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San Francisco, close up your golden gates

  • Aug 9, 2004
  • by
Pros: Good transportation system

Cons: cold, windy, dirty, expensive but at least they don't have cows like Ohio

The Bottom Line: Good thing it was a free vacation, and I use that term loosely

First we must apologize to Stephen_Murray, the week went by so quickly we neglected to contact him for a meeting. Absolutely unforgivable of us, we are truly sorry.

Our first impression was that, although we were both from what we considered large cities, Charlotte and Columbus, we weren’t city girls. It didn’t take but a minute for us to realize that there is a significant difference between a metropolitan city like ours and a city like San Francisco. Probably the next problem was that we were in the heart of the financial district and found that everything closed around 5 p.m., including the eateries. As far as eating goes, we are pretty basic people, at best we weren’t going to be happy with these places anyway.

I found it interesting that restaurants were either open for breakfast and lunch or they were open for dinner and drinks. Nothing was open all day, or late, like the restaurants back home. But we weren’t in Kansas anymore Toto, so we learned to adapt. The concierge at the hotel did hook us up with a pizza place that delivered, North Shore Pizza, and they offered a full menu including table set-ups. We ordered in from them twice while we were in town. It was, um, acceptable food. The rest of the time we winged it, and even found a McDonald’s a few miles away we could walk to - of course only in the daytime.

The other thing I found totally interesting was the lack of concept that people have of distance. We stopped at the concierge desk and asked about a nice sit down restaurant within walking distance. They told us about the 21st Amendment, which was only 1-½ blocks down the street, toward the ball park. Right. The ball park is ½ mile away from the hotel. We know because we walked there more than once. The 21st Amendment is one block away from the ball park. What a hike.

We noticed on these hikes to/from the ball park and restaurant a large building that housed a 24-hour gym facility. I watched those people in there huffing and puffing on those machines and I said to Diane, if they just came outside and walked up and down this street alone a couple times a day they wouldn’t have to pay for that gym time. One thing we got while in San Francisco was exercise.

Another thing was ‘blocks’. Blocks aren’t necessarily a block long there. When we checked on the location of one place, we were told to go down to Mission Street, turn left, and proceed to 9th Street. Well, I said, that’s nothing Diane, we can walk that. We are on 2nd Street, that would only be 7 blocks. Right. That is how we found McDonald’s by the way, on that endless trek up Mission Street. Seven blocks turned into approximately 20 blocks, add that to the 6 from our hotel to Mission - can you say huff and puff? But it afforded us to see several things along the way of great interest.

We walked through Yerba Buena Gardens at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, and visited the St. Patrick's Catholic Church, which was quite beautiful, on Mission Street. It also got us through the back streets and down with the people, which the normal tourist doesn’t do. We really can’t complain, I guess. After reaching our destination, we opted for transportation on the way back.

We used every type of transportation offered in the city, which is plentiful and interesting, with the exception of BART. I refused BART. We discovered we could board the bus systems for the mere price of $.35 and get a transfer to boot. After discovering this bit of info, we were traveling fools.

Our first expedition was a trip to the Castro District. Diane had heard all about it and thought it would be a good trip. At best we found it disappointing, although a good ride through the city. We walked through several shops, climbing those hills again, and found a few sit down restaurants to rest our tootsies. In the end we discovered a bar that offered smoking on their patio. Normally we don’t drink, in fact can’t drink with our meds, but this once we took the plunge. The drink was notorious, or maybe we were just wimps after our hard day, but the ½ hour rest was worth it. Before we headed back to catch the trolley, we decided to use the facilities. I went first because I’m brave.

Guess I better explain that one. Seems it was a multi-gender facility. The sink was outside in the bar proper, the urinals inside the opening with no door, and then the sit downer past those with a door shutting it off. My trip was a safe one but while Diane was in the closed area, a gentlemen entered the open space and proceeded to get rid of his beer. She walked out of the toilet area and I wish you could have seen the look on her face. Worth the price of the drink alone. But that is the Castro District. Overall it impresses one as the typical tourist area, a lot of shops catering to people that have a few buckos to spend. I was neither impressed with the shops or the homes in the area, although I did see some beautiful flowers.

Day two and three consisted of a trip to Reno, via a charter bus, interesting.

Day 4 was ball park day. We had tickets to see the Giants, the last game before the mid-season break. Naturally Bonds wasn’t playing, resting up I guess. However, it made for an interesting day and we got sunburnt. It was our first real sun in California and we weren’t expecting it.

Day 5, we decided to go to Fisherman’s Wharf and Alcatraz. Diane had said several times that we should book passage before we got there, like months ago, but hard-headed me, I said, boats leave for the island all the time. No problem. Right. Of course we didn’t get on the ferry, it is booked at least a week in advance. Instead we walked the Wharf and nosed in all the shops, bought the required tee-shirts, and boarded the trolley back to the hotel. Instead of saving our next outing, Golden Gate Park and the Pacific Ocean, for the next day, we stayed on the trolley until we reached Golden Gate Park.

Again, just call us dumb and dumber. Turns out the trolley that moves around the Park doesn’t operate during the weekdays, so we couldn’t visit the areas that the Park offers. I was sorely disappointed, but there was no way we could walk through that entire park. Besides, we saw several unsavory characters that scared us. Instead we hopped back on the next bus and headed for the end of the line and the Pacific Ocean.

