How’d we end up in Sausalito?

The best kinds of weekends are the ones that surprise you. Or maybe, more accurately, the ones in which you allow yourself to be surprised — when you put in a little impetus up front [take a different route home from work, say, or wander aimlessly through new neighborhood] and then let the currents carry you where they may.

So it was that an innocent bike ride with MJW up to the North Beach festival in June extended into a cruise along the Embarcadero and Crissy Field and then, “while we’re over here,” a detour to the edge of the Golden Gate Bridge and finally, “since we made it this far,” an impromptu jaunt across the bay to Sausalito. The views were gorgeous — the miraculously fog-free afternoon offering a glistening cityscape — and the ride leisurely, winding down from the bridge into a former military post, through a wooded neighborhood, and emerging onto Sausalito’s bay-front main street.

I suppose I had a vague notion of a yacht-clogged harbor and New England clam shacks, but Sausalito was both more and less cliched than I expected. We locked up next to the rows of rented Blazing Saddles bikes near the ferry dock — the ferry subsists on tourists too tired to propel themselves back to the city — and passed an entrepreneurial taxi equipped with a bike rack offering the same cross-bay ride. Downtown was flooded with Hamptons-esque boutiques and kitschy seafood restaurants; kids slurped ice cream and wove around pearl-wearing middle-aged couples out for an early dinner.

Continuing north, though, the vibe shifted back in time. A single-screen theater advertised the latest family-friendly release. A fleet of Hobie catamarans piled on the lawn of a small wharf, awaiting checkups. And we stumbled into the magical Galilee Harbor.

An independent community of artists, boat builders, and all sorts of creative types, Galilee is a jumble of wildly painted houseboats on the fringe of town. At the entrance to the dock, a small garden of herbs sprung from wine barrels and scaled driftwood trellises, and a clothesline flapped with baby clothes faded to varying shades of pink. A yellowing piece of paper in a glass case welcomed visitors and invited us to take a tour [the older, historically-significant boats even had information plaques posted in front]. Why thank you, we’d love to!

As we poked around, two little girls in shorts and Toms hopped off the dock onto a half sunken hunk of wood and squatted around bits of seashells. The other adults passing through asked the girls if they could swim, and I laughed to myself. I grew up like that too, playing in and around the water with whatever toys washed ashore. Swimming was akin to walking, and walking around was as good as any game. Seeing kids playing in SF still surprises me — concrete and music festivals and vintage designer duds don’t add up to adolescence in my mind — but Galilee harkened back to familiar roots . . .

A marriage proposal? A grounding? Wish I knew Jamie well enough to guess.

When the road ran out of attractions, MJW and I, like the tech-drowned SFers we are, turned to Yelp for our next move. What’s this? Something called “Le Garage” on the waterfront of what looks like an industrial wharf? Oh wait, a French bistro, with stellar reviews?

Of course we couldn’t resist. MJW was sold on the moules frites [actually just on the mussels in white wine, but when the waiter suggestively asked about fries, well, one must honor the classic combination] and I had the day’s salad special, with blue cheese stuffed figs and crispy pancetta. Everything was fantastic, of course, right down to the crusty bread wrapped in newspaper and the heavily-accented French bartender I ogled while we ate.

Wholly unprepared for nightfall, we raced home against the fading sun and cold ocean wind; just one sacrificial stop made to snap this photo from the Golden Gate Bridge before hurrying on.

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