Walking Around San Francisco
I've used lots of different websites to write about my travels over the years, way back to when Globosapiens was a thing people actually used. Yahoo!Travel was another way of posting itineraries and travel blogs, which I used for a few of my trips back in 2008 and 2009. Months ago, I received an e-mail from Yahoo stating that they were shutting the service down. While I'd practically forgotten it had existed, what with all the newer and fancier ways to plan and write about trips, I was glad for the heads up, and copied the trips I'd written about on Yahoo. I'll be reposting the (lightly edited) content here, one trip at a time.
In July of 2009, I boarded a plane to set out for my own California road trip. While I'd explored LA with my family, years earlier, I decided to take advantage of a few friends and relatives who were living in California at the time. One of them was my BFF since the age of seven, Becky, who had moved to Berkley where her husband was attending grad school and while she worked in chemical engineering. Becky and David were just finishing up a trip back east to see both their families, and so, we met at the airport and took BART to their neighborhood, across the bay. We had some amazing vegan Japanese food and stopped by a farmers market with some of the prettiest produce I've ever seen, before crashing on east coast time.
The following morning, Becky and David were up and ready to leave for work by about 8:30. I took a shower, did some dishes, and set out for the BART station. I took the train to Montgomery, as it looked the closest to all the touristy stuff. Getting off, I had only a vague idea where I was, so I popped into Walgreens and bought a city map (I would find some later for free down by the waterfront). I headed downhill toward Fisherman's Wharf and was surprised to find it not entirely downhill. Ended up walking through North Beach - seriously cute, and seemed no smaller than New York's shrinking Little Italy. I passed adorable little café after café, and stores selling the same painted plates we saw time and time again in Umbria.
I also passed some shadier establishments with adult films, toys, etc. Saw my first glimpses of the Transamerica Pyramid (walked right past it) and Coit Tower. As I headed north, I saw my path took me close to Lombard Street, a couple blocks down from the block that makes it the "Crookedest Street in the World". So I hiked up to it, stopping several times along the way to catch my breath and remove my jacket (according to Becky and David, the weather was unseasonably warm). At the top, I asked some Italian tourists take my picture. After that, I headed down toward the water, catching my first glimpse of the Golden Gate Bridge. That made me smile.
I found Ghiradelli Square and just sat on a bench for a while and relaxed. Eventually, I went in to the chocolate store, where I sampled a peanut butter-filled square and bought an assortment in a SF-decorated box. After that, I headed along the waterfront. By this point, my flats were killing me, rubbing the outside of my little toe and the inside of my heel. So I stopped and bought some overpriced flip flops at the first place I could find. Feet safe for the moment, I headed on to Pier 39, which looked really touristy, but worth checking out. Wandered around, took some pictures, saw on the map there were sea lions nearby.
As the map said, you hear them before seeing them. So freaking cool - there were dozens of them, lying out on floats in the water, with Alcatraz in the background. After watching, snapping pictures of, and filming them, I found a little take away place for lunch and got a crab cake, fries, and a lemonade. West Coast crab cakes seem to be stringy white meat and lots of sprout-ish filling, but it was pretty darn good for what it was. After lunch, I decided to walk down to Pier 23 to see if Alcatraz ferry tickets were available the following day. I ended up overshooting the pier by about ten piers while talking on my phone. Walked back (by this time, the flip flops were starting to rub too), found Alcatraz tickets were sold out till the following week, and walked up to the corner of Bay and Tyler to catch a cable car.
A one way ride on the cable car cost $5 and there was a long line, but it was something I wanted to do anyway, and there was no way I could ever walk back up to catch the BART. I figure a taxi would've cost more. I got a seat on the inside, but one of the operators asked if someone could move for a father with a baby, so I did. Even after they got up, I stayed standing, as it afforded a better view of the bay. I hopped off near Chinatown. San Francisco's Chinatown is also different from New York's - brighter, airier, the shops less seedy (though I love that about New York's Chinatown). Also, not nearly as crowded. Lots of pretty buildings though. I went in a few stores for the first time that day.
After passing the Chinatown gate and taking more pictures, I ducked into a Walgreens and bought a box of Band-Aids for my feet (awesome move, I love that west coast cities seem to have as many Walgreens as they do Starbucks). I also stopped by a Starbucks for water, and popped into the American Apparel store. I passed a Lush either before or after Union Square - this is the shopping center, with Macy's, Banana Republic, Urban Outfitters, etc. Saw a guy with a dog, a cat and a rat. All were lying down on the sidewalk, the rat on the cat's back and the dog right beside them. One lady proclaimed, "That's just not natural." I thought it was pretty darn cool, and kinda summed up my perception of the city beautifully.
I found the BART station, and after a handout to a homeless lady (tourist, hi!), and some confusion as to which platform I needed to be on (once I figured out Eastbay was literal), I got on the train headed back toward Richmond. After Becky and David got home, we went to the Bay Area's "Best Pizzeria", Zachary's. It was really good - we got a Mediterranean pizza. Deep dish, with loads of cheese and tomatoes and green olives on top. Becky ordered a bottle of Coppola Diamond something-or-other, which was good with the pizza. After dinner and an animated discussion about the merits of various Jane Austen novels, we popped into a bookstore for a few moments to look for Persuasion - they had just about every Jane Austen novel but.