Aug 07, 2011
Aug 26, 2011
Up early today to get ready for our walking tour. Before we left home we signed up for an Urban Trek - a walking tour of SF with a guide, in a small party of about 7. It was strongly scored on Trip Advisor and we thought it would be a brilliant orientation to the city for us. We duly went on the trolley bus down to the visitor centre and met Anton, our guide, at 9.30. The other people in our group were Mark and Debra from Toronto and Sara from Halifax, Canada. Anton was very thorough and gave us a safety talk about the various types of transport we would be using and then took us down into the underground and explained how it worked. We went one stop and then came up and walked a few blocks. We caught a trolley bus, number 30 through the Stockton tunnel to Chinatown. It was an interesting ride and Anton explained various aspects of life in SF as we went along, like the Asian population now outnumber the Hispanics and blacks in SF. It is the largest Chinatown in North America and we said we would come back tomorrow and have a meal. Along with the history of SF, Anton also gave us a list of good places to eat in the various districts of the city, so that was very useful. Anton told us that SF is a city of 43 hills and we certainly saw most of them today! It was amazing how steep some of the roads were, we went up to Russian Hill where the crookedest street in the city is - it was intriguing to watch the cars going down it, very carefully! The cable car, of which there are 3 lines in the city, also stopped on Russian Hill for the passengers to see the crooked street. Anton gave us some great historical titbits about the 1906 earthquake and how the most damage was not done by the earthquake itself but by the resulting fire - because the water pipes had fractured in the quake, there was no water in the city for the fire wagons to use. While we were stood looking at the crooked street, we noticed a segway tour come by and they all went down the steep incline (rather them than me!) Flo and I agreed that we would like to try using a segway, but most definitely on the flat, not up and down the hills of SF! Anton then took us down to the Marina area of the city and we walked through to the Palace of Fine Arts, an imposing building built for a world trade fair, to put SF back on the world stage following the earthquake. This building was a reconstruction as the original had been built out of flimsy wood and plaster and was torn down, this version is concrete but imposing none the less. Anton told us that there were a pair of swans nesting on the lake called Blue Boy and Martha, who had a cygnet earlier in the year but it had sadly been taken by a hawk. We were all getting a little weary by now, having been walking for about 2 and a half hours so we went up to the area of the city known as Cow Hollow and stopped for lunch for an hour. Anton had warned us to dress in layers, as SF is a city of micro climates - one minute it can be really warm and then you go over a hill and meet the fog - or marine layer as they grandly call it out here. After lunch, we walked across the Golden Gate Bridge (actually international orange, not gold at all) to the first tower. This was definitely breezy and quite busy but the views were phenomenal. Anton told us that when it was built, the bridge was the longest suspension bridge in the world and that when it is windy, it can move as much as 27ft! It only had a safety net over part of it and both Flo and I felt very vulnerable at times, not helped by the cyclists who would also cycle past you in a rush! Still it was worth it to say we had done it and following on from this, we took a bus up to an area called Nob Hill - so called because this is where the wealthy barons of the city built their palatial town houses. We stopped and looked at the outside of the house that was used in the Mrs Doubtfire film and then stopped for a coffee and a cake in a pastry shop, in an area of the city called Cow Hollow. This was the area of the city where all the dairy farms were, once upon a time. We then went back on the bus to Union Square and wended our weary way back to the apartment. We had thoroughly enjoyed our walking tour and could understand why Anton was so highly rated on Trip Adviser. Needless to say after recuperative wine and something to eat, we all slept really well that night.