Oh how I loathe alarms. And would you believe it, just as I was falling asleep. I dragged my jetlagged self out of bed and down the road to meet my guide for the day. It was a lovely warm sunny day, just perfect for a walk around. Lucky me, I was the only one booked into the tour for day so I had the guide all to myself. We started with a ride on a historic street car into the Mission District, one of San Francisco’s most vibrant and colorful neighborhoods, I see why it is spoken of this way - there at around 70 recognised murals splashed on walls in this neighbourhood. First stop, Mission Dolores, the site of San Francisco’s first European settlement in 1776, and the oldest standing building in the city. It survied both major earthquakes and a fire, most everything alse around has been rebuilt due to the forementioned disasters. Next, a walking tour of the Mission District’s brightly painted neighborhoods. Murals splash vibrant color on the façade of many buildings, expressing Latino culture, folklore, famous citizens, and history. It was interesting to see the artists depictions and to find out the 'artisits' are mostly troubled kids sponsored by the district to attend art classes, culminating further into a sponsored site to make their own mural of what they feel relevant to their lives.
We then hopped on the iconic cable car to climb California Street through the financial district on the way to China Town. There is the most strange building, somewhat like a pyramid with floating foundations so as to be quakeproof. Awesome architecture and engineering. Around the corner we found Chinatown, we explored the influence and history of San Fran's Chinese immigrant population, at famous spots such as Portsmouth Square, Grant Street, the historic side lanes, hidden temples and local markets. A quick stop off to visit the fortune cookie factory where San Fran & LA dispute whom first invented these. Lunch was at an authentic local dim sum house where I sampled a variety of specialty dishes. I had, amongst much else my favourite "Tree Ears!!".
After lunch we had a short walk into North Beach bringing us to the City Lights Bookstore, one of the country’s most renowned independent bookstores founded by the poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti and meeting point for some of America’s famous Beat generation authors. I am sure this will have more impact on me when I research the story behind it. Across the way we came to the Italian influenced Columbus Street and visited Washington Square. Which isn't a square, and as locals say - there is no street or town here named Washington! Yeah - I didn't get that either, must be a US thing.
Onto the local city bus to Fisherman’s wharf to enjoy panoramic views of the bay and local seal colony, there were hundreds of these cute, entertaining but very smelly animals. And, finally, the last sight of the day, onto a catamaran to set sail past Alcatraz and under the Golden Gate Bridge with the impressive San Fran skyline in view. Being such a sunny warm day I settled in to watch the view but my god the winds here are artic! I retreated inside, and only went on a few photo missions out again at very strategic moments. The Golden Gate is everything like the pictures and more. It was amazing to sail right under it.
Upon return to the pier, I bid farewell to my new friend and went back to my hotel for a big dinner, looong bath and a really good sleep.