6-7 October, 1998
Our trip began in San Francisco and also here was the end of the trip. When we landed here and drove at first night it was dark already. Now we had two days to see this beautiful city.
San Francisco is located on the tip of the San Francisco Peninsula. San Francisco has a unique mix of physical characteristics, including its steep rolling hills, its eclectic mix of architecture (including Victorian style houses and modern high rises), and being surrounded on three sides by the Pacific Ocean and the San Francisco Bay. As the land is limited in the city is due to the location, San Francisco is the second most densely populated major American city after New York. When touring around it will be noticeable that land is effectively used.
We drove into the city (our motel Ramada Inn was not in the center) and found the parking house near the piers. San Francisco is just not too big, so you can park the car for a day and see most of the sights by walking. Driving in San Francisco is an attraction by itself. Can you imagine standing at the traffic lights at quite vertical position? As there are cars in front of you, you can not see what is expected after traffic lights and as Porsche is standing after you, you need to start pretty fast. So it is possible to enjoy high adrenaline.
Our first “must see” was Alcatraz Island. We called previous day and booked the tickets. When we got down there we heard that all tickets were sold out until next day. Fortunately we had pre-booked ours and just picked them up. When we waited for our ferry to Alctraz at pier 41, we saw sea lions lying at the pier. They seemed very friendly.
The boat went across the one and a half mile stretch of water to Alcatraz Island. When we got there, there was so much to see. We climbed up the winding hill to the cell block. All visitors were given the audio headset which guided us around. It was really interesting as the narrators were actual prisoners and wardens that used to be in Alcatraz. We walked through the cells, also, it was possible to go in the cells, which was pretty weird (you understand if you have seen movie “The Rock”). We heard of how prisoners tried to escape. We also saw the holes in the walls where the famous escape from Alcatraz took place. The place is extremely interesting and the storytellers make it even better.
We spent at Alcatraz about two hours. When we got back we got on the bus tour that took us around the downtown area of San Francisco. Our tour guide gave us a lot of information about the sights and also gave the suggestions what to see later.
Pier 39 and Fisherman’s Wharf are the big tourist traps in the city. Pier 39 is one of the most visited tourist attractions in California. We went there mainly because we were hungry after the bus tour and Alcatraz trip. At Pier 39 there are two levels of waterfront restaurants, so we were quite sure we will find one which suites us. We picked Bubba Gump shrimp restaurant (you know it from Forrest Gump movie). This was very interesting place. There were several TVs showing the movie at different scenes. The food was good, but the place with all details related to the movie was just excellent. I really felt like sitting within the movie.
We could not be in San Francisco without visiting Golden Gate Bridge, a most famous landmark here. This bridge links San Francisco with Marin County; it is at the highway 101. Golden Gate Bridge is 1,2 miles long. You may walk across the bridge if you desire, but be aware that the bridge may sway up to 27 feet with the strong winds.
In the evening, when it was already dark we tried Cable Car. Unlike other cities, riding public transportation in San Francisco is a major attraction itself. The city's famous cable cars are operated by the San Francisco Municipal Railway (usually referred to as the Muni). The cable cars are so popular that we had to stand in the line for a ride. But the ride itself was great in the steep hills of San Francisco.
San Francisco was our last stop, so after a good sleep in warm California we returned our Pontiac Grand Am and flew back home to Tallinn, Estonia, where the weather was much colder already.