San Francisco Visit

We decided to spend a few days in San Francisco before boarding our ship to Australia, so I booked a hotel near Fisherman’s Warf. Not so much for the area, but it was the best option in our rewards program when I booked. It does have the advantage of being just about one mile from the cruise port so we have the option of walking.

We had an uneventful flight out, flying over some beautiful views of the Rockies and Sierra Nevadas! 

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We hopped on the BART Train from the airport into downtown San Francisco and then then thought we would hop a street car, but neither of us actually looked at the directions for that, so we started walking toward the hotel thinking we could catch transit, after a few blocks we agreed we would hail a cab, after more than half way there, we saw the first cab of the day and decided we would just keep lugging our stuff the rest of the way. I only made a wrong turn once, and Dan caught it pretty fast. We arrived, 1.8 miles later, at our hotel and checked in. I have since decided we do not need to walk to the cruise port with our luggage!

Our hotel is close to many of the tourist attractions in the Fisherman’s Warf area, including the National Maritime Historical Park, which opened on the penultimate day of our stay, the Cannery and Ghirardelli Square and the end of the line for the cable cars. We have had great fun walking around the area and checking out lots of great views of the Bay, including both the Golden Gate and Bay Bridges, Alcatraz, and Angel Island. The hotel upgraded our room and we have a direct view of Alcatraz! We can also watch the many ships cruising on the Bay – cruise ships, ferries, sail boats, fishing boats and huge fully loaded container ships.

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The view from our room! Alcatraz looks pretty close.

As we have been walking around the city we noticed that some of the intersections are not exactly 90 degrees, in fact, many aren’t. This is because some major streets seem to run diagonally, other areas just have more than four streets making the intersection. Whatever the reason, the real estate has filled in with lots of flatiron style buildings, often with lovely round rooms at the corner. We walked by a really nice one with lots of beautifully aged copper accents.

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Just a pretty building on a triangle (not really a block since it only has three sides).

After our fantastic tour of  Chinatown, my California Cousin stuck around for the rest of the afternoon and we took a walk up Telegraph Hill to check out Coit Tower and the views. Coit Tower is a local landmark built in 1933 with a bequest left by Lillie Hitchcock Coit, a local eccentric with some money who apparently loved firefighters and, according to one historical marker, often followed fire trucks in the city. She left funding for a building and a tall (11 stories) tower was placed on a hill overlooking the bay. The building includes murals on the ground level the were painted by various WPA artists depicting life in California during the depression. There were many related to agriculture in the area where we queued up to wait our turn on the original elevator to the top. The views from the top are stunning and it was a beautiful sunny day.

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Coit Tower from the Ferry Terminal
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The view of the Cruise Terminal from Coit Tower
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Looking downtown from Coit Tower
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The Bay Bridge from Coit Tower
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Our hotel is down there somewhere…

We ended this afternoon with a walk down to the financial district to find  a nice place for some California beers – Success! But the postcard I kept to remind me where we went got written and sent off to some deserving relative. Needless to say, we enjoyed the beers, company and the building was a lovely old place with high ceilings and a lovely bar. From there we decided to take the Cable Car back because we had done a lot of walking. Dan and I were walking toward the Cable Car turnaround and discussing what the fare might be when a perfect stranger walking near us said “$7” I said thanks and then asked if we had to buy tickets at the turnaround, he told us we could hop on and pay on the car. We thought that might be the case based on what we could see, but it was nice to have confirmation, so we found a stop, boarded the next car and took the ride. It was cool. We weren’t really in a position to get any good pictures though.

During our Chinatown tour one of the historical facts we got was that the cable cares are actually an artifact of the gold rush. The technology of the cable cars was developed and use in mining and was brought to San Francisco for the gold rush. Pretty amazing technology and infrastructure that it is still in pretty heavy use today. And the hills we climbed were good sized!

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No Cable Car picture, but cute birds
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Another bird, these guys are all over and they are way bigger than Ohio gulls

For our third day we decided to walk along the coast of the bay following the bike trail which took us to Crissy Field, the shadow of the Golden Gate Bridge and the Presido. Lots of military bases are in this area, dating back to when California was under Spanish control. We had many great views of the Golden Gate Bridge and the views of the coastline across the bay really change as you move west toward the ocean.

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Golden Gate Bridge
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Looking back across Crissey Field

We left the coast of the bay and headed up to the Presido passing the old Cavalry stables where they still have some horses, who were out in a paddock right next to the trail. As we approached the old base there is a large National Cemetery with a number of old monuments that are far outnumbered by the more familiar white headstones. You can see the cemetery from the trail along the coast as well, it is pretty impressive.

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National Cemetery at The Presidio

Walking back from the Presidio we headed up Lombard St. through the Cow Hollow Neighborhood. No streetcar to pull us up the hill this time, we had to hoof it. We got to the top and were able to then walk down the “crookedest block” in the world. The sidewalk is straight, but it is a fun walk. Some tourists were in this little 3 wheeled touring car heading down and he failed to make the turn sharp enough at one point and he and his passenger had to get out and push their little vehicle back on to the road. They were followed by a self-driving SUV. We could see the driver with his hands hovering over the steering wheel, but the car was driving itself and doing a better job than the tourist ahead of it. It is tough to get good pictures of the street because of the landscaping, so you will have to look that one up yourselves.

On our last full day on the continent we wandered down to Pier 39 to check out the sea lions and there was a nice collection of them congregated on the piers. They started hanging out there after the 1989 earthquake and a few years later it was decided to let them stay. There is a conservation center there and they have become world famous “sea-lebrities.” They are a boisterous and noisy group.

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Sea Lions – cuddling?
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There are more in the fall, but a good crowd today
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Sea Lions

Lunch was at the Ferry Building which has been beautifully restored and now houses and nice collection of market stalls and produce stands. There were stalls for mushrooms, olive oil, artisan cheeses, small batch chocolate, and many more.

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Ferry Building
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Inside the Ferry Building
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A good view of Alcatraz through the masts.

“[Walking] is the perfect way of moving if you want to see into the life of things. It is the one way of freedom. If you go to a place on anything but your own feet you are taken there too fast, and miss a thousand delicate joys that were waiting for you by the wayside.”
Elizabeth von Arnim, The Adventures of Elizabeth in Rügen

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