12 Hours in San Francisco
Saturday morning in south Berkley dawned fitful. Little spits of rain launched puny offensives across space - occupying time - while groups of mists fraternized by the Bay, dancing in unexpected sun rays. It looked a doubtful day to explore and we considered the fact that we didn't have umbrellas, but decided we were made of tougher stuff.
We caught the bus on the far side of the bridge and were immediately presented with the fact that our day passes for transport covered street cars and Muni, but not the bus system in Oakland. I dug through my purse, embarrassed because I didn't have the correct change to pay for the bus I was riding on. Eventually the lady driving the bus said "eh forget it," and this was my first experience with kindness in San Francisco.
Indeed, the city kept surprising me in that respect. I've been to a fair share of large cities and expected this one to be like many others: reserved. I could not have been more wrong. Let me introduce you to San Francisco, as I was introduced.
THE FERRY MARKETPLACE
We came here first, and of all the wonderful spots in San Francisco this is the place I would probably visit most often were I to live here. It's full of food, coffee, flowers, all things green and blue, friendly people and croissants.
If you see a Blue Bottle sign, get in line. I had never heard of Blue Bottle before to remember it, but when I saw it something told me to get into that ridiculously long line. Lines are tricky that way. People are usually in them for a reason and patience has its own reward. The Blue Bottle is worthwhile to discerning tastes.
There are feasts for the mind, eye, and body everywhere.
We spent an hour or two here and I wanted to come back and buy things to cook for days. There were greens galore, meats, cheeses, pot stickers, breads and wines, and so, so much more. People came to buy flowers and food, and sit by the bay to eat lunch.
The view to the bay wasn't so shabby either, but having a mere half a day to spend in San Francisco we couldn't stay too long in one spot. This rainbow came just as we were getting ready to leave and promised a fair day.
CLANGING STREET CARS
As long as I live a certain kind of bell will remind me of San Francisco and street cars. This mode of transportation isn't half so smooth as BART or the Muni buses and trams, but the satisfaction of experiencing this bit of times past made it so we barely recognized the rougher ride.
Each ride on a street car costs approximately $7, but with the day pass we had 24 hours of unlimited rides on any public transport within 'Frisco.
The conductor let me basically hang out the back for while. Bless him, he was a kindly man, as I've mentioned many San Franciscans seem to be.
We made a stopover to see the sea lions which was a ton of fun. Sea lions are large and clumsy, yet playful animals who are a delight to watch. Several of them were engaged in a "King of the Pier" game while we were there with the winner lumping around in happiness whenever he slid someone off into the water. Such hams. The elders just laid around sunning, and indulging patience with the cavorting whippersnappers.
Eventually we got back on the street car and passed near Russian Hill, past Fisherman's Wharf, and slid us in at the top of Lombard St.
This area was choked with car tourists, iPads (you know who you are) and foot travelers, like us. We descended the hill, only to realize our next street car was back at the top. Up we hauled. San Francisco is a city of views and when viewed from a distance at level with the city, you will see it ripples up and down, like streets with so many waves.
16th Avenue Tiled Steps
Harmony was still feeling sick, and my queasiness came and went so we didn't explore the food scene much in San Francisco. We did grab $5 hotdogs on our way down through the shopping district en route to the mosaic tiled steps we'd heard about from other travelers. Located near 16th Ave, or Moraga St, the steps were a community project encompassing three years; climbing 163 steps all the way from the depths of the ocean to the planet and stars. You did almost feel as if climbing to the sun.
The cost was free with a bonus 360° view of Grand View Park, with the Golden Gate off in the distance.
We ended the day as we began, at Ferry Marketplace. I was slightly hungry and ordered mushroom soup and garlic-parmesan french fries from Gott's Roadside. They are famous for their burgers, but as mentioned earlier neither of us were feeling tip-top, so I opted for a few bits and Harmony kept me company while I ate. The fries were delicious, the mushroom soup was sub par. When you go, order one of the burgers, they looked delicious.
Tips & Tricks for a visit to 'Frisco & Why You Should Go
Staying in Berkley/Oakland is cheaper, but transportation is a bit more of a hassle if you intend to spend most of your time in San Francisco. If you rent a car Oakland might be your better option, if you don't want to spend at least $30 a night on parking in the city. Some hotels do include free parking in the stay.
Buy a Muni pass. We bought one for the day for $21 and got our value out of it plus $7. Download the app, buy your tickets of passes, activate them, and then somehow your phone is the fare. We never showed it, but had to mention it to a few conductors on street cars; they never asked to see anything.
If you're in great shape consider seeing parts of the city by bike.
Absolutely stop by Ferry Marketplace for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, or if you want to cook your own food from AirBnB. It's a fantastic place to eat or pick up curios and gifts.
The chill and mists can't withstand the warmth of the heartbeat rolling through the streets of the city and surrounding area. The wilder, wooded areas and mountains aren't far away, the ocean calls its salty song just to the west, Hwy 1 and its beauty lives just south, and at any time you have exposure to all kinds of mountain, city, ocean and boho culture.
The city juxtaposes the elements of deciduous to cactus, succulents to tulips, old-fashioned to modern, cold fog to homey pastel buildings, and boho to elegant homeyness. It is a city of contrasts. If you value individuality in the midst of community, you would love San Fransisco. I did. It calls to me a little the same way that Legolas wanted the sea after hearing the song of the gulls.
**Also written by Philippa Boyens and Annie Lennox