DM and MM's USA and Canada 2004 Trip Diary

Day 3 - San Francisco

Monday, 29 March, 2004

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Busy day today! We got up at 06:30, showered, and had breakfast. Then Allison drove us to the North Concord BART station, where we caught a train to San Francisco. It took us some time to work out the ticket system. I put in a Visa card and it offered a minimum $20 ticket. The fare was $4.60 each way, so this would have covered us both there and back, so I bought the ticket. When it came out of the machine, Michelle looked at it and read that each passenger must have their own ticket! So we asked the woman at the information booth if we could get a cheaper ticket and she explained that we could - the $20 was a credit card minimum. So we got a $10 card as well and then went to the platform.

The train arrived and was pretty empty, but filled up to standing room as it approached the city. We got off at Powell Street and headed straight to the cable car turnaround and got in the queue. I was wondering where we got the tickets and Michelle insisted we could buy them on board. So we just queued up.

The Powell-Mason cable car we wanted arrived and we climbed inside. After it started moving the conductor came through ane we proffered a $20 bill to cover the two $3 fares. The guy looked at us and said, "Why didn't you get change from the machine?" We muttered apologies and scrounged our wallets for 6 ones, managing to get enough to cover the fare. Then we sat back and enjoyed the ride as more and more people clambered in every time we stopped.

Eventually we reached the end of the line and started walking down to Fisherman's Wharf. The walk was only two block but took us a long time as Michelle stopped at all the souvenir shops along the way. I took the chance to duck into a camera shop to get a roll of black and white film. Once at Fisherman's Wharf we walked past all the seafood restaurants where people were cooking and cracking crabs out the front. Michelle asked, "Do you think we can get some crabs here?" and I said, "I don't know, I don't see any."

Crabs we didn't see at Fisherman's Wharf

We walked up to Pier 39 and sat in Boudin Bakery to have an early lunch of soup in sourdough bread bowls - I had clam chowder and Michelle had French onion. It was really good. After stoking up we wandered through the shops and touristy bits of the pier. Towards the end it got cold and windy and the jackets we'd shed after getting off the cable car were put back on. We walked around the corner to see the sea lions lying on floating rafts near the end of the pier. Then we walked back the length of the pier.

Sign at Pier 39

We headed towards Ghirardelli Square, passing a silver-coated mime who is apparently a San Francisco institution. I stopped to take a photo and stuffed a dollar into his collecting cup.

At Ghirardelli Square we stopped to buy chocolate for Michelle's dad, but the chocolate shop was so full that we decided to get it elsewhere - but not before I scored a free sample square of caramel-filled chocolate. We walked up the hill to the top of the block and saw another Ghirardelli shop, this time empty, and we went in thinking we could get the chocolate there. I got another free sample piece and then noticed the internal staircase connecting it to the lower floor of the same shop below! But the top floor had no customers and the man gladly sold us the chocolate we selected, as well as a cold bottle of water which we desperately needed by that point.

Lori's Diner
Lori's Diner, Ghirardelli Square

We walked uphill up Larkin St, taking the steps there rather than walk up a slope by taking the parallel Hyde St. At Lombard St we turned and walked to the famous crooked section, which we walked down. We continued down Lombard to the North Beach area, with its Italian influence. We had planned to walk up to Coit Tower, but by this time it was after 15:00 and we were getting worn out, so we postponed it for another day.

Instead we took Stockton St to Washington Square and looked at the Saints Peter and Paul Church there, which we went inside briefly, but found to be more impressive on the outside. Then we took Columbus Ave to Grant Ave and walked through Chinatown. I bought a lotus seed bun from a tiny Chinese bakery and we browsed in a big shop full of all sorts of Chinese trinkets and junk.

Chinatown ain't safe for ducks
Ducks, Chinatown

Then we took a route through the financial district to see the tall office buildings. From there we went to Union Square. Michelle went into the Levi's store while I took photos in the square. After taking a few photos I went into the Levi's store to look for Michelle and discovered it had five floors! I went up tp the women's floor and did a complete circuit, not finding Michelle, so I used the men's room and went back out to the street to wait for her. She emerged a few minutes later with a new pair of jeans, for only $40 - about half the price back in Sydney.

Levi's store, Union Square

Then we walked across the square and into Macy's. We thought it was about time we had dinner so we took the escalators up to the 8th floor and The Cheesecake Factory restaurant. We had a friendly waitress named Allison who served us our choices: cajun shrimp and chicken on linguini for me and a cheese, onion, spinach omelette for Michelle. The omelette came with fried potato cubes and toasted sourdough bread, and was a huge meal. The cajun stuff was good but the pasta felt a bit undercooked. Then I had a key lime cheesecake slice for dessert, which was very tangy and good. I ducked outside to the open air dining deck to take a couple of quick long exposures of the square at night, then went back in and paid the bill before we left.

We walked back to the Powell St BART station and got the train back to North Concord, where Allison was waiting to pick us up (we had phoned ahead using the mobile she gave us for the purpose). We drove home, very exhausted and tired after a long day of touristing!

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