Saturday, July 21, 2012

A Day in San Francisco

Sorry this post keeps showing up in different places, and in RSS feeds more then once.  I had some formatting issues with my blog, and deleted this post thinking it was the cause.

A friend asked what she and her husband should do with one day in San Francisco, before driving down the coast to L.A.  Unlike most visitors to San Francisco, they will have a car.

I lived in the Bay Area from 1980 to 1999, with 1986 to 1998 in San Francisco proper, near the Marina district.

First thing I would advise her is to schedule more time.  A day is not enough.

Some of my information is a bit old; it has been 13 years since I lived in SF. 

If I had only a day, this is what I would do.

First thing, people think California and think hot.  Most will be, but not San Francisco.  Be prepared to dress in layers.  It might be 50's or 60's in the city while you are there, and maybe 70's and 80's too, all in the same day.

Skip Alcatraz, Fisherman's Wharf, Lombard St. etc. for such a short visit.  They are tourist traps and about as relevant to the nature of the Bay Area as Disney World is to Southern California.

Begin with a drive up Market Street.  The entire history of San Francisco happened near this street.  To your left a block away is the Mission District, to the right is the Financial District.  Before you go, watch this film shot along this route a few days before the earthquake in 1906.

As you get up to Fifth Street, the Emporium and Nordstroms department store are to your left.  To the right a couple blocks away is Macys two big department stores.

When you get to Van Ness turn right on Van Ness and take it to Lombard St. and turn left onto Lombard. You won't see the curly part of Lombard (it is to the right several blocks away), but you will avoid the long lines to go down it. 

In two blocks, turn right off of Lombard onto Gough Street (pronounced Golf).  It dead ends at Bay St.  Turn Left.  On your Right is Fort Mason.  Now a park and arts center, it was once a major Army Base and last active in WWII and Korea.  I understand the former commanders read like a Who's Who in history : Pershing, MacArthur, Patton.

Follow the traffic flow and go right at Laguna, left at Beach, and the left at Marina Blvd.

To your right soon will be San Francisco Bay and Marina Green.  On the left some outrageously expensive homes in a city renowned for expensive real estate.

As you get to about Fillmore Street, you are on the site of the 1915 World Exposition.

Keep going until you get to the Golden Gate Bridge.  You will pass through the Presidio of San Francisco.  It used to be a major West Coast Army Base and has been a fortified position since 1776.  And we are told it will be the future home of Star Fleet Academy.

View Larger Map

Cross the Bridge.  Don't worry now about tolls, they only charge them when you come back.

As you cross the bridge, keep in mind it just celebrated its 75th anniversary.  If you look to the right you will see Alcatraz.  Don't worry you do not have time this time to visit.  It is a decaying prison.  It looks cooler then it is.

At about Two O'Clock in your view, is Angel Island.  Now a park, it was once the Ellis Island of the West Coast, processing millions of Chinese Immigrants.

Ahead and to the left is the Marin Headlands.

As you get off the bridge, there is a vista area to the right if you want to stop.

You are now in Marin County.  It is home to San Quentin Prison, Skywalker Ranch, and is the fifth richest county in the US. 

There are so many wonderful things to see here:  Muir Woods redwood forest, the Marin HeadlandsStinson BeachPoint Reyes National Seashore, and Mount Tamalpais.

My friends are journalists so they especially be interested in knowing the tiny, two person Point Reyes Light newspaper won a Pulitzer in 1979.  (My friend also worked in a Republican White House, so we won't tell her about Marin's rabid Liberal leaning)

Northern Marin still has a couple thriving one room school houses educating K to 8 grades.

After you get off the bridge, exit at Alexander Avenue and follow it down until it becomes South Street.  Take a right on 2nd Street then right on Bridgeway.

This takes you along the Sausalito Waterfront and ultimately  Sausalito's famous house boats.

Rejoin the highway I-101 at the end of Sausalito.

Exit I-101 again at 131 Tiburon Blvd. and follow 131 into Tiburon.

When you get into downtown Tiburon, find parking and have drinks and/or lunch on the deck at Sam's Anchor Cafe.

As you enjoy the nice day, imagine how nice it would be to arrive on your own boat to their private docks.

On your way back to the city, after you come off the bridge (warning, you will have to pay tolls coming in) exit to Route 1 South (Veterans Blvd.).  That will take you through the Presidio into the city.

Small note: when I was younger and fitter, this was my weekly bicycle ride.  From Union & Fillmore Streets across the bridge to Tiburon and back.

Turn right on Geary Blvd. and follow it out to the end, site of the famous Sutro Baths (now ruins) and the Cliff House restaurant.

There is so much more you could do.  For now, I've left my visitors out at the Western edge of the continent.  I suggest at this point they take Geary back downtown to their hotel and enjoy a nice dinner in the city.  On their way back in, they might want to swing through Sea Cliff neighborhood where home owners like Robin Williams and Cheech Marin live.

Or they could swing past Danielle Steele's home (formerly that of Hawaii Sugar baron Adolph Spreckels) to see how the wealthy lived a hundred years ago.

This is one day meant to wow someone.  I could suggest so much more if they had a week.

Note:  If anyone familiar with San Francisco spots an error or has a suggestion, please leave it in comments.

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