A Trip Through San Francisco

Me on the Ferry

Every winter break, my sister, Kris and I, take our kids on a day trip to San Francisco. We’ve been doing it for years. Sometimes the hubbies are able to go. This was the first year my other sister, Kathy, and her kids went along with us. Having just gotten a cute little digital camera for Christmas, I decided to take it along and make a photo journal of our day. So come along with us as we travel through one of the most beautiful cities in the world.

We catch the Vallejo ferry at 10:00, coffee in hand.The boat is crowded, but the nine of us all manage to get seats together. The weather is cold, breezy, and crisp, and the sky is impossibly blue. On our hour long ride, we pass San Quentin Prison and the Golden Gate Bridge.


The Golden Gate Bridge

As we approach the city, I can see the Transamerica building, with its distinctive pyramid shape, rising into the sky. And to the west, is the lovely silhouette of Coit Tower with its collection of colorful houses resting below it.

Transamerica Pyramid Building

Coit Tower

After arriving at the pier, we go into the Ferry Building which is filled with wonderful shops. There’s a bakery, olive oil stores, candy stores, cheese market, flower shops, all open onto a main walk way. There are restaurants and coffee shops and other little stores. At this point, the kids usually complain about being hungry, so we grab a couple of freshly baked baquettes to nibble on as we walk.

Candy Shop

A Decorative Tile Outside the Olive Oil Shop

Dishes of Exquisite Chocolates

Flower and Plant Shop

Sightseeing Tours

Eventually we leave the Ferry Building and walk across the street to the Hyatt Regency Hotel. If we do our little trip before Christmas, we always enjoy the elaborate, minature Santa’s Village that they set up in the hotel lobby. But since we this trip is after the holiday, the village display has been taken down in preparation for the New Year’s Eve party. It’s always fun to ride up seventeen floors inside the hotel’s glass elevator. Sometimes we go to the very top where they have a rotating restaurant called the Equinox.

Sculpture in the Lobby of the Hyatt Regency Hotel

Right outside of hotel, at the corner of Market and California streets, we catch the cable car for our ride to Chinatown. The office buildings along California Street still have most of their Christmas decorations up.

Our Cable Car Ride

Decorations on California Street

After the slow climb to the top of the hill, we jump off the cable car at Grant Street and start our descent through Chinatown. My sister and I always enjoy going into a little religious gift shop next to St. Mary’s Church. The church has been there since before the 1906 earthquake.

Carved Wooden Angel

Chinatown in so much fun; it’s a feast for the senses. The street is narrow and the sidewalks crowded. Shop’s wares spill out into the sidewalk. The kids usually buy sparklers and smoke bombs for New Years, and I love looking at the silks and pottery and ivory carvings. Kris and I always buy boxes of chewy rice candy. Exotic smells come out of the herb shops and there seems to be a different Chinese restaurant at every other door.

A View Down Grant Street

Gold Ornaments and Tiles Decorate a Bank

Oriental Store

Dragon Mural

At the end of Grant Street, I see this street sign. I’ve never noticed it before. It leads into a tiny alley that’s closed off for construction.

Jack Keroac Street

We head down Columbus Street, backtracking a bit, as we make our way to our favorite Chinese restaurant. Everyone goes ahead while I take some more pictures. I pass City Lights Bookstore, where the Beat Poets (like Jack) used to hang out. There’s a colorful collage mural on the side of wall of a local bar. The letters were spelled out using wine bottle labels. The Transamerica building looms overhead, and so does the green building which is shaped like a giant ornate wedge of cheese.

Famous City Lights Bookstore


Transamerica Building

The Green Building

I finally reach the restaurant, and everyone is waiting at our favorite table — a huge round one with a lazy susan in the middle. We devore garlicky string beans, sizzling rice soup, honey walnut prawns, potsickers, and cashew chicken. At the end of the meal, they bring us a little dish with quarters of ice cold oranges and fortune cookies. We read our fortune cookies aloud, and then I make everyone give me the little strips of paper. I don’t know the name of this restaurant; it’s a little hole in the wall. But we’ve been going here for years and the meal is always fabulous.

