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The Day I Walked So Much I Got a Limp – SF, Day 4

26 June 2012

Tuesday was a super busy day!

I woke up about 6:30 to catch the 7:45am train. Got into town and planned to take a free (tip-supported) walking tour offered by Discover Walks of Chinatown at 9:45. I had the buses sorted out now so caught one into town (4-5 blocks) and got some breakfast. I spotted a little cafe with lots of people going in and out that looked like office workers, or at least locals. It was a place called La Boulange. I got a ham and cheese croissant and a hot chocolate. The croissant was a bit crispy, but actually really good, and the chocolate was delicious. It wasn’t really sweet, I think it was made with cocoa or something. Either way, I really liked it. Took the 8X bus up to Portsmouth Square just on the edge of Chinatown. It was actually the first official square of San Francisco, where the first American flag was placed in the area. The shore line had actually come almost all the way up the Square, but then when the goldrush was on lots of ships arrived in the bay and were abandoned. They rotted into the ocean, and now are actually buried and paved over.

The tour was really good, which was nice as usually Chinatown doesn’t interest me much. Asian culture doesn’t get me very excited and is probably the only continent I’m a bit meh about travelling to. I’ll probably change my mind once I get there! It was really interesting hearing about the history though within San Francisco, as they have the largest Chinese population outside China just about. There used to be lots of racism, but that has mostly been allayed. Our tour guide, Molly, is a history major so was very knowledgeable. The tour went for about an hour and we saw all sorts of things. One shop we went in to had live birds for sale; chickens, quails, that sort of thing. They were smooshed into little cages with their beaks clipped. The store will quite happily kill a bird for you, but you can also take it home live and kill it your way if you like. They also had big troughs of fish, shrimp and also little turtles, like the pet turtle kind. We had one vegetarian girl on the tour, by the time we came out she looked like she was about to cry.

A building rebuilt with the bricks from the 1906 earthquake and fire

The tour broke up and I realised my map had fallen out of my pocket at some point, so I was completely lost almost. The maps are great because they have all the bus routes on them too. I kind of knew where I was and I knew the 8X bus went past Portsmouth Square, so I went back there to get on one going back to downtown. I couldn’t find a bus stop on my side of the oad, so started walking a few blocks to find one. I walked about three blocks before I realised I was on a one way street…. *facepalm*. I was almost in town by then anyway, so just walked the rest of the way as I needed to get a new map, and the only place I knew that had one was at the Powell St visitor centre. So, I had myself a map, plus a spare. I had planned to take a food tour around the fresh produce markets that are on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. Each week they have a focus on a different stall and this week it was going to be a honey ice cream. With the extended detour to get a map though, I didn’t make it in time for their 12noon departure. I stayed on the F tram all the way to Pier 39. I picked up my ticket onto the hour long bay cruise that came in the CityPass, but didn’t want to use it yet. At 1:45pm Molly was doing another walking tour of Northbeach/Little Italy that I wanted to go to. I grabbed an icecream from Dreyer’s at the Pier (chocolate, and strawberry cheesecake) and started heading for the Transamerica Pyramid where the tour was to start. I was a few minutes late, even running from the bus a few blocks. Luckily she was patient as I was the only one there. Private tour, woo! Again, it was very interesting, maybe even more so than the Chinatown one. I tipped her $20 for taking me along by myself.

One of my favourite buildings in SF…from those that I have seen! The film ‘The Godfather’ was edited on the top floor apartment.

Little Italy

I got a slice of pizza from a local place (we were in Little Italy after all) and it was delicious. I also tried a “gourmet” creaming coda, which was also pretty darn good. I started walking towards Fisherman’s Wharf again as I wanted to use the internet at Starbucks. Kumar had been called in to help shoot a friend’s film so he couldn’t meet up any more. I was now without an evening buddy. I didn’t mind too much, but this was probably the one night I could do something fun/late, so I posted on the CouchSurfing SF group forums looking for someone wanting to hang out. I got a reply a little while later from a Canadian girl called Judith. We agreed to meet up at 7pm to get some dinner (at the moment it was about 3:30). I went back around to Pier 39 and took my bay cruise with Blue and Gold Fleet. That was great fun, I really enjoyed it. It was very windy on the bay, but I got some great photos, and it was just overall fantastic. Out of all the things I did from the CityPass, the cruise and the Academy of Science were my favourite. And the public transport, that was useful.

Alcatraz and a crazy cool sky. I’m quite proud of this photo!

Alcatraz with SF in the background

Coming in to Pier 39

The famous Pier 39 sea lions

Next I wanted to catch the cable car to where I was meeting Judith. I went to the stop at Fisherman’s Wharf and the line was huge. I had the brilliant idea of walking up a block or two and catching it from there. At the first stop about ten other people had had the same brilliant idea. So up to the next stop it was. That hill was really steep. Like, ridiculously. It was a slope of maybe thirty degrees or more. Got some great views, and got my workout in, that’s for sure. I walked part of the way backwards to exercise all my leg muscles, hehe. They let me on the car from that stop (there was still a few people left behind) and I was stuck inside with a bunch of other people. It was noisy, cramped and smelly (though that may have been me after my hike). I don’t know what the fuss with the cable cars is, they aren’t that stunning, and quite inefficient really. I decided to try the less popular California line the next day, maybe if it was less crowded it would be better.

The California line cable car

I found Judith anyway and we walked a few blocks to a Thai place on the corner of Bush and Polk. It’s funny how people here use the intersections to give directions to places, or to name things. It makes sense, but takes a little bit to get used to. You need to have a good sense of where streets are, or at least a good map, to be able to figure it out.

Dinner was pretty good, I had a Chicken BBQ plate that had sticky rice and a spicy salad as well as chicken on it. Judith suggested we go to Treasure Island, a small bit of land within the bay near the Bay Bridge. Apparently it was a bit of a happening place according to what Judith had been told. Well, it was anything but! We caught buses over to the island and weren’t sure where to go, so we just started walking, hoping we would eventually run into wherever the cafes or whatever were. We walked all the way along the short end of the island, and then half way up the long end. It was dead. There were a few cars and we saw someone walking a dog. All in all, it was a little creepy, made slightly worse by the fact that it was just about night. We managed to get back to the bus stop where we started finally. We took the bus back which first looped around the island. It seems to me that it is a very low cost housing area, judging by the people on the bus. I felt awful for the woman with the black eye and sleeping five year old…

The only good thing to come out of the night was some great photos of the city, especially with the lights on.

Sunset Bridge

I started walking towards where I was going to catch my bus to the Cltrain depot, got two blocks before I realised I was going the wrong way. Judith had already rushed off to catch her own bus. I recalculated which bus to catch, found a stop and discovered it only ran until 7pm (another good thing about bus stops here: they tell you which buses come past, how often, and between what hours). I asked a bus driver who was taking a break which one I should catch. She told me to catch the N metro around. The metro is the Muni-run trains. There quite a few transport companies in the Bay area: Muni, BART, Caltrain, SanTrans, Cable Cars… It is great having so many options, though it would be good if the ticketing system was integrated. So I managed to get the N train around to Caltrain. A Giant’s game was just getting out, so there were lots and lots of people around, which I was happy about. I do believe that no one is out to get me, but better to be safer than not, right?

The homebound train left late due to so many people, and then had to stop for twenty minutes at the second stop a long so that ten police cars could remove some of the more rowdy passengers. I got home, finally, at about midnight. Considering I left home at 7:30am, it was quite an exhausting day. I had a good time overall though, and still adore San Francisco.

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