After my extensive tour of the Victorian era Queen Anne Hotel we were ready to start exploring the city. At least as far as the weather was concerned, our adventure in San Francisco had not had an auspicious start. It had been raining and drizzling the whole day, and grey skies were hanging over the city. But the weather had started to clear up a little, so we hopped on the number 47 bus on Van Ness to get to San Francisco’s northern waterfront and got off at Bay Street, close to Fort Mason Center.
Finally the rain had cleared up: San Francisco’s northern waterfront
The rain had finally stopped, so we ventured out to the shoreline from where we had a gorgeous view of the Golden Gate Bridge, the north side of San Francisco Bay, as well as Alcatraz Island. Even with the dark clouds on the horizon, San Francisco’s shoreline was still a stunning sight to behold, and we looked back towards the city where the big red “Ghirardelli” sign caught our attention. We started strolling on the paved walkway beside the bay that makes up the San Francisco Maritime National Historic Park. An entire fleet of historic vessels that includes the Balclutha, a rigged sailing ship built in 1886, is moored at the Hyde Street Pier.
A view towards Ghirardelli Square
From here we made our way east to famous Ghirardelli Square which has become one of San Francisco’s prime tourist attractions. In fact, the square is anchored by the former headquarters of the Ghirardelli Chocolate Company, which was founded by Italian immigrant Domingo Ghirardelli in 1852. Today this square is listed in the National Register of Historic Places, and more than 40 restaurants and retail shops have found new homes in the red brick industrial heritage buildings. There is still a retail store here that sells Ghirardelli chocolate which is now manufactured in San Leandro in Alameda County, California.
Famous Ghirardelli Square
We continued our stroll past the Cannery, a former fruit-canning plant built in 1909 that has been turned into a shopping centre with various passages and courtyards. On the south side of Jefferson Street we walked by a number of galleries that featured very unique art. San Francisco is definitely a great destination for art and gallery lovers. Further east we came across a variety of souvenir shops that were selling t-shirts and fleece jackets at extremely low prices. The shop owners were getting ready to close, but they still approached us to let us know about their special offers.
San Francisco: a mecca for art lovers
The sights along Jefferson Avenue continued; it houses the famous historic trolley lines that feature heritage streetcars from cities all over the United States. One of San Francisco’s signature products is its famous sourdough bread, and the Boudin Bakery has been famous for decades for producing this San Francisco delicacy. The company’s history goes as far back as 1849 when Isidore Boudin, a master baker who immigrated from France started to supply bread to the miners that had come to San Francisco to capitalize on the 1849 Gold Rush. Today there is a modern retail store with a café, and through the big glass windows we could watch how the bread was being made. The bakers enjoyed the attention of the many onlookers and smiled frequently as they were making all different types of bread, some of it shaped in the form of lobsters, crabs and teddybears.
All sorts of creatures at the Boudin Bakery
Shortly after we reached the famous “Fisherman’s Wharf” sign which was now illuminated since it was already dark. Some sources say that Fisherman’s Wharf is probably the second most frequented tourist destination in the United States, second only to the Disney attractions. The area got started when Italian fisherman arrived from Genoa and Sicily in the 19th century. Pier 45 holds a chapel that commemorates the “Lost Fishermen” of San Francisco and Northern California. Even today, fishing boats still set out from the harbour early each morning. But tourism has definitely become the number one draw to this area.
These crabs are real
Apart from a variety of retail shops, the south side of Jefferson Street, the main street in Fisherman’s Wharf, also features sights such as the Wax Museum where more than 300 wax figures bring to life scenes such as the ancient tomb of Eygptian King Tutankamun, a tableau of the Last Supper and a three-dimensional Mona Lisa. Just steps away is Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Museum, a popular spot that houses all sorts of curiosities and oddities.
The famous sign at Fisherman’s Wharf