Yesterday, I took my study-abroad self-touring skills to the test and, equipped with a map and a 2011 Frommer’s guidebook I got for four bucks on eBay, I somehow convinced everyone to trust me enough to let them allow me to lead them around this wondrous little city.
First, we all headed off to Union Square, or what we thought to be Union Square. Union Square in itself, was, or so I thought, little more than a commercial hub where stores like Saks Fifth Avenue, Juicy Couture, and Coach were gathered about for rich citygoers and tourist moms to stop by when they got bored of sightseeing. However, today I quickly realized that in actuality, Union Square is a physical green square, as it appeared on my map, where a few restaurants line the grass and artists gather to showcase their abstract works.
Anyway, quickly bored of Union Square, we walked the few blocks up Grant Avenue to San Francisco’s Chinatown, where one of the largest Chinese populations outside of Asia harbor. After walking through the touristy Chinese gate right on Grant, we walked down the avenue and in and out of the many clothing stores, kite shops, and tea stores. Around the streets, even on structures such as the Bank of America building (ironically enough) you can see all sorts of Chinese architecture trademarks such as gold dragons and peaked tops. It’s kind of cool too that it’s clearly not just a tourist attraction- Chinese people are all over the place; walking with their children, playing music, manning their shops, eating their lunches in the park.
Once again, being shocked that anyone chooses to listen to me, I followed my guidebook in bringing everyone down a sketchy alley to the Fortune Cookie Company, so Frommer’s instructed me. The alley smelled like dead animals and flies swarmed the place where most of the shops were barred up. Even still, it gave me some hope that although no tourists were around, Chinese people were still walking up and down the alley like it was common traffic.
The tiny sign that read Fortune Cookie Co. was just as little as the shop itself, which felt pretty full with the machinery lining the floors and three little woman sitting in a corner, folding fortune cookies and placing fortunes inside.
After we escaped the alley, we strolled down Stockton Street, which is supposed to the main food market full of things like armadillos, frogs, and other not-so-appetizing creatures. However, this seemed to be pretty empty to me, mostly just stuffed with more tourist shops.
Even still, Chinatown seems to be its very own locale, located within San Francisco even if only by name. The few streets it takes up seem to have residents that have no reason to leave. Why bother when everyone you need is already in picturesque San Francisco?