Rediscovering Eugene’s Forgotten Trolleys

Trip Report:
Leader: Mark Hougardy | Organization: Obsidians | Dates: March 2018 | Participants: 14 | Type: Urban Walking Tour

It’s difficult to imagine today, but between 1907 and 1927 streetcars (commonly referred to as trolleys) ran along 18-miles of electrified tracks in Eugene. Their comforting clickety-clack as the wheels passed over connections in the tracks where heard on four routes in this city of 11,500 people. Only the finest cars were used and each was superbly-crafted with heaters and rattan seats. At 45-feet in length, they could carry up to 100 passengers. The cost per trip was 5 cents for a child and 10 cents for an adult. Our walk will help re-discover this curious icon of the early 1900’s using old photos and traversing the Fairmount trolley’s 5.5-mile route. We walked the Fairmount’s route in its direction of travel from the train station, through downtown, across the University of Oregon’s picturesque campus, passing historic residential neighborhoods, crossing over some of the last remaining visible tracks, and back. Although many of the trolley’s tracks are not visible today, look carefully, many miles of track from this time are hidden just under the pavement.
 

San Francisco’s Salty Old Waterfront

blog-20120805-img1The visitor center at the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park offers visitors a glimpse into a salty past. Most visitors to San Francisco’s northern shore only see a tsunami of stores that sell trinkets and bobbles; however, the curious will find ‘ The Waterfront’ exhibit to offer a rich story.

The Waterfront is not just an exhibit; it is an experience more than 150 years in the making. You can discover a time before European settlement, learn about how the Gold Rush shaped San Francisco, hear voices of sailors in a Barbary Coast saloon, and even see lumber being transported over your head as a ship delivers its cargo. The exhibits also include fishing boats, actual equipment and several hundred artifacts woven throughout the walk. A very realistic looking street fish market impressed my young daughter.

blog-20120805-img3

blog-20120805-img4

blog-20120805-img5

Afterwards, make a short walk across the street to explore the historic sailing ships of the Hyde Street Pier. Visiting the ships will cost you a little, but it is far more valuable than what is sold in most of the surrounding tourist stores. The queen of all the historic ships on display is the Balclutha, you can get a better look with this video-

Learn more: http://www.nps.gov/safr/index.htm

A View From the Bay at San Francisco’s Fleet Week

If you ever have the opportunity to experience San Francisco’s Fleet Week, it is a blast!

I arrived with my family at the SS Jeremiah O’Brien on a Sunday morning. The O’Brien is “one of two remaining fully functional Liberty ships of the 2,710 built and launched during WW II.” At the pier we showed our tickets, A View From the Bay at San Francisco’s Fleet Week had our backpacks briefly inspected, and we walked up the gangplank. We joined about 950 other people on-board that day to experience Fleet Week, a time during the middle of October when active military ships dock in San Francisco, California. The passengers of the O’Brien would be enjoying the events that day from the middle of San Francisco Bay.

About a quarter of the passengers wore caps identifying they had served in the military over the years, while some caps stated, “Korean War Veteran” or “Desert Storm Veteran”, many had caps stating the names of various naval vessels.

A View From the Bay at San Francisco’s Fleet WeekAt 10 am a deep yet high pitched ‘Bhwaaahh’ and a river of steam gushed from the ship’s turret. Gigantic ropes that held the ship fast were brought aboard and a tugboat helped to pull the 441 foot long Liberty Ship from the dock. Looking over the aft of the ship I could see sheets of spray being ejected from the water every second as the massive propeller chopped though the water. We were underway.

A View From the Bay at San Francisco’s Fleet Week Our first treat that morning was seeing the Golden Gate Bridge up close. This massive structure dwarfed the O’Brien as the ship chugged under the mile long span and out in the Pacific. After a few minutes we turned and returned under the bridge to parallel the San Francisco waterfront. There was a definite presence of the security: police and military boats skittered quickly over the water to create a boundary area, an exclusion zone, for the aircraft to perform that had to be free of boats.

A View From the Bay at San Francisco’s Fleet Week The O’Brien was the only ship to parade in front of the waterfront that day. The day before the USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70) a supercarrier, the USS Antietam (CG-54) a guided missile cruiser, the USS Milius (DDG-69) a guided missile destroyer and a number of naval vessels, entered San Francisco Bay in a Parade of Ships with the O’Brien bringing up the back; as we skirted down A View From the Bay at San Francisco’s Fleet Week the waterfront and under the second massive bridge in the bay, the Bay Bridge, we passed many of these ships now at port. In the distance, anchored in the middle of the bay the impressive and intimidating looking supercarrier, the USS Carl Vinson. Around all of the ships were gray-colored military patrol boats protecting the perimeter of their respective vessels.

After a closer, yet still distant look at the Carl Vinson, the O’Brien chugged back under the Bay Bridge. It was time for the air show to start and within a few minutes a tight group of sleek looking planes descended in a A View From the Bay at San Francisco’s Fleet Week tight arc over our heads and into the exclusion zone we had traversed earlier. At first it was hard for us to view the air show but the O’Brien positioned itself between Alcatraz Island and the Bay Bridge; this location allowed us to look down the two or three mile long ‘channel’ of where the planes would be performing.

A number of planes performed that day, too many to respectfully give credit in this short write up, but all were magnificent. Just a few a mentioned below.

A View From the Bay at San Francisco’s Fleet Week The sleek Red and White Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) Snowbirds soared overhead. These individual aircrafts moved as one organism in the sky, with often only a few feet from a each other. When they separated each became a unique part of the whole in performing their choreographed maneuvers. At times it appeared the planes were playing a game of chicken turning to the side at the last second as they zipped past each other.

Then came an F-18 Super Hornet. It roared over head passing several hundred feet at times over the O’Brien. Once, it moved slowly over the water, with it’s nose pointed high to the sky, it seemed to hang in the air for several second then shot away as though catapulted away by an unseen slingshot. It disappeared into the blue… everyone looked around, we could not see it. About half a minute passed and we stated to think this part of the air show had ended. It was unusually quiet…

A View From the Bay at San Francisco’s Fleet Week A thunderous and encompassing roar ripped through the air – splitting the solitude. The sound made the O’Brien shudder and scared the life out of everyone. The passengers looked up to see the gray F-18 several hundred feet overhead slicing like a great axe through the air – water vapor was rapidly condensing at the back of the wings creating a white cloud that followed the jet. In just a second or two the fighter was already distant – the white cloud now appeared to be a gigantic cone that enveloped the back of the plane – yellow and red fire spewed from the engines and the cone still seemed to grow wider. Now the thunderous sound caught up to us, the sound grew deeper, louder and could be felt in one’s chest. The plane now appeared to be half way to the Golden Gate Bridge a distance of several miles, we still had to cover our ears because the noise was so loud. The jet pulled up and disappeared in a fog bank that seemed to appear off the ocean from nowhere.

Everyone on the O’Brien was silent.

Then someone giggled aloud, followed by others laughing, then people began to speak with exclamations of “Wow!” At that moment nine-hundred plus people on the O’Brien were smiling.

A few minutes later a sudden cold wind, that must have been 30 miles an hour, hit everyone in the face and it did not let up. The Stars and Stripes that rested atop the mast had been still for much of the morning, but now the colorful banner flew straight out to the side. The fog bank on the horizon moved closer and started to blanket one of the tall towers of the Golden Gate.

A View From the Bay at San Francisco’s Fleet Week A United Airlines 747 was seen low in the north, it banked right, flew next to the Bay Bridge then between the O’Brien and San Francisco. Some laughed as to why a commercial jet was in an air show, but as this massive plane flew over us, they stopped laughing. It is one thing to see such a huge jet at the airport, but when it is directly over you…you get an appreciation for the scale and presence. The jet made three passes for the spectators, just a few hundred feet over the water, and on the last pass pulled up extremely tight climbing into the sky.

A View From the Bay at San Francisco’s Fleet WeekA sleek looking F15-E Strike Eagle, dominated the sky, it too made a number of passes, rolls, dives and maneuvers to showcase its dexterity. Again the people of the O’Brien loved the show.

