Monday, May 08, 2006


We went to visit the kids in Oakland a few weekends ago. Oakland is on the east side of the bay, across from San Francisco. We drove out and stayed at a hotel in downtown Oakland. On that Friday we took the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit – the SF subway) to San Francisco and walked around for a while. We passed by the main trolley stop, and viewed the normal line of tourists waiting to take the trolley, which I think is usually rated as the number one tourist thing to do in SF. We also wandered up the hills and over to Chinatown, which is the #2 thing to do. B wanted to look at furniture, and we were hoping to find some stores out that way (no luck) but did enjoy a nice warm sunny day, which is unusual for SF. But don’t worry, the rest of the time we were there it was cloudy and wet.

Didn’t take too many pictures. We are more interested in gardens and plants and stuff, so ended up taking a bus over to Golden Gate Park. Got some sandwiches at a small store and had a picnic on the grass. This was in front of the conservatory, by a large area filled with flowers. There were lots of kids wandering around, and in the center was a photographer taking assorted pictures of a wedding couple. Well, we assumed it was a wedding couple, as he wore a tuxedo and the girl wore a long white dress and veil.

You can see the white from the dress in the center of the photo.

While wandering around we saw quite a few dogs. Knowing this was San Francisco, we noticed that the only place we saw dogs was in areas marked ‘no dogs allowed’. And the only place we saw dogs running free were in areas marked ‘keep dogs on leash’. People in San Francisco tend to do the exact opposite of what ‘oppressive government’ requests, it’s been that way there for years. One of the dogs was not of the type that would do well in Vegas.

At least I think that bundle of black fuzz is a dog. It just wandered around smelling things (as dogs tend to do). The guy standing behind him also wandered around, leading me to think that they were together.

We ended up over by a relatively new art museum. Our surveyor son and daughter in law both worked at this construction site when it went up. It’s the De Young museum. We wandered in, but because it was so late, and our son was picking us up, we didn’t hit the galleries. The building itself is interesting, covered in copper and with a wispy framework around the tower.

The area across from the museum was filled with these strangely trimmed trees, which haven’t fully leafed out yet. They are all laid out symmetrically, and were very interesting.

While in Oakland we wandered down to the Jack London Square area, which is the new touristy section of town on the bay. It’s filled with buildings and tourist shops, but unfortunately does not seem to be doing well, as a large number of storefronts were vacant. Walking around looking for a place to eat we came across Yoshi's. This is a Japanese restaurant that has an attached club. I had not heard of it, but B always listens to the local jazz stations, and she was quite excited.

There seem to be only three or four clubs in the US where live jazz is presented and recorded. Most are in New York, but Yoshi’s is the only one on the west coast. Many of the songs she hears on the jazz station were ‘recorded live a Yoshi’s’. So we ate there, and being a Thursday night seemed to be relatively open. We were able to purchase tickets for the 10pm music session, and she was quite happy to be there. Nice atmosphere, groups of four at small tables with drink service.

I was very surprised, as tickets were only $15. This is an unusual price, as the cheapest show in Vegas is $60. There are some casino bars where you can listen to live music for the price of a drink, but unfortunately the groups playing there are usually worth that price.

Yoshi's is located on Washington Street, which is the major road along the bay. Oakland has a very large shipyard, which is located at the end of Washington. Dual railroad tracks run down the center of the street, and trains go by quite often. They service the shipyard, going back and forth with assorted boxcars and stuff, and piles of shipping containers. This is the western terminus for Amtrak passengers, as it has been for quite a while. When trains first came out to this area of the coast passengers would get off here and ride the ferry over to San Francisco, as they still have to. Trains from LA and south to run along the peninsula on the west side closer to SF, but coming from the east this is where you would end.

This is one of the last places in the US where trains still run on public streets. Common a hundred years ago, now there are too many cars and people to make it practical. But with all of the buildings and businesses in Oakland it’s not possible for the railroad companies to change. While eating at Yoshi’s we saw four trains go by – two Amtrak passenger trains and two cargo trains. One was almost a hundred cars long. Since the trains go rather slow because of the traffic it took quite a while for this one to pass, closing down the cross streets and pedestrian access all the while.

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