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Published: June 12th 2017
Geo: 37.7792, -122.42
As expected, our internal clocks had us up well before the sun, so we were dressed and sitting down to a huge breakfast of sourdough French toast, pancakes, hash, etc. by 07:30am. We had pre-booked some hop-on-hop-off tour tickets, and a tour of Alcatraz, and we were able to eat and be waiting at Union Square for the first tour bus to arrive shortly after 08:30. We lucked out, and we had bright, warm sun all day. With the hop-on-hop-off, we're able to at least acclimate ourselves to "the sights," and then return to areas that look really interesting. Our initial loop included the ubiquitous Chinatown, ferry docks and piers, over the Golden Gate bridge (the wind aboard the open-air upper deck of the bus was tremendous), Golden Gate Park, downtown, North Beach, and the financial district. It was soon apparent -- as it was last year, when we were in Arizona -- that Europe must be empty, as they're all over here. We came across huge numbers of Germans, Dutch, Brits, and French everywhere we went. With the dollar still in the toilet, I can only imagine how cheap everything must seem to them.
Anyway, I digress. We started
around again, getting off for an extended walk around Chinatown. K kept remarking how eerily similar it was to the real China (she having seen it, but not I), but that I'd have to imagine EVEN MORE people for it to be truly authentic. I was thoroughly confounded by the present crowds, so I can see no need to invite more! A highlight of this trip was a visit to a fortune cookie "factory" -- truly, a tiny, back-alley store front, with two elderly women sitting next to a small rotary oven churning out round, flat fortune cookies. They would peel off the flat cookie, insert a paper fortune, and then hand fold each cookie. A sight to see, and we couldn't leave without a bag of warm, chocolate fortune cookies. They were intended as a gift, but seeing as they were ALL gone within a few days, no one will be seeing them.
We had a confirmed time to catch the boat and tour out to Alcatraz Island, so we walked up to North Beach, which is the Little Italy area of town. We had a fantastic meal, and then found ourselves very short of time to get to the
pier. This quickly highlighted for us how relatively unfriendly a town San Francisco appears to be for non-drivers. Taxis are -- believe it or not -- extremely rare, and most bus stops are not well marked and transit maps seem non-existent. We ended up hoofing it -- literally -- about a dozen blocks and arriving at the pier with only a minute or two to spare before they closed off our ferry. With all tours sold out for the weekend, we did not want to miss the boat -- literally or figuratively.
On the transit note, later this day I discovered an Android app for my phone will did allow us to locate ourselves, and bus routes, and then get where we wanted to go. Without the phone, we would have truly been lost.
Alcatraz was a true highlight of the tour. It is the most visited sight in San Francisco and, as such, should be cheesy by definition, but it wasn't. The U.S. Park Service runs the island, and has put together a couple nice museums and a great audio tour of the prison. Anna was very anxious for this tour, as she's read several ghost stories about the island
Raise your hand if you even remember "Full House."
and really soaked it all in. They have an extensive volunteer garden program on the island, too, so it was overflowing with spring flowers.
We returned, toured Fisherman's Wharf, Pier 39 (Giardelli chocolate fame), and before we knew it, it was time for dinner. We sought out a well-reviewed, and surprisingly authentic German restaurant, and had an outstanding meal. We all collapsed into bed without quarrel or hesitation.
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