Today I headed out early to take my 5 and a half hour SFO city tour!!! What an incredible tour it turned out to be. Very good tour leader Jerry who had an awesome wealth of knowledge of the city. www.sanfranshuttletours.com The best thing about this tour company was that the tour leader wasn't also the driver, there was another guy to do the driving, so Jerry was really good and interacting with the group.
The tour started at the Ferry building on the Embarcadero. From there, our first port of call was Pier 39 and Fisherman's Wharf. We then headed uphill past Ghirardelli Sqauare and into the Russian Hill district. We made a stop at Lombard Street, SFO's so called crookedest street - very bizarre. It isn't actually the crookedest street, nor the steepest street in SFO, but it's the best known. The "crooked" section is the block between Leavenworth and Hyde Streets built with eight hairpin turns on a 40 degree slope. The switchbacks design, first suggested by property owner Carl Henryand instituted in 1922,was born out of necessity in order to reduce the hill's natural 27% grade, which was too steep for most vehicles to climb and a serious hazard to pedestrians used to a more reasonable sixteen-degree incline. The crooked section of the street, which is about 1/4 mile (400 m) long, is reserved for one-way traffic traveling east (downhill) and is paved with red bricks. The speed limit here is a mere 5 mph (8 km/h). But you couldn't travel faster than that anyway on these hairpin bends!!!
We then made our way across town to the district of China Town!!! China Town is a bustling 18 square blocks on the fringe of the CBD. The streets are lined with food markets, herb shops, temples, restaurants, and stores offering a variety of colourful nic-naks. Ross Alley in China town has been the backdrop for many movies, including Indiana Jones and the Temple of doom, Karate Kid II, and Big Trouble in Little China.
From China Town we went uphill again to NOBHILL ~ the rich and famous district, with the famous Fairmont hotel, and beautiful mansions and grand homes!!! So called as the site where early millionaires - gold rush and railroad 'nabobs' (slang for wealthy men) built their mansions, now established as some of the citys finest hotels. Here we stopped and took a look at Grace Cathedral!! (see photos)
From there we made our way across town past the St Mary's Cathedral with the dome shaped like a bishops head gear!!!! and past the City Hall and Capitol buildings. Our next stop was in Pacific Heights where the houses are stately mansions of the turn of the century Victorians. This area is home to some of the city's wealthiest residents as well as foreign consulates. Some 14000 residential examples of Victorian architecture still remain. We stopped at Alamo Square (known as postcard row) where the famous "Painted Ladies" are located - famous for the house front in the TV show Full House with the Olsen twins.
From Pacific Heights we travelled across to Golden Gate Park. It is the largest manmade park in the world with lakes, waterfalls, bridges, lawns, trails, gardens, and public art museum, all within an area 3 miles long and a half mile wide. The de Young Museum, the Japanese Tea Garden were 2 stops we made inside the park. The Conservatory of Flowers was designed on the Kew Gardens Conservatory, and houses thousands of rare plants.
Onwards from there we went to the Presidio. It was formaly a military base and is now a public park and part of the Golden Gate Bridge National Parks. Within this park is the Palace of Fine Arts. This Greco-Roman structure built in 1915 is home to the Exploratorium, called "the best science museum in the world". The dome was being re-furbished while we were there, but the photos are still impressive!!
From there we drove over Golden Gate Bridge, enroute to Sausilito. Golden Gate Bridge opened in 1937 and connects San Francisco to Marin County & Hwy 101. The distinctive rust coloured towers and the graceful cables of the bridge make this famous symbol of San Francisco the most photographed bridge in the world. It is visible from many high points in the city, although it is often shrouded in fog. Spanning the 2 mile mouth of the bay it is built to with stand winds of over 100 mph. The colour, "international orange" was chosen as a complement ot surrounding scenery.
We stopped for more photos at the vista point, and then made our way on Hwy 101 to Sausilito. This is a charming waterfront town named one of the top 10 romantic escapes. This was our lunch stop. I had made friends with a girl from England, Maria Tavener, who immigrated to Oz 15 years ago, and she was enroute to England for a holiday, and had stopped in SFO for a couple of nights. We had lunch together sitting at the waters edge.
After lunch, we met up with the group again, and boarded the ferry to take us back to San Francisco - Ferry building - where the tour had started in the morning. On the ferry ride, we had fantastic views of the Golden gate Bridge, Alcatraz, and the SFO skyline - really great!!
After reaching SFO again, I caught a bus back home to Greenwich street in Russian Hill, and got ready to meet up with Christine & friends for dinner. We met up at the Bell Tower on Polk & Jackson - great little bistro where I had mouth watering spare ribs!!! Billy met up with us a little later, and after dinner him & I went to meet up with Sam who had drivent to SFO today for work, and was staying over. We met up with him for a couple of drinks and some of his work colleagues. Billy & I made it back home around 11.30pm - I was exhausted after my long day, and fell into bed and fast asleep within minutes!!!