Saturday, April 2, 2011

The City by the Bay. (California '11 - #1)

San Francisco Bay, Golden Gate Bridge,
Maritime National Historical Park
Fisherman's Wharf, Alcatraz, Lombard street, Golden Gate Bridge, Coit Tower, Chinatown, cable cars... In San Francisco, famous landmarks abound. It's a good thing our family has been visiting this iconic city on a regular basis over the last twenty years. It certainly took that long to "get a feel" for San Francisco and its diverse and lively neighborhoods. When we come back nowadays, we feel less stress, less pressure to have productive days. Instead, we re-visit favorite locations, walk for hours (and what a great "walking city" this is!) or discover new restaurants. In that sense, to us, San Francisco is similar to Paris. You may know the place well; yet, there are always surprises, new discoveries awaiting around the corner. 

No matter what our San Francisco stays turn out to be, we follow the same routine as soon as we leave our bags in the hotel room. We rush to the waterfront! I don't know what it is with us and the water. If there is water (an ocean, a lagoon, a lake), we have to get there a.s.a.p. San Francisco is no exception. It does not matter that we have to walk -a lot- to get there. To the water we go!

Fisherman's Wharf
Today, we walked to the Ferry Building. Built in 1898 and extensively remodeled in 2003, the old building - a covered market - is a celebration of food. The views from the back were breathtaking. We saw water, all right, and Bay Bridge, sailboats... 

Ferry Building 
Most people who visit Ferry Building sample the delicious, fresh, organic produce sold by local vendors. They also take breathtaking photos of the colorful stores. Instead, I happened to look up and noticed... signs. Lots of cool signs. If you have been reading this blog for a while, you know I love signs, "enseignes" as the French call them. I even write about them! Some of my favorites:

This store specializes in... mushroom! I thought it would be more appropriately located in Haight Ashbury! (Ha! Ha!)

Don't get me wrong. We still found time to sample some delicious gelato and caramelized popcorn. It was time for "le goûter" (the traditional end-of-afternoon snack in France). Besides, we had walked for almost an hour to get to the Ferry Building, so pourquoi pas?

What a gorgeous day to be in San Francisco. We left Seattle and its damp, grey weather behind, and a few hours later, we were soaking up the rays by the bay. Life is good in California! Oui, oui, I know. The weather is not always ideal here either. It gets overcast, and foggy AND Mark Twain famously complained about San Francisco summers. Then again, he also complained about the French, and a lot of other things. I love Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn, but I suspect their "father" was a bit of a twitcher, if you see what I mean...

I digress... An afternoon on the waterfront would not be complete without riding one of the old cable cars. We left the Ferry Building. We followed the waterfront and we walked, then walked some more, past Pier 39 and the sea lions, Boudin bakery, and cheap souvenir stores. Finally, we reached the Maritime National Historical Park. As many people know, this is both the beginning and the end of the line for the Powell-Hyde cable car line. Visitors even get to watch the capable operators "turn the cars around" before they fill them up again.

Turning the old cable cars around...
Unfortunately, every single tourist in San Francisco had had the same idea and EVERYONE was lining up (in an orderly fashion) to get on a cable car.  We had to wait well over an hour and a half to board one, prompting me (the girl who was spoiled most of her adult life with the amazing European transportation systems) to comment: "This can't possibly be considered public transportation. It is not efficient enough. Good thing they retired them. The Paris subway system ON STRIKE is more efficient than this!" -- You get the picture. I was starting to sound like that old complainer, Mark Twain. 

Le Husband and Junior prepare to enjoy their long-awaited cable car ride
The ride up and down Russian Hill on the venerable cable car was a lot of fun. Junior loved watching two young guys who ran like the wind on the sidewalk and started racing with the cable car.  For 10 minutes, they desperately tried to get on at each stop-- and failed. They finally made it and were greeted on board with thunderous applause! Fun times, les amis, fun times.

This was only Day 1 of our California Adventures... Can't wait for more. Bonne nuit!

1 comment:

  1. Well said!! I have to say i also took some incredible pix this week of SF simply walking around the top of Nob Hill and Chinatown on a perfectly sunny and hot day. I too was in heaven! Enjoy day 2! Can't wait to read the next post from your California Adventure.


Bonjour! I love hearing from you, my readers. To quote a fellow blogger, my friend Owen, "Comments are the icing on blogcake... Comments are the UFO in the twilight sky bearing news from other planets... Comments are raspberry vinegar in salad dressing... Comments are the cool balm of after-sun moisturizing lotion... Comments are the moment the band comes back out onstage to play an encore... Comments are the gleam in the eye across the room in a smoky bar... Comments are the rainbow after the rainstorm..." Merci for your comments! French Girl in Seattle