Whatever Happened to Predictability?

Yesterday when we embarked for our third and final day of exploring of San Francisco, we nervously looked up at the sky and saw the ominous dark clouds overhead, pitting the city into a field of fog. However, this is just another typical San Francisco move— looming black clouds threatening rain with no follow through. Thank God.

We hopped on a bus and headed to Haight-Ashbury, a neighborhood in west San Francisco that borders the Golden Gate Park which boasts the center of the 1960’s counterculture movement, complete with skateboarders, dreadlocks, colorful murals, deadheads, and the odd scent of a certain herbal substance.


I was skeptical about what this neighborhood would really have to offer—would it just be a series of cheap vintage shops, where tourists gathered to buy Ben and Jerry’s ice cream and California themed bongs? Actually, no.

Haight-Ashbury, named for where Haight and Ashbury streets meet, is a real-deal neighborhood, equipped with colorful Victorians, hippies painting children’s faces, men holding hands, and long-haired kids in their windows waving and laughing. This isn’t just another tourist destination; it’s a real little Narnia that houses the same people it did back in the 1960’s, with the same people who wished they were living in vans like their parents did.

Unfortunately, my handy guidebook really didn’t specify any specific locales in the neighborhood, so we just wandered a little, missing some big spots like Jerry Garcia’s house (but we did get ice cream…obviously). And since we were nearby anyway, we walked a few blocks north to Alamo Square, where the Painted Ladies reside.

The Painted Ladies are that row of colorful Victorians you have seen on postcards; which is the biggest hub of the 19th century homes in the city. It’s worth it to climb the massive hill of the square to have the greatest view of the homes, which unfortunately do not include the Victorian in Full House, although the hill is the same one that the Tanners picnic on in the opening scene. My life is a lie.

The Painted Ladies

After Alamo Square, we had these great tour-quality expectations of walking to the bike shop at the start of Golden Gate Park to the east to ride to the Golden Gate Bridge a few miles away, but this may have been slightly optimistic since half the group couldn’t ride a bike, it was freezing cold, and it was 5:00 pm. Whatever, I tried. Instead, we took the inconvenient route of bus 71 to bus 28, the only line which goes from Golden Gate Park to the Golden Gate Bridge.

During this long, smelly, and crowded public transportation ride (#firstworldprobs) we were all seriously wondering if this was really gonna be worth it. Screw the bridge. I hate this bridge. I can’t bike to it and it’s friggin cold and the Bay Bridge looks kind of similar anyway, right?


Seeing the Golden Gate Bridge reminds you of where you really are. Haight-Ashbury, cable cars, Chinatown, Pier 39, and Fisherman’s Wharf really are, yes, real San Francisco. But who can resist such a famous trademark such as that of the Golden Gate Bridge? It may just be a really big red manmade structure at first glance, but really, it’s more than that. It’s the final mark of a great city, one that has flourished for years, one that has been the epicenter of life, change, and revolution. It’s the last capische on an Italian dish in North Beach, the soy sauce on Chinatown lo mein, the last hump when the cable car hits Lombard Street. The Golden Gate Bridge might as well be the cherry on the whimsical sundae that is San Francisco; always saving the best for last.

Golden Gate Bridge

The City by the Bay.

After rendezvousing through Chinatown, we hiked down Market Street once again to the corner of Powell street, where the cable car, the only National Historic Center icon that is mobile, picks up its passengers to take them up the famous hills and to the Bay, where Alcatraz and Fisherman’s Wharf lie. Apparently, the reason San Fran loves cable cars is because back in the day when horses would pull people up the hills, some of those poor ponies toppled down the hill with the carts and people attached. Ever since, cable cars have been the go-to mode of transportation around here.

San Franciscans seem to treat the cable cars like their own cheap taxis, and to them, it’s no big deal to hold on and hang off the side as the cable car winds up the hill like a teetering roller coaster for only six bucks a pop. For the rest of us tourists, we were left sliding back on the benches, holding on to our cameras for dear life.

When the cable car stopped, we got off at Lombard Street, known as the crookedest street in the world. So crooked that it has to zigzag across the hill, which is dressed up with pretty mansions and manicured flowers. After trying to navigate down the street hillside, we wandered down past the old Victorians and followed the Bay in the distance to Fisherman’s Wharf.

Lombard Street

Fisherman’s Wharf is like a more old-school and genuine version of Point Pleasant, New Jersey, minus the dumb carnival games and unenthusiastic teenagers selling air brush tattoos. The beginning of the Wharf is lined with seafood shops, where you can get fresh shrimp sandwiches for five bucks from a stand and you can walk along the water and by the five-or-so piers that dot the water. At the edge, you can see Alcatraz Island and the Golden Gate Bridge, lit up when night comes along.

Alcatraz Island

We also stopped at Musee Mechanique, a classic game arcade with games as old as from the 1800’s. The games feature machines where you put in a quarter and see puppets dance or carnivals light up and move and “x-rated movies,” where a man puts his arm around a woman. Ah, the days.

Down Pier 39, we spotted the sea lions all laying about like sleepy dogs, barking at each other and enjoying the warm weather as they sunbathed on the rocks. Wandering into the middle of the pier, you can ride the carousel, see puppet shows, and literally eat the best salt water taffy of your life.

Pier 39

Unlike many other “famous” cities, this place doesn’t reek of tourism in the slightest. Instead, to me, it has the scent of locals making their living selling freshly caught fish and people kissing in front of the Golden Gate before strolling to Pier 39 for candy. Not a bad life.