Travels & Places: San Francisco

travel-sanfrancisco-2Want a special trip? Try a three-day jaunt to San Francisco

Day 1: Fisherman’s Wharf, Ghirardelli Square, the Cannery and Union Square. Stay at the Kensington Park on Post Street across from San Francisco’s landmark St. Francis Hotel. All the same views for a lot less money. Check in, drop the suitcases, and hop a cable car to Fisherman’s Wharf, sit at one of the many cafes, savor the city’s ambience and a Sidewalk Seafood Cocktail, a signature San Francisco dish. Sourdough shaped into a bowl is filled with hot clam chowder. The Boudin family has baked the original sourdough bread since 1849. Golden Gate City’s historic cable cars plunge down steep hills, brakes screeching and bells clanging, then turn and climb scary vertical inclines said to reach halfway to the stars. Natives who know what they are doing and where they are going, leap on and off the running boards. Tourists hang on for dear life. Next, visit Ghirardelli Square, once home to a world-famous chocolate factory. The renovated building has an open air center filled with boutiques, flower stalls, antique shops, art galleries, international restaurants, ice-cream parlors, and displays of the original chocolate making machines. Then on to the Cannery. The former peach processing plant is now home to art galleries and specialty shops. For those who love shopping there’s Nordstrom, the only store in the country with spiral escalators that rise through a 9-story atrium; also, the largest Old Navy store in the world.

a_travel-sanfrancisco-3Day 2: China Town, North Beach, Lombard Street. A dragon-topped gate leads into China Town. Dragons are draped over street lamps shaped like Chinese lanterns. The buildings have arched eaves, carved cornices and filigreed balconies. Step into the Orient. Lunch at a Sushi Bar. Struggle with the Chinese menu and the chop sticks. If it gets too difficult, go ahead, ask for a knife and fork. It’s your vacation. West of China Town is North Beach, known to the locals as “Pasta Paradise” because of its many well known Italian restaurants. The neighborhood’s Little Italy image is taken so seriously that the restaurants are designated by region, either Italian or Northern Italian. North Beach is funky, eclectic and a lot of fun. Visit Lombard Street, the crookedest street in the world. Looking up from the base, the red brick pavement zig-zags uphill, little gardens all in bloom tucked into every curve. Traffic goes one-way downhill, Hyde to Leavenworth.

Day 3. On your last day, visit Alcatraz. The renown penitentiary is about a mile out. A boat takes you across in 10 minutes. There’s a good view of the Golden Gate bridge on the ride over. The $12 tour price includes head phones so that you can walk through at your own pace. Since Sean Connery filmed “The Rock,” Alcatraz has become such a popular destination that reservations on the Blue & Gold ferry boat line are recommended. Sitting in the middle of the San Francisco Bay, a world unto itself, the island is now a national park. In this once infamous federal prison, long off-limits to the public, Al Capone, Machine Gun Kelly, and Robert Stroud, the Birdman of Alcatraz, did their time. (Burt Lancaster starred in the Birdman movie). Learn about the native American occupation of 1969-1971, the early military fortifications, the west Coast’s first and oldest operating lighthouse. Walk around the island’s gardens, tide pools and bird colonies, all being preserved by the National Park Service. On the tape is the voice of the Bird Man of Alcatraz. Actual prison guards do part of the narration. Former inmates conduct the audio tour. Walking through the empty cells, listening to convicts who’ve spent a lifetime locked up in Alcatraz, the chill surpasses the warm temperature. Look out a small barred window, see the city across the bay and wonder how many prisoners stared through this very same window at civilization so near yet so far away. A three-day trip that’ll live forever in your memory. Do it now!

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IF YOU GO: Day 1: From Kensington Place Hotel in Union Square hop a historic
cable car to (1) Fisherman’s Wharf for a Sidewalk Cocktail. (2) The Cannery (3) Ghirardelli Square. Day 2: (4) China Town, (5) North Beach, (6) Lombard St. Day 3: (7) Alcatraz. Ferry departs Pier 41 Fisherman’s Wharf every 30 minutes

The Fisherman’s Wharf area is the most popular place for tourist accommodations in San Francisco. This part of the city along the northern Embarcadero was once the center of a thriving fishing industry, and a small fleet of commercial fishing vessels still operates out of its marina. It currently has many shops, restaurants, shopping malls, hotels and tourist attractions located along its waterfront.

At the center of the neighborhood is the old Fisherman’s Wharf with a collection of seafood markets, restaurants, shops and a picturesque fleet of fishing vessels. Nearby, Pier 39 offers another assortment of shops, restaurants, amusements plus a large noisy colony of sea lions. Ferryboats depart from Pier 41 for tours of Alcatraz Island and excursions on San Francisco Bay. At Pier 45, near the west end of Fisherman’s Wharf, the San Francisco Maritime Museum offers many historical exhibits including a World War II submarine and a Liberty ship. The shopping centers of Ghirardelli Square, the Cannery and the Anchorage are nearby. The famous cable car turnaround is just a few blocks away

a_travel-sanfrancisco-4Things to See

Golden Gate Bridge Park
Academy of Sciences
Asian Art Museum
Exploratorium
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco
MOMA (Museum of Modern Art)
Steinhart Aquarium
Symphony
San Francisco Zoo

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