The fog bank was still closing in, hid many of the ships and sail boats that were on the bay water. The wind grew still more intense. People of the O’Brien A View From the Bay at San Francisco’s Fleet Week sought shelter behind walls and side rails to shield them from the wind. Most were not prepared for the sudden change in weather.

The massive Cargo Support Plane (I believe a C-117) for the Blue Angels passed nearby, it made several passes to introduce the highly-skilled flight team, but it was obvious the fog was going to be a problem. The fog now completely covered the massive Golden Gate Bridge and had engulfed half of the area in which the Blue Angels were to perform.

As the support plane left a deep ‘sshhhoooo’ of engines announced the Blue Angles as they flew past. The sleek blue and gold planes made multiple passes of the area traveling in wide circles, apparently studying the foggy theater of activity before deciding on a plan of action. Then they returned and in a tight formation made a slow and respectful pass between the waterfront packed with spectators and the O’Brien before leaving. The air show had concluded.

The inability to see, was a safety issue not only for the pilots, but for the public. Everyone on board the O’Brien was sad to see the Blue Angles leave early, but no one spoke badly about their decision, everyone understood that safety was paramount.

As the show ended the exclusion zone on the water was no longer needed, a thousand sail boats and small vessels moved in every direction like water striders moving in all directions across the San Francisco Bay to return home. That alone was an amazing sight.

A View From the Bay at San Francisco’s Fleet Week The O’Brien spent the next thirty minutes slowly maneuvering back to it’s berth. The volunteer deck hands wrestled giant sized and intertwined ropes to secure the ship. After fifteen minutes or so the gangplank went down and we disembarked.

It had been a fantastic day on a historic WW II ship, being in the company of so many who have served their country over the decades, while seeing some amazing aircraft piloted by very skilled pilots. I was very thankful for that day and having the opportunity to enjoy it with my family in a free country.

To those reading this who have served, or are serving in the U.S. armed forces, “Thank you for your service.”

Reference:
SS Jeremiah O’Brien website.

Learn More:
http://www.ssjeremiahobrien.org
http://www.fleetweek.us

Insbruck’s Vibrant Maria-Theresien-Straβe (Street)

Maria-Theresien-Straβe (Straβe is pronounced strah-say, translates to ‘Street’) of Innsbruck, Austria, is a vibrant, colorful place. It is the commercial heart of the city with a multitude of modern shops, restaurants and the place to people watch.

The Maria-Theresien-Straβe is partially an extension of Altstadt (Old Town) as pedestrians can freely move from the narrow streets of Altstadt onto the expansive Maria-Theresien-Straβe.

This busy street is actually in two sections: the first is a plaza and absent of traffic, the second section allows automobiles and street trains.

The plaza allows for people to dart from various shops or sit under large umbrellas and enjoy a meal. The plaza is freckled with tourists, locals, jet-setters, backpackers, people walking their dogs, high-fashion-short-skirted women, tour groups, kids entertaining the tourists to try to make a few Euros, an elderly man playing the violin – also trying to make a few extra Euros, and families with baby carriages out for a walk…just to name a few of the folks. An unknown number of languages are heard in the plaza; people are visiting from all over the world. Who is a local, who is a tourist?

Some teenagers walk down the street and dart into a modern shopping mall located on the plaza, they looked American but I soon realize they are local kids wearing the same styles and ‘fashion’ of baggy pants as American teens. The mall is immaculately clean, bright, with music pulsing from the various stores. Many of the stores had photos in their windows of healthy, sexy looking people wearing revealing clothes and styled hair, laughing, and apparently enjoying life (wearing the clothes of the store of course). The mall was a close copy of the one where I live in the States, only smaller. I briefly explored but felt uncomfortable at the sterility and mono-culture offered by the mall. I returned to the plaza area. Note: Bathrooms are at the mall.

Annasäule
Annasäule
Fiakers, horse drawn carriages, occasionally roll through the plaza; the sound of the horses’ hooves clicking on the street’s cobbled surface as it passes. A taxi driver slowly drives through the crowd and pulls up to a restaurant and picks up a couple. Taxis, delivery vans and emergency vehicles seem to be some of the few vehicles that are allowed. A bike whizzes by going too fast through the crowd – it dodges in and out missing people before disappearing around a corner. Some people mutter under their breath about that incident.

For all of the people who are here the plaza is surprisingly clean and free of trash.

Near the center of the plaza is a centuries old column called the Annasäule. It was erected in 1706 on Saint Anne’s day to commemorate the Tiroleans defending their lands against the Bavarian and French troops. The Madonna stands upon the column. Nearby, a modern raised reflecting pool might encourage mental contemplation, but during the day the outside edge of the pool is mostly used by people to sit, talk and contemplate the many people walking past.

The plaza was recently created around 2008. I remember this area from previous visits when the entire street had cars and street trains. Seeing it now with just people, while welcome, felt odd. The new plaza space allows for more open space and movement, but also for more people and tourists. The city gained a great deal by having a bustling place to shop, dine and just hang out; but it lost something important – I am not sure exactly what. I asked a lifetime resident about the new cobbled plaza area and what they thought of it. The response was interesting, “What is good for the tourists is good; it’s not always so good for the people who live here.”

The Triumphal Arch at Night
The Triumphal Arch at night. A view from the opposite side, looking through the arch down the Maria-Theresien-Straβe.
The evening is my favorite time to visit the plaza area. The intensity of the day has diminished and the people visiting seem more relaxed. Some of the restaurants are still open and more locals seem to be out. The noisy bustle of the day has quieted and the street has more of the old feel I remember. In the late eventing the light in the sky can be a cobalt blue as the mountains hide the setting sun and the city looks painted as the lights play gently on the historic churches and buildings in the area.

Moving from the plaza to the the second section of the Maria-Theresien-Straβe the street trains and automobiles return. The street continues on in a southward direction but with a slight bend to the west. Here are more restaurants, sidewalk seating and a few other stores like outdoor sports shops. Here you can see to the end of the street; all the way to a large, white-stone, Romanesque style arch over the street that is at least 17 meters high. This is the Triumphal Arch and has graced the city for several centuries. Cars heading south have the pleasure of driving through the arch, while those driving north drive to one side.

Maria-Theresien-Straβe gets its name from the Empress Maria Theresia, she was the only woman ruler during the Habsburg dynasty.

A Little Known Story About Innsbruck’s Goldenes Dachl (Golden Roof)

Visitors to the Alpine city of Innsbruck, Austria, can expect to see the Goldenes Dachl (The Golden Roof). The Goldenes Dachl is the center of Altstadt (Old Town) and the historic center of Innsbruck.

The name is derived from the 2,657 gilded copper shingles that adorn the top of this structure built around 1500. The effect is radiant when light shines upon the roof; it continues to impress visitors 500 years after being built by Emperor Maximilian I.

I won’t go into the life of Emperor Maximilian I, but here is a little about his legacy; Maximilian greatly expanded the House of Habsburg, through wars and marriage, and helped it become one of the most important royal houses in Europe thus greatly influencing European history for centuries after his death.

Today, most visitors just look at the Goldenes Dachl, take a photo and move on to the next sight. But, the curious should peek inside the Goldenes Dachl Museum (Golden Roof Museum) to learn more about Maximilian I and the 500 year history of the Goldenes Dachl. Inside this museum are some great photos, including photos of Innsbruck during the early 20th century prior to and during World War II (it was here I was reminded about a story I heard back in 1996 during a pervious visit to the city). The story involved the people of Innsbruck encasing this beautiful building in a protective bunker during World War II, yet little is mentioned today about this act of preservation. The story might be known to natives, but it is rarely mentioned to tourists.

During World War II Innsbruck suffered from both occupation by Axis powers and aerial bombing from the Allies. In the mid and late war years the city was slammed on multiple occasions from Allied bombs which devastated the nearby railroad yards and many surrounding buildings. The Altstadt area also received bomb damage. To protect this treasure, the people of Innsbruck encased the Goldenes Dachl in a thick bunker to protect it from damage. At the War’s end the bunker was removed; amidst the surrounding ruins of war the preserved Goldenes Dachl shown brightly and became a symbol of hope during Innsbruck’s rebuilding.

