all, though, I’m surprised by how much I liked San Francisco.  But I didn’t leave my heart there.

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