An Unusual Celebration of Our Independence
A travel sketch is a piece of writing that places strong emphasis on detail and the five senses, allowing the reader to see, hear, taste, smell and feel the world as the writer experienced it. The below post is my second assignment for MatadorU. Enjoy!
Today is Wednesday. A “Hump-day” that happens to be July 4th. What in the world do you do on a July 4th that falls on Wednesday? Work is in order tomorrow, leaving the typical BeerBQ feeling forced and out-of-place.
My mother and I decide instead of the usual celebration to drive the 50 miles north to San Francisco. If you have never driven north on the 101 freeway through the Silicon Valley it is a game of who can spot and recognize the most tech companies. Evernote. Atari. Salesforce.com. If you’re a technology geek such as myself, you can practically feel the buzz of innovation stream through your veins. After 35 miles we pass SFO on the right with a plane hovering for landing over the San Francisco Bay. The bay itself is glowing due to this gloriously sunny, very un-San Francisco like day. Not a single cloud or rolling fog can be spotted on the horizon.
In just under 55 minutes we score the impossible — a street parking spot on the southern end of The Embarcadero. The spot happens to be catty-corner our final destination, The Ferry Building. As we stand on the western side of the street waiting for the white walking man to tell us it’s safe to cross, we are confronted with a towering steeple like structure. One that has stood tall since 1892. An American flag stands atop blowing in the cool breeze reminding us that today is the day we celebrate our independence. The tower is decorated with Art-Deco clocks on all four sides. The hands pointing to Roman numerals, telling us we still have the rest of the day to explore. It’s only 12:40.
The white man flashes and a chirping noise sounds. We cross Lincoln Highway, looking both ways before stepping out over the trolley tracks. A sparkling red pedicab cuts in front as we go to cross The Embarcadero. A small but extremely lean woman with pink hair is pedaling fast, struggling to haul a couple who look the tourist part. They are adorn with bucket hats, large-lens cameras and matching Hawaiian shirts. I shake my head in amazement at their stereotypical attire.
Standing in the 1:00 shadow of the steeple, perched on top a two-story structure with large arched windows, I think “I wish I lived here”. We enter The Ferry Building under a brushed chrome sign that reads “The Marketplace and Ferries.” On entrance it looks like a train station, smaller than I had imagined, perhaps only 30 feet wide but much more extreme in length. The long hallway is illuminated with sunlight peering through the skylights in the roof. It’s almost hazy, as if the fog of San Francisco has been trapped inside. The smell of fresh-baked sourdough bread is floating through the building, my brain signals my stomach to growl.
Slowly meandering through the marketplace of white brick archways we take in store fronts that showcase the specialty foods and agricultural wealth of the Bay Area. Produce that glistens with freshness as if just picked this morning, tableware that has been handcrafted and painted with Pantone colors. The urge to consume is over powering causing us to stop in front of the Cowgirl Creamery. The nutty, mushroomy smell of cheese lingers, it’s repulsing yet stimulates my taste buds. We purchase a half round of Mt. Tam, a delightfully firm, buttery cheese with an earthy flavor.
A stop at Boccalone Salumeria for some handmade cured meat. A round of fresh crusty bread from Acme Bread Company. A small hour-glass cup of Copa di Vino from the Village Market. We take our nibbles and drinks and walk out the east entrance of the Ferry Building to find a spot fit for a small picnic.
A wood bench lines the pier, looking out over the Oakland Bay Bridge, we take a seat and unwrap our goodies. Instantly we are accompanied by two guests. A rather fat seagull perches on the post in front of us and a pigeon, overly stuffed, wades at our feet. Their beady eyes and bulging stomachs sensing our goodies. Ignoring their presence we nosh on meat, cheese, bread and wine. We absorb the contrasting colors of the blue-green bay, the white sails taken by the wind and the cloudless blue sky.
I think “what a perfect 4th of July”. One that reminds me of my own independence and the freedom I have to discover the unseen. I vow to never let this exploratory nature of mine die. To constantly be on the look out for new experiences.
Experience The Ferry Building’s Marketplace & The Embarcadero! Check out my tips below.