And so we were on our way to San Francisco. It took about 45 minutes to cross Bay Bridge. We had a little problem finding our hotel because the map I had got from Mapquest.com seemed to be sending us the wrong way -- instead of going up Van Ness, it took us to the Embarcadero, but it gave us a glimpse of what was to come, and when we got back on Van Ness, we had fun counting the roads to Lombard.
After checking in, we got a map from the reception desk and they pointed us in the direction of the bus to Fishermen’s Wharf. The fare was $1.25 per person -- the journey was about 15 minutes and then a few minutes of walking from the bus stop.
It was like a different world. There were fish stalls selling shrimp, clam chowder (which is delicious) and other seafood, street entertainers, beautiful bay views, and Alcatraz in the middle of the bay.
After buying tickets for Alcatraz for the next day, we took time out for a Coke at a stall overlooking the bay just drinking in the atmosphere and the view. Then we walked to Pier 39 and found the colony of sea lions. There were hundreds, far more than we had envisaged. Some were sleeping, some were playing in the water, some were diving off the rafts and then trying to get back on again. All were making a tremendous noise!
Whilst strolling along the wharf, we noticed two or three car parks advertising cheap parking ($5 or $10 per day or evening) so decided to use the car in the future because it would be as cheap as the bus for four people.
The next evening, we took the car as we were eating at Neptune’s Palace and guess what! Because it was weekend, the car parks had increased their prices to $10 and $20, but as one of our party was ill, it was cheaper than taxis. There is also a multi-storey building offering cheap parking if your ticket is validated by one of the wharf restaurants.
Although we only had three days in San Francisco, I think we saw most of the sights by following the 49 Mile Scenic Drive. We even got to spend a few hours on Ocean Beach and visit the new San Francisco Shopping Mall, which has a curved escalator. We drove down the winding bit of Lombard Street, watched the cable cars go up and down Hyde Street, marveled at the view of San Francisco from Twin Peaks, and walked on the Golden Gate Bridge, but I think the highlight was the trip to Alcatraz.
On our last day, whilst waiting for the time to go to the airport, we sat overlooking the sea watching a seal playing in the water whilst an eagle flew low over our heads and all agreed that although each of our stops on our California trip was wonderful and all different -- San Francisco was the jewel in the crown and we are all determined to visit again soon.
I would mention, however, that San Francisco drivers are the most impatient and bad mannered than anywhere else we have visited in the USA. One lady kept the horn blowing for 10 minutes whilst following us on Bay Bridge as our driver had pulled into her lane although she was a good way behind. There were also two other instances of impatience when we were not sure where we were going -- they do not seem to make allowances for tourists although the state must get millions from tourism.