It appears that people are leaving more than their hearts in a certain West Coast city. In the last year or so, San Francisco has received some bad press about its unsafe and unhygienic streets.
News like that certainly could impact tourism and cause folks to have no desire to visit there. Back in the early 1990’s, our family did visit San Francisco.
We lived in the Pacific Northwest, where we had re-located from the Midwest. We amassed as much sightseeing as we could on the West Coast because we had never been there before.
One year we took our three children on a road trip vacation to Northern California and since both Papa and I wanted to visit San Francisco, we decided to spend a couple days there.
Some memories wane about that trip and I find that I didn’t manage to capture a lot of photographs with my old trusty automatic camera. I suspect Papa and I were too occupied with entertaining and herding three young and active children to be taking many pictures.
But a few distinct places in that city do come to mind on this Tuesday Tour and I’ve scanned the old photos to view here.
Since we traveled into California on Highway 101, we distinctly remember driving across the Golden Gate Bridge and marveling at this iconic structure, but alas, I have absolutely no photos of it.
In those days before GPS, we managed to find our next driving stop fairly easily, the famous “crookedest street in the world.”
Lombard Street is a typical thoroughfare in the city except for one block, a busy tourist attraction featuring a steep, red-bricked, 600-foot long section with eight hairpin turns.
Driving down the one-way street with a speed limit of five miles per hour seems to be one of those attractions every driving tourist wants to accomplish so there was a line of cars waiting to descend. At the bottom of the street plenty of tourists lined up with cameras as well.
We checked into our hotel in the Embarcadero area of San Francisco and were delighted to find we could catch a cable car nearby to travel to many of the places we wanted to see.
Currently, the city possesses the last manually operated cable car system in the world. In days of old, 23 cable car lines provided transportation through the city, but now only three routes remain. The cable cars are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
We found it fun and entertaining to ride the cable cars once we were actually able to board. Because they are a big tourist attraction, waiting lines for the cars were quite lengthy though. We also remember tourists from other countries in line and chatting while we waited with a friendly German couple touring California.
I suspect our children soon grew impatient and tired of waiting but they managed to behave nicely. However, I distinctly remember how rude people were when they shoved by and through our family of five to board before us. It was a mad dash and I recall Papa and I hanging onto our children for dear life so we wouldn’t be separated by the crush of inconsiderate people.
From the cable car ride, we observed Chinatown, although we did not wander through the streets there. Another major attraction, San Francisco’s Chinatown is considered the oldest of its kind in North America and the largest outside of Asia.
Our favorite place and one that was family friendly (at least in the 90’s) was Fisherman’s Wharf, or Pier 39 as it’s also called.
Pier 39 stands out in my memory for two aspects: we had our very first taste of the scrumptiously decadent Ghirardelli Chocolates there and brought some home with us and we were amazed at the plentiful fresh produce at a fruit market. The fruit was huge and we also sampled another first there – Asian pears – which we discovered were so very tasty.
We enjoyed strolling along the historic waterfront and watching sea lions cavort and snooze on the piers. Plenty of restaurants, shopping, and entertainment – we stopped several times to watch street performers – could be found there as well as nice views of the San Francisco Bay and the city itself.
We also managed to spy Alcatraz Island from a distance.Tourists could take a boat cruise out to the island and tour the well-known place, which was once a fort, a military prison, and finally a maximum security federal penitentiary at one time.
However, we chose not to subject our young children to that tour because it wouldn’t hold their interest. If they had been older to understand the history of it better, we probably would have purchased tickets, but only Papa and I would have benefitted from the excursion.
Now, all these many years later, I’m glad we visited San Francisco when we did as it was one of the US cities we had always wanted to visit. But I think it’s safe to say we didn’t leave our hearts there as the old 1960’s song, made popular by singer Tony Bennett, says.
I don’t think we’ll ever go back there, but we have a memento of that trip that causes me to recall that city every year we decorate our Christmas tree – an ornament which is a musical cable car that plays…you guessed it…“I left my heart in San Francisco,” that city’s theme song.
“In the end, we only regret the chances we didn’t take…” ~ Lewis Carroll