We took the BART train from 16th and Mission going towards Richmond and got off at Civic Center. I have come to realize that there is an unwritten rule for how to use the escalators when exiting the BART station; people who just want to stand and ride the escalator up to the ground level, are supposed to stand on the right hand side and people who want to walk up do so on the left. It took me a few times to understand this, after I realized that I was blocking people who wanted to walk faster by standing in the middle of the escalator! Woops! Don’t mind me, I’m just a dumb tourist.
At Civic Center, we walked across the street to wait for our bus to the Golden Gate Bridge at the corner of 7th and Market. There are a number of bus lines from the Golden Gate Transit that go north to the bridge including #10, 70, 92 and 101 from the bus stop. We took the #10. Google had told me that the bus fare was $4.75 but when we got on the bus, the driver told us the fare was actually $5.25. I had to dig around in my backpack but thankfully I had some extra coins to pay for the fare!
We got off at the Golden Gate Bridge and started exploring! We arrived pretty early in the morning, at around 8:30 AM, and it was nice because we were some of the few people there at the time. We walked down to Crissy Field and Fort Point through some cool paths through trees and a pathway that went underneath a hill, taking tons of photos of the bridge along the way. There was some light fog covering the top of the bridge but it was still mostly visible and beautiful! It was very chilly at the bridge and near the water, so I recommend bringing a jacket and maybe even a scarf. As we were walking down the road along the water’s edge towards Fort Point, there were some really large waves crashing up against the rocks and we almost got majorly splashed! We stopped at a long fishermen’s dock jutting out into the bay and watched some local fisherman catch huge crabs! They posed for a photo for us and let us take pictures of their crabs. They offered for us to hold it, but I was too scared of getting my finger pinched off and politely declined! The best views of the bridge are along Crissy Field and the road leading up to Fort Point. There was a nice picnic area along the trails from the bridge information centre and parking lot down to the water’s edge, which had great views as well.
We then walked back up to the top of the bridge through the Crissy Field trails. We decided to walk a little ways down the beginning of the bridge. We passed by some suicide crisis counselling telephones, which made me realize how many suicides probably occur here, which is so tragic. There was hardly anyone at the bridge at this time in the morning and it was so peaceful and relaxing! The bridge was impressive! Once I started to walk on it, I realized how large the suspension tubes actually are. They look so small from far away, but up close, they are huge!
After spending a good three hours or so at the bridge, we took the MUNI #28 bus from the Golden Gate Bridge Information Centre/Parking Lot to 19th Street and Moraga Street, where we got off and walked a short distance to the Mosaic Stairs (I had read about this off the beaten path stairway online before coming here and knew I wanted to check it out). Walking along the Moraga Street up to the stairway was a steep incline the entire way but the views of the city and the bay from the top of 16th Street and Moraga were stunning!
The Mosaic Steps (also known as the 16th Street Steps) are a community project. The steps feature multi-coloured tiles making various designs starting at the first step all the way to the top. You can see the entire design when standing at the bottom of the steps looking up. There was nobody there when we arrived, and we had the whole stairs to ourselves to be able to take photos with no people obstructions! The climb up the stairs was very steep and exhausting, but the view from the top was amazing! It was really cool to be able to visit this somewhat hidden gem in the city.
We wandered down some side streets near the steps and checked out the colourful houses. I noticed that we haven’t seen any bungalows in this city and everything is at least two stories (maybe due to the incline of the streets). The side streets were so quiet and we were the only ones there, which was nice.
We walked from the Mosaic Steps to the Golden Gate Park, a few blocks north. The park was beautiful and the trees were ancient! Their trunks were so huge. We saw a homeless man sleeping in secluded area under some trees just off the path, as we were sitting on a log and eating Cliff Bars for lunch. We walked to Stow Lake and wandered around down some of the paths and discovered Huntington Falls, which was a waterfall located on the edge of Stow Lake. It was beautiful! The park is huge and you could spend a lot more time than we did just exploring there. There is so much to do and see, like the Botanical Gardens, Japanese Tea Gardens, Bison Paddock, and a few museums. We didn’t go to any of these, because you had to pay for most of them and we just wanted to enjoy the natural scenery of the park.
We walked through the huge park on our way to Haight Street. It was a long walk! We got to Haight Street and I immediately loved the atmosphere! It was hippe-ish and eclectic and had lots of character and interesting and unique people to observe. We saw a man singing on one of the street corners and entertaining people passing by him, we saw people walking down the Haight Street who were clearly under the influence of drugs, we saw this one man who would just start talking to random strangers on the street corner, we saw homeless people sleeping on the sidewalks, we saw druggies congregating on certain street corners and we saw and two adult men walking completely naked down the street (quite the unexpected sight)! The people watching on this street and in this neighbourhood was fantastic! There were cute and colourful cafes, unique independent restaurants, vintage clothing stores and thrift shops, book and music stores, tattoo parlours, smoke shops and fruit markets down Haight. We wandered down the residential streets around Haight and they had the most gorgeous, colourful and detailed Victorian homes that I have seen so far in San Francisco! The streets were so quiet and I really enjoyed walking around there. We went to the Haight Market and they had such a large variety of organic produce and a great selection of kombucha, raw milk and other goodies. We stopped at Ben and Jerry’s for an expensive but delicious ice cream (not as good as Bi-Rite Creamery in the Mission District though) and and then drank our bottle of kombucha on the street corner. We got some funny looks from people walking by us and realized that our dark kombucha bottle looked a beer bottle and us sitting around the street corner and sharing the bottle, probably looked suspicious, like we were trying to hide what we were doing! We only realized this afterwards and it gave us a good laugh.
We took the MUNI #33 bus from Haight and Clayton Streets back to 18th and Valencia in the Mission. We went for a chilly walk around the Dolores Park area and saw the Mission Dolores Church, which was so detailed and is actually the oldest building in San Francisco! Then we walked through the park and saw lots of people hanging out, relaxing, sleeping, playing sports and lawn games, reading, drinking beer and wine, smoking marijuana openly, and homeless people sleeping under trees all covered up with sleeping bags, tarps and blankets at the base of the park with their shopping carts filled with the belongings sitting next to them. Mission Dolores Park is a beautiful park situated on a hill at the corner of 18th Street and Dolores. The park is great for people-watching as there are some interesting characters hanging out there. It gets really busy in the evenings and on weekends, filled with lots of young people.
We went for supper at a nice Mexican restaurant called The Little Chihuahua at 581 Valencia Street and I had a delicious vegetarian taco with a side of Spanish rice and black beans and a refreshing Jamaica agua fresca. It was super tasty, fresh and healthy! It was a cute little place and they had indoor and outdoor seating on the sidewalk.
We walked back to our apartment to relax for the evening. I am looking forward to riding the cable cars tomorrow morning, bright and early to beat the rush!