We woke up pretty early on our first full day there and decided to use it to our advantage. We walked to Dottie’s True Blue Café for breakfast, which came highly recommended and with warnings of a long wait for a table. However, since we were such early-risers, we only waited twenty minutes before we were seated in the cozy dining room. The coffee was great and the food was pretty good. I’m not a very good judge of breakfast places since I don’t eat eggs and typically stick to pancakes, so I usually rely on Mike’s opinion. He was in omelet heaven. He ordered the lamb sausage and goat cheese omelet with dill potatoes and cornbread toast. The cornbread was served with a jalapeno jelly and was such a treat. I had the pancakes and bacon which were uncomplicated and simply delicious. The servers were very friendly and the whole experience was worth walking through an unsavory part of town to get to it. When we left the restaurant, the line was wrapped around the block… so fair warning: if you plan on visiting Dottie’s – go early. We cabbed over to The Palace of Fine Arts in the Marina District in order to walk over to the ocean, not realizing that it was a destination in itself. We were awestruck by it.
The tall, golden structures loomed over us and we walked with our chins tilted up to take it all in. I’m so glad we stumbled upon it because it was a mistake not to have it on our to-do list in the first place. Once we had our fill, we walked to the yacht club across the street to get our first view of the Golden Gate Bridge. I was literally jumping for joy when we finally saw it, and the ocean. It was just so beautiful. Mike was equally as excited – it was his first time seeing the Pacific Ocean.
We took the requisite photos of the bridge and then moved down the small peninsula to the Wave Organ. It was misting and cold due to our early morning trek, and I wish I could say it was worth it but once we got there, the organ was absolutely silent. It was a very pretty view from there and we could have just caught it in the wrong conditions, but I was just a tad disappointed. We turned around and made our way towards the bridge. The walk was so relaxing; we strolled along the beach, mountains on one side of us and the ocean on the other.
A ways down the path, we stopped at the Warming Hut (a small cafe and gift shop) to get some water and then cut up into the hills to the entrance of the bridge, a walk which provided beautiful panoramic views of the bay. We approached the bridge, and our path became much more crowded. Buses of tourists joined us as we got up onto the bridge. We walked across, tripping over each other as we stared at the ocean and took pictures. The Golden Gate Bridge is about a mile and half long, so we saved crossing it for when we’d have a car the next day and turned back at the halfway point. The views from the middle of the bridge were so beautiful, photos don’t really do it justice, but I tried.
Once back on solid ground, we decided to walk along the coast a bit and move on to Golden Gate Park, a good hour’s walk. I cannot fully explain the complete contentedness I felt as we walked along the coast. Every turn in the path showed a new view of the ocean or the bridge or the beach and I loved every minute of it. It was still a little foggy and misty, which made it even better. There was even a lookout point where we could see fins moving through the water. I would like to say they were sharks, because that’s my favorite possibility, but we’ll never know for sure. We walked downhill and through the trees to Baker Beach and listened to the waves in the mist, which soon turned to rain as we stood there. The beach is vast and beautiful with a fantastic view of the mountains and bridge across the way.
Our GPS designated path took us through the Presidio neighborhood next, which was pretty ritzy. We walked through it with our jackets soaked through and our sneakers full of sand, admiring the huge houses behind iron gates. We trudged to Golden Gate Park and called it quits after all we could find was a disc golf course. I know there is so much to see in the park, but we just couldn’t enjoy it in our current state. We got an Uber, which took us through the park towards Haight Ashbury. We had lunch at Street Taco on Haight Street and scarfed down some good carne asada tacos and chips and guacamole – that long walk really worked up our appetites. Wandering around Haight Ashbury, popping into stores and people watching proved to be an interesting experience. It’s a pretty eccentric crowd over there. The shops featured a lot of vintage and artsy items. Our favorite shops were: Amoeba Records (an incredible superstore of music and movies), Wasteland Vintage and Loved to Death (macabre art at its finest). We wandered up and down the street a few times, trying to hit every store before we finally went back to the hostel to rest a bit before dinner.
The F “Train” (which was more like an electric bus) took us towards Fisherman’s Wharf. The train was a good way to see the piers from a distance, as it goes all along the Embarcadero. We got off at Pier 23 and hoofed it up a good amount of stairs to Coit Tower. It was a steep hike to the top, and the path took us through some backyards, but it was so worth it. The view from the top at night was sparkling and beautiful. The Bay Bridge lit up the right side of the sky with the lights of the city just beyond it, the rest was a perfect darkness.
We took it all in and then moved on to walk to dinner, realizing then that we went up the back way instead of using the main entrance. Regardless, we went back down the way we came, back towards Fisherman’s Wharf. We walked along the piers which were not very crowded for a Sunday Evening, and on to the famed Pier 39. It was full of lights and shops and restaurants and people. This seemed to be the happening spot. We moved past the expensive souvenir stores and chain restaurants to the end, where the seals were. It was pretty eerie to see them move around in the dark, and hearing the disembodied barking every few seconds.
We went to The Franciscan Crab restaurant for dinner, which was a little bit further down, on Pier 41. The restaurant was not very crowded, but seemed like a classic west coast seafood joint. We ordered the iron skillet roasted shrimp and crab legs with potatoes and corn on the side. I loved the crab legs, because, well, I always love crab legs, but the shrimp were not for me. The cocktails were very good – I had the Ariel’s Allure Martini, but The service left a little to be desired, so overall the experience was just OK. There were obviously plenty of other seafood restaurants to choose from, so next time, I’d probably go somewhere else. We walked back to the F train and took it to the financial district to walk the rest of the way. We stopped at Bartlett Hall, which was just around the corner from the hostel, for a nightcap. The bar had a lot of character and played great music. The cocktails (particularly the Al Capone) and the gentleman slinging them were delightful. It was the perfect place to end our first full day in San Francisco.
To Be Continued…