I had been looking forward to the day for a month. He didn’t know anything about it, but I had it all planned. I called his boss to get the day off work. I made the reservation and booked the tickets. I couldn’t wait!
When I revealed the surprise to my husband, a big smile broke out on his face. I knew I had made his day, maybe even his year. As we got in the car two days later, there was a great sense of anticipation for the day ahead. The kids and grandparents were looking forward to the time together. And we were free! As we crossed the Golden Gate Bridge, we smiled. For the first time, we were in San Francisco, just the two of us, for the whole day.
We took a deep breath and absorbed the sights and smells at Fisherman’s Wharf. This place had my husband’s name all over it: arcade museum, souvenir shops, and seafood. At the Musée Mécanique on Pier 45, we wandered around the vintage arcade games. He couldn’t wait to bring our kids back to this place. We marveled at the Alcatraz memorabilia in the souvenir shops – do people really want to wear prison stripes? And next came the lunch decision. Which seafood place to choose? He decided on a shrimp salad sandwich on sourdough bread with a side of clam chowder from Alioto’s. He talked about this meal for the rest of the day. It was the highlight of his day, I think, since he talked on and on and on about all the shrimp in the sandwich.
We headed to Pier 33 for our Alcatraz tour. There is nothing more romantic than a tour of a prison. (That is sarcasm.) The day was beautiful – blue sky and a warm California sun – so I hoped it would offset gloomy feelings of entrapment. We happened to arrive on a day where we could tour three parts of the prison that are usually closed: the industrial building, the hospital, and the kitchen. The industrial building had these creepy, broken and rusty windows. The surgery room in the hospital looked like it came out of a horror movie. And the painted knives on the kitchen pantry to ensure the real ones were never stolen was a little disturbing. Chills! I took a break from the tour to gaze upon the city skyline and warm up in the sun. A former Alcatraz prisoner was also there that day signing his book. I was reminded that God can even restore a broken man from such a place as this.
We took the ferry ride back to freedom and then hopped on a Powell-Mason cable car down to Nob Hill. In contrast to the minimal luxuries of the afternoon, we now stood in front of the impressive InterContinental Mark Hopkins Hotel. We gently walked up the red carpeted stairs into the lobby. In the elevator, we pressed the button for the top floor. The sun was just beginning to set as we were seated on the Golden Gate Bridge side of the Top of the Mark restaurant. The view was breathtaking; our meal was delicious; and our desserts were even better. The smores fondue (spiced apple marshmallows and Valrhona chocolate with graham crackers) and the pumpkin tart ginger cake would definitely tie for first place on a Food Network dessert competition. We savored the food and the view while we reminisced over our day of freedom. It had, indeed, been a day worth waiting for!
Go on another adventure with Jenny, and read An Icy Evening on Skates
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