San Francisco diary – Day 11: 11 Feb 2014


We hopped up when the alarm rang at 07:30 this morning, ate breakfast, and dressed for a day of walking. The day was dry, with some patchy cloud and blue sky, perfect for a long walk.

We hopped on a 45 bus at Stockton Street, taking it out to the Cow Hollow shops again. Here M. got a take away coffee from the Coffee Roasters cafe where we’d stopped the other day and drank it as we walked north the few blocks to Lombard Street to pick up a 28 bus out to the Golden Gate Bridge. One arrived shortly after and we got on. However, it continued along Lombard Street into the Presidio instead of turning onto the freeway out to the bridge, so I asked the driver if the bus was stopping at the bridge. He said we wanted a regular 28 bus, this one was a 28 limited stops! He let us off at the next stop and told us to take a 43 back to Lombard Street and get the regular 28 from there. We did so, and that backtrack and waiting time took us about ten extra minute, but soon we were on a normal 28 bus heading out the Golden Gate toll plaza and visitor centre.

Bridge from south
Golden Gate Bridge from the visitor centre.

The bus dropped us off in front of a visitor centre and souvenir shop. We had a quick look inside and took some photos from the lookout towards the bridge, then proceeded up the steps on to the shared pedestrian and bicycle path on the east side of the bridge. We beg and the walk at 09:30 precisely and took almost an hour to reach the other side, stopping several times for photos and to enjoy the view along the way. The weather was dry, but there was a low cloud hanging over the bridge, just touching the tops of the towers, and a mist over the bay making the city skyline hazy in the distance, but visible. We could also see Alcatraz and Angel Island through the mist.

The path was separated from the traffic only by a narrow fence, and it was quite loud the whole way across, except for where the path dodged outwards around the two towers which afforded some insulation from the noise. There was a fence running from near the toll plaza to the small concrete tower on the landward side of the first main tower, and I thought there would be a fence all the way across, to prevent people climbing over the railing and potentially jumping off, but after the concrete there was no fence at all. The railing was sturdy and chest high, but it would have been trivial for someone to climb over it and jump off the bridge.

Looking ahead Golden Gate detail
Walking across the Golden Gate Bridge.

There were a few other walkers out on the bridge, as well as dozens of joggers and cyclists who passed us in both directions. Near the middle of the bridge two pedestrians were staring down into the water below, so we stopped and looked, and saw dolphins or porpoises playing in the water. Later searching revealed they were most likely harbour porpoises.

At the northern end of the bridge we stopped at Vista Point for a quick photo. This is the same place our wine tour bus stopped yesterday, but this time the weather was much clearer and we could see the city reasonably well, though there was still a bit of low cloud and mist hanging around the bridge. From there we walked the short distance to the Alexander Avenue exit of the freeway and took this road down to Sausalito. There was no footpath by the road, so we had to walk on the roadway, staying outside the white painted line that indicated the traffic lane. We chose to walk on the left, facing any oncoming traffic, rather than have it come up behind us. It was lucky we did so, because cyclists were using this area as well, and it would have been bad to have them tearing down the hill, racing up behind us as they did so. The oncoming cyclists were struggling up the hill and so a much less dangerous proposition. We thought it was really weird that there wasn’t a pedestrian path, but I guess that’s America and their car future for you. Maybe it never occurred to anyone that people might want to walk down this road.

View of Sausalito
View of Sausalito from the approach road.

Anyway, we reached the outskirts of Sausalito about 11:10, and then took another twenty minutes walking along the footpath that appeared there to reach the water and the first shops and cafes along the waterfront. By now the sun was out and we were getting hot from the walking, so took off our coats. It really was a beautiful day, especially compared to the rain and icy chill of the past several days. We looked in various shops as we walked along the main street. It was full of boutique fashion shops, art galleries, jewellery shops, and similar things, mixed with some restaurants and a few cafes and cheaper souvenir shops. Mostly it was fairly fancy though, like a rich suburb, and the neat and large houses spilling down the hillside above gave that impression too. Overall it was slightly reminiscent of Positano’s steep seaside hill covered in buildings.