Shown below is an image taken in 1945 showing bomb damage with two meter deep rubble piles; the rectangular bunker can be partially seen in the left of the image, note the horrific gouge in the top front. The color photo is from the same vantage point taken in the summer of 2011; it shows the Goldenes Dachl and Altstadt area alive with visitors.

Original 1945 Photo Source: Goldenes Dachl mit Luftchutzmauer, Friedrich Nickel, 1945, schwartz-weiss Negativ, Sammlung Walter Kreutz KR/NE-3486.
Source Book: “zur Stadtgeschichte Innsbrucks,” page 120, Ingrid Bubestinger and Gertraud Zeindl.

Discovering Innsbruck’s Altstadt (Old Town)

If you visit Innsbruck, Austria, you will likely visit the picturesque Altstadt (Old Town). Altstadt is the heart of the city and provides visitors and locals with a collection of medieval buildings, historic hotels and modern restaurants. The main thoroughfare is cobbled, clean and offers a myriad of respectable side alleys to explore.

The old town is over 500 years old and the buildings that have been constructed throughout the centuries are maintained to retain their beauty and flair. There is great historic significance here and several insightful museums are hidden in various nooks of old town (more on this in other posts). Altstadt has another purpose – to provide tourists with what they want: a centrally located, safe, colorful and non-intimidating place to visit.

In the time required to eat a very leisurely lunch, enjoying a coffee and just hang out (OK – 3 hours) at a cafe it is possible to see a dozen different tour groups parade by; each group with 30 or 40 participants taking in the sights, snapping pictures and chattering before being rushed off to the next destination bypassing much of Innsbruck itself.

Experiencing Innsbruck’s old town at different times during the day, and over multiple days is a fun way to learn more about the people of Innsbruck. Winter is a wonderful time to visit, but this article will cover visiting in the summer. Here are some discoveries made about the Altstadt over the a month during the summer.

Altstadt in the Morning During Summer:
The streets are mostly empty of tourists. The sky is overcast but clearing. The light is soft and colors on the sides of buildings appear to be waking up. Delivery vehicles are parked outside shops to restock supplies before the tourists arrive later in the day. A healthy looking local woman jogs by then is quickly followed by a man on his bike. The sound of tables and chairs being unlocked is heard, then followed by the clank of being quickly placed on the cobbled streets in front of restaurants. Several a-frame-boards on the sidewalk offer breakfast, one entices people to an ‘American style’ breakfast. Some folks are sitting outside enjoying the morning with a coffee. The coffee is served in a ceramic cup on a saucer – never in a paper cup.

Altstadt in the Afternoon During Summer:
The streets are busy and packed with tourists. A woman who is part of a tour breaks away from the group; she is wearing a newly bought Dirndl, a traditional dress, and is staring up at the ornate buildings – she seems curiously out of place. She is so fascinated by the sights and almost bumps into a man who is walking his dog. A number of languages are being spoken by people in the crowd: German, English, Italian, Hindi, Japanese, Spanish, but quickly the voices seem to intertwine and blend together. A group of Scouts (both boys and girls) wearing colorful red shirts walk by. The uniforms were casual, yet pressed and well maintained. Tourists snap photos in front of the Golden Roof, the centerpiece of old town. Several silver-painted humans appear as statues on the street, they are only occasionally moving and surprising unsuspecting tourists. The smell of cigarette smoke is heavy in the air. People look at trinkets displayed outside a shop and dole out money to buy a memento of their trip. The smell of cooking is in the air and people are packed at tables that line the streets eating a variety of items, but mostly pizza. A bike zips in and out of the crowd and whizzes by almost clipping me. An older person says something in German to the rider as he is passed. A baby cries because he is tired and the Mom picks him up. People walk by with shopping bags under their arms. Many tourists are wearing basically the same type of commercial t-shirts, branded tennis shoes and bulky shorts, with the exception of their respective language, it is at times hard to tell who in the crowd is an American and who is European.

Altstadt in the Evening During Summer:
The pavement is wet from a late afternoon rain. The sky appears a cobalt blue as the sun has long since set behind the towering mountains that loom overhead. Historic buildings are washed in beams of light and are beautiful to see. Some of the tables from the afternoon seem to have been stored for the night, but most of the tables closer to the Golden Roof are filled with late night diners. Cigarette smoke is still prevalent but less than in the afternoon. The human statues have disappeared and some of the store fronts appear to be quiet and dark inside. Backpackers walk by headed to some unknown place to stay. People walk a little more slowly, some are arm-in-arm. More locals seem to be on the street. A woman in the top most story of a building looks down on the crowd and continues to ‘people watch’ for about an hour. Children with dark features dart to and fro playing and some women wearing veils talk quietly among themselves at the side of the street. Occasionally the sounds of Middle Eastern and South-east Asian languages come from the back restaurants as the businesses close down. Some German speaking teenagers are hanging out, smoking and looking bored, they are dressed as though they just stepped out from an American mall. One comes up carrying a skateboard, saying something dryly, then all walk down to the bus stop.

Innsbruck's Altstadt (Old Town)
Innsbruck's Altstadt (Old Town)

Innsbruck's Altstadt (Old Town)
Innsbruck's Altstadt (Old Town)

Innsbruck's Altstadt (Old Town)
Innsbruck's Altstadt (Old Town)

Some amazing gelato we found in Altstadt
Some amazing gelato we found in Altstadt

The Goldenes Dachl (Golden Roof)
The Goldenes Dachl (Golden Roof) is the centerpiece of Altstadt and probably the most photographed building in Innsbruck. Note the street artists picture on display at the lower right - it is Michael Jackson.

Ten Tips for Walking San Francisco’s Barbary Coast Trail: Part 7 of 7

The Barbary Coast Trail is roughly 4 miles in length and takes visitors through several of San Francisco’s colorful neighborhoods while exploring the city’s past and present. Here are 10 helpful tips for saving time and money on the trail:

1. Take a Map.
An excellent map is the “Walker’s Map of San Francisco,” by Pease Press Maps. It can be purchased at many bookstores and vendors in San Francisco. The map shows the Barbary Coast Trail route as well as many other great walking trails in the city. I found the map to be very durable even after heavy use and multiple trips.

2. Read Before You Go.
A good reference book is “Walking San Francisco on the Barbary Coast Trail,” by Daniel Bacon. It approaches the trail with a good deal of back-story. My copy of the book was published a few years ago but it is still a great reference. Read up a little before you go so you can identify where you want to spend more of your time.

3. Where to Find Bathrooms?
If you are starting your trip near the Old Mint in the Downtown area you can make a pit stop at the Westfield Shopping Center at the corner of Market and 5th near the Powell Bart station exit. Along the trail, you can always find facilities at storefronts, restaurants or small eateries. Many of the facilities at restaurants and eateries are for ‘customers only’ so you might need to buy something or at least offer a couple of dollars as a donation.

4. Take the Cable Car Like a Local.
San Francisco is known for cable cars. People queue up near a cable car turnaround waiting for their opportunity to experience riding on one. During weekends and especially in the summer these lines can be very long. Ride on the cable car early in the morning or late in the day to experience fewer people. The cable car system is part of the city’s public transit service and (if a cable car has room) will make stops along the route to pick up passengers. It is possible to walk a couple of blocks up from the cable car turnaround to one of these stops and flag down a passing cable car. Where you sit on the cable car is important: as you board sit in a seat in the open section, or if you like a bit of fun – stand on the outside railing. Inside the cabin, it can be a bit claustrophobic and you miss some the colorful antics and comments of the conductor. It is also a treat to stand on the back of the cable car.

5. Take Bart & CalTrain into the City.
Driving in downtown San Francisco can be very stressful and parking very expensive. If possible take the BART (the Bay Area Rapid Transit) system. It is a great way to get around much of the Bay Area and takes you directly to the beginning of the trail near the Powell Street Station. If you’re driving from the south (up to the peninsula) park at the Colma Bart Station. It is a clean place to park and does not have the grungy feel as the neighboring Daly City station. Parking at the Colma station on the weekend is free and access onto the freeway is close. Always check online for changes to parking fees routes, etc. The CalTrain runs along the western peninsula from San Jose to San Francisco. It is a good way to get into the city but you will have to the take a surface tram or walk, once you arrive in San Francisco to get to the start of the trail on Market Street. Walking the mile or so up to Market is much safer than it used to be and is ok in the daytime. The area has been greatly gentrified over the years and walking during the day has never been an issue for me.

