Wednesday, September 30, 2009

San Francisco - First day and first meal

The timing for the flight from Hong Kong to San Francisco must be one of the best. You hop on the plane early afternoon and you get there in the afternoon on the very same day. If we ever get time warp, this surely feels like it. Downtown is just a short taxi ride away from the airport and the fare costs less than US$50.

After they settled in to their hotel room, mum and dad started their walking tour of downtown San Francisco. The first destination is the "crookedest" street, Lombard street, via Chinatown.

Chinatown is filled with shop after shop selling American ginseng in all sort of sizes and of course plenty of Chinese restaurants. The area feels like Hong Kong in the 60s and 70s. And as mum and dad found out later, there are plenty of places where you can use Cantonese to communicate even outside Chinatown. Plenty of local shops have Cantonese speaking people behind the counter and a lot of the cable car drivers speak Cantonese as well.

San Francisco downtown is a bit like a department store of different ethnic cultures. You walk past the China section to go into a small section which feels Italian. And on the other side past Union Square, you get Japantown as well.

The trek up to the crooked part of Lombard street is a long steep one. If you prefer an easier time, take the cable car up instead as the Powell-Hyde Cable car line takes you all the way from the crossing of Powell and California to the crooked part of Lombard. Also if you use a GPS, make sure you key in 2000 Lombard street instead of 1 Lombard street which will take you to the other end with not a lot to see.

When you see the "crookedest" street, you realize why it's such a tourist trap. Not only do you see the tight hair-pin turns on a steep slope, the surrounding flora and houses also please the eyes.

You might have seen a lot of pictures showing the whole stretch of the "crookedest" street, but none of them are taken from the surrounding area. You need to take one from afar to capture the whole thing.

The long steep road from Lombard street down via Hyde street take you to Fisherman's Wharf where if you are a fan of Dungeness crab, you won't be disappointed. Street stalls and restaurants are serving the crab in one style or another. Probably too much of a challenge for mum and dad on the first day. They decided to grab a light meal in Boudin near Fisherman's Wharf. Clam chowder and a crab cake sandwich - yummy!! You should see the video showing the production line of this meal.

After dinner at Fisherman's Wharf, they strolled along the bay where street artists performed with the sun setting behind them.........

Then they arrived at their final tourist trap of the day, Pier 39. In addition to souvenir shops of all variety, its major claim of fame is a resident population of sea lions. Despite their names, they are more like dogs and they can't seem to stop "barking".

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