Vacation in San Francisco, October 2010: SOMA, Embarcadero, Castro, The Haight, and Sushi

I wandered around quite a bit this day. I started out at South Park at The Butler & Chef Bistro. There I ordered a latte and “La Parisienne,” a hearty buckwheat crepe with ham and cheese. This delicious breakfast filled me up so well, I was not hungry until much later that afternoon.


Day Four Butler and Chef BreakfastMy excellent breakfast at The Butler & Chef


After breakfast, I walked down to AT&T Park, took some photos, then started heading up the Embarcadero from the South Beach area towards the Ferry Building Market. On the way, I stopped at Pier 14 just north of the Bay Bridge to take some more photos. When I got to the Ferry Building, I hung around the area for a bit. At that time of day (around 10:30) they were just setting up the outdoor stands.


Day Four Boats near AT&T Park
Day Four Pier 14 PanoBoats near AT&T Park and a stitched panorama of photos from Pier 14


Next, I hopped on the F line streetcar to Fisherman’s Warf. I took that car to the end of the line before hopping off. I walked around the Warf area for a bit, then hopped back on the streetcar heading back to Market and 5th street. I hung around that area for a little while, then hopped back on the streetcar line and took it all the way to the other end of the line, stopping in Castro.

In Castro, I walked back up Market, turning at Noe St. toward Haight St. At Haight St. I started walking uphill, but decided to grab a bus the rest of the way. I took the bus past Haight-Ashbury toward the Golden Gate Park end and got off there. I took a brief stroll through that end of Golden Gate Park before turning around and heading up Haight St.


Day Four Gargoyles between Castro and HaightGargoyles guarding the entrance to a home on Haight Street


Once through Upper Haight and part way through Lower Haight, I turned at Steiner St. heading back toward Market St. I caught the streetcar again at Market and Church, taking that all the way back to 5th St and Market.

By this time it was late afternoon, my legs were completely exhausted from the past several days of walking, and I had skipped lunch. I decided to stop again at the Thirsty Bear to take notes on my photos, eat and have a few beers. I ordered the bocadillos (house made mini-burgers of lamb, pork and beef; hard-boiled egg, caper aioli. with summer squash escabeche) and the empanadas (braised pork & queso fresco, roasted squash romesco & spiced pepitas). For beer, I tried their Full Belly seasonal followed by the Meyer IPA and finishing with a Koslov Stout. While there, I researched street photography techniques hoping to improve my skills for the next day.

Lori had just finished up her conference for the day, so we met back at the room and made plans for dinner. Since I wasn’t super hungry we decided to go out for sushi. A few days earlier I had noticed a sushi place just north of Union Square while walking down Powell street. I researched it online and found it was very highly rated. We took the cable car from the Powell St. Station up the hill to Sutter St.


Day Four Cable Car at Powell Station

Day Four Maru SushiCable car at Powell Station and Maru Sushi


At Maru Sushi I ordered a large hot sake and the Chirashi bowl (sashimi over rice). Lori had the Yummy Yummy roll and we shared an appetizer of crab jalapeno poppers. We then walked back down Powell St. to our hotel where we again crashed for the night.

Vacation in San Francisco, October 2010: Japantown, Chinatown, Coit Tower and Financial District

This was Lori’s first conference day, so she was not able to join me for the touristy stuff. We did get to have coffee and a pastry from a nearby Starbucks together before parting company around 7:45. I then walked up Powell Street to Geary Street to catch the 38 bus line at that corner. I hopped off at Geary St and Laguna St. I was very early, and most of the shops did not open until 11 so I had to walk around for a bit. Japantown isn’t very big so that did not eat up a lot of time, but I got some good photos of the Japantown Peace Plaza Pagoda.


Day Three Japantown Peace PlazaJapantown Peace Plaza Pagoda


To kill some more time and re-fuel for the day, I stopped at O Izakaya Lounge for a Japanese-style breakfast bento. Grilled salmon, scrambled eggs, miso soup, rice, fruit and vegetables were all present.


