The vision of The Golden Gate Bridge leading through the fog toward the city of San Francisco will linger in my memory whenever recalling my trip to this northern California city. The warm breeze hit the second we stepped out of the San Francisco International Airport: a relief from the east coast cold back at home. It was only a long weekend trip but I was able to visit Alcatraz, the famous piers of the Wharf, Alamo Square Park, Haight Street and more in just three days.
We ate at the world famous Mel’s Diner for a quick American meal of burgers and fries only to set out for the ports immediately to follow. The shore is filled with tourist stores, amazing restaurants and a place to see the bike riding or rollerblading locals. We made our way along the breezy port to Hyde Street Pier to see a breathtaking view of Alcatraz, the infamous federal penitentiary more familiarly known as “the rock,” and historic ships. We anticipated riding The Trolleys (or cable cars) of San Francisco, the only moving national historical landmark, before we even left New York. We took two of the three trolley lines, California and Powell-Hyde, to get to Haight-Ashbury and walk along Haight Street, a west coast version of Manhattan’s downtown St. Marks stores: Vintage shops, tie-dye filled hippie spots and California’s store chain, Amoeba Music. Stay on this street long enough and you may make a vintage leather jacket purchase and eat in a trendy Thai restaurant, such as we did.
We ate at an all-day breakfast restaurant Saturday morning called Moulin Café, a family owned restaurant based in the bottom floor of where they lived. The food was incredible, not to mention reasonable. San Francisco is not only known for its amazing food but also for its architecture such as the Victorian houses built along the city’s steep, sloped streets. The picture perfect houses positioned side-by-side along Alamo Square Park are viewed as the best representation of these famous homes. We ate at the restaurant Alioto’s, located next to the seafood market down by the pier where from the window of our table, we viewed the sun setting into the bay behind the golden gate bridge.
The last day in San Francisco was the most beautiful of all our time there. Days where The Golden Gate Bridge isn’t rolled in fog are rare and a morning spent down by the ports was inescapable. Stores and signs along Pier 39 pay homage to the city’s sea and sunbathing friends, local sea lions, with tourists flocking to see them sleep and frolic at the edge of the wharf. After ogling over the resident sea lions and admiring the uncountable number of sailboats on the bay, it was time for our scheduled trip to Alcatraz Island.
A trip to “the Rock” is half the island tour; half the ferry-ride to get there. The sun was shining off the bay water and reflecting the red of the golden gate while we slowly approached the eerie Alcatraz Island. An 18-month occupation by an Indian Tribe before becoming a historical site and national park is evident on first arrival to the island with the words, “Indians welcome here,” painted in large letters on the entrance in red. To walk past the close quarters of each cell gave chills to visitors as the story was told of how the proximity of this island to the shore often led to the inmates hearing the laughs and talking of those celebrating off the piers.
The houses built on a hill, palm trees, docked boats and cable car filled steep streets give this city a unique feel that sets itself apart from others. And though a quick bus ride can bring you from one end of the city to the other, there still was so much unseen and I look forward to my next trip to the west coast to see this city by the bay once more.