Usually this is the time when the kids start complaining that their feet are tired, be we still have a lot of walking to do before we reach our final destination. A hot fudge sundae at Ghiradelli Square is always a good motivator, so soon we’re back on Columbus and walking up the hill through North Beach to Fisherman’s Wharf. It’s a nice long trek, and there’s always lots to see.

Bridal Boutique

Mural on the Side of a Building

St. Peters and St. Pauls Cathedral at Washington Square

Wig Shop Window

Bimbo’s Comedy Club

Since I’m taking so long with all this photography stuff, everyone else goes on ahead. Eventually I reach The Cannery, a collection of shops and restaurants in an old brick building across from Fisherman’s Wharf. Inside is the Basic Brown Bear Factory, where you can pick out and dress your own stuffed bear or other animal. And across the street is a cute little Italian restaurant. We also pass Hyde Street Pier which has a very cool submarine and two old ships that you can tour.

The Cannery

The Basic Brown Bear Factory

Ciopinno and Pasta

Hyde Street Pier

Another Old Ship

I’m almost to my destination, and I know I’ll find everyone there at Ghiradelli’s Square. From the bottom of the hill below the cable car turn-around, I look over the San Francisco Bay to the Golden Gate Bridge and the Marin Headlands. Over me is the huge Ghiradelli sign

Golden Gate Bridge and Marin Headlands

Ghiradelli Square

Ghiradelli Chocolate Shop

I find everyone waiting in line to get ice cream. This place is always packed, but people move in and out pretty fast, so we usually don’t have trouble getting a seat. They bring a huge, gooey, made-to-order banana split to our table and Kris and I dive in (we always share.) Afterwards, I go into the candy store and stock up on Peppermint Bark.

By now, we are really worn out, so we catch the J line bus back to the Ferry Building. If we rushed, we could catch the next boat, but we decide to take our time. We go back inside and get bread, cheese, olives, and a bottle of wine for the ride back home. I know it sounds like all we do is eat, and you are absolutely right! We get back on the ferry boat. The sun is just beginning to slink down, and the lights on the Bay Bridge are just starting to twinkle. I sit on the deck of the boat, and take some last photographs of our City by the Bay.

Ferry Boat

The Bay Bridge

The Port of San Francisco

Night Skyline

24 thoughts on “A Trip Through San Francisco

  1. What a wonderful account of a perfect day! I cannot imagine what life would be like without you in it! I love you!!

  2. Sounds fantastic.

    I’m visiting San Francisco in March and am really excited about this since ready your account of your day.


  3. What a wonderful trip! Your photgraphs make it very real!

    I found your website and blog through public domain images…thanks for posting all of those. I am a watercolor artist.

  4. A great post. I lived in SF in 1967!!!! Yes, that great time to be there. I esp. enjoyed the Vesuvio and City Lights photos as those were 2 places I loved. Actually another little cafe/bar called the Coffee Gallery, long since gone I’m sure, was where I went now and again. Joan Baez came in and J. Joplin sang there before she was a name. I would love to visit again, but am happy for the free tour your post gave me. Be well.

  5. loved the SF photos, so many memories for me. I went there in 2005 and 2006 and just cant wait to go back.
    Love your sight have your drawings of flowers all over my house. Thanks

  6. hi karen, gosh, what a walk down memory lane for me..i lived in SF for years and visited just about evey place you did..ialso took a picture of the Visuvio mural..thank you for posting all..sounds like a wonderful day:-) carol

  7. Hi Karen,
    Loved going through the city with you and refreshing memories of my trip to SF. I was especially interested in City Lights Book Store and spent quite a few hours there. I alway had a fascination for the Beat Era.
    You have done a beautiful job of recording your adventures and also have created some marvelous altered books. Thanks so much for sharing.
    Best, Sylvia

  8. I found this site as I was looking for Easter images in your public-domain area using the ever ubiquitous Google.

    My brother lives in Fresno, so I’ll send a link to your site to him. He and his family enjoy making day trips out of Fresno to the many wonderful areas surrounding them. He will soon be mooring his sailboat in Frisco, so I am certain that many trips to this most beautiful city are in his future.

