San Francisco

Trip Start Jun 27, 2009
Trip End Aug 07, 2009

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Where I stayed
Walnut Creek

Flag of United States  , California
Sunday, July 19, 2009

San Francisco

Well today began with a ride on the Bart. No, we didn't ride on a spiky haired kid from Springfield with yellow skin, it’s the Bay Area Rapid Transit. We were so lucky that the place we’re staying in is right next to a Bart station which goes directly into San Francisco. So, after catching the first train at 8:20am, we were off to the Golden Gate City.

Now we had a pretty ambitious day planned. The people we’re staying with know a lot about the city, so they gave us a general route to take and about a million and one places to go and visit. We, of course, wanted to see them all so we planned for a big day of walking.

After exiting the train at Powell Street we needed to take the cable car to the far end of the peninsula which San Francisco sits on. The cable car line was already about 2 blocks long even at that early hour, but it didn’t matter. We purchased our overpriced tickets and stood online and waited to hop aboard one of the famous cable cars. (check out the video of them turning the cable car around)

Once on the cable car a peculiar things happens….it goes up the steepest hills EVER. Sure, you’ve seen pictures of San Francisco..the hilly streets, etc. But, to be in a cable car on one (or walking on one later as we learned) is a truly awe inspiring moment. The cable car was packed but enjoyed the ride.

We got off at a place called Ghirardelli Square which is named for the famous chocolate company there. They even have a coffee shop where you can get premium Ghirardelli drinks like 'Savory Drinking Chocolate.’ So, naturally, that’s what I got! Imagine a melted bar of the finest chocolate with a little bit of milk….that was what I was drinking. It still burns my stomach to think about…but it was so delicious.

We then meandered over to the wharf/pier area where the National Park Service has many old ships on display as museums. Best part: this weekend was a free weekend for all National Parks, including this. Free stuff is always the best. We toured a large freight schooner built during the 1880’s, several large famous tugboats, and a late 18th century paddlewheel ferry boat. All very cool stuff.

We perused some nearby shops and then headed back south and took some pictures of the local, and very famous attractions. These included the fog shrouded Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz Island. Sure, we didn’t go to any of them today (time was a factor) but they sure look awesome from afar.

We moved on to some local touristy shops in the area and then headed south back towards our starting point. It’s not far…perhaps 2.5 miles. But factor in the MOUNTAINS you had to climb to get up just one city block and that 2.5 miles becomes a marathon. The pictures just don’t do justice, the only way to experience San Francisco is to go there in person…walk up the streets for yourself, and feel the immense pain from lactic acid build up in your calves. It’s awful. Of course, when you get to the top…you have a great view and an easy walk down the other side!

We made our way (albeit slowly) through Little Italy and into Chinatown. This Chinatown is the countries’ largest, and with good reason. It was fun to go through the small local stores and to experience the culture shock that many people go through coming to America for the first time. Virtually no signs were in English, and to understand how difficult it must be for someone who does not speak the language to get by in a country was a truly invaluable lesson for us.

We even ate lunch at a little Chinatown diner. The food was diner quality, but we were still proud of ourselves to break away from what we were comfortable with to try new places and cuisines.

Following Chinatown went to the cable car museum (also free!). It’s at the intersection of 3 different cable car lines, and museum shows you up close the intricate workings of the pulley system that powers the famous streetcars. Long story short: massive electric motors turn pulleys…which in turn pull cables which run under the streets of San Francisco. The cable cars ‘grip’ onto these cables which makes them move. It’s that simple!

We made sure to get in our obligatory coffee break (an hourly occurrence) and then continued south to Union Sq and Market Street. We did some window shopping and saw some local artists performing before heading further down Market Street towards a section of town called ‘Castro.’ We had been told that we could not miss what our friends called ‘the best Indian food in town.’ We love Indian food, and since they’re both Indian we figured we could trust them. The Castro section was about 5 miles from our first stop in northern San Francisco, so you can imagine how tired we were by the time we got there. The walk was totally worth it. Amazing Indian food.

By this time it was about 5pm and we decided to head back out to the suburbs for some much needed rest.

As of this writing we’re planning another day in San Fran tomorrow, however Jen’s eye seems to be getting worse so the day might be spent instead out here in Walnut Creek seeking out a doctor. We have our fingers crossed for now though!
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