Day Three O Izakaya LoungeJapanese breakfast at O Izakaya Lounge


By the time I finished breakfast some more shops had started opening up. Soko Hardware was my first stop. It was a regular American hardware store that also carried a lot of Japanese goods. Most of the Japanese products were downstairs, but there were some traditional Japanese woodworking tools upstairs. This place had the best pricing for iron teapots in the area.

Sanko Cooking Supplies was near Soko Hardware. They also had iron teapots, a very large selection of table service, and small appliances such as rice cookers.

I then walked through the Japan Center Mall which has the Peace Pagoda between its two buildings. Most of the shops were still closed, but there were many people hanging around the restaurants and shops which were open. There were enough open ones to keep me busy until the rest opened at 11:00. Kinokuniya Bookstore reminded me of a Barnes and Noble, but it had about 90+ percent Japanese language publications and books. That made me wish I had at least some Japanese reading ability. I also stopped in a store called Sanrio with a ton of pink Hello Kitty merchandise to snap a few pictures on my phone which I sent to Lori.


Day Three Sanrio Hello Kitty OverloadIs this much Hello Kitty in one place even legal?


The Katachi knives store had all sorts of cool Japanese swords ranging in price from $25 to $2500+. They also had knives, statues and figurines. I resisted the temptation to pick up a sword and have it shipped back home.

Asakichi Cast Iron was a tiny shop on the bridge spanning across Webster St. between mall buildings. Here I purchased a small ceramic koi figurine for Lori. They also had Samurai figurines, boxes, tea pots and other figurines all in cast iron.

I left Japantown on the same 38 bus route back to Powell and Geary Streets. From there, I hopped on one of the Powell cable cars taking it up the hill to California Street. I then walked down California turning at Stockton to head into Chinatown. I wandered around a few blocks in Chinatown for the next 45 minutes or so, then decided to grab some lunch at Mario’s Bohemian Cigar Store Cafe. I headed over to Columbus Ave, then up to Mario’s in the North Beach or little Italy area near Washington Square.

Mario’s was packed around 1 PM, but I managed to grab an outside table with one chair. As Lori had warned me, service was very slow. I had to hang out at my table for quite some time before the waitress acknowledged my presence. Once she did, however, the service was fine. I had the meatball panini sandwich (by Lori’s recommendation) with a Hop Head Red beer from Green Flash Brewing Company.


Day Three Marios Sandwich

Day Three Marios BeerSandwich and Beer at Mario’s Bohemian Cigar Cafe


After lunch, I walked through Washington square, then headed uphill to Coit Tower. Since Lori didn’t have much luck capturing the murals inside the tower, I attempted to do a better job with my point and shoot camera. I also paid the $5 admission to go to the top and took photos from each of the windows before heading back down into Chinatown for an afternoon snack.


Day Three Coit Tower View

Day Three Coit Tower MuralA view from the top of Coit Tower,
and one of the mural panels inside at the bottom of the tower.


I wandered through Chinatown a bit more, taking some photos along the way. I then ended up at the AA Bakery where I purchased an egg custard. That I took with me to the Transamerica Pyramid where I found a quiet seat in their Redwood Park to eat it. After the custard was gone, I took a few photos in the park and of the building, then headed over to California Street to catch the cable car back up the hill.


Day Three Transamerica park

Day Three Transamerica PyramidSculpture in Transamerica Redwood Park and the Transamerica Pyramid


I stood on the front corner of the cable car and shot a short video with my camera as it went up the hill on California Street between Kearny St and Grant Ave“. I got off again at Powell and California, then walked down Powell back toward our hotel. I stopped in at The Chieftain to have a couple of beers while waiting for Lori to finish up her conference for the day.



Video shot from the front of a San Francisco cable car


When Lori contacted me, she had made plans for us to go on a double date with one of her co-workers and her husband. We started off at The View at the top of the Marriott Marquis with drinks and appetizers watching the sun set while we talked. Next, we headed over to The Thirsty Bear for some tappas and beers. Finally, we ended the evening at Mel’s Drive-In on Mission Street for some dessert before heading back to the hotel to rest before another big day.