6. Dude, Spare Some Money?
Panhandling does exist in San Francisco and you might be asked for money. Aggressive panhandling (when someone is belligerent and gets in your face) is not as common as it once was in San Francisco, though it can still occur. You are more likely to have your money ‘taken’ at a cheesy t-shirt stand in a touristy area than by a criminal. Be prepared to see a homeless person shuffling down the street or someone crashed out in a doorway. As with any big city, crime exists but I have never had any issues while walking on the Barbary Coast Trail.

7. Take Supplies: Water, Munchies, and Some Small Bills.
Bring some water, munchies and some extra cash with you. You will want to stay well hydrated and keep your energy up. Even after a short time, the best of us can become grumpy when we are hungry. Keep a couple of one-dollar bills in a buttoned pocket or somewhere that you can easily access as emergency cash, like if you need to use the bathroom facilities and need to offer some cash to a store owner. Several banks are along the trail’s route, but fees associated with ATMs can be expensive.

8. Shop Around Before You Eat.
Another reason for keeping some munchies with you is so you will not eat at the first place you see when you are hungry. SF has some excellent places to eat; but you still want to choose wisely, the problem isn’t finding a good place to eat, it is trying to figure out which of the many good places to eat. Along the trail are restaurants to satisfy every taste.

9. Avoid the Crowds.
San Francisco is a popular place for tourists. The mild climate makes the city a destination year round but summer is the busiest time. You will always find crowds but if you can visit mid-week or during the wintertime, you can have many of the attractions to yourself. I actually enjoy exploring in the wintertime. The cooler weather keeps most people away and the clear skies after a rain make for the most stunning views.

10. A Day Trip Suggestion.
The Barbary Coast Trail can be ‘walked’ quickly in as little as 4 hours and can really be explored if you have several days. However, if you have just one day I suggest starting your exploration early in the morning; being on the trail by 8 a.m. is ok. This allows for poking around different stores, people watching and enjoying the sights. You can easily spend several hours walking through Union Square and Chinatown. Enjoy some tea in Chinatown and continue past Portsmouth Square to the Wells Fargo History Museum to learn about the Gold Rush (note: only open during weekdays). Continue past the Trans America Pyramid along the old coastline and the Old Barbary Coast area. Around lunchtime, grab a sandwich at Molinari’s deli in the North Beach neighborhood. If you need a coffee, the nearby Caffe Trieste, offers some good coffee and sells some lunch items as well. Work off lunch by climbing up to Coit Tower and enjoying the views of San Francisco. As you walk down to the waterfront check out the sea lions at Pier 39. A lot of places at Pier 39 will be selling bread bowls filled with Clam Crowder – avoid this temptation and hold out for some crab later that day. As you leave the sea lions you might be tempted to catch a ferry and visit Alcatraz Island – I would suggest making this a separate trip. Continue down the waterfront to the World War II vessels and check these out. Just beyond this area along the trail are vendors who sell Dungeness Crab – grab a bite to eat at one of these vendors. Check out the Hyde Street Pier and climb aboard the myriad of old-time ships. If you need a snack the Ghirardelli Chocolate Factory is nearby, but one dessert can easily feed several people and you might have to wait some time for a table. The Hyde Street Cable Car turnaround is a few feet away and the line for a ticket has generally shortened by the end of the day. The Cable Car ride back to Powell Street is about 15 to 20 minutes and will take you back past Union Square to the starting point.

Read more about the Barbary Coast Trail:

Part 6: Northern Waterfront
Part 5: North Beach
Part 4: Barbary Coast
Part 3: Gold Rush City
Part 2: Chinatown
Part 1: Downtown

Walking San Francisco’s Barbary Coast Trail – The Northern Waterfront: Part 6 of 7

The Barbary Coast Trail is roughly 4 miles in length and takes visitors through several of San Francisco’s colorful neighborhoods while exploring the city’s past and present.

This section of our walk along the Barbary Coast Trail begins at Pier 39 along San Francisco’s Northern Waterfront. Pier 39 is a haven for tourists. It is a fun place to see but be careful to manage your time – it is easy for time to quickly pass and there is a great deal in the area to experience.

At the northwestern side of the pier is the boisterous ‘barking’ California sea lions. These pinnipeds ‘haul out’ on the docks to sun and rest. During the winter months, it is possible for the population to reach as high as 600! During this visit, roughly 150 or so sea lion residents were enjoying this bay-side property. From a distance, the sea lions look cute and cuddly, but some of the males can reach weights up to 850 pounds and 7 feet in length! The sea lions have proven to be a revenue generator for Pier 39 attracting thousands of onlookers each year. We enjoyed watching their rest as well as antics including two juveniles playing tag; one wound dive into the water quickly followed by a friend, a second later the first would bolt from the water landing on the pier. The friend would join him and the two would playfully wrestle then chasing each other again. After having our fill of sea lions we walked down the Embarcadero passing colorful and sometimes flamboyant street vendors who sought the attention and tips of admiring tourists. In the distance, we could see our next stop, the USS Pampanito.

The USS Pampanito is a submarine that served during World War II and today welcomes visitors. During the War the Pampanito patrolled the South China Sea sinking six enemy ships and damaging four others. Sometimes her crew was subjected to long hours, depth charges and near misses by torpedoes. Visitors have an option of using a handheld device to help guide them through the sub and learn more about this vessel’s story. I was fascinated to see a tiny galley that was roughly 8 feet long and 5 feet wide, it served 4 meals a day for up to 80 crew members!

My daughter enjoyed the torpedo rooms with polished metal and gigantic sized torpedoes on display. The smell of diesel and oil permeated the air in the sub and I could only imagine how great the smell must have been more than sixty-five years ago.

This was a good visit, but as I entered the mess I remembered a visit eleven years earlier when – as I entered the same room – was greeted by four elderly men who had served about the Pampanito during the war. They were warm natured and jovial about talked affectionately about their service, but also with great respect. It was easy for them to laugh one minute, then have a strong emotional and reverent tone in their voice the next. I do not know if any of these men still return, but the presence of those who served aboard the USS Pampanito during the war still lingers here.

Our next stop was just a few steps down the pier to the Liberty Ship ‘SS Jeremiah O’Brien’ – and it is a treat! This is a wonderful place to play and learn about US History. We stayed an hour and a half and still did not see it all.

A Liberty Ship is a cargo vessel built during World War II to supply forces in Europe and in the Pacific. The Jeremiah O’Brien was one of 2,751 ships that were built for this purpose. The O’Brien served at the battle of Normandy and in the far Pacific, but this ended in 1946 when she was made inactive and ‘mothballed’ with scores of the other ships. Years later she was chosen for restoration and sailed away from the mothball fleet under her own power. Hundreds of volunteers worked tirelessly and returned the O’Brien to her former glory. In 1994 the restored Liberty Ship sailed under the Golden Gate Bridge and returned to the Normandy beaches of France to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of D-Day. The O’Brien is only two of such Liberty Ships that remain.

I enjoyed the labyrinth of walkways and ladders in the four-story-tall engine room. The kids loved patrolling the sky and defending the ship against imaginary aircraft with the revolving anti-aircraft guns on deck. These giant guns still pivoted on their turrets, powered by hand cranks and the grit and energy of youthful kids. At the back of the O’Brien, we found an inactive artillery shell that must have weighed 80 pounds and was about 30 inches long. The best part of our visit was the lack of crowds.

Continuing down the waterfront check out the sidewalk cafes and crab vendors who will serve up some cooked Dungeness Crab.

