A travel journal
to San Francisco by SeenThat
Quote: Slow walks through a city seen for the first time are an exciting way to discover its treasures. A good sleep and a hearty breakfast are the perfect prelude to an exciting day of wandering. San Francisco offers views few cities in the world can rival with.
Attraction | "Reaching the Far West"
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on March 19, 2007
Golden Gate Park
501 Stanyan Street
San Francisco, California 94118
Union Square – San Francisco’s heart – has enough attractions to spend there a whole day. Its name dates back to the Civil War and the statue at its center commemorates the war against Spain in 1898. Delimited by Post, Stockton, Geary and Powell streets, the square is surrounded by big shopping centers: Sacks Fifth Avenue, Neiman Marcus and Macy’s share the plaza with Nike Town and Levi’s. Armani, Versace, Gucci, Hermes and other famous names are at walking distance. Borders have a major branch there and at the very center of the plaza is the sunny Emporio Rulli offering excellent Italian snacks and coffee. The Circle Gallery building at 140 Maiden Lane is a famous building designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.
Advancing up and north through Stockton, Chinatown is reached after crossing California Street. The neighborhood main street is Grant – one block east of Stockton – but the last offers a more traditional view of it. Chinatown main attractions are the traditional structures – including graceful pagodas – and the plethora of shops selling everything from jade to dim sum through Chinese-seals. Eastern Bakery, at 720 Grant, claims to be the oldest Chinese bakery in the area, dating back to 1924 and provides an environment close to the one found in Beijing’s tea houses. Continuing north through Stockton, the colorful North Beach neighborhood is reached after crossing Union Street. Despite its name, the traditional Italian Quarter has no shores. Washington Square – next to Union Street –is its center and features a beautiful Catholic Church. The Vesuvio coffee shop on Columbus Avenue – on the western side of the park – is an excellent place to restore energies with an Italian cappuccino.
Further north, Stockton Street almost reaches Fisherman’s Wharf – the biggest tourists’ center in town. At Stockton’s end, turn right and then take the first left into Embarcadero; the wharf is just ahead with an incredible number of souvenir shops, restaurants and travel agencies. Pier 39 is the first pier on the row and a good place to eat a well earned seafood meal. From here it is possible to take ferries to Alcatraz, Sausalito, Tiburon, as well as bay tours. On Pier 45 the Pampanito submarine awaits visitors; nearby the Anchorage Shopping Center – on Jefferson Street – and the Cannery – next to it – are lively centers in the way to Ghirardelli Square, the old site of a chocolate factory. Beyond the rich shopping opportunities, the plaza is gorgeous, offers great views of the bay and the opportunity to taste the original chocolate that gave it its name. This walk along Stockton Street offers an easy walk as well as an opportunity to enjoy some of the main San Francisco attractions at your own pace.
The best way to reach the Golden Gate Bridge is from the Trans Bay Terminal (on 1st Street – near Market Street) with bus 70 or 80 ($2.85 every 30 minutes) or traveling with Muni 30 from Union Square until Chestnut and Laguna and from there Muni 28 until the bridge base. A short ramp gave access to the bridge and even from the very beginning, awesome views of the bay creates a symphony of cameras’ clicks. Walking across the bridge is free and easy: it is flat and the winds cool down the crossing crowds. The first massive column is just five minutes away from the entrance and the second one is a fifteen minutes walk from the first. The traffic is heavy, pedestrians, cyclists, teams of workers painting the bridge and narrow maintenance vehicles fiercely compete for the limited place, but the views compensate for everything.
San Francisco, the East Bay, Marin County, and Alcatraz appear behind a graduated mist, which increases with the distance. Back from the bridge, there are two options of interest: the Presidio and the Golden Gate Promenade. The Presidio is big enough to justify at least a whole day, but if the temptation is too big, there is a free bus – called PresidiGo – with forty stops covering the main sights in it. The second option – the promenade – keeps the bay in constant sight but with a total length of 6.4km it may be a bit too much to walk after crossing the bridge (another six kilometers round-walk); however, Muni 29 travels parallel to the promenade on Mason Street and enables a quick escape at all times. The promenade runs between the bay and Crissy Field – a former runway that has been transformed into a park.
The Warming Hut is an excellent place for a light snack and a natural exit point from the promenade after walking a quarter of it. Roughly half-way along the promenade appears the Marine Sanctuary Visitor Center which is worth a stop. After it, the walk is a bit monotonous but watch out as you approach the town for tourists on the extraordinary Segway Tours vehicles – an electric skate with two wheels sharing one axle. After such an arduous walk, a shopping or eating stop has been rightfully earned; luckily enough, some of the prime locations in town for it are nearby. Chestnut Street is a few blocks to the right along any of the north-to-south streets and Union Street runs parallel to it, for blocks further south. If already too tired for such a walk, Muni 22 from Marina Green (Marina corner Filmore) reaches both streets. Though late to wake up, both streets offer elegant stores and restaurants perfect for relaxing and enjoying a quiet afternoon and evening.
Tel Aviv, Israel