A visit to San Francisco by Queens of the Universe just had to include
a trip to Ghirardelli Square, the site of the former chocolate factory established
by an Italian Domingo Ghirardelli and his wife. They started their business elsewhere
in San Francisco, and when business boomed they moved here in the 1880's. After the
factory fell into disuse the place became derelict, but it was reclaimed and renovated
in the 1960's and is now on the National Historic Register. The lines to get into
the coffee bar and to purchase any goods in the shop were very long. I had never
tasted Ghirardelli chocolate, but there was no way was I going to spend 10 minutes
standing inside just to get a choccie bar. I wandered out to enjoy the sunshine
in the square and admired the fountain, which depicted a breastfeeding mermaid
and several baby/children mermaid (merchild?). This sculpture by a local woman
artist shocked the town officials when it was unveiled in the 60's.
The day was drawing to a close now and we still hadn't ridden on a cable car,
so what other way could we possibly do the return journey to the city centre?
Uh oh, the world and his wife yet again had the same idea as us. We patiently
joined the end of a long line, but before long half of the group fell for the
smooth sales patter of a charming chap with a rather swish stretch limo. The 4
remaining stalwarts declared we couldn't possibly visit San Fran and not ride
the cable cars - the two things go together like bread and butter - even if it
meant standing in the cold evening air for an hour. So Harriet, Ione, Ann-Marie
and I waited and waited. We rubbed ourselves, and each other, to keep warm and
shared 2 scarves between the 4 of us, wondering why the city didn't allow someone
to set up a stall alongside the queueing area selling hot chocolate or roasting
chestnuts on an open fire.
Finally our time came and as we leapt on the car Anna-Marie and I quickly nabbed
a seat on the outside; we wanted to enjoy the whole experience. The car shoogled
it's way up steep hills, braked hard on the crest of hills and rattled down the
other side. It was lovely to be part of the city by night we saw the bright
lights (caught a glimpse of the China Town district), smelt the aroma from a hundred
different eating places and felt the Saturday night beat of a city which partied
on long after we were gone.