The next stop was the Balclutha, a square-rigged sailing ship (also shown at the top of this article) that evokes a time when white sails powered giant wooden ships over the waves. The interior has been restored and offers a glimpse into the cargo and life of the time. It also introduces you to the cramped crew quarters and the small, but luxurious Captain’s quarters. While on the main deck look for an empty cage as it is the beginning of a scavenger hunt of sorts. One sailor’s old journal talked about pigs getting loose during a voyage and how difficult it was to locate and capture them. This scavenger hunt barrows from his journal entry – your job is to try to find the wayward pig, Sowclutha, she is somewhere aboard. Other historic ships are moored in the area and offer other opportunities to explore some great vessels.

Everyone was ready for a snack so we visited Ghirardelli Square for a quick bite of ice cream. Afterwards, we bought Cable Car tickets for a quick trolley trip back to the start of the Barbary Coast Trail at Market and Powell Streets.

>> Read my Ten Tips for Walking the Barbary Coast Trail.

Reference: “Walking San Francisco on the Barbary Coast Trail” by Daniel Bacon.

Walking San Francisco’s Barbary Coast Trail – North Beach: Part 5 of 7

The Barbary Coast Trail is roughly 4 miles in length and takes visitors through several of San Francisco’s colorful neighborhoods while exploring the city’s past and present.

The North Beach District has deep Italian roots and this influence imbues the culture of the area.

Columbus Avenue is the major thoroughfare through North Beach, it is lined with restaurants, coffee houses, and a bookstore name City Lights, the first stop on our exploration of this section of the Barbary Coast Trail.

City Lights is an excellent bookstore packed in a small space. Here you can find secluded nooks and squeaky staircases that take you to hallowed areas where free speech is cherished. In the mid-fifties, the poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti published a work by author Allen Ginsberg named, “Howl”. In 1957 the written work was deemed ‘obscene’ by the U.S. Government and confiscated by officials. A legal battle over free-speech ensued; later the Court ruled in favor of the author and Mr. Ferlinghetti. In modern times, such a poem would not raise eyebrows, but in the 1950’s this short literary work was ground zero for the national debate on censorship. You can find copies of Howl and an interesting book titled, “Howl on Trial: The Battle for Free Expression,” upstairs in the small and quiet poetry room. Also on the shelves are a number of books from Beat poets and writers. At other levels of the bookstore, you can find titles that both challenge and expand the perceptions of the reader. Kids will enjoy the wonderful cave-like section of the basement that houses the children’s books.

Continuing up Columbus Ave. is Molinari’s Delicatessen.  They have mouthwatering sandwiches too; grab a number as you enter the store, grab your choice of bread from the bread bin and place it on the counter when you place your order. (Note: They do make a great vegetarian sandwich that you can customize with no cheese, just ask for an extra topping in its place). It might take a few minutes for them to call your number but it is worth the wait. We have never been disappointed here and are always impressed with the quality of service, friendly staff, and excellent sandwiches. Several sidewalk tables and chairs are just outside, you can sit and enjoy some great food while you people watch. We finished half a sandwich and packed the rest for later. Now, a coffee was needed, but where to go? Unlike other places in the city, in North Beach you will not find the typical cookie-cutter coffee stores; the community fiercely defends local businesses and does not welcome national chains. This was fine because I wanted a genuine cup of coffee with character and knew just where to look. In two minutes we stood outside a small coffee house called Caffe Trieste.

Caffe Trieste opened in 1956 and has been a fixture in North Beach ever since. Opening the door your nose is greeted with the pungent aroma of coffee. The tables and chairs are clean but show the wear of many patrons. The dark colors of the interior warm the senses and provide a home-like atmosphere. At the counter, I placed an order for two coffees for my wife and a cocoa for my daughter. In a minute several earth colored cups topped with white frothy milk foam were placed in front of me. An aromatic cup of cocoa quickly joined the coffees. In the back of the coffee shop, my family sat among cramped tables that are inlaid like an old Italian mosaic. Some of the tables were very colorful and our cups gently rocked from the slight imbalance of the tiles. My daughter dug into the whipped cream that floated on her cocoa and she offered some to both of us – the whipped cream was real and very delicious. A juke-box filled with CDs played several selections that included: opera, jazz, folk, blues and the deep sensuous voice of a woman singing in Italian. A couple sat next to us and conversed. As they finished their coffee one glanced at the time – in shock stated to her friend they were late. They both grabbed their jackets and left. The experience was comforting, unpretentious, but mostly the experience was like the coffee …genuine.

North Beach has a number of side streets to explore but on this trip, we retuned to the main thoroughfare, Columbus Avenue. Our first stop was the National Shrine of Saint Francis of Assisi to see the three-quarter replica of the original chapel built by St. Francis called, La Porziuncola Nuova. It is a beautiful reconstruction of the chapel located in Italy and honorably pays respect to the San Francisco’s namesake, Saint Francis.

We continued down Columbus exploring the shops, bakeries, restaurants and coffee houses. We also stopped outside Club Fugazi. If you have the opportunity to see a performance here of Beach Blanket Babylon it is a fun experience. The show is known for pop culture and political spoofs and for the gargantuan sized headdresses worn during the show – which can feature the entire skyline of San Francisco. At Washington Square take a peek the St. Peter and Paul Church before heading up to Coit Tower and Telegraph Hill.

The walk to Coit Tower offers great views of the North Beach, but it is steep. One hill was so steep that grooves had been etched into the sidewalk to allow for foot traction. Autos that parked on the street could only park perpendicular to the curb, this was to reduce the risk of an out of control car on the steep grade. Climbing the steep terrain you appreciate the 495 feet to the summit of Telegraph Hill. Some folks drive to the top and during busy times of the year making the trip by car or tour bus can be a real headache. If you can, make the walk.

Crowning the top of Telegraph Hill is the fluted body of the 210-foot tall Coit Tower. Set against the sky it resembles a solitary Roman column overlooking the city. When we arrived at the tower we were surrounded by the cool shade of trees. We rested on a green lawn that overlooked downtown San Francisco and the Bay Bridge to catch our breath. Then we walked to the opposite side of the tower to enjoy views of the rest of the bay. Here the trees had grown and a number of people were clogging the best viewpoints making viewing difficult. We made a trip to the top of the tower.

We entered the building and were greeted with colorful murals along the walls of the lobby. The artists were influenced by the times of the Great Depression and the artwork reflects this time. The murals can be viewed for free, but you need to pay a small amount to visit the top. We made a quick ride to the top of the tower and were greeted with the most inspiring view; our eyes enjoyed a singular and delicious vista of many miles that included the immense San Francisco Bay and the sights of Alcatraz Island, the majestic Golden Gate Bridge, the rugged Marin Headlands, Angel Island State Park and the waterfront – the next section of our trip along the Barbary Coast Trail.

After our visit to Coit Tower we made several detours exploring the fun, but strenuous, Filbert and Greenwich stairs. This allowed us to get our heart rate up and work off that sandwich and coffee. These stairways curve along the steep eastern face of Telegraph Hill to secluded gardens, small walkways, old Victorian and art-deco buildings. After these side trips, we walked down the western side of the hill to rejoin our original path.

Just ahead were more vistas of the northern waterfront and the next section of San Francisco’s Barbary Coast Trail.

>> Continue with Part 6: The Northern Waterfront

Reference: “Walking San Francisco on the Barbary Coast Trail” by Daniel Bacon.

Walking San Francisco’s Barbary Coast Trail – The Barbary Coast: Part 4 of 7

The Barbary Coast Trail is roughly 4 miles in length and takes visitors through several of San Francisco’s colorful neighborhoods while exploring the city’s past and present.

San Francisco’s original Barbary Coast was a once hive of opium dens, brothels, bars, and gambling houses.

It was along the waterfront that some of the bawdiest establishments catered to an unsavory mix of rough and tumble sailors and miners. This place was so lawless that it was named after the pirate-infested ‘Barbary Coast’ from Africa’s northern coastline of centuries past. From the time of the Gold Rush, the Barbary Coast remained a fixture of the city until it ended in 1917 with societal and police crackdowns. Today, quiet streets and upscale businesses only hint at its tawdry past.

