It’s still Christmas in San Francisco.

At Union Square

On the way to the airport to send Kate and her boyfriend back to Washington DC yesterday, we drove around San Francisco and saw that people are still enjoying a Christmas spirit. It made me very happy, because I’m certainly not ready to take down my lights or stop eating cookies.

Present Site of Former Sutro Baths

While daylight still shined we drove to Ocean Beach where just to the north you can see the site of the Sutro Baths that were built in the 1890’s and burned down in 1966, late enough that I might have had the chance to swim in them had my grandmother taken me across the bridge from Berkeley where I visited her.

Six of the seven indoor pools of varying temperatures contained sea water that during high tide flowed directly in from the ocean, and even at low tide pumps recycled all the salt water within five hours.

The famous Cliff House is still nearby and can be seen in the background of this postcard. That picture shows its Victorian shape, one of many different forms it has been built into over more than a century. If you click here you can see a slide show of its architectural history.

Evidently the operating costs of the baths were too high to keep them going, and they had been closed not long before a fire destroyed the building. I wonder what it was like to swim there — certainly more pleasant than the frigid water outside, where a wetsuit is needed nowadays. When you see photos of people of the past on the beach they are always in multiple layers of long skirts or pants with hats.

Market Street from Twin Peaks summit

After our group ate dinner we still had some light left, and we drove up the Twin Peaks where the views are wonderful. The moon was just coming up at that point, but we stayed long enough to get this picture including the bright stripe of Market Street.

Then it was a quick drive over to Union Square and the parking garage that is directly underneath. Here I basked under the lights of tall storefronts and the Christmas tree in the middle of the square, and even palm trees with strings of lights.

Street musicians played at various spots around the square. This duo was surprisingly good for their limited equipment, and the drummer even did a fire-drumming-and-eating trick after dousing his sticks with lighter fluid.

An ice rink is set up during the winter months and it was very popular this night, even though 90 minutes will cost you $10. It appears to me everyone is having a magical experience out there on the ice, wearing their scarves and hats and gliding around under the giant Christmas tree. But if I did it, my feet would get all my attention feeling like blocks of ice themselves.

It’s good I got this extra boost of holiday cheer, because I don’t want to miss any of the joy between now and Theophany (Epiphany or Three Kings Day to some of you), and also I have more Christmasy things to write about, and I’ve run out of time and space. More on cookies and grandchildren and such like soon to come.

More Merry Christmas to you all!

Union Square

6 thoughts on “It’s still Christmas in San Francisco.

  1. This lit-up palm trees in the last photo are magnificent! You'd think, being from SoCal, that I would have seen palm trees all lit up like that even including the fronds, but this is a first. I love it.


  2. I love the afterglow of Christmas trees and wreaths and lights. I'm not quite ready to take my lights and trims down quite yet either.

    The baths are so interesting. It must have been so cool to swim there.

    Wishing you many more days of cookie eating. I look forward to your other Christmassy posts.


  3. What wonderful lights!! I love the photos of Macy's and such, b/c I don't get to a big city, hardly ever 🙂 I really enjoyed the slide show site about the Cliff House. I'd love to visit there and have lunch overlooking the sea. Thanks so much, GJ!!


  4. Mmmm, can never have too many lights or cookies! Love the extended Christmas season. I have a Russian friend who throws a Christmas party on Jan 6 every year. It is so nice to be festive again once we've all calmed down from our other Christmas!


  5. Oh, Gretchen…my hometown…city of my heart…yet so changed since my mother took me via cable car to the towns heart at Christmas! I left my heart in San Francisco. Now it is at quiet peace in Victoria, B.C. But I never forget the wonder of a SF christmas….
    Thank you for posting this


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