I can hardly believe we’ve reached our last full day in San Francisco, but Bob and I are determined to squeeze every last drop of time out of our visit.
This morning we walked up from Union Square into Chinatown, the entrance to which is a large Oriental arch. When you pass through it, it is like stepping into another world. Chinese buskers playing traditional instruments sit on street corners (although one man was happily playing Clementine, Happy Birthday and Hotel California on his Huqin, which totally sums up the kookiness of this city!) Red lanterns for Chinese New Year are strung across the narrow streets and every sign is written in Chinese and English. As you cross the roads at each block, you glimpse the skyscrapers of the Financial District, which seem so at odds with the quaint Chinese-inspired frontages of the Chinatown streets. But then that’s San Francisco: distinct neighbourhoods nestled shoulder to shoulder with each other.
We visited the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie factory down tiny Ross Alley which is said to manufacture half of the world’s fortune cookies. Instead of a large building, we found a tiny, narrow unit with five ladies hand-moulding fortune cookies while a very enthusiastic man at the front showed us all the different varieties they made. I hope there’s another big factory somewhere so that those poor ladies don’t have to make all of them!
From Chinatown we walked down into the Financial District and into another world again. Now all the buildings were high rise concrete monoliths, there were coffee shops on every corner and everyone passing by was wearing expensive suits. Dominating the skyline pretty much everywhere you look in San Francisco is the distinctive Trans America Pyramid, which you can walk right by. At its base is a lovely little park planted with giant redwood trees, with sculptures and a fountain, where office workers eat their lunch or pass the time. In a city of so many contrasts, this made complete sense!
At the edge of the Financial District is the Embarcadero, with the Ferry Building looking out towards the Bay Bridge, Treasure Island and Oakland beyond. It’s really odd to see the skyscrapers right by the bay and the Ferry Building’s beautiful old architecture surrounded by palm trees. Inside the Ferry Building are lots of artisan food shops, selling everything from herbs to mushrooms, olive oil and ‘salted pig parts’! We wandered around for an hour and then took a takeaway coffee from Peet’s (a San Francisco coffe chain) to wander along the dock of the bay (yes, really!) to look at the lovely expanse of the Bay Bridge.
From there, we caught the F-line tram to travel the length of the waterfront piers. This line is served by vintage trams from all over America and beyond, that were built in the 1920s and 1930s (including one from Blackpool!). It’s not just a tourist attraction, either: people who work in the Financial District use them to get to and from work, which is a really fun way to commute and sums up the quirkiness and fun of the city.
Last thing, we hopped back on the F-Line at Market Street to go back to the Ferry Building at night to see the new light installation along the Bay Bridge. It looked spectacular, with shimmering white lights moving across its structure and reflecting in the waters of the Bay. With the lights of the city all around us, it was a breathtaking end to what has been an amazing, surprising and completely love-inspiring trip to the City of Lights. Thank you San Francisco, it’s been a blast! xx