It’s not a long trip for us, to get up to San Francisco, but somehow we seem to rarely make it to the biggest tourist destination in our neck of the woods. It was threatening to rain on Sunday, so we decided to head the short distance to the city to be tourists in our own backyard for the day.
We thought our days walking tour would be good for visitors to the city, so I thought I’d share it. We parked at the 4th and Mission
parking garage, which is easy enough to get to, usually has space available, and moderately priced (for the city!). From the garage, we headed across Market St. to Grant Ave. and Chinatown in the midst of the Chinese New Year celebration. Though Chinatown is usually colorful, noisy, and crowded, the festival took all these elements to the extreme. The mass of people milling around amongst the over miked hawkers yammering in rapid Chinese gave the feel of being in another country. If you visit, be sure to check out the streets off of Grant Avenue.
At the far edge of Chinatown, near Broadway and Columbus, we visited the iconic City Lights Books and had a beer at the quirky Café Vesuvio. Crossing Broadway, we headed into North Beach, San Francisco’s Italian district. Our actual path differs a bit from the route shown on the map as we wandered the hills eventually finding a back way up to Coit Tower.
Along the way, we passed by a number of the steeply stair cased garden areas that dot the city in the areas where it becomes too steep to build roads. For the residents, these areas are little urban oases. The verdant, flower-filled gardens attract flocks of birds whose calls mask the background rumble of the city.
We climbed to Coit Tower and paid our $5 per person for the elevator ride to the top. In a city with post card views seemingly around every corner, the view from the top of Coit Tower is one of the San Francisco’s best. Through the photograph hindering windows on the top of the tower, classic views of the Financial District, Golden Gate Bridge, the Bay Bridge, and Alcatraz can all be had.
Down to the bottom of the tower, we headed through more garden areas to The Embarcadero, San Francisco’s waterfront. With darkness approaching, our next destination was the Ferry Building. Still, we had enough time to check out the historical markers along The Embarcadero and a fishing pier as the light faded and clouds built from an emerging storm.
Our last stop was the Ferry Building with its gastronomic pleasures. We ogled the windows of one of our favorite restaurants, The Slanted Door, but didn’t go in for once. Instead, we opted for fresh and minerally, cold-water oysters from Hog Island Oyster Company that tasted as if they had just been lifted from the sea. We also had time for a small tasting flight of Spanish wines from the Ferry Plaza Wine Merchant before we worked our way back to the car.
Googlemaps says that the jaunt covered 3.6 miles. With side streets and all, we probably covered 4.5 to 5 miles. At our meandering pace, we were on the streets for about 5 hours.