San Francisco is one of my favorite cities. The first time I saw the city was in 1972 when I was an exchange student. Coming from Australia and seeing the Golden Gate and the beauty of San Francisco Bay was an incredible experience. I always thought I would come back one day, and I did. Since that time I’ve been to San Francisco many times and even lived there for a year over by Golden Gate Park.
This week I had a chance to go to the Bay Area on business. I took off on Wednesday from Long Beach International Airport. The sky was blue and everything was great. Jet Blue isn’t bad either! On Friday I had a few hours before coming back to go into “town”. Since I didn’t have much time – just three hours before I had to head back to the airport, I decided I’d do the walk along the Embarcadero. I parked in the Financial District near the Oakland Bay Bridge and then walked along the bay front.
Pier 23 Cafe – great food
San Francisco’s Embarcadero is really a cosmopolitan scene. And I mean scene. There are musicians, mimes, people with purple hair and green hair and all the other colors of the rainbow. People bring their bikes, their music, their maps and hats. If you get tired you can get a ride on a trolley – the cars were purchased from trolley systems all around the globe. I even recognize one from Melbourne! Or there are bicycle taxis or regular taxis. So no need to worry if the walk is too far or you don’t have enough time.
Since I didn’t have a lot of time I decided to head down to Fisherman’s Wharf for a bowl of fresh clam chowder and some fish and chips. In San Francisco, the Dungeness Crabs are the local specialty.
Heading down the Embarcadero past the famous Ferry Building, you pass by each Pier starting at Pier One. Most are open to the public so you can take a walk out into the Bay on many of the piers. The view is amazing. You can see the entire sweep of the Bay from the Oakland Bay Bridge, Alcatraz Island and National Park, the hills across the Bay towards Tiburon, the many ferries and sailboats crossing the Bay and all the way to the Golden Gate.
Bicyclist taking a break near the Ferry Building
Along the way you can stop to take a tour of Alcatraz, a fascinating experience. There is a beautiful view of San Francisco from Alcatraz although it must have been so frustrating for prisoners like Al Capone to see this sparkling city so near yet so far. I’ve taken the trip out to Alcatraz before, but I didn’t have time today.
Walking further along past the Churro stands and hot dog houses and Pier 39 – which is very touristy – the best part is the resident seal population that lay on the piers next to Pier 39, their constant barking and chatting with one another is a reminder that the Bay is a living space for wildlife and a huge ocean habitat.
Getting down towards Fisherman’s Wharf, everything was as big and over the top as always. Each of the restaurants has a number. Alioto’s No. 9, the Fisherman’s Grotto is now under renovation but the downstairs Waterside Cafe was still open. One of my favorites, the Franciscan Crab Restaurant wasn’t yet open when I arrived. It has the best views out over the bay so I usually go there for lunch. Since I didn’t have time to wait, Alioto’s Waterside Cafe it is! Clam Chowder and fish and chips here I come.
Churros – a wonderful Mexican treat and Cotton Candy outside Pier 39
Although San Francisco is known for its fine cuisine in every sphere from toast – yes toast is famous here – to The Boulevard fine dining – to Irish Coffee at the Buena Vista – awesome after a fun day – to Sears Fine Foods for breakfast – to Gary Danko – wonderful place for dinner. But there is still nothing like being one among the eclectic crowds from all over the world at Fisherman’s Wharf.
[By the way, Trouble Coffee and Coconut Club makes the best real toast. It was started by Giulietta Carrelli in the Outer Sunset District of San Francisco. Her incredible story of illness and coconuts and toast still touches my heart. Reporter John Gravois did a wonderful story on Giulietta about her struggles and successes and the way San Franciscans have responded to her and her ideas for a great little off beat San Francisco cafe featuring toast and coconuts. https://psmag.com/a-toast-story-df3b8e99d07f John’s piece titled “A Toast Story” is featured in the Pacific Standard.]
Toys and Kites outside the ferry terminal at Fisherman’s Wharf
After a great lunch I headed back out into the music from a one man band. Not only that, but a taxi pulled up right in front of me. Wow. I hopped in and looked out the other window to hear the guy with the drums and the one man band singing – quite well actually – the Mamas and the Pappas song “California Dreaming”. It certainly was a dream for a few hours.
Alioto’s Crab Stand at Fisherman’s Wharf
The Oakland Bay Bridge from the Embarcadero near the Financial District of San Francisco
The California Hornblower and the San Francisco Belle moored off the piers on the Embarcadero
San Francisco Ferry
The Franciscan Crab Restaurant
The Franciscan Crab Restaurant
Hot Dog Stand Near Pier 39