With the wedding of Jessica and Kris scheduled for the bay area in August, the other Cisco’s gracefully agreed to hold our annual gathering there, giving Joanna and I an opportunity to introduce them to part of a city we’ve come to know so well, Oakland. We’d be staying at the Courtyard Marriott on Broadway between 8th and 9th streets, convenient to the 12th street BART station and ten blocks or so to the kid’s apartment. Lodging is expensive in this part of the country; it’s hard to find anything for under $200 so when I found a rate there of $170, I jumped on it, reserving three rooms for the group.
All seemed to be going well once we got to the airport, unlike our last visit back in April (three hour delay), but our luck turned bad once we’d boarded the plane, the pilot advised that weather in San Francisco was going to delay us two hours, but given the uncertainty, he wanted to keep us on board the whole time. We were to meet Evan at the airport for the BART ride to Oakland, so we were glad to find out upon our eventual arrival that his flight had been delayed as well, allowing us to all travel across the bay together.
Signage for the Courtyard is not readily apparent and in our dazed state we walked right past the entrance for three blocks before pulling out the address and retracing our steps, only to find Sheila, JB, and Doug waiting for us in the lounge. Being the good friends they are, they’d watched us trudge by concluding that the humor factor outweighed the human one and so got a good laugh at our expense. The weekend was off to an official start.
We checked in and seriously parched, walked the half block to 8th and crossed the street stopping partway down at The Trappist, where we’d spend a good part of the afternoon with a few rounds of beer (Stillwater Cellar Door, St. Feuill Triple and a Revisions Dr. Lupulin) and a number of their meat and cheese platters (Prosciutto di San Daniele , Creminelli Calabrese Italian Salami, Normandie Brie, Van Dijk Sharp goat gouda, mustard, cornichons, red grapes, strawberry jam, sunflower seeds, and Acme bread) and one order of a special off the menu hummus.
This is often the best time of any gathering, that first rush of togetherness, the excitement of seeing each other after many months in between, good beer and food to grease the skids.
We spent a couple of hours there, then stopped in at the Courtyard for a brief pause before moving on to our dinner choice for the evening, the Tribune Tavern. Jessica and Kris had arrived shortly before us, straight in from work and we could see their bikes locked outside.
We joined them at the bar for a drink before being seated at a large table near the front windows. I wrote about our meal here with Jessica and Kris in the spring of this year in this post (https://wordpress.com/post/3jmann.com/3632) so I won’t go into our meal this time in much detail except to say that Joanna and I split an order of the fish and chips. Big pieces of fish, twice cooked fries; as good as it gets.
Given our long day, the three-hour time difference, and two-hour flight delay, Joanna and I were done in after dinner so we all decided to turn in early in anticipation of a busy few days ahead. The next morning dawned bright and clear; we’d be blessed with great weather the whole trip, dry with moderate temperatures, blue skies and slight winds.
We all gathered in the lobby and then walked across the street to the hit the Friday Oakland Farmer’s Market that Joanna and I regularly attend when in town. Joanna and I picked up a couple of tubs of the great hummus sold there and split a plate of soft tacos, one fish and one Carnitas, heaven in every bite.
Our next stop was a tour of Oakland’s very own Fortune Cookie Factory. This famous treat is not native to China, but originated in the United States, possibly in the Bay Area in the early 1900’s. A number of folks claim to be the inventors, but the truth is elusive and we will likely never know just who is responsible. The cookies are made on machines original to the 1950’s, ancient contraptions that require the black arts to keep them running. The tour went quickly enough, we learned how they are made and got a flat one (no fortune) straight off the oven and one with a fortune. We were off to a good start.
The consensus in the group was to jump on BART and end over to San Francisco for the afternoon. We disembarked at the Embarcadero station and after many fits and starts (the GPS on our phones went haywire with the tall buildings that surround that area) finally arrived harbor front at the Ferry Building. Designed in 1892 by American architect A. Page Brown in the Beaux Arts style, it was completed in 1898 and at its opening was the largest project undertaken in the city up to that time.
Brown designed the clock tower after the 12th-century Giralda bell tower in Seville, Spain, and the entire length of the building on both frontages is based on an arched arcade. With decreased use since the 1950s after bridges were constructed across the bay to carry passenger traffic, the building was adapted to office use and in 2002, underwent a renovation to redevelop the entire complex.
The 660-foot long Great Nave was restored and a marketplace was created on the ground floor, the former baggage handling area.
We walked up and down the length of the Great Nave, then went outside to catch a street car up to Pier 39, a very popular tourist destination. The place was packed and we dodged distracted pedestrians as we walked its length, then regrouped and at Sheila and JB’s suggestion stopped in at The Charthouse for what would be our meal of the day. Those familiar with this chain know they are famous for their locations, all with remarkable views of the ocean and this one was no exception.
Joanna and I ordered a beer apiece and she the Clam Chowder in a Sour Dough Bowl and I the Prime Rib French Dip (with Monterey Jack, caramelized onions & au jus). With just right French fries, the sandwich was well worth the $16 they charged, especially when you consider the view. We finished up and waddled back out to the Embarcadero and decided to take the ferry back to Oakland instead of returning on BART.
This turned out to be a great idea in that we essentially got a nice cruise across the bay on a beautiful afternoon with the added bonus of not having to return all the way back to the Embarcadero BART station. We arrived at Jack London Square 30 minutes later and walked up to the Courtyard, where we killed time until we set out in the early evening for that night’s festivities.
With a busy and hectic week behind them, Jessica and Kris declined to join us so the group of us hopped on the Broadway shuttle and rode it up to 23rd street to disembark, cross the street and head for Drake’s Dealership. We’ve been here a couple of times with Jessica and Kris (https://wordpress.com/posts/3jmann.com?s=Drakes) so I won’t go into great detail except to say it was a Friday and the place was exploding with people. We ordered a round of beers and managed to find a place to sit at a long table inside the bar area, but left soon after finishing our beers as it was incredibly noisy there, so much so that some members of the party were physically uncomfortable.
Out last stop of the night was better for all, another favorite from prior visits with the kids, Drexl. We had a fantastic night here with Jessica and Kris in the spring (https://wordpress.com/posts/3jmann.com?s=Drexl) and were eager to share it with the Cisco’s. And it was just what the doctor ordered. We secured our first round of drinks (even Doug, a notorious shunner of alcohol ordered a margarita) and made our way to the second-floor loft.
And there we continued with our weekend long conversation, getting into the groove so much that Doug ordered a second margarita and not long after I got my second drink, it turned out JB had ordered me one of our favorites, a VSOP cognac.
Needless to say, I paid a price for the fun we had the next morning, but it was all worth it. Well lubricated and recovered from the sonic assault of Drake’s (it is a really nice place to spend time at in the afternoon) we returned to the Courtyard for sweet dreams and one last full day in the bay area.
Courtyard Marriott: http://www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/oakcd-courtyard-oakland-downtown/
The Trappist: http://www.thetrappist.com/
Tribune Tavern: http://tribunetavern.com/
Oakland Fortune Cookie Factory: https://www.oaklandcookiefactory.com/
Ferry Building: https://www.ferrybuildingmarketplace.com/
Pier 39: https://www.pier39.com/
Drake’s Dealership: https://drinkdrakes.com/dealership/