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
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.
A Decorative Tile Outside the Olive Oil Shop
Dishes of Exquisite Chocolates
Flower and Plant Shop
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
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
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.
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 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 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.
The Bay Bridge
The Port of San Francisco