When Sarah and I planned our San Francisco trip, I don’t think either of us assumed we’d walk so much or for that matter suffer a sun burn. Yet, putting our feet to ground and skin to sunshine was probably the best way to discover this beautiful area. Arriving on Wednesday afternoon, Sarah and I boarded the retro-BART system just outside the terminal and took the quick train journey into San Francisco’s bustling core. Exiting at the Powell station, we stepped on to the escalator for a lift to street level. The glorious afternoon sun welcomed us with open arms, as we stepped into a huge crowd of fellow tourists.
Getting our bearings straight took a few minutes, as the crisscrossing path of streets and large crowds made my handy map seem like it was written in hieroglyphics. On top of the general disarray, we spent a few minutes distracted by street cars and the break dancers that entertained the crowds. We did eventually manage to tuck our cameras away, kick out the wheels on our bags, and start the walk. With hundreds of tourists around us, it didn’t actually feel as strange as I imagined to be lugging our bags behind us.
We arrived at the Clift Hotel (hot and sweaty) and started to instantly suffer from dark room syndrome. Quite modern after it’s renovation, the Clift seemed like something out of Hugh Hefner’s Playboy mansion, or maybe some sort of secret, red velvet covered grotto. Either way you look at it, stepping in from the bright sun meant we almost stumbled our way to the front desk. Thankfully the room was ready! We finally started to adjust to the porn lighting and found the hotel littered with every type of chair imaginable, included a giant behemoth near the entrance.
Our room was cozy, with an even cozier (read; small) bathroom, but it came with a great view of the city. The lack of advertised free internet was a problem from the start, but eventually wiped off my bill at the end with a touch of sass form the desk. The room also didn’t have the standard coffee pot or any other free amenities for that matter. We did however find a stocked mini bar with insane prices, and a list of room service fees (35 bucks for an omelet) that seemed somewhat astronomical. Of course, we solved the coffee problem each morning by skipping across the street to our local and very friendly Starbucks.
After a quick change of clothes, and only a few hours to walk the streets around us before diner, we popped into a few corner stores, and eventually made our way east to Union Square. Planning, or maybe dreaming of a fantastic meal at Incanto (here), we soon found ourselves back at the hotel, changing yet again, and hailing a cab. Living in the world of Alberta urban sprawl, neither of us found Incanto far from the centre; no matter what the locals were more than willing to say. Located in a gorgeous area, the scenery allowed us to walk half-way back with little effort. Had it not been for the suddenly cool evening, and Sarah’s choice in shoes, I’m sure we could have easily conquered the distance.
Thursday was a wide open day and we sure packed in the walking. We start with some early morning shopping around Union Square. Grabbing a new pair of shoes at the Merrel store, we wandered through the giant, and multi-level Williams Sonoma, before having a peek in Borders. Many stores weren’t open before 10, but my frown was turned upside down when I saw an Indy Car display starting to occupy the streets surrounding the square. Dropping our purchases off at the hotel, we popped back onto the BART system and rode it a few stations south to the Mission District.
The heat was starting to build at this point, and we found our cool weather clothing options made things a little sweaty. Good thing the area is lined with interesting shops, as we could pop in and out of the sun with ease. Our main goal for this trip was a stop at PhotoJoJo world head quarters, as Sarah had made an agreement to pick up her order on site, and it was great. They are wonderful people, I must confess!
After wandering around the Mission some more, and our lunch at Taqueria el Buen Sabor, we rode the BART back to the city centre and jumped off at the last station (Embarcadero) before Oakland. This put us at the feet of skyscrapers, and just down the street from the gorgeous Ferry Building Marketplace. With tons of art and crafts laid out on the streets around, we zigzagged our way through to see a smaller version of the famous Saturday Farmer’s Market surrounding the giant complex.
I took a deep breath, and slowly walked into food heaven. With everything on site from bread (ACME Bread Company) to cheese (Cowgirl Creamery) to meat (Boccalone), you could make yourself a mean picnic basket here. We established our selves with a few pounds of the most amazing Bronx grapes (fresh grapes are something that I’m seriously jealous of) and went in search of Blue Bottle Coffee. With a java fix in hand, we started to eat our way through the building. This included, among other things, meat cones from Boccalone and salad rolls from Out The Door (The Slanted Door’s take away restaurant).
Phew! I wouldn’t be surprised if Sarah and I emerged from the building 5 pounds heavier. Good thing we had our walking shoes on. If only we’d have thought about sunscreen. Because dear ol’ me, this bald headed fella took a bit of skin damage on this day.
The walk from the Ferry Building to the infamous wharf provided us with a fantastic view of both the city, and various piers. We even past a few half piers (29 1/2) which made me think of Harry Potter and its famous 9 3/4 train station. The Coit Tower, which every one describes as phallic, stands proudly on Telegraph Hill and acts as a great monument to the firefighters of San Francisco.
Finally arriving at the Boudin Bakery, we stopped to take in the historic bakery. From the interactive baker (with a head set), to the moving baskets of bread above your head, you can tell that Boudin went all out during the renovations. I really really love the building, and I really love the smell of yeasty treats. It was a little too chaotic every time we went, and I wondered if they ever have a slow period. Of course we took some samples and put our jaws back to work. Munch munch.
After some much needed (at least that’s what we told ourselves) carb loading, we wondered off to Ghirardelli Square. With a great view of the water, we took the opportunity to sit on the grass and relax. As we found the energy to keep on, we walked through the square and into the gift shop for some friends and family back home.
With our chocolate in tow, we head back towards the hotel and found ourselves walking those infamous hills. I don’t know about you, but I loved walking the steep inclines. With a view that’s amazing no matter the direction, and houses that just stand out from the norm back here in Edmonton, the hill climbing is like a workout in the world’s most beautiful gym. Even on a weekday the line up of cars to go down Lombard Street was pretty intense. Although it was nothing like the weekend, when the city actually puts police at the top to direct the traffic.
With our skin starting to turn red and our bellies bracing for the evenings taco adventure. Sarah and I decided to make haste in hopes of catching the BART to Oakland. For a day where we hadn’t planned a thing (minus dinner), we actually ended up on our feet from just before 9 am until just after 10 pm. And in a city full of hills, I have to say we were a little pooped when we finally arrived back at our hotel late in the evening……