My exploration of this section of the Barbary Coast Trail began at the Redwood Park located near the Transamerica Pyramid Building. Just across the street, Hotaling Alley caught my attention. The alley follows the original shoreline and the pavement have been designed to represent waves lapping a shore. Adorning the sides of the street are antique lampposts and curious looking hitching posts each topped with a horse head. These are actually bumpers to prevent autos from backing into potted trees, but they artfully pay respect to a time when this area was the location of the Hotaling Stables.

At the end of the street is the beautifully decorated Hotaling building. It was built in 1866 and for a good many years “housed the largest liquor repository on the west coast.” The thirsty saloons of the Barbary Coast demanded whiskey and this warehouse gladly provided it. In 1906 San Francisco was devastated by a large earthquake and a firestorm burned much of the city. All looked lost for this part of San Francisco, but just before the wall of fire reached the Hotaling building the wind shifted and the warehouse of whiskey was saved. Some in the country suggested San Francisco was being punished by divine retribution for its sinful nature; in response, the following was penned –

“If, as they say, God spanked the town
For being over frisky,
Why did he burn the churches down
And save Hotaling’s whiskey?”

Today, this doggerel remains as a plaque outside the old whiskey building.

Turning onto Jackson St. I returned to the path of the Barbary Coast Trail. A minute later, at the corner of Montgomery Street, I looked at an unassuming building of granite and brick. Here was the old Bank of Lucas and Turner and Company. It was constructed in 1853-54 and had an unusual first manager named Mr. Sherman. Mr. Sherman already had a history in California but it was the time he served in the Union Army during America’s Civil War that would immortalize him. Mr. Sherman would later be known for the ‘March to the Sea’ and oversee the burning of Atlanta, Georgia. History knows the man who worked here as General William Tecumseh Sherman.

I returned to the Hotaling Whiskey warehouse and just past it was the old Ghirardelli Building. It is here that in 1865 a process for storing chocolate was discovered that allowed it to be easily stored and shipped long distances. This discovery made Ghirardelli Chocolate a household name. Also at this location is a quiet alley called Balance. The alley can be walked in about 25 steps; its length matches a ship’s hull that is buried beneath. The Balance had sailed around the horn of South America and made several lengthy ocean voyages, but in 1849 it was moored here and abandoned as the crew headed to the goldfields. The ship quickly became part of the growing fleet of ‘ghost ships” that was anchored in the bay and later became the foundations for the buildings in modern San Francisco. All that remains of the Balance today is a street sign.

At the end of Balance is the quaint looking Gold Street. Gold Street is quiet now but during the Gold Rush, this place was likely swarmed with miners who had brought saddlebags full of gold to be weighed and tested for purity. Here the first Assaying Office was opened during the Gold Rush. One can only imagine the fortunes and dreams that were realized or lost on this tiny street. Today, a small plaque at the back of an upscale club marks the location of the old Assayer’s Office.

We followed the inlaid sidewalk markers identifying we were on the Barbary Coast Trail to the tree-lined Pacific Street. Here we passed a number of old brick buildings where sailors and miners once found entertainment and drink. Although this place is very different now some of the stories of that time remain; one such story involves sailors and miners being “Shanghaied.”

Shanghaied means to be kidnapped and sent to sea. The most notorious person involved in this unscrupulous business was Shanghai Kelly. His henchmen, known as ‘runners,’ would befriend unsuspecting sailors who had newly arrived from a voyage and likely had a pocket full of money. The runners would bring the sailors to Kelly’s bar for drinks, laughter, and the promise of female companionship. At some point, the sailor would be given drug-laced whiskey, once the drugs took effect the wobbly sailor would be whacked on the head and knocked out cold. The story goes that Shanghai Kelly would pull a lever opening a trap door in the floor – the unconscious sailor would instantly disappear. Underneath the bar, among the pillars of the wharf, the unconscious sailor would be relieved of his money, taken to a sailing vessel, and sold to an unsavory captain. The next day the sailor would wake to find that he had been kidnapped, penniless, was far out to sea, and likely working for an ogre of a captain…possibly sailing to Shanghai, one of the most distant ports in terms of travel time. If the sailor was fortunate and survived the harsh round-trip voyage, poor food, cramped conditions, and hard labor then he might just return to the Barbary Coast several years later.

Another story involves Shanghai Kelly having a ‘Birthday Party’ in which he invited 100 of the Barbary Coast’s most desperate to join him for a bay cruise to ‘celebrate’ his birthday. At some point during the cruise, all of the guests were given opium-laced whiskey. After the ‘guests’ were unconscious Kelly’s ship delivered new crews to three vessels that were waiting to set sail. Kelly ended his party returning home with a full purse and 100 men departed the party bound for an unwelcome ocean voyage.

Make sure to make a stop at the art store at 555 on Pacific Ave. You can recognize it by the ornate decorations and lighting on the outside. This is the old Hippodrome, the bawdy center of the Barbary Coast. Today, it is a fantastic art store with newspaper articles on the inside wall about its past. There is also an old Prohibition tunnel.

The vibrant North Beach lay just ahead, it was home to the beatniks, Italian food, great coffee, a famous bookstore and colorful theater.

>> Continue with Part 5: North Beach

Reference: “Walking San Francisco on the Barbary Coast Trail” by Daniel Bacon.

Walking San Francisco’s Barbary Coast Trail – Gold Rush City: Part 3 of 7

The Barbary Coast Trail is roughly 4 miles in length and takes visitors through several of San Francisco’s colorful neighborhoods while exploring the city’s past and present.

San Francisco was created by the American Gold Rush.

Gold was discovered by James Marshall, January 1848, at Sutter’s Mill in Coloma, California. The event was not well known until that March when an industrious man named Sam Brannan entered the sandy lot of Portsmouth Square in San Francisco and waved a bottle of Gold Dust over his head and cried out, “Gold! Gold! Gold from the American River!” In true entrepreneurial fashion Mr. Brannan, prior to his announcement, had stocked up on picks, gold pans, and shovels to sell to the newly energized populace who wanted to be miners. Within two years after his announcement, the small city of 1,000 exploded 20 times – to a population of 20,000!

Today, standing in the Portsmouth Square among the bustle of humanity surrounded by cement and steel buildings it is hard to imagine that on this location in 1848 one man’s announcement about gold ignited a worldwide migration of people to America.

The square has a number of plaques that are worthwhile to find, some include: In 1846 the U.S. Marines first raised the Stars and Stripes over San Francisco; the marines had disembarked from the USS Portsmouth and christened the square with the name of their ship. Also, this place was the location of California’s first public school, constructed in 1848 – the same year Sam Brannan made his announcement about gold. Also here is a marker dedicated to Robert Louis Stevenson, author of Treasure Island, who often visited here to overlook the bay. Possibly some of the characters in his books were inspired by the sailing ships and the salty characters who sailed upon them.

Leaving Portsmouth Square I headed south just a few steps to Commercial Street. Commercial Street had a long history of business. One of the early establishments here was a branch of the Hudson Bay Company, a fur trading business that was involved in exploring North America during the 1600-1700’s as well as California in the early 1800’s. While walking down the street look for a little green space; this small area marks the location of Emperor Norton’s Imperial Palace, an eccentric character endowed with the title, “Emperor of the United States and Protector of Mexico” who for decades charmed locals. He was so beloved by the city that it is reported his funeral was the largest in San Francisco’s history. While here also check out the Chinese Historical Society and the Pacific Heritage Museum. The site of the Pacific Heritage Museum was the original location of the US Branch Mint. It was here that gold from the Mother Load was housed from 1855 until 1874.

Walk to the end of Commercial Street to the corner of Montgomery and observe the topography around you, it’s really flat. Now, instead of cement at your feet imagine a sandy shoreline, deconstruct the buildings, move the people away, and un-pave the streets.  In front of you is a bay with several dozen wooden sailing vessels anchored in the shallow waters. Why then is the shoreline located 3/4 of a mile from where it is today? To find out walk to the Wells Fargo Bank History Room – a treasure box for those curious about the America’s Gold Rush history.

