Riding the lurching cable car straight up a mighty hill, we hopped off in the quiet residential area of Nob Hill, admiring the architecture and long views of the harbor crowded with sailboats, cruise ships, and Navy vessels (it was Fleet Week).
We joined families picnicking in the grass at a hilltop park in Pacific Heights, and watched as the Blue Angels performed aerobatic stunts above partygoers gathered on rooftop decks. Shopping in the trendy boutiques on Fillmore Street took my mind off of my grumbling stomach for a while, as did trying to make it up hills that rival anything Manayunk can offer.
That evening's outdoor wedding at Flora Grubb Gardens, a funky retail garden shop, felt like a quintessential California experience. Sonny and Cher's "I Got You Babe" played as the wedding party walked to the altar. Wrapped in shawls considerately provided for guests who hadn't heeded the invitation's exhortation to "dress warmly," we were handed the wedding rings and asked to silently bless them and pass them on to the next guests. After the bride and groom read lovely vows they had written, their parents stood and led a "honey ceremony" to celebrate the sweetness of life, inviting us all to taste honey from beehives in the bride's yard.
The wedding buffet was plentiful, and more good food and libations awaited at the after-party held in the upscale tavern managed by the groom. To get there, guests crowded into a flame-painted schoolbus named "Lola" that had been converted into a South-of-the-Border, Partridge Family-style party vehicle, with mood lighting, rubber chickens and trolls decorating the walls, and mariachi music blasting from speakers.
We spent the afternoon the next day with my brother and his family, who had traveled from Illinois. Our destination was the recently refurbished Ferry Building along the Embarcadero, a bustling waterfront walkway packed with visitors streaming to touristy Fisherman's Wharf. At the Ferry Building Marketplace we picked up crusty sourdough and French sweet baguettes from Acme Bread Co. and visited Cowgirl Creamery, the famous artisan cheese shop. My brother, an amateur cheesemaker, deliberated for a long time before selecting six types of cheese for an impromptu picnic in the nearby Market Street plaza. Sitting in the October sun, we ate hunks of baguette smeared with local Humboldt Fog and goat's milk Gouda, listened to the drumming of a lively steel band, applauded dudes performing tricks on bicycles, watched clusters of sailors in crisply pressed uniforms, and saw the remains of a Fleet Week marching band straggle past, Blue Angels looping overhead. A simple but memorable meal: Together again, celebrating sustenance and family, we raised our Dixie cups a toast to the bride and groom.
Debra Wolf Goldstein lives in Philadelphia.