The title of this entry is no jab at the cultural center of Northern California. Rather, it is meant in a lighthearted, lyrical way, in the vein of Tony Bennett’s and The Mowgli’s respective songs about the city. It is my own fault that my cheeks and forehead now match the colour of the Golden Gate Bridge. In retrospect, I should have thought to apply sun block to my face before spending an entire day exploring San Francisco’s many famous attractions on foot.
Originally, my wife and I had considered booking a guided bus tour of the area, but we rejected this idea in favour of a leg-propelled approach that would allow us to play the role of tourists in our own style and at our own pace. After filling up on a meal of crab chowder and calamari by the sea, we adjusted our shoes and began our walking adventure.
First we set off toward Hyde Street, where we followed trolley tracks up the road’s dauntingly steep slope. Along the way we gazed at a herd of goats trimming some of the neighbourhood’s landscape with their teeth. Near the incline’s peak, we veered off along the tightly winding curves of Lombard Street. A few blocks over, we then caught a bus to the base of the Golden Gate Bridge.
Walking along the iconic structure’s sidewalk, we paused halfway to enjoy the breathtaking vantage of a sparkling bay filled with sailboats. In the midst of them all we could spot Alcatraz, which we had intended to experience in person, but had discovered required an advance reservation to visit this time of year. To view it from afar was thankfully pretty neat in itself.
As fog settled upon the uppermost reaches of the bridge’s steel beams, we returned the way in which we had come. An hour of ambling parallel with the beach took us through a handful of bustling parks and all the way to Fisherman’s Wharf. By then the continuous walking had made us hungry, so we popped into Jack’s Cannery for cheap sirloin steaks and a selection of 84 beers on tap. With a Marion Berry Ale for my wife, and a Heretic Shallow Grave Porter for myself, we sipped and ate to the tune of some live acoustic guitar.
Upon supping we made our way along the piers, stopping to check out the varied businesses along the way. Outside the Exploratorium, we indulged in some sanctioned people watching, which happens to be one of my favourite activities. We wrapped up our day with an evening perusal of the farmers market across from the ferry building’s clock tower, and then took a subway back to our hotel. There we rested our tired legs, and I applied a thick lather of aloe vera to my sun burnt face.
Satisfaction was the ultimate result of our self-guided tour. I may not have left my heart in San Francisco, nor lost my head there, but the lingering redness of my visage is remnant of a day spent wandering a place of immense historical and contemporary significance. Next time, I will remember the sunscreen.
– Cory Magnus Stumpf