A day in the City By The Bay: Scintillating San Francisco!

San Francisco has only one drawback, tis hard to leave! — Rudyard Kipling

Fog tumbling over the glistening golden gate bridge, while gently unveiling itself to show its full glory. A draft of cool breeze blowing down the slopes of the city with lanes dotted with colourful homes while cable cars toot their way down the slopes. San Francisco, is a city like no other!

This city built on 43 hills within a 7 by 7 mile radius fringing the Pacific Ocean has survived fires and devastating earthquakes, but still stands strong with a character of its own.

Flying into San Francisco is an experience like no other. Your plane gently descends as you begin to land and looking out of the window you see water all around you. Then as if suddenly out of no where, the run way shows up which is a projection into the water and you touch down into the Paris of the West.

After immigration and customs, I stepped out of the airport into the cold city breeze of San Francisco. I had the weekend to myself in this city and to my luck the sun was out and the weather forecast looked promising for a nice day out in THE CITY.

The city skyline. Image courtesy: citypictures1

After a quick check in at a hotel close to the airport, I hailed myself a cab and set out on my trip to explore the city. With lovely eight lane express ways with a view of the Bay along with bridges spanning across its width and the skyscrapers of Downtown San Francisco at the horizon, the drive into the city is a splendid one.

My first stop was the famous Pier 39 also knows as the Fisherman’s Wharf.

Constructed in 1938, this shopping promenade along the bay is a popular tourist vista point. Having souvenir stores along with many restaurants and the occasional street entertainment, this place sure does pack a punch as your first destination within the city!

Colourful tulips growing in giant kegs line the paved walkways, while countless yacht boats lie docked in the waters. To the right you see the magnificient recently built Bay Bridge and to your left at a fair distance lies the iconic Golden Gate Bridge.

The famous prison of Alcatraz lies a few km away from the shore and they are many tourist cruises ferrying people to and fro from the island. A walk down the pier to its other end and you are greeted to a gregarious bunch of sea lions that have made the docks at the pier their home. These pinnipeds lay sun bathing while excited onlookers can’t get enough of them. The occasional one may make a splash into the water and swim along a bit before they park themselves on the next floating dock. There are over a thousand sea lions that have made this pretty dock their home and they continue to attract tourists in droves to them.

The tulips of Pier 39
At the Pier

With a hot cup of chocolate and the cold breeze blowing down the pier I decided to walk down Beach Street. I was witness to street artists showcasing their rap music talents and a line of stores selling sea food. There is an old Naval ship that lies docked a little beyond the Pier that poses as a nice photo-op.

I walked across lush green slopes of the city that overlooked the bay until I reached my second pitstop. The famous Ghiradelli Square! A landmark public square home to the famous Ghiradelli chocolate company boasts of some lovely restaurants and nice stores. However, my destination was the famous chocolate factory and indulge my sweet tooth with some chocolate and a sundae!

Walking into the store, I was greeted by a young lady who handed me a sampler of caramelised candy and I was transported into a world of aromas, chocolate and some more chocolate! I indulged in a yummy tropical sundae, packing in enough calories to last me a lifetime!

Image courtesy: Urbantexture

Walking up the slopes of the city, away from the coast line my next destination was Lombard Street. Famously known as the crookedest street in the world, this street is an east west running street in the city of San Francisco. This street is a steep one block section, having eight hair pin bends tightly packed into it!

Colourful flowers and grand houses line the sides of this street while a large number of cars navigate this crooked narrow lane. It is a pretty sight and once you are the up the slope the view of the street and the bay is breathtaking!

The crookedest street in the world!

I alighted a touristy open topped bus and made my way to see the iconic Golden gate Bridge. Riding through downtown San Francisco, I was amazed at the architecture of this colossal city. Older buildings having typical Gothic styled architecture comfortably stood along with gigantic modern marvels with their glass facades glistening in the sun.

The street graffiti of the city is definitely worth seeing and is iconic to the cities spirit and character. Pedestrian crossings painted with the colour of the rainbow signifying gay pride and bright murals of wall art painted along dry dark alleyways are just a few examples showcasing the inclusiveness that this city is all about.

Pedestrian crossings painted with the colours of the rainbow
Graffiti on the streets of San Francisco

Driving past downtown and green parks here I was finally at the historic Golden Gate Bridge. Heralded as one of the top ten construction achievements of the 20th century this suspension bridge spans across the Golden gate strait connecting San Francisco to northern California.

Gleaming a bright golden in the sunshine, this structure is a modern marvel! After disembarking the bus at the scenic vista point, I stood there marvelling at the sheer size and beauty of this structure. The bright gold contrasted against the turquoise waters of the Pacific that flowed beneath and the endless vastness of the ocean further away. Like every other tourist, I had to do the touristy “walk along the Golden Gate Bridge” and tick it off my bucket list.

Walking on this suspension bridge you are greeted by a sea of humanity. You can see people from all nationalities come to this sight and do all things touristy here. The usual clicking of the pictures with a selfie stick, to athletes running across the bridge, to cyclists biking across this bridge an a group of fierce looking Harley Davidson riders that zoomed past us were a few of the sights that I bore witness to.

Down below in the turquoise waters, sail boats leisurely navigated themselves underneath the bridge while surfers rode the surf at a beach far away. Far away at the horizon, the gleaming sky rises of downtown San Francisco glistened in the bright sunlight.

The iconic Golden Gate Bridge
The obligatory “touristy” picture on the bridge

The walk across the span of the bridge takes an hour and once at the centre of the bridge you must look down to marvel at the view down below! It is just water lashing away the the rocks and it is at that point of time you understand the uniqueness and magnitude of this architectural marvel.

Walking back to the vista point I saw Fort Baker with its boats docked down below and the famous Angel Island far away. This island was used as a US immigration check point and detention facility and over 1 million Asian immigrants have passed through this facility before setting foot ashore. This is sometimes also referred to as the Ellis Island of the West.

The Punjabi Sikhs were one of the first Indian communities to immigrate to the United States and many were detained here. Many coped with their long periods of detention by writing notes of poetry on the walls of this island. Even to this date, visitors to this island can see poetry in the Gurumukhi script etched on the walls of this island.

The view of Fort Baker and Angel Island far beyond

Driving back into the city, I got off at Union Square in downtown San Francisco. Home to a large Macy’s store and other high end fashion retail outlets, American consumerism is personified here. The city lights were switching on as the sun set and the store windows invitingly shone at me.

My last stop for the night was to head back to the pier and get a view of the Bay Bridge with all its lights. The lights of the Bay Bridge, designed by a world renowned artist Leo Villareal, shine from dusk until dawn in a myriad of different patterns that are a visual spectacle.

The lights glistening above the water, changing their patterns every few seconds and casting their reflection in the waters below with the moonlight gleaming behind, is a treat to the eyes.

The Bay lights on the Bay Bridge

San Francisco, the Fog City, is one of the prettiest cities in the world. Leaving this city I was reminded of a famous quote by Walter Cronkite,

Leaving San Francisco is like saying goodbye to an old sweetheart. You want to linger as long as possible!

To travel with world with me and read about my travels across the world, get in touch with me at Offbeat Tracks.