Maybe it’s a result of my perception of San Francisco. It’s certainly not from spending a good amount of time there. I’ve only been there a few times and most of that time has been spent at Pier 39! What ever the reason may be, I’m at the very least infatuated with the city by the bay. My love affair with San Francisco is an unrequited, unconsummated relationship. And I want to move our relationship forward, take it to the next level so to speak.
Let’s face it, unless I come into some sort of financial windfall, I won’t be living there anytime soon. My time with San Francisco will have to be on a part time basis. We live 90 miles from the city proper. Most of those miles traverse nasty, busy commuter traffic-laden freeways that always seem to be under construction and in need of maintenance. Heck, the bay bridge itself, Highway 80 west, has been under a major renovation for several years. But the bridge is only the last few miles leading into the city. Despite the travel shortcomings, we plan to try to spend more time there – more time other than on the embarcadero.
The other day, we drove to San Francisco (on a Saturday) and it was a tourist madhouse. I thought it might be fun going when there are a lot of people there. After all, people watching is fun too. But when there are so many people that you only can see the ones right in front of you, it’s not so fun. Throw in the huge Saturday farmers market near Pier 3 and what seemed like an over abundance of joggers and bike riders and the SF experience wasn’t what I had led myself to believe. Plus, parking..OMG! We got there early so it wasn’t hard finding a parking spot in one of the parking garages that line the embarcadero. But we’re talking $8.00 an hour. We were there about three hours, ie, $24.00. The fisherman’s wharf lot (smaller and more convenient to the crab cocktail sidewalk merchants) charges $9.00 an hour.
Our conclusion upon leaving? We will drive to the Dublin BART station (about 55 miles), park the car, and take BART to Pier 1 on the embarcadero. From there, a cable car turn around is only a few steps away. Then we will visit some of the areas we’ve only talked about: Union Square, Chinatown, etc. In the long
Still, we did have a nice time. The weather was overcast and breezy when we got there at
10 am, but cleared up an hour or so later – it was a nice day in San Francisco. We ate lunch at the Pier Market Restaurant. It too was very busy with a 30 minute wait. But wait? Loretta and I love sitting at the bar…and there was plenty of room there. Let the families and large tourist groups stand around in hopes of getting
a table by the window – we’re ready to eat now! And we did. Waited on by a friendly, enthusiastic bartender name Scottie, we had a nice lunch. Loretta ordered a bread bowl of chowder with Caesar salad. Me a bowl of chowder, which, by the way, was excellent and blazing hot. We both got a draught of Stella Artois, enjoyed the Boudin sourdough bread on the side, and had a super lunch. The Pier Market is a great restaurant with fast, friendly service (even when it is busy) and clean rest rooms.
At fisherman’s wharf, you can order shrimp or crab cocktails, dungeness crab, crab salad, crab stuffed lobster, etc, etc, etc. It’s fun to watch the sidewalk “hawkers” trying to get tourists to spend their Euros at their establishments. Fun as in seeinghow mechanical and contrived they are – some holding huge live lobsters, others waving live dungeness crabs in girl’s faces so they squeal. Others just standing there waving their restaurant’s menus around and pointing at the specials boards. We strolled around back of these establishments to see one of the small marinas and got a glimpse of the tail end of their places. One probably shouldn’t do this if one plans to eat at one of these places. The seedier side of the restaurant business – but a good photo opp!
The south side of the embarcadero is where most of the shops are. And that is also where the “hawkers” from these places harass you to spend money in their stores. So now you’re not only dodging rude tourists trying to negotiate their ways down the sidewalk, if you walk too close to the entrance to the stores, well…you get the picture. Anyway, to make a long story short…you must visit the embarcadero at least once…then, spend the majority of your time in San Francisco other than there.
By the way, the lines for the harbor cruises and for the cable cars were, to say the least, incredibly long. At Pier 39, the line to the lady’s room was at least 100 deep. Funny, the men’s room almost never has any wait. The nature of the difference between men and women I guess. Does it really need to take that much longer for women to pee than for men, or…do women have smaller bladders? I’ve never quite figured that out. I digress.
Regarding the ubiquitous Pier 39 sea lions? Well, not so ubiquitous it seems as they once were. Evidently they go elsewhere to do their “business”, ie, breed, relax, vacation, etc. There were a couple dozen festooned on the farthest pontoons, plus a couple off on their own near the railing. We’ve been there when battles for an open spot on the floating piers went on constantly. Not this time. One thing that was quite noticeable near the viewing area: The Attack of the Sea Gulls! I had never seen them so aggressive, dive bombing unsuspecting tourists dumb enough to be holding articles of food near the railing, ie corn dogs, waffle cones, and the like. The pigeons out in the plaza were just as pushy and much more numerous. I watched one snatch the remnants of an ice cream cone right out of a child’s hand. The parents laughed. The child cried out in terror! That’s entertainment at Pier 39.
The old Golden Gate was mostly obscured by fog up until the time we left. The bay was nice and sunny with lots of sailboats out for a Saturday soiree on the choppy water.
Yes, it is all quite touristy but a must visit for those who live in
and around the valley. The weather? It’s always a nice respite from the oppressive heat, dust, and lack of humidity around Modesto. Bring a sweatshirt and prepare to remove it as soon as the fog clears. Oh, and bring money…you’ll need a decent amount to get through the day. Nothing is cheap!
Check out more photos from our day on the embarcadero at my website here.