|Panorama of SF from the Bay Bridge on the left, to the Golden Gate Bridge and then Sausalito on the far right.|
My earliest memories of this city was back in my early teens. The family drove over from Sacramento where we lived for the day - we couldn't afford a hotel. I managed to get an hour or so to myself and wandered through the enormous Pier One Imports warehouse. This was the time hippie culture ruled and The Beatles were exploring all things Indian from sitars to Nehru Jackets. The large building was full paisley cotton bedspreads, unique metal jewelry, unusual carved wooden offerings and the smell of incense permeated every inch. Fishermans Wharf was a small dock with vendors selling lots of shrimp cocktail and cable cars were laden with tourists. Would any of this be the same? The answer was no. It was time to make some new memories.
Our flights were courtesy of Aeroplan points, so availability dictated we had to take a 6 a.m. flight. I am not a morning person. Getting up at 4 a.m. was brutal, but the only other option was to arrive in San Francisco late in the day with little time to explore. Our flight ended up a dream. It loaded on time and actually arrived 25 minutes early, putting us in San Francisco at 8 a.m. As we couldn't check in until noon at the earliest, we decided to slow the day down by having breakfast at the airport.
There were several ways to get from the airport to the city. We picked the middle ground - a shared ride van. It's a great balance between convenience and cost. The price varies slightly from company to company ($17 to $19 per person plus tip). You pick it up at a stand just like you would a taxi and it takes you right to your door. The only difference is there will be stops to accommodate the other riders. A taxi was the quickest, but more expensive. Cheapest was riding the BART, but we would have had to transfer to a bus while lugging our carry-ons. I thought we might try that on the way back, but I knew we would be tired on arrival and was worried about needing correct change for the bus. I have been stuck before in NYC trying to get on a bus with 2 one dollar bills and a quarter and being asked instead to pay $2.25 in change. What visitor has 9 quarters on arrival?
For a hotel we chose to stay at the Radisson Fishermans Wharf. It was booked through a hotel room sale site so we were able to get a great discount and being right on the wharf meant we didn't have to worry about the additional expense of a rental car. So it all balanced out. Many attractions are within walking distance, especially if you like to explore on foot. The historic F-Line with vintage street cars picks up outside and takes you all the way to the Castro District. One of the cable car routes is about 6 blocks away and several tour bus and hop on hop off buses are available nearby offering different options.
The weather was beautiful, so we strolled through Pier 39 full of shops and resaurants, as well as what is now passing for Fisherman's Wharf - unrecognizable from the past -and Musée Mécanique, an antique penny arcade full of old boardwalk attractions.That was followed by a free walking tour led by a volunteer from SF City Guides (tips at the end encouraged and go to support the organization). During the summer up to ten guided walks are offered every day at a wide variety of locations. We chose Fisherman's Wharf: A Hidden History as it was supposed to offer a behind the scenes look into the history of the area. I usually love these and we had a lovely guide who picked us up at the starting point - Ghiradelli Square. Unfortunately she didn't have the gift of making history come alive and spent most of her time reading out dates and history from a book. Disappointing as she was a truly dedicated individual who wanted this to be great for us.
After discreetly slipping away from the crowd, it was time for a quiet spot to relax and a enjoy a beer. I love architecture and am always snooping as I walk, so had noticed a quiet bricked in atria off the main street where Jack's Bar offered an outside patio dining area. There wasn't a lot of shade, but we did manage to snag one of the few tables under a tree. This place has been around a long time according to the vintage signs on display. Their specialty - 85 brews on tap. On this hot sunny day, it was great to sit outside in the shade, enjoy an icy cold brewski and a bit of a breeze. The only negative? All the drinks for the outside patio were served in plastic beer cups. Somehow just not the right ambiance.
|Left - Coit Tower on top of Telegraph Hill Right - some houses we passed on the way|
|Left - Note the tiny opening at the base of the tree. Right - think about moving your furniture in this house!|
The walls on the ground floor of Coit Tower are covered with Southwestern style murals. These were painted in 1934 by a group of artists and depict life in California during the depression. While it is free to walk around here, to go up the elevator to the observation deck for a 360 degree city view costs a small fee - $7 for adults, $5 for seniors and teens, $2 for children 5-11 and under 4 is free. I love to find a high point in every city I visit so I can view it from above. This was perfect. In addition to the cityscape, I saw the Transamerica Pyramid (still the tallest building in SF but probably not for much longer), the venue for the July 2013 America's Cup, rooftop patios/tennis courts/concrete sunning deck and coins on window ledges that were slipped through cracks in the frames. My best guess is that anyone leaving a coin also makes a wish.
|Start of stairs at Coit Tower - Hanging garden using sacks - Front door of house tucked along stairway|
|Outside dining Pomegranate Margarita One section of the large inside dining.|
So ends day one. It had a little bit of everything - just wished it had been longer.