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San Francisco in Detail

Author: QuiGonJohn
Date of Trip: March 2011


san francisco golden gate bridge

SATURDAY — March 5, 2011

After arriving at San Francisco Airport (SFO), we headed to baggage claim. While Cretia waited for our bags, I went to the information booth and bought our MUNI 7 Day Visitor Passports. These were a great deal, only $26 each and provided unlimited rides on the cable cars, trolleys, subways and buses. We made extensive use of these, we really got our money’s worth. After this we headed to the SFO BART Station and took BART into the city, (I had bought the tickets in advance). This was really the best way to get between the city and the airport. Not only about half the price of the cheapest shuttle, but faster, no getting delayed in traffic or having to wait whilst they stop at other hotels first. We got off BART at the Powell St. station and exited from the west side of Hallidie Plaza. From here we had a 4 block walk to the hotel. We also bought in advance Go San Francisco cards. These provide free admission to many attractions in the area, and most of what we saw while here, was included in the cost of these cards. After checking in and putting our stuff in our room, we headed straight away to Pier 39 to get our Skyview Tickets. We rode from Union Square to Fisherman’s Wharf on the cable car, and got some pictures of me riding in the “standee” position, on the side of the car. It was pretty nice and fairly warm at this time in the afternoon. After we got our tickets, we had a bit of a wait and grabbed some lunch at Chowder’s. I had clam chowder and we shared fried shrimp and chips. This Skyview Tour is a double-decker open bus that tours around the city. We had a nice orientation tour, although, when he drove a bit faster, out on the upper level it got quite cold. At one point I went down to the first level and the guide/driver loaned me his coat. Near the end of the tour we stopped at the Golden Gate Bridge Visitor Center, took some pictures and had some hot chocolate. After returning to Pier 39, we went to the Aquarium Of The Bay, we saw sharks, fish, rays, etc. Cretia also got to touch a ray. Then we walked around Pier 39 and saw the seals that live along the pier. Next we took the “F” Line Trolley back to Powell & Market and walked back to our hotel room, and picked up a slice of pizza to eat in the room.

san francisco cable car

SUNDAY — March 6, 2011

Up early and breakfast at Pinecrest Diner. Then back to the room to exercise and shower. This was the worst day weather-wise as it was a drizzly rain most of the day. We left the hotel and walked to Taylor & Sutter and caught the bus, we got off at Richardson & Francisco and visited the Exploratorium, interesting hands-on science exhibits, geared towards kids. Then we got back on the bus to Marin Headlands to visit the Point Bonita Lighthouse. This was our fist crossing over the Golden Gate Bridge. Because the bus driver didn’t know his job right, we wound up having to walk quite a bit extra. I had looked up in advance that we should get off at the Battery Alexander stop. But when we got to the visitor center for the recreation area, I asked the driver to confirm this and he said this was the only stop. So we got off and had to walk an extra 7/10 of a mile, (based on where we later learned the other bus stop was). Anyway, we walked to the lighthouse trail, through the tunnel and just to the bridge that goes over to the lighthouse, which is on a rocky point. However, the bridge was closed for visitors. Next we walked back to the bus and just as we got near the closer bus stop, a bus came along and we were relieved to be able to hop on and get off our feet and out of the rain. We took the bus into SF, made a connection and went all the way to the area by The Cannery. Here we got some pizza for lunch. Next we visited the Wax Museum at Fisherman’s Wharf. Cretia’s knee had started bothering her from the walking in Marin County, so after this, we decided to go back to the room. We caught the cable car back to Union Square, went back to our room and rested for a couple hours. Then we got ready, left and took the bus to dinner at The Chieftain (Irish Pub & Restaurant). I had corned beef & cabbage and Cretia had fish & chips. The food was good and the atmosphere was alright, although it would have been better if they were actually playing irish music. After dinner, since the restaurant was only 2 blocks south of Powell & Market, and the bus routes back to the hotel were convoluted, (due to one-way streets), we decided to just walk. About half way back we took a break and stopped for some hot chocolate and dessert.

union square

MONDAY — March 7, 2011

Up early, showered first, then breakfast at David’s Deli, (part of our hotel). Then we had a short walk over to Mason & O’Farrell where we booked and left on our Go Car Tour. This is a 2 seater, open air car with a talking GPS that not only tells you where to go, but doubles as your tour guide. We saw AT&T Park (where the SF Giants play), the Bay Bridge, the Ferry Building, Fisherman’s Wharf, Little Italy, Chinatown. After returning the Go Car, we hopped on the cable car back to Fisherman’s Wharf, interesting cable car ride as this chinese conductor was very personable and outgoing, giving commentary about the points of interest along the route mixed in with bits of humor aimed at himself. At Fisherman’s Wharf we headed over to Pier 43 1/2 for our Golden Gate Bay Cruise. Nice cruise under and around the base of the south tower, then around Alcatraz and back to Pier 43 1/2. Next we grabbed some lunch at an open-air seafood stand, I had clam chowder and we both got a hot dog. By now I realized I had left our tickets for Alcatraz back in the room, so we hopped on the cable car. We got off halfway back and visited the Cable Car Museum and Powerhouse. It’s amazing how it all works and once thought to be too expensive, but in these days of high fuel costs, perhaps it’s a bargain. Then we got on the cable car and back to the room. After retrieving the tickets, we took the cable car back to Fisherman’s Wharf and slowly made our way over to Alcatraz Landing at Pier 33 for our Alcatraz Night Tour. The boat to Alcatraz left about an hour before dark, so it would be getting dark shortly after arriving and making it to the cell blocks. We saw Al Capone’s cell, learned much history of the island both when it was a military fort and of course a federal prison, and saw a demonstration of the cell door closing & opening mechanism. We got back to Pier 33 just after 7pm, walked a couple blocks to the bus and took the bus to the middle of North Beach/Little Italy. I had selected several possible italian restaurants in advance and we wound up eating at the first choice, North Beach Pizza, we both had chicken parmigiana with pasta. Then we walked over to Union & Mason and rode the cable car back to the hotel.

