San Francisco Stories and Tips

Walking around the City by the Bay

Chinatown Photo, San Francisco, California

Using the walking tour guide found in the AAA book, we headed out from our hotel to tour San Francisco. After a hearty breakfast at David's Deli, we began at Union Square. This area is surrounded by major department stores: Saks Fifth Avenue, Macys, Neiman Marcus, and Tiffanys, to name a few. An interesting side street is Maiden Lane which has iron gates at each end. It boasts a small art gallery designed by Frank Lloyd Wright that was a prototype for the Guggenheim in NYC.
We next approached Chinatown, up Grant Street. You can't miss the gateway marking the entrance to this neighborhood. Many gift shops and businesses beckon visitors inside. We passed Old St. Mary's church, the original Catholic cathedral in San Francisco. Walking over one block to Waverly Place, you will find colorful buildings with balconies, tea shops and a strong smell of incense. Walking back over to Grant, we were tempted by the many restaurants offering dim sum, duck, and other Chinese fare.
Where Grant meets Columbus Ave, you will see Jack Kerouac alley. Named after the author, this lane runs between City Lights, the landmark book store, and Vesuvio Cafe, hangout for "the Beat" writers in the 60s.
Proceeding up Columbus, we passed sidewalk cafes getting set up for Sunday brunch/lunch and viewing of the Columbus Day parade. The aromas of garlic and sauce proliferated the streets. One cafe had a line nearly out the door for coffee - promoted in our guide as the best in town. We did not want to wait and were still full from breakfast to partake of anything at the time.
The church of St. Francis of Assisi is a shrine to its patron. Saints Peter and Paul church is a neighborhood landmark at the edge of Washington Square park. When we walked through the park, there was a car show and Columbus festival adjoining the church. Inerestingly, the statue in the center of this park is Ben Franklin, not its namesake, George Washington. The atmosphere in the square was festive in anticipation of the Columbus parade.
From the square, we made our way to Lombard St. In the distance to our left we could see the famous "crooked street." We turned right and plodded up the nearly vertical climb to Telegraph Hill. Still uphill, we continued on to Coit Tower. At the base, you overlook the Bay, Alcatraz, Oakland Bay Bridge and, to the far left, Golden Gate bridge. A statue of Christopher Columbus presides over the view. We did not pay the $4.50 to ride the elevator to the top of the tower. It is worth looking around inside the ground level - there are many murals to view.
Leaving the hill, we walked down a street of steps (Montgomery) and continued through North Beach to Fisherman's Wharf area. We passed many parade participants waiting to begin the march. Making our way through the crowds, we got to Boudin Bakery, home of the famous sourdough bread. We passed on the guided tour but grabbed a sourdough roll to eat as we walked. The specialty is clam chowder in a sourdough bread bowl.
Stopping at the original fish stands is a must. Shrimp rolls, Dungeness crab, chowder and other seafood are the specialties - place your order and find a spot to eatit on the wharf.
While we were there, it was Fleet week and an air show was going on. It made for interesting sights and sounds, crowded streets and much craning of the neck. The Blue Angels were amazing as they dipped and swirled over the bay and city.
Our tour on foot took to The Cannery, a former DelMonte peach canning plant. It is now home to several boutiques and restaurants. In spite of the description in our AAA book, we did not feel it was a "must see."
Ghiradelli Square is another matter. It also is a developing area with shops and cafes. The signature place is the Ghiradelli Ice Cream and Chocolate shop. You can watch the chocolate being processed, visit the gift shop and indulge in a hot fudge sundae - highly recommended!
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