As you enter the glass doors it is hard to miss the refurbished Abbot-Downing “Concord” Stagecoach – the same kind you see on the Wells Fargo TV commercials. You can get up close and see the details in the woodwork. It is hard to believe that 9 people could have been stuffed inside – and another 9 on top! At the history room, you can also see beautifully crafted precision scales for measuring gold, solid gold nuggets, treasure boxes and photographs from the Gold Rush time.

Kids can ride a Pony Express exhibit and have their photo taken as the newest Pony Express rider. On this exhibit, they have a mochilla, a unique looking saddlebag designed to fit over any saddle and that could be easily transferred between riders. The mochilla could carry up to 20 pounds of mail in four pouches. People often do not think of San Francisco as being on the Pony Express route, but it was the final destination of many of those letters. It is amazing to think that these letters made a 1,966-mile journey by horseback from Missouri to California in just 10 days!

Upstairs you can sit in the body of a stagecoach and listen to an account from a rider who traveled by stage to the west coast. Just listening to this audio makes a person very appreciative of our modern conveniences. Also upstairs are a number of letters and photos from the mid to late 1800’s. I personally enjoyed a drawing called the “Birds Eye View of San Francisco” (shown with the abandoned ships in the foreground) which illustrates the hundreds of ‘ghost ships’ that choked the waterfront of San Francisco. Here is why the shoreline is not where it used to be; as the ships anchored in the bay hundreds were abandoned as sailors jumped-ship and traveled to the gold fields in search of fortune. As the number of ships grew this ‘graveyard of ships’ became new real estate and created the foundations of buildings, wharfs, and streets as the city grew to fill in the shallow bay, entombing the ships that brought so many to these shores.

Leaving the museum and walking just a few short blocks back on Montgomery, past Commercial Street to the corner of Clay Street is the Transamerica Pyramid Building. Make a quick walk up Clay Street to view a plaque marking the final station of the Pony Express.

At the Transamerica Pyramid Building look up and appreciate the unique architecture of this 48 stories tall skyscraper. It’s hard to imagine that during the Gold Rush, as the bay lands were filled, a building called the Montgomery Block once stood here. It was reportedly a hangout for famous names as Mark Twain, Jack London, and Robert Louis Stevenson. One story about this place tells how Mr. Clemens (Mark Twain) met a hulky and red-headed firefighter who intrigued him and the two became friends. The firefighter was named Tom Sawyer.

On the eastern side of the skyscraper is a lush area known as the Transamerica Redwood Park. It is a pleasant oasis of trees, fountains, and greenery in the middle of the city. Enjoy a sculpture of six children running and playing called, “Puddle Jumpers.” The sculpture’s message about jumping is reinforced by nearby frogs which are in honor of Mark Twain’s book, “The Jumping Frog of Calaveras County.”

Keep an eye open for a marker about two saloon dogs who were inseparable friends. They were named “Bummer and Lazarus” and the two roamed freely in the 1860s.

The park was a good place to rest before continuing on with the next section of the Barbary Coast Trail – into the heart of the old Barbary Coast. Today, an area of upscale establishments and businesses, it was once a place of “too many men, too much gold, and too little civilization.”

>> Continue with Part 4: Barbary Coast

Reference: “Walking San Francisco on the Barbary Coast Trail” by Daniel Bacon.

Walking San Francisco’s Barbary Coast Trail – Chinatown: Part 2 of 7

The Barbary Coast Trail is roughly 4 miles in length and takes visitors through several of San Francisco’s colorful neighborhoods while exploring the city’s past and present.

At the corner of Grant Ave. and Bush St. stands a portal known as the Dragon’s Gate. It marks the entrance to the Chinatown neighborhood. Sitting on either side are two mythical lions, each about three feet tall, which guard against unwanted spirits. English speakers often refer to these guardians as ‘Foo Dogs.’

Continuing up Grant Avenue a visitor will notice an abundance of the color red on storefronts and signage, the color symbolizes good fortune and joy.

It is easy to spend much of a day in Chinatown investigating the stores and businesses that offer teak, jade statues, colorful fabrics, porcelain, teas, spices, and a variety of foods.

Barbary Cost TrailAt California Avenue stands two pagoda-topped iconic buildings known as Sing Fat and Sing Chong. These buildings were constructed after the earthquake and firestorm of 1906. They were built to reaffirm the Chinese presence in the area after the tragedy.

Across the street is the Old St. Mary’s Cathedral. The cathedral was constructed between 1852 and 1854 just a few years after gold was discovered and San Francisco.  The foundation was shipped over from China. Inside are some informative displays about the building’s history.

Just outside the cathedral, a street musician played “Oh Suzanna” on an Er Hu. This is a curious looking instrument with just a neck and two strings that are played with the bow.

A short distance north on Grant Avenue I made a left turn at Sacramento Avenue making sure to follow the Barbary Coast Trail markers embedded in the sidewalk. At the first right was a colorful street known as Waverly Place.

Barbary Cost TrailEntering Waverly Place today you would not guess it once had a very lurid past with madams, sing-song girls, opium dens, and even open warfare between various criminal groups. Today, the street is adorned with colorful balconies, residences, and businesses. A number of people passed me carrying bags of grocery bags filled with vegetables. A short way down the street were the unmistakable sounds of rhythmic drumming coming from the rooftop of a building. This was the Tin How Temple, the oldest Taoist Chinese temple on the west coast. The drumming was empowering; the large drums beat in unison, changing rhythms as one single unit, the low deep vibrations could be felt in your chest.

Crossing Washington Street and just a few paces away are Ross Alley.  The small and dark alley was slightly claustrophobic. More locals passed by with small bags filled with food items. At the end of the alley, a crowd of tourists had gathered outside a fortune cookie factory. I had to take a look.

The fortune cookie room was long and skinny, and several people worked near an industrial-looking machine. A man greeted people by placing a flat, golden-colored wafer about three inches in diameter in everyone’s palm. These were flat fortune cookie rounds. The commotion of people and boxes made viewing the machine a little difficult, but it appeared to have a number of pancake-like impressions that were turning on a large flat wheel. Apparently, from one side a dough mixture would be dolloped onto the tiny hot mini-skillets which would rotate and disappear into the machine to be quickly baked, on the return trip the baked rounds emerged to be grabbed by a woman and in a quick hand-fold-motion she inserted a small paper fortune to give the cookie its shape.  At this point, another tour group had gathered in the alley and began to pour into the store. I squeezed my way back into the alley. At that moment, a neighboring barber came out of his shop. He greeted the tourists then quickly ducked inside. A few seconds later he emerged with an Er Hu and played several quick tunes. The crowd applauded and he received a number of tips. In a flash, the tour group disappeared in the sea of people on neighboring Jackson Street and the alley was again quiet.

Jackson Street pulsed with activity. It was packed with locals shopping, people talking on cell Barbary Cost Trailphones, trucks honking to get by on the street and storeowners coming out of their shops to talk with customers who pawed through boxes that lined the storefronts. Restaurants in the area had large and colorful pictures of food in their doorways and one store had cooked ducks hung in the window. A woman at the street corner shoved a lunch coupon in my hand and pointed to a nearby restaurant. The images on the coupon looked tasty but I had to continue onwards.

Barbary Cost TrailArriving at Portsmouth Square a large crowd filled the tiny park and there was little room to pass. A speaker was passionately advocating, at times in English and Chinese, for democracy and the freedom of religious practices in mainland China. The gathering was held under the gaze of the Goddess of Democracy located in the Portsmouth Square, a smaller replica of the 33ft (10m) tall statue that was created during the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989.

As the loud event ended and the crowd disappeared back onto the streets Portsmouth Square silently revealed some its old secrets; now stone and metal markers previously unseen became visible. This small patch of space is central to the story of California for many reasons but one is the most significant.  It is here, in May of 1848, that Sam Brannan first showed his gold to a curious crowd. His story of easy money unleashed the American Gold Rush.

>> Continue to Part 3: Gold Rush City

Quoted Reference: “Walking San Francisco on the Barbary Coast Trail” by Daniel Bacon.

Walking San Francisco’s Barbary Coast Trail – Part 1 of 7: Downtown

Walking San Francisco’s Barbary Coast Trail is a fun and active way to explore this historic and beautiful city. The trail is roughly four miles in length and meanders through several colorful neighborhoods and districts.

