Today Alex and I will visit 3 top attractions in San Francisco.
First, we will take a ride on the famous San Francisco Cable Car.
Second, we will walk Lombard Street (aka the crookedest street in the world).
Last but not least, we will walk across the Golden Gate Bridge. Alex, put on your walking shoes… its time to hit the pavement.
We start our day at Market Street. Market Street is a starting point for the famous San Fransisco cable car and from where we can also purchase our USD$6 (each) cable car ticket.
San Francisco cable car according to Wikitravel:
The world-famous Cable Cars run on three lines in the steep streets between Market Street and Fisherman’s Wharf: the north-south Powell-Mason and Powell-Hyde lines and the east-west California Street line. These cars are a fun ride, especially if you get to stand on the running board, if a bit impractical for everyday use (though residents of Nob and Russian Hills do, in fact, use them on a daily basis). The cable car is such an attraction that, especially on weekends, it takes longer to wait in line to ride up Powell Street than it does to walk the short but sloping distance. If you want to save yourself time standing in line at the turnaround, just walk up a couple of blocks to the next stop — the conductors save a few spaces for people boarding along the way; you won’t get first choice of seats, but you’ll save yourself a long time standing in line. Board through any door or just grab a pole on the running boards; tickets are checked and sold by a uniformed conductor. Do not buy tickets from anyone off the car except for clearly marked ticket booths — scam artists are common.
The Market Street queue to board the cable car takes about 20 minutes to dissipate and eventually it is our turn.
During our 20 minutes waiting, we have the opportunity to see how the operators turn the cable cars around at the Market Street terminus. A lever is pulled and a guy literally pushes the cable car at one end, turning the cable car 180 degrees to again have the driver facing the direction of travel up Powell Street.
The turntable type mechanism is inbuilt seamlessly into the pavement… so last century… but…it works, perfectly.
We wrangle a prime position at the front of the cable car in the open section. My seat has its back to the driver. The driver stands behind a series of upright levers in the middle of this front section of the cable car and manually operates the cable car. He stands between the two rows of seats.
My quaint timber slatted bench seat sits parallel with the road, meaning I sit facing the sidewalk. Alex has managed to score a position standing on the running board in front of me. This means he is outside the cable car. Alex has a pole to hold onto. Surely this must be in breach of some kind of safety rule? Seems not and Alex is loving it.
Alex is hoping to be able to hold on while also taking some great photos, which would not seem so difficult except his camera is one of those not so compact professional looking Cannon cameras.
Two cable car routes operate from the Market Street terminal, one being the “Powell-Mason Line” and the other the “Powell-Hyde Line”. Apart from having slightly different finishing points, they basically travel the same route. The main difference between the two routes is that the Powell-Mason Line travels past the bottom end of Lombard Street while the Powell-Hyde Line travels past the top end of Lombard Street. Which one you catch only really matters if you intend to get off the cable car to visit Lombard Street and have a preference for walking up a hill or down a hill.
Our “Powell-Mason Line” journey takes us via Powell Street, Mason Street and finally Columbus Avenue. The cable car travels easily up and down the hilly streets. With no advanced braking systems to speak of, the cable car trip is somewhat jerky – which of course only adds to its charm.
The view down to Fisherman’s Wharf and the water is perfect on a sunny blue sky day.
We terminate (the ride, not us) at its last stop near Fisherman’s Wharf. The trip has taken about 30 minutes and Alex has managed to not die along the way. Apart from being a bit squashed, we were super pleased Alex got to stand on the running board. Our verdict is that the cable car is a trip well worth the wait.
Although we have now passed Lombard Street, it is only a couple of blocks walk back to Lombard Street. Given we are now at the cable car terminal, we also have a chance to take some nice photos with us on the now stationary cable car.
Working from today’s list….”take a ride on the cable car” … check!
And onto our next activity for the day which is to walk the length of Lombard Street. Lombard Street is referred to as the crookedest street in the world and is thankfully only one block long.
