Wednesday, January 07, 2009

West Coast Diaries - 2. San Francisco

San Francisco is possibly the most beautiful city in the United States. I was there for 3 days and it remains my favourite city of the tour. San Francisco is a nice, scenic, beautiful, and very friendly city. Second, we met Baraka and Muse!

Our group stayed downtown, near Union Square (sort of like our Nathan Phillips). Surrounding this area is a bunch of designer shops (Prada, Fifth Avenue, Saks, etc.) - supposedly where Sarah Palin went on her shopping spree.


One thing you have to be prepared to do is to walk a lot on your first day.
The best route to take is to walk north Grant Street (right next to Union Square) all the way, taking in Chinatown, Cable Car Museum, Lombard Street, Ghiradelli Square, and finally Fisherman's Wharf on the way.

Cable Car
As our group started to walk, the first area we crossed through was the famous Chinatown of San Francisco. I was amazed at the scale of this Chinatown. Our own Toronto's Chinatown does not even compare. What's more, it was really authentic Chinese stuff that stores were selling, not just cheap Dollar Store stuff.

Note: don't bring women on this route as they will shop crazy.

Cable Car
One of the icons of San Francisco is the cable car. These cable cars are part of the only existing ground cable car system in the world. San Francisco kept theirs as other cities moved to electric transportation and it is now a tourist attraction in its own right.


A few blocks west on Grant and up north from Chinatown is San Francisco's cable car museum, which is also the place from where the cables that run the cable car system are operated. You can actually see the gears and motors and pulleys and engineers working on them! I was amazed to see they still use the same instruments for the last hundred years!


After finishing the museum, it's a bit of a walk to Lombard street - also known as the world's crookedest street.


The view from the top of Lombard street is simply fantastic, you can see the Bay in one direction, north to Alcatraz in another, and down to the city in the third direction! I also ran into a tourist couple there, from Israel, who simply were taking pictures after every 5 steps. They asked me to take a picture of them, where they pretended to hold up the Alcatraz Island!

For chocolate lovers, there is a small plaza close to Lombard Street called Ghiradelli Square. They used to have a chocolate factory there, but now they sell their brand of chocolate there (and trust me it is super tasty). If you visit during the day, they even give free samples!


A short walk away is the Fisherman's Wharf. This is a famous area where piers jut out into the Bay area (and Pacific), fishermen return with their boats and you can sample fresh seafood (crabs too!) right at the dock. It's a pretty touristy area. I had crab legs there, fried, and very tasty.

Right at Fisherman's Wharf is a World War II submarine.


Entrance is cheap and it's quite interesting, especially for those that have never been abroad one, to see just how congested a life submariners lived - and this is a famous one, having seen action against the Germans.


Ever seen the movie The Rock? It was primarily after seeing that movie that I had always wanted to visit Alcatraz Island, the site of America's most notorious prison, where they once held famous prisoners such as Al Capone.


We took a ferry from Pier 33. It takes about 10 minutes to get to the Rock.

The Rock

As I got closer, I could feel the air getting colder, the sea a little rougher. It was easy to see why prisoners here felt isolated from the rest of the world. We took an audio-guided prison tour, and one of the best ways to see the prison.

The Cell

Pictures can't do justice to the gloom that is Alcatraz, and similarly, the magnificence that is the Golden Gate bridge!

Golden Gate

If you watched Roger Moore in A View To A Kill battle the villain atop the Golden Gate bridge, you would know the thrill I felt when I was actually walking on this bridge. It's massive!

San Francisco will hold many memories for me. It was in many ways the most pristine American city. Alas within the city we still saw signs of Americanism (a guy was beaten by some thugs on the street while we ate inside, hobos everywhere), but in many other ways, a city I loved visiting.


Anonymous said...

I love Ghiradelli chocolate, I but it a bit too often from shoppers :P

Achelois said...

Very interesting post! Thanks for so many tips and updates.

Anonymous said...

Salaams dear Mezba,

It was wonderful being able to share my city with you. I don't call it TMBCE for nothin' :)


'liya said...

Love the bridge! :D

mezba said...

Geeki: too bad it's not available here, I love milk chocolates!

Achelois: If you are visiting and need some insider tips as a tourist, feel free to email.

Baraka: It was wonderful to meet you and your tips and advice really helped.

Liya: it's an engineering marvel.

Anonymous said...

It is available here!

mezba said...

You know, Geeki, I JUST saw it the other day at Sears!

Too bad they dont have the milk chocolate variety.