We are currently stuck in the San Francisco airport, our flight delayed an hour and a half. This is a much nicer airport than San Jose, where we flew into. There, even though we were on a 757, we had to walk down a portable walkway and through the rain to the gate. Yes, there was 100% chance of rain on Friday, and it was indeed raining. But Dave picked us up outside without any trouble and took us straight to his favorite Indian place, the Amber restaurant.
It was a Friday night, and the lobby was jammed with people waiting to be seated. One whole wall was covered in Zagat plaques. We finally got seated, then had to wait even longer for our menus. I wanted to try a mint, lemon drink, but our waiter wouldn’t let me. “Have you had it before? I don’t think you’ll like it.” So I ordered a chai and immediately discredited us as stupid Americans who don’t wait until after dinner to drink tea. It was the best chai I’d ever tasted, though. Berck couldn’t find lamb vindaloo on the menu, but he asked, and our waiter said, “Yes, of course, we can make lamb vindaloo.” We also ordered a couple vegetable samosas (delicious) and a mixed meat appetizer consisting of a skillet of sizzling onions with chunks of lamb, ground lamb, and chicken. The ground lamb was delicious, especially in the dark plum sauce, and the chicken was tender and juicy and cooked just right. But the lamb cubes… oh, it was the best lamb Berck and I had ever tasted. It was cooked just right with a perfect amount of seasoning. Along with the lamb vindaloo, we had the best chicken tikki marsala we’d ever had and some average spinach and cheese, which we hadn’t planned on ordering, but the waiter asked, “Aren’t you going to order a vegetable?” and then tried to push the sautÃ©ed okra. Berck was thrilled with his lamb vindaloo, declaring it the best he’d ever tasted. I’m not a huge fan of lamb vindaloo. I like hot, but I like lots of other flavors mixed in too and thereby delighted by the chicken.
After supper Dave took us on a walking tour of Stanford, where he graduated from law school, in the dark and rain. It was a light northwest rain, and we had on our waterproof jackets. We had a beer at his favorite dive and then went to his apartment nearby. Dave’s apartment has one bedroom, in which is his bed and a dresser. The living room has a table and four chairs, a couch, a desk and chair, two bookcases and an entertainment center with a huge flat screen. It’s very much a bachelor pad, especially for a young associate who spends most of his time at the office. It was very late, so I went to bed, while Berck and Dave stayed up talking.
We woke up at 7 in the morning when my mom text messaged Berck. She’d left me a message on my phone the night before, but it never showed that I had a voice mail until the next morning when I turned my phone on after turning it off overnight. Berck wouldn’t let me go back to sleep, and we wanted to let Dave sleep in, so Berck surfed the Internet and I read a Buffy graphic novel in Dave’s room.
When we were all ready to go, we stopped at the store and bought some water and Wheat Thins. Then we headed up into the hills in Dave’s BMW 330 convertible. The sky was completely overcast, but it wasn’t raining, so we put the top down and then enjoyed the ride as Dave “carved up” a wonderfully twisty road. Being pushed back into your comfortably firm leather seat by accelerating uphill is a great feeling. The only complaint I had about the car was the non-existent legroom in the back. I finally stretched one leg across the back seat and wedged it against the driver’s door.
We disembarked at a trail head and headed down into a beautiful valley. The hills were covered in thick, long grass, while the valley was home to sprawling canopied trees covered in fern-like moss. It looked a lot like the mountains of North Carolina except without the dense undergrowth. Then it was steeply back up again, and I couldn’t keep up with the boys anymore. When I finally did arrive at the top, I was rewarded with Wheat Thins and an amazing view of the Bay. The rest of our six mile hike was easy.
Next we drove to the coast, and Dave was a good sport and kept the top down, even though it was windy and chilly. I liked having the top out of the way so I could see the redwoods as we drove through them, even if I had to put on my hood and snap closed my collar to keep the wind from flogging me with it. We stopped at a rare beach lagoon amongst the cliffs, and Berck dipped his foot into the Pacific. We climbed a nearby hill and admired the Pacific’s waves crashing into the cliffs stretching in either direction.
Next it was across the Bay Bridge into Berkeley where we ate at Zachary’s Chicago Pizza, which also had a wall covered in Zagat plaques. The stuffed crust pizza was delicious, and we barely managed to finish a medium. Dave drove us up to the university science building for the sunset (he knew what time it was supposed to set by checking on his iPhone), and even though it was still too overcast to see the sun actually set, it was still a beautiful view.
Next we found a parking place down by the main part of the campus, and Dave showed us the free space. It was full of rainwater, so we decided it was in international waters. Then we walked up to the tower, which was busy carilloning and admired the view from its base. The architect positioned it to look straight out through the Golden Gate, long before a bridge was built across it. We walked back down into Berkeley town to a music store and browsed, then walked back to the car, admiring the amazing selection of restaurants to choose from. There were Nepalese, Burmese, Vietnamese, Chinese, Mexican, Italian, and the list went on and on. Back in the car we drove to downtown Berkeley as opposed to campus side Berkeley and found a brewery. I ordered a red, and Berck ordered a black, but we discovered we liked each other’s better. A band was setting up to play outside, but it started to drizzle, so they packed up to play inside. It was the first time it had rained on us all day, even with a forecast of 80% chance of rain.
Berck was admiring all of the “amazing” pizzas being carried by us as we sipped our beer, so Dave decreed it was time for burritos. We drove back across the Bay Bridge, this time having to stop and pay four dollars. They have it right and figure that if you’re going across the bridge one direction, you’re most likely going to have to go back one of these days, so they only bother to charge you once. It really does make more sense than anything else. Dave drove us into the Mission District and warned us not to leave any valuables in the car. Then we walked a couple of blocks to a Mexican place with an assembly line of very fast moving Latinos behind the counter. There were no Zagat plaques but there was a CitySearch award and what looked like a very old plaque from the International Artist’s Club for “BEST TACO.” Dave recommended the Super Burrito with carne asado, but you could choose any meat, which were all listed in Spanish then translated into English. They included “beef head meat,” and “TRIPAS,” which looked like it had been added later and was not translated. I was very tempted to order “beef head meat,” but they were just chopping up several pounds of extremely tasty looking slices of meat. I ordered my Super Burrito with the stuff they were cutting up. The guy taking my order, glanced over, nodded, and said, “Beef.” So I ended up with the same thing as the boys. We also all three got Mexican Cokes. Berck collected all three salsas for us, but the burritos were so tasty, I didn’t bother with them. There was that yummy beef, deliciously seasoned whole pinto beans, sour cream, cheese, slices of perfectly ripe avocado, a little rice all wrapped in a soft, slightly grilled tortilla. It was indeed an excellent burrito and well worth a drive into the Mission District at night. Dave watched Berck inhale the last corner of his burrito and proclaimed that he’d never seen anyone finish a burrito faster than he could. Berck answered that, if being a pilot didn’t work out, he was going into competitive eating.
With full bellies, we headed south again to Palo Alto for gelato. It was very, very good gelato for the States, even if you could get it in a waffle cone (I highly recommend it). By now it was raining pretty steadily, but we found shelter beneath a tree, so our ice cream didn’t get too wet. Finally, we were back home at the apartment. I took a shower, read a paragraph of my Heinlein paperback, and fell straight asleep.
Next: Day 2