I really like walking, especially in a new city to orientate myself, but if you told me I would be walking 10 kilometres that morning, up and down hills I would have scoffed at you. If you follow Lindsay Landis over at Love and Olive Oil, she recently posted a tweet, “I feel like I’ve been walking up hills both ways in San Francisco”. It really isn’t an exaggeration, any flat land is actually man made ie Fisherman’s Wharf, and everything else is just hills upon hills. So ten kilometres feels really like double that! It all innocently started with me trying to find the bus tours and before I knew it I was walking through Chinatown and North Beach before the city woke up.
The sun was shining and there was a nice crispness to the air that would belay the heat I would walk through getting home. It was oddly peaceful walking through the city before everyone had their morning coffee, before the stores were raising their metal blinds with a bang. It was nice to tour around and see the city without its inhabitants and it was oddly comforting, as if I got to know her secret side; especially in complete contrast with Chinatown on Sunday during Chinese New Year!
I knew I was going in the direction of Fishermans Wharf, my destination for the afternoon, but I slowly winded myself through quiet cities towards the water until I saw the sign for Coit Tower. I hadn’t planned on visiting this place, but it was on the hostel “tourist map” and since I was near I thought, “why not?” Coit Tower was built in 1933 on telegraph hill to “beautify” the city; it’s a tower .. on a top of a hill .. not sure why this counted as beautifying the city in my opinion.
My style of visiting a new city is not for everyone. I have a good sense of direction so I wander a lot, but always in the direction of where I need to go. Sometimes it takes me through some sketchy neighbourhoods other times it takes me to peaceful places away from the beaten path.
Finally after my unanticipated hike from the business core of San Francisco over neighbourhoods I finally arrived to the touristy area of Fisherman’s Wharf and Pier 39. By this time I was so hungry for lunch I made a beeline to Boudin’s Bakery for a bowl of clam chowder and a chicken salad on their sourdough bread. Delicious! Bedouin’s is known for its sourdough, using a 150 year old mother culture with wild yeasts taken from the San Francisco fog.
The area is full of touristy stores, restaurants, and people asking you to come on their bus tour and not the other. I enjoyed walking around, looking at what the crab stalls have to offer, what postcards to pick up, and just enjoying a beautiful sunny day sitting on a bench people watching. That is until I heard seals barking. I didn’t even know Pier 39 had its own resident seal group; rolling mass of brown barking blubber that baked in the sun while young males tried to push each other off the docks into the water. They were entertaining, especially one fellow who kept winning against his mates.
Deciding I had enough of the crowds I decided to continue walking west, where I spotted Hyde Street Pier, it’s on the other side of Fisherman’s Wharf and doesn’t get a lot of attention. Probably because if your into shopping you’ll get tired of looking at all the historic schooners, but sitting at the marina on a sunny afternoon can be quiet peaceful, especially watching the antics of two young boys trying to run from the water.
I did go into the Ghiradelli store, I thought there may be a tour through the factory, if there was one, I couldn’t find it but had to content myself with the free square of chocolate given at the store entrance.
Now don’t be a hero like me, thinking you have the rest of the afternoon, walking back to your hostel on the other side of the large hill is perfectly fine – don’t. Buy a cable car or tram ticket back to you hostel because that large hill once you get to the “top” keeps slowly going up and up, and on a hot day, you’ll be sweating and red faced by the time you crash onto your hostel bed. Not like it happened to me or anything …