Day five was the first of three full days in the Bay Area. Rather than find lodging in San Francisco, I chose the East Bay for several reasons:
- Cheap accomodations. A little hunting turned up a Comfort Suites in Castro Valley (south of Oakland) for under $70 US/night. Parking alone in San Francisco could have eaten up to $40 US/day.
- No desire to drive up the hills in San Francisco. Waiting for a red light in the middle of a steep incline does wonders for my nerves.
- Easy access to public transit. The Castro Valley BART station was a short drive from the hotel, with plenty of cheap parking ($1 for entry between 4 AM and 3 PM). Comfortable, roomy seats made for relaxing rides into San Francisco and Berkeley, along with an opportunity to catch a few Zs on the way back.
- Previous success using these tactics, at least for cheap sleeps and public transit, in cities like Boston and New York.
First stop in San Francisco was the Ferry Building Marketplace, home to an assortment of food vendors. The building was a sampler's delight, with free nibbles ranging from salamis to oodles of chocolate at Scharffen Berger.
I stocked up on buns at Acme Bread to nibble on the rest of the day (the raisin bun earned a big thumbs up). For my main meal, I settled on Mijita Concina Mexicana, where I downed two tacos—carne asada (cubed beef) and pescado "baja" (shown above, battered mahi mahi with cabbage and avocado-cilantro cream). Before leaving, I had a cup of Maple Ginger Snap gelato from Ciao Bella, loaded with gingerbread-like chunks.
One accidental discovery not far from the Ferry Building was the Wells Fargo Museum. The name "Black Bart" always conjured up a grizzled desperado, not the dignified-looking fellow standing in the distance as I peered out at while taking a "ride" in Herbie the Stagecoach (an ancestor of The Love Bug?).
Next stop, Chinatown. Anybody for a kite?
Must be nearing North Beach and City Lights...
Ta-da! I spent nearly an hour browsing in City Lights and did the honourable tourist thing by picking up a postcard for my girlfriend. I also walked out with a guide to urban studies terminology illustrated with aerial photographs. Let's see how it takes for phrases from the book to work their way onto this site.
I came across City Lights at the right time for my feet to take a break. I had done some climbing up city streets, but now needed to have my tender tootsies in good shape to tackle the streets leading to Coit Tower.
But first, a moment to capture a view of the Transamerica Pyramid.
Prime exhibit on why I wasn't eager to drive into San Francisco: the steep angle on Filbert Street. I shook my head several times before believing I was viewing cars parking on such a significant angle. The steps alogn the sidewalk provided a healthy workout, even if I was gasping at the top as if I had walked up 40 flights of stairs.
Once at the base of the tower, I felt the call of nature. Luckily,the city came to the rescue with one of its self-cleaning public toilets (before anyone notices something fishy, yes the exterior shot at the top left is from another part of town). Tourists were filled with awe as they waited fifty-five seconds for the unit to make itself presentable for the next user.
Full set of pictures. All photos taken on May 20, 2009 - JB