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September 18, 2007 > Around & About with Pat Kite

Around & About with Pat Kite

Ocean Beach/Sutro world

Sometimes one must go to a beach. If you grew up near a beach or made sand castles during summer holidays, the ocean has a habit of calling. We are lucky. San Francisco's Ocean Beach is just an hour's drive away. Nor do you have to drive. Just take BART to the Embarcadero. From there, switch easily onto the Muni, taking the N-Judah outbound car. Ride to the end of the line. Water is across the street, across the dune. You can breathe deeply, smell the salt water. Childhood is there, Now is there.

But before you traipse, have a cup of java. There's a coffee house right where you get off the N-Judah. Everybody visits: young, senior, scholar, and student. I usually take my espresso in hand and start meandering toward the Cliff House. You can walk along the beach. You can walk along the paved perimeter path. It's about 3/4 mile with pathway benches. Depending on the day, and time of year, you may see major kite flyers catching the breeze, or surfers catching the waves. Children play, friends walk, dogs catch sticks. If I stroll along the shore, waves tickle my bare feet. I read in a long ago tale that ocean foam was really mermaids in disguise. So, after a bit, I say hello.

Cliff House? Well, I liked the old romantic turn-of-the century building a lot better. This new one is ultra modern. It has a public restroom right as you enter. It has a fancy restaurant downstairs. This has a wonderful expansive view of the ocean. It's a bit pricey, for me, maybe not for you.

I usually traipse onward, another 1/2 block, to the derelict Sutro Baths. You can see them from on high, there's a large viewing platform by the Cliff House. If you can tolerate a 30-degree slope, you can walk down to the Bath remainders. Once upon a time, back in 1896, there were 500 dressing rooms, seven swimming pools, and a concert hall with seating for 8000. San Francisco's Mayor Adolph Sutro, had a vision, and could afford to make it come true.

Now, after fire and time, sea gulls and ducks take the place of bathers in the ruins. Depending on the status of your imagination, you can almost see the bathers, hear the laughter, and listen to the music, carried somehow on breezes from the past.

A funny story: My friend Margaret was visiting from Hertfordshire, England. We walked down to the Sutro Baths. There were only two other visitors. We asked them to take a picture. Margaret got to chatting. Seems the woman belonged to Margaret's quilting guild in Hertfordshire, although they had never met. The world is sometimes a small place.

Ocean Beach, Sutro Baths. If you have lots of energy left, traipse to Sutro Park, where Adolph Sutro once had his mansion. Up that street, about two blocks, is a pleasant hamburger type place, reasonable. Otherwise, meander back to the N-Judah stop.


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