December was a great time to visit this fantastic city. With the average annual temperatures not varying by more than 13 degrees F year round, it is always a comfortable temperature and a bit on the cool side. A visit to San Francisco is really like taking a trip around the world with stops in Little Italy, Chinatown and the good old USA. With the BART providing direct service from the airport into the city, it’s easier than ever.
We dropped off our bags in our room, grabbed a sweater, some good walking shoes and set out to explore the city on foot. As always, we made sure we had a good map in hand. We started out in Union Square, which has galleries, shops and theatres. There were a galore of beautifully decorated stores. My kids especially loved the Macy’s window with the live kittens and puppies on display. SPCA had them ready for adoption.
We ate at Lori’s Diner. Is was a 50s style diner with fast and friendly service. I’m not one for a long drawn out meal with so much that needs to be explored!
Looking for a nice hill to climb, we headed up Grant Street straight into Chinatown. It was really only a few blocks up from Union Square.
Chinatown was like a whole new world. It even smelled different. Most of the signs were in both Chinese and English.
It’s very Asian, right down to the local grocery vendors.
Then at Broadway and Columbus, we were immediately in Little Italy, also known as North Beach. Again, totally different vibe. It was quite and tranquil. If you’re a garlic lover, you have to try the Stinking Rose Restaurant.
While we were having lunch, firetrucks pulled up and out jumped firemen, all suited up with emergency equipment in hand. They hurried into the building next door. It must not have been too bad, since they were out and gone within no time. Exciting for sure.
We continued through Little Italy.
On all my trips to San Francisco (for the last 25 yrs), I have to stop by for a Rosemary Baguette at the Italian French Baking Co. on the corner of Union and Grant. Delicious!
With baguette in hand, we headed up Telegraph Hill to Coit Tower.
Unfortunately the Coit Tower was closed till Spring 2014, but still the view from here over the city and Golden Gate Bridge was impressive.
From here on out, the walk was easy because now it was all pretty much downhill. We continued towards the Pier and saw Lombard Street along the way.
We arrived at Pier 39 right before sunset. We rushed over to see the Sea Lions, who we could hear barking as they were settling in for a spot on the rafts.
There was a nice view of Alcatraz. This is also where you could catch the ferry to Alcatraz. We had been there before, so we skipped it this time. It’s worth the trip to view the old prison and talk to an ex-inmate in the gift shop.
We walked through the endless tourist shops on the pier, grabbed a hot chocolate/ice cream before heading back towards our hotel.
On the walk back, my husband opted for the more level road instead of up and over the hill! So we started out along Columbus Ave. We passed Saints Peter and Paul Church, where Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio were married and the church as been featured in many films.
Back in Union Square we saw ice skaters and we stuck our heads into a few hotels were there were fantastic gingerbread houses on display.
You never know what you will see in this eccentric, environmental conscience, vibrant, exciting and sometimes foggy city. But one thing is for sure, there is something for everyone!