Lombard Street according to Wikipedia:
Lombard Street is known for the one-way block on Russian Hill between Hyde and Leavenworth Streets, where eight sharp turns are said to make it the crookedest street in the world. The design, first suggested by property owner Carl Henry and built in 1922, was intended to reduce the hill’s natural 27% grade, which was too steep for most vehicles. It is also a hazard to pedestrians, who are accustomed to 4.86° inclines because of wheel chair navigability concerns. The crooked block is perhaps 600 feet (180 m) long (412.5 feet (125.7 m) straightline), is one-way (downhill) and is paved with red bricks. The sign at the top recommends 5 mph (8 km/h).
Alex and I approach Lombard Street from its lowest point at its intersection with Leavenworth Street.
Lombard Street is so quirky you can understand its attraction. It is also quite densely planted and basically pretty and inviting which seems to make everybody here happy and smiling, like us, as we wander along.
Hedges line the road with the switchbacks in-filled with Hydrangeas (also currently in bloom). This greenery really takes the harshness off the space and nicely highlights the road’s curviness.
Steps and handrail line both sides of the street. There are loads of people doing exactly the same as us, ducking onto the road in-between cars to take a photo up and down the street. Photos back down the street give a fantastic view of San Francisco Bay.
One thought is obvious. While we have enjoyed our visit, I would not like to live on Lombard Street. Both car and foot traffic is constant.
Another one ticked off today’s list… “the crookedest street in the world”… check!
With our visit to Lombard Street finished, Alex and I walk a couple of blocks further along the non-crooked section of Lombard Street to catch the No. 28 bus.
According to our map, this bus should take us along Presidio Pikeway to the south end of the Golden Gate Bridge and the drop off point for the start of the Golden Gate Bridge.
Golden Gate Bridge according to Wikipedia:
The Golden Gate Bridge is a suspension bridge spanning the Golden Gate strait, the mile-wide, three-mile-long channel between San Francisco Bay and the Pacific Ocean. The structure links the U.S. city of San Francisco, on the northern tip of the San Francisco Peninsula, to Marin County, bridging both U.S. Route 101 and California State Route 1 across the strait. The bridge is one of the most internationally recognized symbols of San Francisco, California, and the United States. It has been declared one of the Wonders of the Modern World by the American Society of Civil Engineers.
It opened in 1937 and had until 1964 the longest suspension bridge main span in the world, at 4,200 feet (1,280 m).
Here is the Bridge Café, the Bridge Round House, restrooms and a fantastic viewing area. From the viewing area, the “international orange” colour of the bridge contrasts so brilliantly with the green of the viewing are and the blue of the water.
We make our way along the path to the starting point at the south end of the Golden Gate Bridge, on the east sidewalk of the bridge.
This is a fairly busy precinct with both people traffic and the car traffic on the bridge itself. The toll gate is located here and the traffic through the toll gate is heavy and noisy.
I love a good bridge walk and this is one of the best.
The weather is a peach. I could do this all day… oh hang on… I am… and we have to get back yet!
We reach the north end of the bridge which is called North Point View or Vista Point.
There is some parking here and some toilets but not much else and the buses don’t stop here. Just as well we are prepared to walk back across the bridge as there are no transport options here. We take a break, take some photos and head back to the south side of the bridge.
Two buses including the No. 28 and No. 30 get us back to Union Square for USD$2 (each).
Dinner tonight is at Katana-Ya, Japanese restaurant. This restaurant is next to our reasonably priced hotel room and every night there is a queue out the door. We gotta get ourselves some of that…it must be great food… right? Maybe we just ordered the wrong meals… not a fan I’m afraid.
Today was a perfect end to our visit to San Francisco with the Golden Gate Bridge walk being the highlight. We now turn our thoughts to our last stop before heading home. We are finishing our visit to the USA in Los Angeles !