Day 17 of the PapiBlogger Family Road Trip was an action packed day for the Ruiz clan of jagged street driving, historic trolley rides, sun bathing sea lions, break dancers, authentic Chinese cuisine and more in San Francisco.
PAPIMOBILE STRUTS ITS WHEELS AT FAMOUS LOMBARD STREET
Our first stop of the day was a drive down the steep, picturesque and jagged Lombard Street. In case you don’t know, Lombard Street has eight sharp
turns (or switchbacks) that have earned the street the distinction of being the crookedest [most winding] street in the world. According to Wikipedia, “the switchback’s design, first suggested by property owner Carl Henry and instituted in 1922, was born out of necessity in order to reduce the hill’s natural 27% grade, which was too steep for most vehicles to climb. The crooked section of the street, which is about 1/4 mile (400 m) long, is reserved for one-way traffic traveling east (downhill) and is paved with red bricks. The speed limit in this section is a mere 5 mph (8 km/h).”
Jonathan and Elena wanted to go up and down running and taking videos of cars with their SONY Bloggies. One feels for the residents who have to endure daily packs of tourists like us gawking at their neighborhood.
FISHERMAN’S WHARF AND PIER 39
The family-friendly epicenter of San Francisco is at Fisherman’s Wharf and Pier 39. Fisherman’s Wharf is famous for its rows of great seafood restaurants and harbor but it is also a terrific place to catch some great street performance art. I’m normally jaded about most street performers I see but have to admit that the street performances I found in San Francisco are among the most engaging I’ve ever seen.
The highlight of our time at Fisherman’s Wharf was seeing a break-dancing group perform some of the most amazing dance stunts I have ever seen live, in person. Jonathan, Elena and I were so captivated by the street-side performance we saw that we only wished this group stayed to dance longer.
In addition to the awesome break dancers, Fisherman’s Wharf has a monstrous-looking skeleton character that the kids enjoyed, a guy painted and dressed completely in gold and other characters all worth checking out.
If you have time and the interest you can also visit the World War II submarine Pampanito on permanent display in the harbor. We didn’t do it this time around but if your kids are into warships they will enjoy the nominal cost of going inside a retired wartime submarine.
LUNCH AT BOUDIN
We had lunch at Bistro Boudin, which originally opened in San Francisco in 1849, and is home to what is known as the Original San Francisco Sourdough French Bread. We had a Sourdough Bread Bowl with clam chowder, enjoying one of our most complete seafood meals of the whole trip so far. It was a true bonus to be eating while overlooking the beautiful bay.
SEA LIONS, CAROUSEL AND MAGIC SHOW AT PIER 39
On the outside, Cisco’s Pier 39 looks like most any tourist trap. In fact, it is a tourist trap but it’s a nice trap because Pier 39 has the goods. First of all, the boardwalk-style shopping center has an area outside its doors
devoted to more than 100 large sea lions that are there year round to lounge and otherwise make fun of us humans who gawk at them.
Inside the open air mall area are performers including a magician/comedian who I personally enjoyed seeing and an elaborately decked out, two story carousel that all the kids wanted to ride.
TAKING A TROLLEY
No family visit to San Francisco would be complete without riding one of the city’s famous street cars. The place to ideally board them at is around Hyde Street and Powell. If you’re driving around with your own vehicle, go to one of the flat rate parking garages that will charge you between $8 to $12. The trolleys circulate at different stops every 15 minutes or so but are pricey at $5 per person, regardless of age except for children under 2. The trolley ride empties into downtown San Francisco so I would highly recommend that you save your $5 per person to return to your car and do so via a taxi.
WHY YOU MAY WANT TO SKIP ALCATRAZ
We wanted to take the kids to see Alcatraz Island because they are big fans of the just concluded TV show “Prison Break” that we are all watching now on reruns. It turns out that the lone tour provider that goes there says you now need reservations at least one week in advance. It all worked out for us though because we only had one full day for San Francisco and if we had gone to Alcatraz we would have had to allot four hours for the journey.
THE GOLDEN GATE BRIDGE
Our biggest mistake of the day was not going to see the Golden Gate Bridge while there was still clear sun. I was hoping to photograph it in the late afternoon, which would have been great except the sky turned overcast. The lesson: if you have a clear sky to see and photograph the Golden Gate, take it right then and there. Don’t let perfect get in the way of good.
CHINATOWN’S R&G LOUNGE
Our busy sight-seeing day concluded at Chinatown’s R&G Lounge where we took the kids to eat super authentic Chinese food. Jonathan and Elena ate duck and scallops for the first time in their lives and loved both. (By the way, if you didn’t already know, San Francisco’s China Town is larger than New York’s; it is the largest one outside China).
SPRINT NEXTEL ROAD TRIP TIP OF THE DAY
We can’t imagine what we would have done if our Chevrolet Traverse had not had the number of power outlets that it does because we’re driving around with three cellphones, several laptop computers and other electronic equipment. If you’re taking a road trip anywhere be sure that your vehicle has multiple electrical outlets. Several manufacturers, including Black & Decker, have outlets that can power devices through both AC power and lighters. Get one as a back up since you can never have too many.