    Thank you so much for a wonderful tour. You’ve shown me far more of the city than my wife, daughter and I were able to see when we visted for a few days back in 1979 on our way to Yokosuka, Japan for my tour of duty on the USS WORDAN.

    Hopefully, we will return someday to see even more of San Francisco.

  9. I loved SF when I visited! I did not get to do half as much as you did but I enjoyed your tour as you had great photos and descriptions…Makes me long for living in America again!
    Visiting from Nora’s

  10. Thank you so much, Karen. I live in Cornwall,U.K.and have never been to the U.S.A. Your account and photos were just like going on an exciting trip. You picked out all the interesting sights I would have liked to photograph. All the best,
    a fellow artist.

  11. Hi Karen, I just wanted to say thanks for such a wonderful writing accompanied with so many beautiful pictures. My wife and I spent thirty-three years living in the Bay Area in the City of Brentwood. We retired in 2005 and purchased a lovely farm in Kentucky. We enjoy our farm (ranch) very much but not a day goes by that we don’t think about “The City by the Bay”. We will always be San Francisco 49er fans!

    Please feel free and more than welcome to send us an email any time. May God Bless you and your family.

  12. Hi,
    just wanted to say how much I enjoyed the photos. We were in Carmel and San Francisco in 2003 and decided it wasn’t enough time, we loved it. Planned on going back the following year and explore north but my husband became ill and we don’t travel anymore. My memories of the city remain, it was one of our best trips.

  13. I reckon it’s easy to get them mixed up… they’re not *that* far apart. I really enjoyed your photos; I grew up in Palo Alto, so spent a little bit of time in SF during my childhood. Then I spent 6 or 8 weeks at Letterman Hosp. at the Presidio as a subject in a nutrition study. Wonderful city… I’d love to spend a month or two just exploring all the wonderful side streets, China Town, and the Park.

  14. I reckon it’s easy to get them mixed up… they’re not *that* far apart (I’m a little surprised no one else caught the error tho). I really enjoyed your photos; I grew up in Palo Alto, so spent a little bit of time in SF during my childhood. Then I spent 6 or 8 weeks at Letterman Hosp. at the Presidio as a subject in a nutrition study. Wonderful city… I’d love to spend a month or two just exploring all the wonderful side streets, China Town, and the Park.

  15. I LOVED your photo trip of San Francisco. I stumbled on your website looking for shamrock images (!!) to use in my correspondence with women inmates in California (I webmaster a site for Valley State Prison for Women families of inmates). I love San Francisco, and your photos were great. Looks like it was a lovely day.

  16. Hello,
    I enjoyed your photos and I am interested in using two of them with your permission. Please email me to talk about this. Thanks so much!

  17. Hi Karen ~ I have enjoyed your website so much and always feel motivated to “get busy” when I have seen your work. Since I live on the opposite coast Duxbury, MA), I am not sure I will ever get to SF, so I particularly enjoyed this blog, especially seeing the photos of things you enjoyed seeing (shop windows, etc.) You have been incredibly generous with your suggestions and “how-to’s” and I am determined this weekend to begin a new project (because of you). Thank you again. I send greetings on an invisible string that stretches across the US!!


  18. I LOVE your rendition of your day out in san francisco – we are coming from the UK to visit in october, and being a mad crafter, would love to visit a craft shop…can you recommend anywhere??
    Jane :o)

  19. Gosh, what a fantastic journal, Karen! You saw so much of the city and were so organized in your planning, which I agree is totally key when visiting a destination like San Francisco. Your photos are just lovely and an inspiration for any traveler. Thanks! 🙂

  20. A great little story of the always important family tradition and the opportunity to spend time together. I hope it lasts for many more years and generations. Jamie

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