North America | United States of America (USA) | California | San Francisco – Present…Day 2: 27 April 2002
Today was awesome. No one ever uses that word anymore. Awesome is an awesome word.
I love that feeling I get when travelling, my day pack perched lightly on my shoulders and not really knowing where I am going but having that general idea. Paul Theroux said in his book ‘Happy Isles of Oceania’:
‘Tourists don’t know where they’ve been. Travelers don’t know where they’re going.’
He’s right. There is that tugging feeling on your senses, eyes always full, smile wide for the unknown. Today was full of that.
GHIRARDELLI SQUARE AIN’T THAT FAR
Or so I thought when I looked at my Lonely Planet (LP) Fisherman’s Wharf map. Turns out the uber tourist mecca that is the Wharf and G. Square is quite a long haul from the Embarcadero BART station. But I didn’t find out until I hiked up the steps of Filbert and Greenwich ‘Streets’ to Coit Tower.
Coit Tower, as I found out, was erected in 1933. The colorful murals depicting the local scene were painted a year later in 1934. There is a plaque inside that no other tourist stopped to look at that mentioned that spot was the original site of the First Western Telegraph Station in 1853. Today, if you want to, you can pay $3.75 to go up to the top of the tower to see beautiful views of the city. Myself, I just sat for a few outside the tower and gazed out at the bay then moved on. Ghirardelli Square was wicked far away.
I wanted to buy chocolate for my mother since Mother’s Day is looming. She is a huge Ghirardelli fan, so I thought why not get it straight from the source without extra $$ tacked on for picking it up in a local Rite Aid? Not to mention I get to trudge through gorgeous neighborhoods like Coit Tower and North Point to do it. Not a horrid chore in the least.
You are familiar with Lombard Street right? The Russian Hill neighborhood’s ‘crookedest street in the world’ that was so steep as a straightaway that they created 10 switchbacks so that cars could safely travel down. Well, from a distance as I passed down Powell Street all I saw were giant SUVs inching their way down achingly slow and pedestrian tourists doing the same. I guess if you were a fan of ‘Real World’ San Francisco that would be exciting. For me I enjoyed watching from my safe distance.
LEFT ON BEACH ST.
I was entering tourist land. The whole Wharf area is a mall masked as a historic district. Any historical aspects are now gone. What was once a working fisherman’s wharf is now buggy rentals, charicaturists and dodgy San Francisco Tee Shirt vendors. The regular chain restaurants like Joe’s Crab Shack and T.G.I.Friday’s (this one closed at present) lure in tourist dollars. But it must bring in tons of revenue for this classy city to keep it going.
Ghirardelli Square is no different. It was once the original site of the chocolate factory. Now it is a brick work mall slash office building of sorts with high priced boutique shops and a couple Ghirardelli Cafes. That being my reason for the visit, I loaded up on the delictable delicacy and ordered a hot cocoa to go and wandered into the clear blue skied afternoon to catch the MUNI, the uber efficient and inexpensive bus system, back to the BART. No more walking for me until Berkeley.
And what of the odd weather here? As I exited with my hot cocoa warming my hands and body (yum!) a selective cloud rained drizzle upon me and the other shoppers where not a block away it was sunny and happy and clear. Hmmm.
Like a true Northern Californian (I am originally from this area, born but not raised) I headed into Berkeley to visit a couple of outdoor stoors.
The day I got back from my backpacking journey around Europe in November 2001 my pack was stolen out of my car. So I have been sans rucksack now for months. So far it has been no big since I travel light, usually with just a few pieces of clothing in my day pack and off I go. But soon I am travelling back east to go camping with my brother so I will need a full on rucksack.
There is this store, Wilderness Exchange, 1407 San Pablo Ave, that sells new and used gear. I walked five blocks down Ceder St from the N. Berkeley BART station and right a few blocks on San Pablo and tramped around the store. It had a ‘Now Hiring’ sign outside. If I didn’t have a lease in LA, let me tell ya…
TO THE REI!
After poking around making lists of things I need, or rather, want really, I headed over one more block to the huge Berkeley satellite REI store. I’ve been to REIs in Massachusetts and the one in Manhattan Beach, CA, but this one is rad. And it is having a huge clearance sale for anyone in the area at the moment.
DAY IS DONE
My feet were hurting (recovering from a 3 month old broken ankle injury – limping is still a prevalent mode of travel) so I headed back to BART and back to Lafayette. A moblie phone call later and my Cadillac chariot arrived to deliver me to the HQ for leftover Mexican food and more travel reminiscing.
And now the clock has turned and it is now Sunday. I hope to go to Evensong at Grace Cathedral, the coolest church ever. I guess it has to be when it is in the center of such a progressive city.