We decided to stay an entire day in San Francisco to explore the town, to visit a museum, and of course to see the Golden Gate Bridge.
We had stayed overnight in San Bruno near San Jose`. Hotels in San Francisco were fully booked because of the long weekend for Columbus Day. The prices of all hotels were crazy, rising almost two times of the normal rate. I recommend you to check in advance before you plan for any trip to avoid traveling on any national day.
Next day we started early morning at Powell Market, in San Francisco city. We walked pass the clothes selling area to the restaurant area near the sea shore. There are several restaurant in the row filled with aromatic air of food, all selling seafood. For example, clam chowder, different kind of seafood salad, seafood soup and steamed seafood. I got excited by eye tasting; all looks nice and tasty till I can not stop my appetite. My mind is already made up and my hand automatically points to the seafood salad; shrimp, fish, crab, green salad and cherry tomato, I choose the thousand island sauce. It is pity that there is no seat available if you buy the food from the small shop. We carry the nice looking seafood along the Powell street heading to Pier 39, and get stopped by the coffee aroma of the one famous coffee shop of this area. A lot of tourist were sitting outside to confirm how good coffee they have, many of them were enjoying around the shop with an interesting display of several kind of funny bread, crab, pig, crocodile looks, and shop’s souvenirs. We were very much enjoying with 2 cappuccinos, croissant, and of course the seafood salad.
To explore San Francisco you can either drive yourself or use the public transport. The cable car, conservative old transport system, would be the very good choice, flexible and cheap, only 3$ for one way ticket, or you could have a passport which cost you 9$, it allows you to ride on streetcars, buses and cable car within one day. Basically, there are three cable car routes in operation; Powell-Mason, Powell- Hyde and California Street lines.
After breakfast we drove up on the hill. As I looked back and downwards I saw the whole town getting smaller. In front of me was the road with the building on two sides against the sky. We stopped at the foot of the strange road, looking crooked to me with the 8 curving, located on the Lombard Street. It was decorated with the flower plant which already bloomed on July. At this period we just saw the green leaves. The crooked road is a one-way downhill. We parked on the foot of the road and walk up by the small side walk path and took a few snapshots while the others were playing by drive downward the hill. When we reach the top of the hill I saw people hop off the tram, Powell-Hyde cable car line, and some hop on the tram. This hill is very good spot for catching the beautiful view of the whole town against the blue sky. On the northward side you will get a fantastic view of the road straight down to the sea. It is quite a job to walk up and down that hill. I got exhausted and happy to sit in the car again.
We drove down away to the highway 101 to the most famous bridge in the world, the Golden Gate. First sight of this bridge stunned me, how red the golden gate could be! That is kind of amazing. I took several photos while we drove over the bridge. It is a 1.7 mile long suspension bridge which took more than four years to finish the construction at a cost of $35 million. We stopped to take a photo of the bridge at the vista point, north side of the bridge. Another way you could get a different view of the golden gate is from the boat trip which offers you the under bridge view among the ocean atmosphere and it also bring you to the Alcatraz Island, the notorious prison, which we decide to skip it. We paid 5$ for the toll on the south end of the Golden Gate Bridge on the way back into town.
From the bridge I could see the dome of the Palace of Fine Art Theatre which is the next stop. Many tourists were there to visit the beautiful Roman and Greek Architecture. The palace was surrounded by the Walter S. Johnson Park; the beautiful lake with the fountain in it and greenish garden. Originally the Palace was constructed for the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition on December 8, 1913. The construction supposed to last a year but it collapsed already. A single dome now remains from the eight identical structures that were originally constructed. Towering colonnaded walkways linked the buildings on the site, but only a few remain intact. This palace was in restoration for several times in 1915s , after First World War, 1950s and again in 1960s to ensure its longevity.
The exhibition hall, which during the exposition housed Impressionist paintings, is now the Exploratorium, which is an interactive science museum. We spent half day to learn science in this museum. The displays were made to teaching science in an amusing way and also easy to understand for children. You can play here all day if you want.
Then we went back to Pier 39. The colorful decoration of this pier, red/blue/green flag and colorful shop, contrasting with the greenery yard at front, struck my sight from far away. Many cruises were parking at the port, loading people in and out, for the golden gate and Alcatraz trip. Next from the port there was a small boot, selling the cruise ticket to the queuing people. In such luminous day, we were walking hand in hand with an enjoying mood against the cold breeze blowing from the San Francisco Bay, trotting among the song from the pier 39. At some point, we got some faintly barking sounds…urd..urd..urd…pull me out of the romantic mood to a curiosity, follow that sound and check it out…what is it? Suddenly we got repulsion from the stink smelling. The smelly giant creatures appear in front of us, a few hundred of them were laying in the peace under the sun on the floating docks, some were barking, some were fighting. I saw the wording “Sea Lion” was written on the board together with some drawing and history of them, was placed on the stand near the fence. Formerly, this animal do not live here, they were start taking over the docks in January 1990 shortly after the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. At first they numbered from 10-50, but due to a plentiful herring supply, available dock space and the marina’s protected environment, the population grew to more than 300 within a few months. Each winter, the population can increase up to 900 sea lions, most of which are male. During the summer months, the sea lions usually migrate south to the Channel Islands for their breeding season, but a small group stays year-round at pier 39's K-Dock. Their color ranges from chocolate brown in males to lighter, golden brown in females.
After a while snapping shots of the sea lion, unable to stand the smell anymore, we took a walk around to observe all shops on pier 39, seafood restaurants, souvenir shops, cloth shops, ice cream shops and coffee shops. It was getting colder after the sunset; we decided to sit near the heater which was hanged on the ceiling, in one restaurant to heat up the body. This place has one special menu which I never ever forgot the taste, “Salmon Quesedilla”, and I would love to taste it again. Another menu is fresh clam chowder served in the famous sourdough bread bowl, the fantastic warm creamy soup, is great for the cold day. We drove away from San Francisco with a full stomach, crossed the golden gate, entrance the land area, to the hotel in Santa Rosa, which put us on the right track for our visit to the redwoods area.
San Francisco has of course hundreds of hotels, but with Columbus day approaching (this year on 8 October) this was the start of a long weekend and many were fully booked. So we decided to spend the night in Santa Rosa about 1 hour driving to the north. This put us on the right track for our visit to the redwoods area. Goto Day 4.