One shop I looked in had lots of scrimshaw and other nautical arty stuff like model ships and prints of sailing vessels. On a stand in the middle was a large chunk of woolly mammoth tusk, polished and for sale for only $11,000. Another shop had lots of prints of black and white photos of old movie and sports stars and scenery from various places, all no more recent than about the 1950s. We went into a sweets shop, where the woman behind the counter sounded relieved to have anyone walk in. I presume business must have been bad the past few rainy days. We bought a selection of taffy in various flavours.

Mexican Cantina, Sausalito.

After a while we found a cafe for lunch. They had an eclectic collection of ethnic dishes plus some American staples. M. had a grilled cheese sandwich while I tried a “chicken kabob”. It came deconstructed on a plate with the grilled chicken pieces on a salad of lettuce and tomato and yoghurt, with pita bread on the side. I assembled some into a wrap and topped it with hot sauce. The chicken was good, and there was a substantial amount, meaning I had to eat the remainder with a fork after the bread was gone.

Following lunch we continued walking north along the main street, which split into a couple of parallel streets for a few blocks. Here we found a jewellery store run by a woman, Katya, who made fused glass stones and set them in hand made silver and gold pieces. M. liked a bracelet which came with three stones of different sizes. The sample had light blue glass, but M. preferred a darker blue. Katya said she could make one up for us, it would take a week to make. When we said we were flying home soon she said she could ship it to us. So M. and I picked out some dark blue glass stones from trays of stones in a rainbow of colours and assembled them to test how they went together. We said it could be M.’s early birthday present, and made arrangements to have the item custom made and then shipped to us.

We continued strolling around, taking a walk along the boardwalk and looking at all the expensive yachts and cruisers moored in the marina. We checked the ferry terminal to make sure we knew where to go and how to get tickets for later, then continued to the last few galleries and shops. We looked into one gallery that had a lot of stuff we liked, including bronze frog sculptures that were glazed with various semi-lifelike colours, some colourful, almost cubist paintings, some artworks by Dr Seuss, and some amazingly lifelike glass jellyfish suspended in solid glass. There were also graceful bronze sculptures of ballet dancers, one life size and two maquette sized, and a collection of colourful bronze animals, decorated with a strange mixture of colours and symbols. M. liked these but I thought they were a bit too busy.

Giant burger
Special cheese burger, Napa Valley Burger Company, Sausalito.

About 16:30 we entered the Napa Valley Burger Company restaurant to have a drink before having dinner there. I ordered a local red ale and M. got a Pinot Noir soft drink, which was essentially carbonated grape juice. At 17:00 we were hungry enough to order dinner. M. got the veggie burger while I chose the special cheese burger, which came with four different types of cheese on it. Each came with a salad on the side, which included some dill pickle slices and a pickled yellow chilli pepper. The burgers were both good and filling enough that we were very glad we hadn’t ordered any fries or other sides. We left about 17:45, intending to get the 18:10 ferry back to San Francisco.

By now the sun had set and the sky was turning pink and purple, making the evening very pretty. We took a few photos then headed over to the ferry wharf to buy tickets. After that we joined the short queue of people waiting on the “no bicycles” queue, next to the much longer queue of people who had bicycles. The ferry pulled in on time and disgorged a large number of passengers, presumably mostly commuters coming home from work in the city. We boarded and climbed to the topmost of the three decks to get a spot in the open air at the back to enjoy the views. The trip was chilly with the wind of the ferry’s motion, but beautiful in the deepening twilight with the lights of Sausalito, the Golden Gate Bridge, and San Francisco framing the bay around us. The ferry passed close by the far side of Alcatraz, giving us a good view of the night-lit island and old prison building. After half an hour on the water. We pulled into the Ferry Building terminal and disembarked.

Golden sunset
Golden Gate Bridge at sunset.

We walked up Market Street and Sutter Street back to our hotel, where we took advantage of the relatively early evening to relax a bit.

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