I was in San Francisco late May. With just four-and-half days there, it was a short trip indeed. But I spent most of my time within the city limits and its surroundings so I had sufficient time to do some great sightseeing.
Day 1 in San Fran
I arrived at the Marriott Marquis Hotel in downtown San Francisco in the wee hours of the morning and later, after enjoying a free breakfast at the hotel’s Lounge as Gold Elite Marriott Rewards members (see my review of the hotel here), we spent some time to organize a new room that was less noisy. The noise came not from the hotel itself but from the heavy construction work outside of the hotel and eventually we got a room that had much less noise, even though we lost the better room that we were given originally.
Thereafter I went to visit a relative who lived in Union City, outside of San Francisco, and the visit allowed me to enjoy the city’s public transit system which consists of buses, street cars and trains.
In other words, I love using public transit particularly trains, subways/underground/metro, streetcars/ trams and cable cars.
Later, in the afternoon, it was time for some sightseeing in that area. Union City is in a way linked to the Silicon Valley so my relatives took me to show the head office buildings of some of the companies that rule our lives today – Facebook and Google. Afterwards I also went to the Stanford University campus, which is so linked to the Silicon Valley itself.
I also went to a Tesla dealership.
And it was time for me to take a break from seeing the tech behemoth’s ever expanding offices.
Chinatown in San Francisco
When I returned to the hotel there was still light so we decided to take a trip to the Chinatown.
As it happened, the entrance of the Chinatown was so close to the hotel, so I decided to talk to Chinatown.
As is the norm for most Chinatowns around the globe, the Chinatown in San Francisco also welcomes visitors with a traditional welcome gate.
The sun was beginning to set and a fair number of stores were shuttered already. Still there were some gift stores and restaurants open.
One of the noteworthy items to witness in this Chinatown is that a significant number of buildings have their tops and fronts designed to match the architectural landscape of China which was rich with curved roofings and ornate statues beautifying the exterior (and interior) pillars.
Of course, a visit to any neighbourhood should include a meal specific to that neighbourhood and I was looking forward to a great Chinese dinner. There were long lineups outside some restaurants while there was almost nothing in others.
And in my case, I had already decided what I wanted to eat – dim sum. The Chinatown Restaurant promised all-day dim sum and I went in.
I had spicy cucumber, rice noodle rolls and some dim sum varieties.
The food and the service were good but there was one element I missed – the serving of the dumplings. I love where they bring different varieties in carts and I can select whichever I wanted. Here one had to pre-order.
Day Two in San Francisco
This was a big day. Because I had plans to see the Golden Gate Bridge, one of the wonders of the world. After all, this was the longest suspension bridge until 1964 (currently the Akashi Kaikyo Bridge in Japan holds that honour).
From the hotel, I walked to the bus halt but there was some confusion about which bus to take; it was then that a lady suddenly appeared out of nowhere and asked whether we need help; after hearing out, she pointed out that we were indeed in the correct halt and gave us tips how to get to the bridge.
We had to get off the first bus and take another one but got quite lost, and then another local appeared asking whether I needed help.
This – locals helping out visitors – happened regularly during my trip to San Francisco.
I managed to find the bus halt for the 2nd bus and off we went to the Bridge.
It was quite a walk – physically and visually. I walked the entire 2.7 km, but even before I entered the bridge it mesmerised me with the sight of being partially enveloped in a fog. it was windy in many spots along the bridge and sometimes chilly, despite the bright sun. Nevertheless, it was a breathtaking experience to think of walking through a monumental creation. It was also a fantastic experience to think of walking through a fog.
Once I reached the far end, we got on to one of the Hop On Hop Off (HOHO) buses and returned to San Francisco proper. We asked the driver to drop us off near Pier 39. From Pier 39 and along the Marina I walked.
And at Fisherman’s Wharf we decided to have lunch, at The Franciscan Crab Restaurant.
San Francisco is a place for fresh seafood so it was all seafood for me – oysters, grilled calamari, and crab and clam chowder.
Sure enough, it was as fresh as it can get. This was my first experience with chowder served on fresh sour bread. I loved the crust and of course the chowder. Fresh with the right amount of spices to make it deep and rich.
After lunch, I went on a tour of the USS Pampanito, the 2nd World War era submarine that served in the Asian war theatre.
I have been curious to figure out how life is – or was – in underwater in a vessel with such cramped quarters, with no real natural light for weeks in time. And all the time priming to destroy ‘enemy’ targets and killing their inhabitants while fearing death or dismemberment any time.
Sure enough, space is restricted and one could hardly walk 100 feet without having to encounter a hurdle in terms of a foot-high frame in the bottom or a sharp turn. Even the senior officers’ officers and quarters are cramped. And it could also turn hot – terribly hot.
Just close to the torpedoes lie the bunk beds and I was wondering how serene the soldiers would have been, thinking that they were sleeping right next to explosive material.
The Most Crooked Street
After the tour, it was walking time. The famous, ‘the world’s most crooked street’ was close-by so I decided to walk. And it was not an easy walk. In some places the street rose so steeply and I was panting as I walked in that hot weather with my backpack. But I made it.
After snapping some photos and videos of vehicles driving through the narrow, one-way street built in a zig-zag fashion to make driving in that steep incline safe, I walked to the halt to get a ride in the famous, manually operated cable car into the city. But alas, the cable car was so crowded that I could not get in.
So, I decided to walk, about four km back to the hotel.
AFtwerwards, in the evening, I decided to have a light dinner, so walked into the Sanraku Japanese restaurant just a few minutes away from the hotel.