lombard street san francisco

TUESDAY — March 8, 2011

Up a bit later, we went down to breakfast at David’s Deli first, then back to the room to shower and get ready for the day. Then we took the cable car to Fisherman’s Wharf for the Hop On/Hop Off Tour. This turned out to be a bit disappointing as it was very limited where you could actually hop on or off. Just 4 locations in the city. So we rode through the first part, back up Columbus, around Union Square, past the Ferry Building, through Chinatown and into Little Italy where we got off. We spent this day seeing some of the attractions on our Go SF Card we might not have chosen to see otherwise. We started at the Beat Museum (refers to the beatnik period, pre-hippie days). Next we walked back across Columbus and into Chinatown. I was going to eat chinese food for lunch, but could not find a restaurant with a menu similar to what I was used to eating back in Florida. We did visit the Chinese Historical Society, about the migration of chinese to the US, their treatment here, etc. Then we took the cable car to Union Square and had pizza for lunch. Next we crossed Market St., took the “F” Line Trolley a couple blocks and went to see the Cartoon Art Museum. We had hoped there would be some displays or exhibits having to do with how they make various cartoons and animation, but there was not. Only stills of various cartoons. Some interesting political cartoons though, along with Peanuts, Warner Bros, etc. Next we walked back to Market St., took the “F” Line Trolley in the opposite direction several stops and we visited the Asian Art Museum. This was the most interesting museum of the day, as it was mostly statues, (buddhas and such), as well as relics such as pottery, furniture, even a samurai’s full battle dress. After this we went back to Market St. and took the “F” Line Trolley all the way to and along the Embarcadero and got off in the middle of Fisherman’s Wharf. We visited Ripley’s Museum and Mirror Maze. Then we walked around a bit and decided on the mexican restaurant in The Cannery, for dinner, Las Margaritas. It was very good with fairly reasonable prices, except for maybe the margarita itself. After dinner we took the cable car back to the room. We picked up cheesecake & hot chocolate and took it back to the room for a late night dessert.

golden gate bridge bikes

WEDNESDAY — March 9, 2011

Up early, showered first, then breakfast at David’s Deli. Then we took the cable car to Fisherman’s Wharf where we booked and left for our bike rental. We rode across Fort Mason, then along the Marina District and Crissy Field, then up to and across the Golden Gate Bridge. We stopped on the bridge for the view and pictures. Then we rode on to the ferry area in Sausalito. We rode the ferry back to the Ferry Building, then rode our bikes along the Embarcadero towards Fisherman’s Wharf. We stopped at Boudin’s Bakery and had lunch, sandwiches on their world-famous sourdough bread and some clam chowder. Then we rode the bikes back to the rental location and turned them in. Next we took the bus all the way west to the Cliff House. From here we walked down to Golden Gate Park and the Bison Paddock. Then we went to Academy of Science. Here we saw an albino alligator, saw the planetarium show, saw them feeding penguins and went through the rainforest exhibit. After, we took the bus back up to Geary Blvd. and had dinner at Ireland’s 32. I had cottage pie and Cretia had a burger and chips. Also good food and reasonable, but they too, were not playing irish music. Next we took the bus back to the room. Then, after a bit we went and had an ice cream near the hotel.

coit tower san francisco

THURSDAY — March 10, 2011

Up a bit later, we went down to breakfast at David’s Deli first, then back to the room to shower, get ready for the day and pack to check out. After checking out, the hotel held our bags. Next we took the Powell-Hyde cable car and got off at the top of Lombard St, (the curviest street in America). We walked down Lombard and took some pictures. Then we walked down to Columbus and caught the bus up Telegraph Hill to Coit Tower. We went up Coit Tower, great view and we took more pictures. Then we took the bus down and wound up right near North Beach Pizza, where we got a couple slices of pizza for lunch. Next we walked up to Union & Mason and rode the cable car back to the end of the line at Powell & Market. Next we took the “L” subway out to the San Francisco Zoo. The subway was different in that it started as a regular subway, but well out of the city, it went above ground and become like an electric trolley, running on the street. We got off at the end of the line and went to the zoo. It had started to rain and rained on and off whilst we were at the zoo, but we still enjoyed it. We saw koalas, kangaroos, various apes and large cats, bears, a seal and hippo, as well as feeding of the penguins and the giraffes. Then we took the “L” subway back to Powell & Market. We headed to the hotel stopping along the way for dinner at Tad’s Steakhouse. Then we got our bags and went back to the Powell St. Station to take BART to the airport. We arrived about 2 hours before our flight was scheduled to leave. We checked in, went through security, got to our gate and then found out our flight was going to be delayed an hour. After we boarded they also had some mechanical problem and the flight wound up delayed 2 hours, altogether. Not fun when you’re facing a red-eye flight and just want to get home and go to bed. But considering so much else had gone so well on the trip, I suppose it’s not the worst thing that could have happened.

We enjoyed this trip very much. We got to see and do a lot. We also really lucked out as far as the transportation, especially the cable cars. We never had to wait long to get on, even though we always saw crowds at the cable car turn arounds.

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