Ah, San Francisco, how I love you. I love the energy of this city, its unique beauty, its mosaic of people and cultures and vibes. Just being here today was so fun and energizing.
We had a late start and a frustrating morning (more on that later), but eventually had the dogs in daycare and ourselves on a BART train. It's an easy trip in, around 25 minutes. We bought Clipper cards, good for all transit in the region, which, if you can do it, is super convenient. We walked a bit downtown, heading for Chinatown, but once the walking became very steep, as it often does here, we hopped on a bus. Masks are mandatory on public transit, which is fine by me!
I wanted dim sum, and we had a short list of places that came highly recommended. Insiders say the best dim sum in San Francisco is in Richmond, but we're not connoisseurs. Plus I enjoy seeing urban Chinatowns. San Francisco is said to be the first in the country, and it doesn't disappoint. Narrow, crowded sidewalks (masks on!), and shop after shop crammed with dried seafood, vegetables, teas, herbs -- dozens and hundreds of barrels and jars and baskets. All the stores seem to sell the same things. There are also dozens of bakeries and tiny lunch spots that cater mainly to locals.
None of the places I had written down panned out -- one had a long line of hipsters (we all have the same internet!), one was too tiny and crowded, one out of business. We picked a place at random, ordered a few of our favourites, and were surprised that to learn we had ordered individual pieces! In other words, when we wrote "2" next to the shrimp dumplings (har gow), we didn't get two bamboo steamers, we got two dumplings! So we ended up with just one small plate with four or five little goodies. That turned out to be enough -- although I wouldn't mind having the same thing again as soon as possible.
We picked up a coconut bun at a different bakery, then walked through Chinatown to the edge of North Beach, then picked up another bus, and took it all the way to Crissy Field.
Crissy Field, part of the Golden Gate National Park Conservancy, is a long strip of sandy beach and tidal marshland adjacent to the Bay, with a spectacular view of the Golden Gate Bridge to one side, and Alcatraz and the city Skyline to the other side. It's all public space -- no shops, no condos, no logos. Nothing but beauty and wonder, and other people (and dogs!) enjoying the same. It's one of our favourite places. We've also been in San Francisco before Crissy Field was created, and it has added so much to the Bay. It's so sad that so many cities have ruined their waterfronts by privatizing every inch of space.
There were many people out enjoying the sand, surf, and view -- many lovely dogs to admire -- and many pelicans flying just above the water. And of course, the Bridge. The Bridge! The dramatic span, the distinctive colour, the ribbon of fog. I don't care how many times I've seen it, it is simply spectacular, and always rivets my attention.
We had a long walk out towards the bridge and back, enjoying the scenery and the birds, and watching dogs play in the surf. We decided to have sushi for dinner, or we thought we did, and wanting to have really really good sushi, searched online, found a few places to try, consulted our bus map, and walked another long-ish walk, through a beautiful neighbourhood near the bay, where we picked up a bus.
I love riding city buses -- it's great for seeing an overview of neighbourhoods. We were on the bus for a long time, heading towards the Castro and the Mission districts. We got off the bus in the Castro, thinking we were going to get another bus... and I ran out of steam.
Fortunately there was a cafe very nearby. One iced coffee and one iced tea later, I decided the sushi hunt was over, we were heading back to Berkeley and would grab dinner there (at least that was the new plan). We were right near a Muni Metro, which we took to Embarcadero, intending to get a BART train back to Berkeley.
Feeling revived, we strolled to the Ferry Building, a huge, historic building that's been re-made into a marketplace. We have seen it before, on our last trip to the area in 2010 (for a family wedding). It's beautiful and spacious, with all local vendors. It skews a bit upscale, but not so much to be super exclusive. There are often performances, events, craft vendors, and the like in the plaza.
We strolled around inside (masks on), and ended up at the Ferry Plaza Wine Merchants. We ordered four tasting-sized glasses (the equivalent of two glasses each), some cheese, meat, and bread plates, and were very happy and content.
After that, we got a BART train back to Berkeley. Our car was in the parking lot (without a ticket, story to follow), and picked up the dogs. They were, of course, wildly happy to see us. We stopped at the local Whole Foods and I went in to pick up many boxes of my favourite herbal tea which is not sold in Canada (on my to-do list for this trip), along with popcorn, ice cream, and wine. All the vacation essentials!
In the evening we hung out in the cottage, nailed down some plans for the next few days, and I was asleep well before 10:00.
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