"The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco."San Francisco Off Peak
Presidio and Golden Gate Bridge
Much of the Presidio and Golden Gate Bridge area is run by the National Parks Service, NPS,(so it is well explained, signed and easy to get around) with free, (yes free) Shuttles from the nearby city center. We were going to walk across the bridge but in the end, following a conversation with a Ranger, took his point that you get the best views from either end. So, we took a bus across later and end up at the well healed, old money, town of Sausalito. The Presidio has served as a military base for the Spanish, Mexicans and the USA and if you walk from the Bridge to the Presidio you will pass Crissy Field. Pay attention as this was an early airfield and important in aviation history. You can still see several early hangers, mostly re-purposed now.
Cable Car Museum showing the cables operating the 4 routes!
San Francisco Off Peak
Supposedly Mark Twain once said “The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.” This piqued my interest when I had the opportunity, whilst on the way back from Asia, to spend a few days in San Francisco. I’d never really spent time in the city and one might imagine that mid January is unlikely to be an ideal time to explore a northerly North American city.
It proved to be an excellent time to visit and a surprising, if not exactly unknown, ‘Route Beyond’ the normal! The weather was continually mild. Foggy in the mornings and bright later on. Places are of course open, but they are wonderfully quiet and this led to a couple of ‘private viewings’! It was especially good timing as we wanted to see some of the (presumably normally crazy busy) iconic San Fran’ landmarks.
The next must for me was Alcatraz. Taking an early ferry we ended up spending nearly 7 hours there, so much did we enjoy it and so much was there to explore. Do the Audio Tour – excellent. Later we signed up for a Ranger talk and because there was just 8 of us, after conversation, went to the normally closed basement and awful cells used there.
Alcatraz is so much more than what you likely know it for, a prison mostly during Prohibition.
Trams and Cable Cars
These transport systems for many, simply define San Franciso. I was struck by how easy they are to use and what a practical and inexpensive way they are to see the city and actually get around.
One morning at Fishermans Wharf I struck up conversation with a ‘driver’, (turns out the name is ‘Gripman’ as they grip the cables with a lever) who was in training with an Inspector. They invited my wife and I on board and we proceeded to have a 45 min totally private ride, learning so much from these clearly enthused employees. The benefit of mid week in January visits!
We followed that up with a visit to the Cable Car Museum, which is also the working powerhouse for the cables. Well worth the time and you can take in Chinatown too as its right there.
Lots to see: Coit Tower, Fisherman’s Wharf, Maritime Museum, Art Museum and Historic Ships
I was running out of time to see what I wanted, but I managed to fit in a trip up Coit Tower which offers a worthwhile panorama and then the NPS operated Hyde Street Harbor with its historic ships. My favorite is the Balclutha, not just because of its restoration but mostly because of the careers this 1886 Glasgow built vessel had over the decades and how that represented so much of the change that took place in globalization before it came to rest in San Francisco.
Apart from the view from the top of the tower a surprise was coming across a flock of parrots there!
Useful Transportation Resources
San Francisco Transit https://www.matkahuolto.fi/en/
The BART train is the best way in from the airport https://www.bart.gov/
(When it was built is was state of the art – today it has a decidedly 1980’s faded aura to it, but it seems to work!)
If you want to visit the Presidio, Bridge, Alcatraz and the Historic Ships and Maritime Museum see NPS here.
Does’nt get much better!