18 (June 23, 2008) San Francisco
There is not a fixed plan for San Francisco
visits, but a
list of highlights we want to explore during the two days and a half
we’re going to be there.
The spots marked at map are:
0- Hotel Castle Inn
1- Pier 39 in Fisherman's Wharf
2- Alcatraz Island
3- Japanese garden in Golden Gate Park
4- Golden Gate Bridge
5- Marina (with potentially good views of Golden Gate Bridge)
6- Powell Station (starting and ending point of the touristic tram)
7- Twin Peaks (a hill with great views of the city and the bay)
We can take our breakfast in a room just beside reception
at 9 AM. We go to an UPS office in the next street for an issue I need
to solve: sending the golf driver to our own address in Spain. The
cheapest way to do it has been by ordinary mail, they have taken care
of it by 34$, which added to the 20$ we paid for the driver it is still
a bargain. In the meantime, while chattering with the people in the
office we ask when the summer comes to San Francisco and they answer
summer is already here. So, with this cold, we cannot imagine how the
winter is like in here.
At 10 AM we’re in the car going to the Japanese garden
long sleeve and jacket. No losing this time, we do an “L” in the map
taking Van Ness St. down and turning in Fell St. until the entrance to
the park. Maybe is more a “J”…
We find place to leave the car along the park with the art museum. This
map of the area, which we haven’t got yesterday, helps a lot here.
We’ve driven from the right along John F Kennedy Dr. until the Museum.
Stow Lake is just here too and we will see it later. Yesterday’s
odyssey for finding the bison made us exploring the left side of the
In the park in front of the Museum we’re alone,
some Chinese doing tai chi. We go to the Japanese entrance, which now
is opened, and when looking to a cat we can see a small flag waving
with the message “Pay here”. It is coming from a little girl inside the
ticket box where a woman delivers four tickets to us in exchange of 12$
(4$ per person). We get then into this beautiful place with a lot of
tourists, but with a special quietness. Every corner here is displaying
what can be done in a garden. Plants are carefully cut in different
shapes without breaking the nature of them. There is a small lake with
some canals as an excuse for the most peculiar kind of bridges. Some
pagodas give the most exotic touch to the environment. The best way of
showing this will be with some pictures:
We go across all the bridges here and try to be in every corner. We
want to try everything here including, obviously, the tea. The
name of this place is “Japanese Tea Garden” for a reason. A
wooden hut in the middle of everything is the place for that or any
other drinks or Japanese snacks one may like to purchase.
Once out of the charming garden we explore around
it and find a hidden water fall. We can see too the part of the Stow
Lake where they’re hiring those pedal boats we have on beaches for
couples. I cannot see the image of the lake with a water fall and a
pagoda from here so we take the car and drive around until I find it,
it’s the one in the picture:
We drive to Twin Peaks now, which has nothing to do with
Lynch TV series, where we expect to find the best views of the bay, the
city and the bridges. We can take advantage of this extra day for the
car for this kind of visits.
The map helps us to reach the area soon, but we cannot find
road to the top. A gas station with the name of “Twin Peaks” is marking
we’re in the right place but we still need some more time to
definitively be on our way to the lookout. As we’re getting higher
buildings are left behind and the view goes further and further or,
better said, it would go further if someone would lift the fog curtain.
We take over a bus full of tourist we’re guessing are going to be as
disappointed as ourselves.
And that’s how it is, a white foam is preventing to be seen
everything but the houses below this hill. I found myself making
Chinese eyes like if human body guide specifies that are the fog
lights. What a fool!
In our way down we still don’t have a good answer about why we’ve done
a lot of pictures completely white. Are we expecting the camera can see
beyond the fog or we just do what we’ve came to do regardless the
impediments? Anyway, we’re now in our way to the next thing to do:
getting the tickets for visiting Alcatraz. We must go to pier 33 and
the map is clear about the route: All along Market St. from Castro
until the sea, there we’ll pay attention to the pier numbers.
We take Market St., which is a street with traffic and two rails for
trams in the middle. The first part of the street is full of rainbow
flags, if this is a gay neighborhood it must be the biggest in the
world! Then we pass by what must be the city center: full of people,
commercial malls and a great view of the City Hall which makes us stop
for a picture.
What can go wrong if we are in a street
going directly to our destination? Is there any way of getting lost
from this situation? Yes, it is and I can explain: Eva complains about
the emergency of using a toilet. As it seems serious I leave Market
St.to the left looking for a place where stopping. When I’m going
around for some minutes I wonder “What am I looking for?”. It’s obvious
we’re not going to read some lights with an arrow saying “Eva can pee
here” so I look for a stop somewhere and looking for a toilet by
walking. I park under the Japanese tower I saw in some pictures when
organizing this travel. My wife and me go into the shopping mall the
tower belongs to and reach a toilet inside. While waiting I look around
the place where we are: aisles are looking as streets from a Japanese
town, with flowered cherry trees and some lanterns hanging from the
ceiling. It is very beautiful and Eva agrees once the emergency is
over. Now we must return to Market Street but every time we try we end
somewhere else. Market Street is a special Avenue going through the
city in diagonal truncating the vertical and horizontal street and this
is the cause we’re finding with obligatory ways in the streets which
address us to the steeped areas. While being on this we pass by a
cathedral identical to Notre Dame in Paris, as happened in Washington.
