I left my heart in San Francisco, a lot of my money and almost my life. We just had to do it. We had to see Chinatown, the Golden Gate Bridge, and Fisherman’s Wharf. We just couldn’t be this close and pass right by all the usual tourists haunts.
The boss and I headed north from Los Angeles on US 101 for San Fransico where we could only get reservations for three nights because this particular park is so popular. We were stoked to get there because it advertised that it was right beside the Pacific Ocean. We didn’t order a water view site because of it costing more, but we were pleasantly surprised when we were directed to an Oceanside site anyway.
We arrived in the afternoon, so we watched both the sunset and the moonlight glistening over the water all evening. It’s a good thing we did too, because it didn’t last. Sometime that night the sea fog rolled in and didn’t burn off for the next three days. Worse than that, there is a park at the base of the Golden Gate Bridge (Battery Spencer), that we wanted to go to and didn’t. We want to go mainly because our late son had been there and snapped a beautiful picture we ran on the cover of the magazine a few years ago. (That’s his photo above.) The fog was so thick the whole time we were there we did not feel like the 42 minute, 12 mile drive (traffic problems) and toll both ways was worth it.
That first day we were so tired we didn’t do much, but watch the ocean. It seems that fighting the hills and aggressive drivers in California takes a toll on my body and I was worn out. The second day however, I was rested and ready to go and we couldn’t wait! We decided to go into downtown San Francisco to see Chinatown and a famous restaurant near Fisherman’s Wharf called the Boudin Bakery and Cafe. We took off early full of optimism and naïveté’.
We found Chinatown, but the downtown traffic was bumper to bumper from red light to red light, with some of the most unusual sights along the way. We saw a tall man dressed as a woman with high heels, ballet dress (Tu-Tu), tights, wearing heavy makeup, and a wife beater t-shirt. Had we been on the freeway I might have caused a crash. I looked away after the first second, but then I had to look again to make sure I really saw what I thought I’d seen and almost rear ended the car in front of me. That happened a lot because there is a lot of (differentness) to see. It’s a wonder we got out alive.
We finally made it to Chinatown proper and realized we had another problem… parking. We drive a 4-dr pick-up truck. We finally found a parking garage after driving around for thirty minutes looking for curbside parking and not finding any. We pulled into the garage entrance and a very annoyed middle aged Chinese Man pointed to a sign on the wall that said oversized vehicles $30.00 for 15 minutes. He said something loudly in Chinese and pointed again towards the sign which was in English and Chinese and then said in English “$30.00, you oversize vehicle”. We got the point and proceeded to try to back out.
It was a very narrow driveway and we were backing out onto a very narrow and busy street. With clenched teeth I instructed the boss to watch the back up camera display screen to make sure we didn’t hit one of the (80,000? residents/tourists) of Chinatown that seemed to be crowding the sidewalks everywhere. Needless to say we made it okay, and we continued our quest for a metered parking space. Around and around, up and down block after block we went through the hilly streets of Chinatown, until finally I spotted a white Ford mini-van pulling away from the curbside. The space was the last one away from the intersecting street so it would accommodate our OVERSIZE vehicle with ease.
We had found a parking place after one and a half hours of looking, and despite it being my idea to go to Chinatown, I was over it by this time.
I was not too thrilled as we trudged the three blocks to our original destination we were headed to in the first place. Let me tell you I’m 6’2″ tall on a good day and I felt like a giant among the Chinese people that were everywhere. The sidewalks were about five feet wide and almost every inch was in use at any given time. I did learn several things, one of which is – they have a great respect for a camera in their culture. If you point your iPhone like you are trying to take a picture the whole throng of people stop, smile and politely wait so they don’t ruin your picture. It was amazing to watch.
Secondly, as we walked though the crowded sidewalks each time we came to an intersection the people did something I’ve never seen before. When the light turned from stop to walk these Chinese people just walked whatever way they wanted to go. Jay walking tickets galore could have been written here as they walked diagonally across the intersection and turning cars had to stop to avoid them. More than once I heard a car horn blaring only to see a little Chinese grandmother jaywalking across the intersection. I thought this must be a cultural thing too. Much later, I saw a sign that explained it in small print in English. It is what’s called a “pedestrian scramble” and walking diagonally across the intersection is perfectly legal. It must be something they invented just for the overcrowded Chinatown, as I didn’t see any of these signs in any other part of San Francisco that we drove through.
Shopping in Chinatown is a real hoot according to the boss. Food prices in California are unbelievably high and the boss was “oh so happy” about the prices in Chinatown. We bought three shopping bags full of food for about $47.00. It was great fun too, but finding anything specific was a bear because a lot of the items are labeled in Chinese. We managed pretty well though and lots of the younger workers spoke at least broken English. I think if we had been going straight back we would have bought some of the fresh food that I saw in most of the business windows too. They had everything from barbeque duck to fresh seafood and it all looked great. There was an abundance of fresh vegetables of all shapes and sizes, and the boss bought all of it that she could get me to carry.
We went to a Chinese bakery too (Good Mong Kok Bakery) for some dim sum that the boss saw in a YouTube video, and it was about a ten minute wait in line. We bought a whole grocery bag of all sorts of delectable goodies for just over ten dollars. I must say it was well worth the effort, but the reviews are correct (bring your own sauces.) This was our breakfast for the day and it was very good plain, but it would have been phenomenal with dipping sauces. I stayed alert for possible pickpockets in this very crowded area however, there was no visible crime or anything at all that made the hair on my neck stand up.
When we left Chinatown we headed down towards Fisherman’s Wharf to look for a famous sourdough bakery called called Boudin Bakery Cafe. The boss was all excited to get some clam chowder served in a fresh-baked sourdough loaf. She heard about it on YouTube, where else? Unfortunately, we had enjoyed great clam chowder in Maine last year and our expectations were very high. We found a metered parking space near the wharf without too much problem at all.
After paying nearly eight dollars and change to the parking meter, we walked over to Boudin Bakery Cafe and ordered our famous clam chowder in a sourdough bread bowl. I must say the clam chowder in Maine was so much better. The bread bowl was good, but the chowder itself tasted like it was straight of of a can.
Oh well, so much for a YouTube recommendation.
When we finished lunch we went for a walk behind the cafe searching for some sea lions. As we walked along the pier looking for them, I took several pictures of the Alcatraz prison out in the bay. I was shocked to see how close to the mainland this famous prison island is located. The boss asked me if I wanted to take a tour to see inside the prison, but I explained that it held no allure for me. Bad men (including Al Capone, Machine Gun Kelly, Frank Morris, and the bird man Robert Stroud) were sent there and I had no desire to see their cages. Besides I’ve watched many documentaries that show what the inside of it looks like.
As far as I’m concerned they need to reopen it and send the worst of the worst there again to live out their sentences.
When we finally found the sea lions there were only a few sunning themselves, so we didn’t take too much time with them.We saw lots of boats taking lots tourists out on various excursions though. On the walk back to the truck, low and behold we see a sign that says “FREE PARKING” with a simple restaurant validation. YouTube forgot to tell us about the FREE parking too.
Speaking of YouTube…
If you’d like to see all that we saw in San Francisco be sure to watch the video and subscribe to our NEW YouTube channel while you’re there. And hit the LIKE button if you like the video. For you it’s just a click of a button, but for us – it’s a way of letting us know what you enjoy seeing, so we can keep producing it.
Watch it below…
Our visit to Chinatown was without incident and we did have a great time. I recommend visiting Chinatown if you’re in the San Francisco area as it was well worth the effort despite the parking problems. The boss and I had a great time seeing everything and we would do it again in a heartbeat. Thanks for joining us,