You can follow the sidewalk markers along the entire length, but to really unlock some of the stories use a guidebook. I found, “Walking San Francisco on the Barbary Coast Trail” by Daniel Bacon, an invaluable tool.

I started the trail at the majestic Old United States Mint located at the corner of 5th and Market Street. This “Granite Lady” is reminiscent of an ancient Greek temple, it is a grand and massive stone building with 6 Doric columns gracing the front entrance. The Old Mint was built in 1874 and at one time “held a third of all the gold reserves in the United States, making it the Fort Knox of the West.” Old MintToday, the great doors of the Old Mint are closed, but the Mint is undergoing a renaissance of sorts and may soon reopen as a premier cultural and historic center for the city.

Crossing Market Street was Hallidie Plaza and the cable car turnaround. The Plaza is named after Andrew Smith Hallidie who is considered the father of San Francisco’s Cable Car system. Here a small section of track turns on a circular disk and allows the trolley to return the way it came. Two empty cable cars were queued along the track, an operator allowed one cable car to move forward onto the turnaround, a release switch was thrown and several operators began to physically push the trolley 180 degrees on the track until it stopped. Then the cable car pulled forward a few feet to a boarding area and a group of about twenty passengers climbed aboard. They were off.

Union SquareJust ahead is Union Square, an open area consisting of several acres. On this sunny day, the square was alive with an art fair featuring colorful paintings and etchings. Everyone was friendly and the artists were eager to talk with prospective customers. In just a short time I heard half-a-dozen different languages being spoken by tourists, it just reinforced that San Francisco is a world-class destination for people from all over the world. At the plaza’s periphery was an outdoor café serving coffee and sandwiches. The cafe patrons were enjoying the sun, working on laptops, reading, or just having a good conversation with friends. Some young kids were playing and jumping off a small ledge into the arms of their parents. Among the visitors was a young man playing a large wooden flute. After a few minutes, he was approached by several young travelers who appeared to be from Europe, he showed them the flute and later showed them several Tai Chi movements. The square was restful and energetic at the same time.

The pleasant setting seemed distant from the controversy of slavery that was passionately debated at this location in the mid-1800s. At that time southern sympathizers were advocating the new state of California secede from the Union and join the southern cause. Thomas Starr King, a Unitarian Minister, and charismatic speaker with “extraordinary eloquence and spellbinding oratory” drew large rallies to the square. His speeches are greatly credited for rousing the public and keeping California in the Union. Union Square takes its name from these pro-Union rallies.

Barbary Coast TrailOn the western edge of Union Square a  large American flag waves over the doorway of the Westin St. Francis Hotel. The hotel was built 1904 and has been graced by celebrities and the powerful ever since. In 1975 there was a failed assassination attempt of President Ford. There is still a small bullet hole above the hotel’s door.

Dewey MonumentThe centerpiece of the plaza is a large white Corinthian column that rises 97 feet over the square. This is the Dewey Monument; atop the column is the statue of a tall woman holding a raised trident and a wreath, symbolizing the people the monument honors. This monument commemorates both Admiral Dewey’s victory in the Battle of Manila Bay in 1898 during the Spanish and American War and to President McKinley who was killed in office by an assassin in 1901. The woman who modeled for the statue, Alma de Bretteville, has a rags-to-riches story of her own; by being born into poverty and later becoming one of the wealthiest women in the state. Some of her later accomplishment include building the Palace Of the Legion of Honor (a fine art museum in San Francisco) and being instrumental in the creation of the National Maritime Museum at Aquatic Park, which is a destination on the Barbary Coast Trail.

Just east of Union Square is the quiet Maiden Lane.

Maiden LaneToday, Maiden Lane is a clean well-lit street with cafes and outdoor seating. However, in the late 1800s and early 1900s, the maiden in Maiden Lane referred to the numerous prostitutes who “naked to the waist hung out of the narrow wooden shanties” in an attempt to entice patrons inside.

Walking through the now gentrified alley, the sound of Italian Opera was in the air. At the corner of Grant Street, a man was standing – his arms outstretched in song. This was the Tenor of Maiden Lane and according to his brochure has performed on the street since 1998. He apparently chose this spot on Maiden Lane because of the acoustics. I listened to his performance for some time. Walking north his voice echoed off the building for several blocks. Listening to such wonderful music was an elegant way to end this section of the Barbary Coast Trail.

Ahead was the ornate Chinatown Gate guarded by two statues, the mythical Chinese lions, called “Foo Dogs.”

>> Continue with Part 2: Chinatown

Learn more about the Tenor of Maiden Lane:
http://bayentertainers.com/robertclose.htm
Reference: “Walking San Francisco on the Barbary Coast Trail” by Daniel Bacon.

A Peek Inside San Francisco’s Ferry Building and Marketplace

SF Ferry BuildingExploring San Francisco can be colorful and a fun experience. But, where should a person start? We decided to start at the beautiful Ferry Building on the waterfront shown in the center of the photo with the spire-like clock tower.

For this trip we traveled on the underground rapid transit system known as BART, to the Embarcadero Station. As we exited our train we walked to the escalator and were carried several stories up onto busy Market Street. Our first view was the dominating iconic 230-foot clock tower located at the end of the street- this was the historic Ferry Building, a center for shopping and the Terminal for traveling by ferryboat to various locations on San Francisco Bay.

Viewing the century old structure I was startled by a loud clang. A historic and beautifully refurbished streetcar, stuffed with riders, clamored down the street. On the sidewalk there was activity and energy: women with shopping bags glided past, well-dressed business folks marched by having conversations via their ear-phones; sightseeing tourists moved slowly and the areas near street vendors became bottlenecks on the sidewalk as they looked at the items for sale. Some of the tourists were being entertained by a person singing on the corner, while others looked curiously at a man making some cool music by using common household items like rubber cans and buckets as percussion instruments.

SF Ferry Building Clock TowerThis artery of shoppers, business people and tourists stopped briefly at a pedestrian crossing. The light changed and allowed this pulse of people to cross the busy Embarcadero street and move toward the Ferry Building at the base of the clock tower.

Inside the building a mass of people moved in multiple directions; some traveled directly through the building to the ferry boats outside, others grabbed a bite to eat, a few greeted friends, while others just enjoyed the experience.

The building was well lit. Above us was the vaulted ceiling that covered the length of this 660-foot long structure. This Grand Nave was a continuous skylight that allowed sunlight to stream into the shopping stalls below.

Many of the stalls were tiny, but they offered a bounty of artisan and locally produced items. An olive oil company offered samples of tasty herb infused oils, a meat company sold delicious slices of salami, baked bread was being made and sold by the armful, and a local pottery shop marketed beautiful pieces of its craft work. Some families enjoyed hot tea in a tea shop while couples and business associates closed deals over enticing glasses of red wine at a wine bar.

A man walked past, he was holding a sandwich of freshly made bread – the ingredients were precariously stacked – almost ready to explode from between the bread halves with his next bite. The sandwich looked delicious and I could only imagine how it tasted. The temptation was strong but the family decided our desire from such a sandwich could be satisfied on the return trip. We had much to see, though for the rest of that day I thought of that sandwich and how good my own sandwich would taste.

blog_20110226_img3Later that afternoon we returned to the Ferry Building we sought out the sandwich maker. Unfortunately, being the end of the day they were sold out. My tummy voiced a deep sounding and disappointed grumble at hearing the news. My daughter, also feeling hungry, tugged at my sleeve and suggested we buy some bread at one store, meat from another and cheese from a vendor. It was a grand idea. All of us scrambled in multiple directions and returned in several minutes, each with our food treasures. We ate not so much a sandwich but a walking picnic as we explored the back of the Ferry Building and enjoyed some great views of the San Francisco Bay and the Bay Bridge.

A couple of times during the week outside the Ferry Building a Farmer’s Market blooms and locals can buy locally grown fresh produce, locally grown meats and a host of other goods – but that is another exploration.

As we walked back to the BART station the afternoon sun had created long shadows over the city. The man who had used the household items as percussion instruments still had onlookers and was still going strong as he drummed to his own beat.