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Scenic San Francisco (Part II)

23 February 2012 No Comment

San Francisco view from Twin Peaks

In this second segment, we continue with a few other locations in the San Francisco area, beginning first with Twin Peaks. The Twin Peaks-Lake Merced district is home to the Twin Peaks, two almost identical peaks located in the geographical center of San Francisco. The top of the peaks are mostly undeveloped, and are the best vantage points with a 360 degree view of the city, 300m up. Just drive up to either of the peaks and snap away.

Walk up to Coit Tower

View from our walk to Coit Tower

There’s little to do at the summit apart from taking photos, so we drove back down and headed north east towards the Chinatown-North Beach district. This district is famed for the seamless mesh up of the Chinatown and Little Italy neighborhoods. However, we were not there for that. Instead, our destination was Coit Tower, located on Telegraph Hill. Erected in 1933, the Coit Tower stands at 64m tall, and was named after Lillie Hitchcock Coit, the wealthy socialite who is said to have bequeathed 1/3 of her fortune to beautify San Francisco. The tower aside, there is another memorial (a sculpture depicting 3 firemen) built in her name.

San Francisco Coit Tower

The Coit Tower

The art deco tower is fronted by a statue of Christopher Columbus, and houses intricate fresco murals and paintings. While it is possible to drive up there, the only road leading to the tower can get rather congested during the peak visiting hours. A healthier and more interesting alternative would be to climb the Filbert Steps, a series of wooden and concrete stairs and footpaths offering a steep and direct way up. We took the Filbert Steps and what a climb it was! We reached the top panting, and felt rather sheepish when a middle aged group (60+ years) trooped past us with considerably less effort. At the top, we were rewarded with magnificent views of the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz and our next destination, Fisherman’s Wharf.

As previously mentioned (in our previous article), throughout our journey around town, we were accompanied by a local. Rather than driving us directly to Fisherman’s Wharf, he dropped us off at Union Square, where we were to take a cable car (on Powell Street) to Fisherman’s Wharf. Union Square is the shopping, hotel and theatre hub in downtown San Francisco, full of department stores, high end boutiques, eateries, hotels, art galleries and theatres. We made our way to the Powell/ Market turntable, where cable cars are manually turned around.

San Francisco Cable Car

San Francisco Cable Car

Tickets are sold at booths near the turnarounds or via the conductor onboard. We got the single trip ticket for the Powell-Hyde line, and joined the queue to board. It was a scant 10 minutes wait till our turn, and the ride was a lovely experience. There were various stops along the way, where passengers could board and alight, and we got off at the last stop, which was at the edge of Fisherman’s Wharf.

Fisherman’s Wharf has been a popular tourist attraction since the 1970s. Home to Pier 39, the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park and other attractions, Fisherman’s Wharf plays host to many tourists each year. As our cable car ride ended slightly west of Pier 39, we strolled along the wharf, heading eastwards.

SF Fisherman's Wharf

Around the Fisherman’s Wharf

SF Fisherman's Wharf sign

On our left were countless of marine vessels offering bay sightseeing and fishing tours, while on our right were souvenir shops and eateries.  Many fresh seafood restaurants along the way beckoned at us with their offers of Dungeness crab and seafood chowder (served in a sourdough bread bowl).  The pictures and descriptions of the food were so appetizing that we caved and decided to have lunch. There were quite a number of restaurants but as we were unfamiliar with the area, we just picked the nearest, which was Cioppinos. They served a really delicious seafood stew, but their pastas were just alright.

After lunch, we continued walking towards Pier 39, a shopping centre built on a pier. In our opinion, rather than calling it a shopping center, a better description would be a marine themed dining, entertainment, shopping and attraction fairground. California sea lions are a common seasonal occurrence on the docks of Pier 39’s marina. It’s a pity we didn’t get to see any (possibly due to the season), but as a consolation, there were good views of Alcatraz, Angel Island, the Bay Bridge and the Golden Gate Bridge.

Alcatraz at a distance

Alcatraz visible at a distance

If you have a car and a GPS handy, the places mentioned should be doable within a day and on a shoe string budget. This concludes our two-part write-up on scenic spots in San Francisco. For those of you who have been there before, we hope that you’ve enjoyed it as much as we had. For the rest, we hope that this will entice you to travel to San Francisco and experience it yourself!

Travel Info

Cable car ride (Single Ticket) costs USD 5.

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