I had seen the Pacific before when I visited LA for the Rose Bowl, but Diane had never been on the West Coast. I find the Pacific to be a very angry ocean, much different than the Atlantic, and I wanted her to see it. I assured her, from my handy-dandy tourist map, that there was beach all along the area we were going. Right. So we crossed a highway, climbed a fence, traipsed through a median, slid down a wall, and finally saw the ocean. We marched right across the sand, stuck our finger in the cold water, reversed our path and climbed right back on the bus we had gotten off of. So much for our trip to the ocean. But now she has seen both of them. We returned to our hotel - hungry, cold, disappointed and tired.

However, our day 5 trip wasn’t in vain. We got to meet the local police, up close and personal, and our names and addresses are how on file with them. At the start of the trolley trip heading to the Wharf, we were in single seats near the rear exit doors. A gentleman went to leave the trolley and another one took issue with his passing, a fight issued. The angry gentlemen started wailing on the other dude and started drop kicking him, right in the eye. We were in the middle of it. After what seemed hours, the trolley guy stopped the dang thing, the angry dude jumped off with his accomplices, and hopped right down into the BART station. Hurt dude stumbled to the front of the trolley, pouring blood.

There was an exodus from that trolley like you’ve never seen, but Diane and I both stayed on, offering our names as witnesses. And of course, being the nurse she is, she offered her assistance as well. The trolley guy, and his supervisors, couldn’t have been more grateful, to say nothing of the hurt dude. I gave a full description of the guy, surprising what you notice when you have arms and legs in your lap, but nothing came of it. Long live the BART system, that dude was probably in another city by then.

In the long run, it added to our day, although we had to fight like the bejesus to get an extended transfer from the trolley dude. I mean, come on, we shoulda got an all day pass and all he offered was another ½ hour on the transfer. But we did our good deed in San Francisco.

Day 6, we decided to return to Fisherman’s Wharf and take the trip that offered a drive-by of Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge. This was probably the best thing we could have done, considering what we saw of Alcatraz. Neither one of us would have been able to climb up that infernal walkway anyway and would not have seen anymore of the place than we did from the drive-by ferry.

The bridge was a pretty sight, but hey, it’s a dang bridge. Other than the lives lost building it, it looks like any other bridge I’ve seen around the country. We ate at the Hard Rock Café, ordered too much food, and had it bagged up to take back with us. Not that we were going to eat it, we waited until we found one of the endless hordes of homeless people and gave them two full course dinners for the evening. We trudged back to the hotel, exhausted and it was almost dark. Not a good thing in the area we were staying.

I am curious, though, why Golden Gate Park isn't near Golden Gate Bridge.

So, even if I got another ‘free’ trip to the area, I would probably not take it. I found the houses too close together and the restaurants too far apart. The people were friendly and hospitable although the transportation people are rude and angry.

Every place we visited was way over priced for what they were offering and they put garlic in every dang thing they fix, especially potatoes. Driving would be impossible and parking is outrageous. Fisherman’s Wharf isn’t anything but a strip mall on the bay, the bridge is just a bridge, and Alcatraz is just a prison that doesn’t exist anymore. It was freezing cold and the wind is incredible. The streets were dirty and covered in trash and I always felt like I needed a bath after being out.

My apologies to those that love it and call it home and to those that visit it with glee. I’ll just crawl back to my metropolitan city and lick my wounds, and I’m taking my heart with me. I sure didn’t leave it in the city by the bay.



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review by . April 29, 2009
I lived in San Francisco for 18 months and have had a mixed experience. The hills and the views are memorable, and areas such as Golden Gate Park really rival Central Park. Obviously if you like Asian foods then SF is a foodie Mecca, and there are little pockets of great things scattered around that can take some time to find.  Public transport is not really as all-encompassing and integrated as many locals would have you believe. The ferry is phenomenally expensive, buses and BART and …
review by . December 09, 2008
In the interest of full disclosure, I have to admit I'm a little biased.  As a seventh-generation San Franciscan, I've grown up being told stories of how the art gallery on Jackson Street used to be my Great-Grandfather's boot shop, of how his father used to work in the same building where I got my first job.  It's hard not to be proud of roots like that, so it's no joke when I say San Francisco is in my blood.    So there you have it, I'm biased.  Maybe I'm not …
review by . December 15, 2008
While I give it a high rating I must say that SF is still growing on me. I have lived in New York (Brooklyn, Queens and Long Island), Georgia (Atlanta) and Ohio (Columbus/Mt. Vernon) and have traveled all over the country for work and yet I am still not fully solid on SF.    The things that I like include public transport and the wide variety of cuisine. I love being able to walk around the city and feel as if nothing is really "too" far from each other...after all its only 7X7. …
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The City and County of San Francisco is the fourth most populous city in California and the 14th most populous city in the United States, with a 2007 estimated population of 764,976. Among the most densely populated cities in the country, San Francisco is part of the San Francisco Bay Area, which is home to more than 7.1 million people. The city is located at the tip of the San Francisco Peninsula, with the Pacific Ocean to the west, San Francisco Bay to the east, and the Golden Gate to the north.

In 1776, the Spanish settled the tip of the peninsula, establishing a fort at the Golden Gate and a mission named for Francis of Assisi. The California Gold Rush in 1848 propelled the city into a period of rapid growth, transforming it into the largest city on the West Coast at the time. After being devastated by the 1906 earthquake and fire, San Francisco was quickly rebuilt, hosting the Panama-Pacific International Exposition nine years later. During World War II, San Francisco was the send-off point for many soldiers to the Pacific Theater. After the war, the confluence of returning servicemen, massive immigration, liberalizing attitudes, and other factors gave rise to the Summer of Love and the gay rights movement, cementing San Francisco as a liberal bastion in the United States.

San Francisco is a popular international tourist destination famous for its landmarks, including the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz Island, the cable cars, Coit Tower, and Chinatown, its steep rolling...

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