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Travel: I Left My Heart – Doreen Jung’s Travelogue From San Francisco
By Doreen Jung. The words of Tony Bennett’s song said it best for me this summer. “I left my heart in San Francisco . . . my city by the bay.” I have traveled to San Francisco several times and each time it is a new adventure.This year, the adventure began with a trip over the Oakland Bay Bridge. Built between 1933 and 1936, it was once known as the longest bridge in the world with a length of 7.18 km.
The bridge has two decks with westbound traffic using the upper deck and eastbound traffic using the lower deck.
We were heading from Oakland into San Francisco and found ourselves on one of 18 lanes approaching the tolls booths at the entrance of the bridge.
There were lanes for prepaid commuters, buses, and high occupancy vehicles as well as the general public.
Traffic was bumper to bumper so there was plenty of time to appreciate the complexity of the system which funneled 18 lanes of traffic through toll booths and into 5 lanes traveling over the bridge itself.We made it through without mishap and gained great respect for the many people who do this commute every day.
Riding a cable car up the steep climbs of Nob Hill and then plummeting down Hyde Street is a signature San Francisco experience.
We rode a street car to the Embarcadero which curves along the San Francisco Bay.
Many piers extend out into the Bay and we explored Pier 39 which offered many upscale shops and eateries along with great views of the city and the bay.
We could see Alcatraz in the distance and boats dotted the waters.
Strolling down to Fisherman’s Wharf was like walking back in time to the days when the waterfront streets were packed with kitschy souvenir shops and fresh seafood was served out of tiny cafes and outdoor kiosks.
We ventured into a tiny restaurant called Sabella del Torro and were delighted with the fresh seafood and delicious pasta.
We also enjoyed the addictive San Francisco sourdough bread that is served at many restaurants.We spent a morning in Chinatown, wandering through the many shops and markets that fill a labyrinth of streets and alleys.
Passing under an ornate painted gate that marked the official entrance to Chinatown, we encountered sensory overload.
Stores were packed with colorful souvenirs and Asian artwork. Racks of T-shirts, ties, and scarves lined the sidewalks. Enticing scents wafted out of the doors of the many restaurants crowding the streets.
In sharp contrast we encountered pungent and often mysterious odors emanating from Chinese herbal shops. On several street corners Chinese musicians sent haunting notes into the air from a two-string fiddle known as Zhonghu.
.Streets were crowded with tourists but the area caters mostly to the Chinese community who crowd the vegetable and herb markets, restaurants, and shops.
We visited Union Square which is surrounded by upscale boutiques, galleries, and restaurants. Inadvertently wandering into the Tenderloin neighborhood, we passed stores decorated with graffiti with barred or boarded up windows. We saw the homeless, the mentally ill, and groups of young men with hoods and sunglasses huddled together.
Nervously hurrying along, we turned a corner and found ourselves in a landscaped plaza leading to the Civic Centre. There we saw a domed and elegant city hall, the Opera House, Davies Symphony Hall, and the Asian Art Museum. An amazing abundance of art and culture resided next to the TenderloinÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s poverty.
With cable cars climbing its many hills, morning fog lifting to unveil golden sunshine, and diverse neighbourhoods to explore, San Francisco is a great place to visit. Each return to the city by the bay is a new adventure.