Friday, October 24, 2008

A couple out-of-the-way San Francisco secrets (or practicing at playing tourist)

Above: Downtown San Francisco as seen from the top of San Bruno Mountain.

Lots of people who live in or near towns renowned for their tourist trade, such as San Francisco, rarely get to see what makes their area such a magnet. In my case, I first came to the Bay Area on a tourist basis -- long before I moved here -- so I got a little idea of what might impress the out-of-towners. Specifically, I've learned some places off the beaten track. My friend Rob's visit this week was an opportunity to play tourist a bit for myself -- after all, my Australian trip begins six days from today.

Claire and Ian took Rob through the usual tourist haunts of Golden Gate Park and the Golden Gate Bridge on Sunday while I was working. So when I had Tuesday off, I took Rob to one of the area's best-kept secret wonders: San Bruno Mountain Park.

Not only does the park have a great picnic area and good hiking trails, but anyone who likes scenic vistas will appreciate the view from the summit of the 1,314-foot peak. There is an almost 360-degree view of the north Peninsula (you might have to walk around a radio tower to see it all) and stunning views of the Pacific Ocean and the San Francisco skyline (see above). The entrance to the park is clearly labeled off of Guadalupe Canyon Parkway (accessible from Daly City or Brisbane), admission is just $5 per car and you can drive all the way up Radio Road to the top.

On Wednesday, we picked Ian up from school and went to Half Moon Bay where Rob -- the former Navy man -- wanted to "see some boats." So we went out to Pillar Point Harbor, where one can walk along the pier to get close to the small fishing fleet docked there. We then proceeded to a pumpkin patch off of Highway 92, where Ian merrily ran through the assorted squashes. San Mateo County's coastside agricultural output is surprising considering the urbanization on the bay side. Below: Ian, a big Star Wars fan, finds his boat at Pillar Point.

On Thursday, despite my having to work in the daytime, Rob and I had just enough time to blow some quarters at Malibu Grand Prix (where he smoked me both on virtual video and real go-cart tracks) before heading into SF to catch BART to Oakland. We alighted in downtown Oakland then made our way to Jack London Square, where Mr. Roy -- who had been jonesing for a formal seafood dinner all week -- finally got his swordfish at Scott's Seafood Restaurant. He said his meal was excellent, although my Petrale Sole was just OK.

But the real highlight was the trip back, where we availed ourselves of the Oakland Ferry terminal a block from the square. A nighttime ferry ride across San Francisco Bay is a low-light photographer's dream, with spectacular views of the SF skyline from as soon as one clears the Oakland Estuary. A good use of $6.25 (although the last ferry leaves early -- 8:55 p.m. -- on weeknights).

Ironically the ferry ride ended up at probably the most overtly tourist place Rob went with me during his visit -- Fisherman's Wharf. Of course, that was palatable when combined with a nice, rich sundae at Ghiradelli Square.

1 comment:

Rob said...

Totally awesome day! The racing! The boats! The swordfish! The...public transportation! The wharf! The hot chocolate! T'was soul-satisfying, t'was.