Tuesday, May 26, 2015

[SAN FRANCISCO] Chillaxing by the Bay

For my second to the last day, the clan decided to head to where all the tourists at the Bay Area tend to converge. No, I’m not talking about the Golden Gate Bridge or the Palace of Fine Arts. That’s where people go camwhoring. I am referring to Fisherman's Wharf, for lack of a collective term for that area by the bay where Pier 39 is also located. For many, this area is an essential stop not just because of its proximity to Downtown SF, but also thanks to the very touristy vibe and the myriad of activities available.

Its location right next to the bay could mean a refreshing breeze for the summer, but be warned that the wind here is not so friendly, so you are better off coming buried under several layers of warm clothing rather than spend the whole afternoon regretting your lack of preparation. Arriving with an empty stomach is not really an issue thanks to the food choices available for you to indulge in. Seafood is plenty and fried finger foods are popular. There are also many sit-down restaurants to choose from.

Because we had a rather heavy breakfast, we settled for snacks and immediately went sightseeing right after that. Camwhoring can also be rampant here because there are many notable landmarks to see, although I’ve observed that this activity seems to be almost in the same level as souvenir shopping or food tripping. The giant sailor’s wheel which says Fisherman's Wharf, for example, is a popular landmark. It also happens to be next to a parking lot, so taking a selfie could also mean getting hit by a car. Exciting!

The birds did not seem to mind, though. If you’ve seen Finding Nemo, you wouldn't be surprised to find seagulls here, which I think are common attractions at waterfronts. I find them interesting because they are not as cowardly as pigeons or other birds. I even think that these ones are more likely to bully you and run after you rather than the other way around. You will be spending around five minutes of your time amused with them, after which food trip follows, and then souvenir shopping!

All of the articles of clothing saying that you’ve been to California can be found here. Sweaters are quite popular, so are t-shirts. There are also many vendors selling souvenir items to bring home as presents. The common ones such as magnets and key chains are really easy to find. There are also several stores selling old car plates, if you fancy collecting those. If not, you can also settle for those artsy tiles of different sizes featuring the most popular landmarks in San Francisco.

Our boredom and yearning to do something communal led us to the San Francisco Dungeon. It is located right next to Madame Tussaud’s. The premise is that of taking a tour of old San Francisco and experiencing how it was to live there back then. Because there didn’t seem to be any other viable option, we decided that it was the closest thing to a long awaited cousin bonding thingy that we could have. The admission price is a bit steep at $26, but I think the experience was worth it anyway. Why so?

Typical tours will have tourist guides tell you about the history of a place. While it might seem interesting to some, most people wouldn't really care. What the San Francisco Dungeon does is present the city’s history through an effective combination of a simulated firsthand experience, convincing acting, and special effects. By utilizing this method, you get to know the anecdotes and bits of history of the city as though you yourself experienced living there back then.

After experiencing the plague and a cousin being convicted in court for stealing a horse, the San Francisco Dungeon experience came to a close. Souvenir photos are also available, though quite pricy. We then followed the Elders who opted to retreat to Pier 39 to chillax. But we had no time for chillaxing, for we still had the pier to explore. As is true for the other attractions nearby, Pier 39 also plays host to one too many souvenir shops and food establishments. After all that walking, you deserve to chill!

If you haven’t had enough just yet, then go visit the sea lions, or were they seals? Spelling aside, what the heck is the difference anyway? Regardless what they are called, there is an area of the pier where they all gather and sunbathe together. Some alpha males of the group would also quarrel once in a while, but the majority would just lie there, motionless and most likely asleep. By all means, take your souvenir photos now! Just make it quick because the smell could be rather overwhelming.

If you head east, you would see Alcatraz. You could probably swim from the pier to the island if you wanted a good challenge, although I am not really sure if that would be illegal. Just book one of several ferries headed to the island, for crying out loud! Alcatraz tours can be booked almost anywhere at Pier 39. If you are afraid of it, though, because of all those rumors saying that it’s haunted, then just settle for a selfie from afar when you come to visit the seals.

If you have a car, the Golden Gate Bridge as well as the Palace of Fine Arts won't be that difficult to reach. If you start early, you could even do all of them in one day, including a tour of Alcatraz. As for us, my day ended trying to order a Bacon Mushroom Melt at Wendy’s, for which all I got was a befuddled stare from the cashier, which I interpreted as her way of asking me WTF? I settled for fries with sea salt and a small cup of Frosty before defecting to Popeyes.

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