We pass by Chinatown as well and meet the classic cable car before
finally taking Market Street again.
But, again, it is not easy. A small park at the end of the street makes
us turn to South and get lost around that part of the city looking as a
suburb for a while and then we cannot find how the piers are numbered
until realizing the even numbers are at South and odd ones at North, so
pier 33 is near pier 39, where we’ve planned to lunch today. When we
figure this out we're far in the South, based on the Bay
Bridge just here.
We leave the car in a parking building in front of
which seems to be in some kind of commemoration based on the festival
and the live, but it seems this place is like this every day. Before
going to there we walk to pier 33 and join the long row of people in
front of the Alcatraz tours ticket boxes.
We spend a half of an hour waiting for our turn and when I ask for
tickets for today they only can laugh: there is nothing until Thursday.
I must think a little bit as in vacation everyday seems Sunday and
today is Monday… Thursday we won’t even be here!! I beg for something
for tomorrow but she repeats there is nothing until Thursday and only
vacancy for four for that day so I must say if I want them or not. I
want them, but I can’t as we should come from Barcelona to use those
What is happening today? Everything has
gone wrong except for the Japanese Garden visit. I’ve got the feeling
we’ve spent the day driving lost and with some fog. It’s time to lunch.
Pier 39 is a kind of shopping mall in wood and over the sea. There is a
small amusement park and a lot of shops and restaurants, but I already
know where we’re going to eat. We have a pending visit to franchise
from Forrest Gump,
so we get into the Bubba Gump which is a big wooden restaurant with
large windows to Pacific Ocean. We choose a table and take a look at
the menu: everything you can imagine can be done to a shrimp is in
there (speaking about cooking, of course).
between all those things, 3 chowders, one dish with chicken, fries and
two kinds of shrimps, one bucket with ¾ pounds of garlic shrimps, one
plate of cajun shrimps plus drinks: 65$. More than 20$ per person
before tipping is over the standard we’ve been following in California,
but it has been a great lunch.
When leaving the
place we can see Forrest Gump’s bench. How do I know that? Well,
because of the wood color, the size of the bench, because there are a
bag and a box of chocolates stuck on it, and Forrest Gump’s sport shoes
on the floor with a hole for your feet in case you want to pose for a
picture. And yes, we do.
We walk slowly to the parking watching the shops in our way.
We can see the Lefty’s shop from the Simpsons episode. We get from one
store a poster with San Francisco skyline and four postcards by 17$
and, from another one, a R2D2 10 cm figure with movement by 19.95$.
Before leaving the pier we look at the side of the
pier, a much less crowded part where there are some floating platforms
where sea lions rest. We can see Alcatraz island as well and this is
the closest we will see it.
We take the car out of the parking for what is
going to be its last trip with us, driving directly to the building we
were yesterday. But, as Coit Tower is getting closer and I see the turn
to go to there we agree we still have time for a last visit. It is not
an impressive tower, it’s not that big, but it is an icon from San
Francisco skyline and, although a roundabout with a figure in the
middle is everything in the top of this hill, everything but the
wonderful views. The fog is still there but as we’re close to
everything is not bothering so much. We do the 360º taking pictures of
We take the way to delivering the car again to O’Farrell Street and
this second time we arrive with no troubles. A couple of Chinese men in
the underground parking point me about where I must bring the car. I
apologize about this extra day but they don’t seem to care about. I get
the invoice which I pay immediately as it is lower than I thought.
Once in the street and missing the car which has
been with us in so many places I take a look to the receipt: 299.13$.
It’s even less than the cost of the car in the East Coast!! That was a
regular car for three days and this is a 4WD Jeep for 12 days. I can
see in the invoice they’ve charged me for 11 days, though, from 12th to
23th (today). They haven’t taken in count I took the car by the morning
and I’ve just delivered at evening as it is 7 PM now. I’m so happy I
promise having “Dollar” branch in mind for future rentals.
We’re walking now to the start of the classic
cable car in Powell St. to get the hotel on it. In our way we get into
a big Chinese bazar where, due to the good prices, we purchase a couple
of fleece jackets, a shoulder bag, a pillow for the neck, a cable car
miniature, three magnets and a clothing bag to carry with all of it:
80$ in total.
The tram stop is crowded. We go to the wooden box
and purchase three tickets for the cable car by 5$ each and three
passports for unlimited use of city trams for tomorrow by 11$ each.
While waiting for our ride we can see how they
turn around the car in this point as it is source and destination at a
time. We must wait for 30 minutes before getting into the next one. We
get seats inside but, as there are a lot of standing people with no
seat, I leave mine because I want to enjoy this ride in the opened part.
When we leave the cable car and walk a short while to the hotel
by these steeped streets we’re realizing how much we’re going to miss
our Jeep the next and last 24 hours in this city.
We rest in our rooms before going out for dinner. We choose a Thai
restaurant in the same block of the hotel where we enjoy a spicy and
good meal. The name is “The little Thai” – although it is not that
little – and we pay around 40$ for all three. We come back to the hotel
as we need to get energy for tomorrow, a day with no room as we’ve
planned to sleep in the night flight back to East Coast.