The Dock of the Bay

Look! It’s the Golden Gate bridge, all tiny and far away! And it’s one of those, “I am taking this photo myself!” photos! And it’s obviously completely freezing! But I’m getting ahead of myself. Before we got here, to this freezing pier with its view of the bridge, we had first of all to survive the taxi ride to our hotel, which was completed at breakneck speed, with the driver simultaneously listening to music from his iPhone and the car radio, and not paying much attention to the road. It was our first experience of San Francisco taxi drivers, and we were all pretty relieved to emerge from it alive.

We were also relieved to check into our hotel. We stayed at The Chancellor, which is right on Union Square, and right in the middle of the “action”, as the guide books all say.

Our room was on the 12th floor, and this was its view:

That large white roof you can see in the foreground? Saks Fifth Avenue. We were so close I could actually see all the little duds hanging in the women’s department. The brown building next to Macy’s? Neiman Marcus. I went there as soon as I’d unpacked. I would’ve just remained there, too, but Terry wouldn’t let me. Spoilsport.

(A quick aside and then I promise I’ll stop talking about shopping: San Francisco is possibly the best place I’ve ever been for it. Shopping, I mean. All of the big stores are within easy walking distance of each other around Union Square, and there’s also no end of vintage and second hand stores, plus numerous little quirky boutiques. It was bliss.)

Anyway! The Chancellor was built in 1911, which makes it very old by San Francisco standards. Because of its age, it has small rooms, no air con (not that you need it in San Francisco in June…) and only three stars. All of the rooms have been renovated, though, and what it lacks in mod cons, it makes up for in character and service: it’s one of those little boutique hotels where nothing is too much trouble, the waitress always remembers your drink order at the bar, and you could eat your dinner off the floors if you were that way inclined. We all loved it, and for me, the age of the building was definitely a plus point: before I’d visited San Francisco, I’d always associated the city with the hippies of the 70s, but so much of the architecture of the city centre made me think of the early decades of the 20th century instead. I could easily imagine the flapper girls of the 20s and the glamourous women and dapper men of the 30s and 40s walking through the lobby and having a drink at the bar…

(This is actually my parents’ room. Within five minutes, ours was far too messy to be photographed, but it was identical.)

Oh, and they also give you ducks:

I ended up with two ducks: this baseball-playing duck (because ducks and baseball go together like me and Neiman Marcus, don’t you know…) and another one in a scuba mask. It was my mum’s fault, really. She decided to wind me up by telling me they’d been getting a new duck every day. I had to find out if the Duck-a-Day policy applied to everyone at the Chancellor, or if my mum was just some kind of crazy duck whisperer, so I put this one in my suitcase (don’t worry, you’re supposed to take them with you: I am many things, but ‘Duck Rustler” isn’t one of them. Yet.) and sure enough, as soon as this one disappeared, my scuba-diving friend showed up. Awesome! Then my mum revealed that they’d only been getting a regular amount of ducks, anyway, so all of my fears about being slighted by the ducks had been for nothing.

But enough about ducks.

On our first morning, Terry and I were both awake at the crack of dawn, so we decided to get a head start on the day by heading out to explore. We walked from the hotel down to Fisherman’s Wharf, and that walk is one of my favourite memories from San Francisco: the city was still waking up, the streets were quiet(ish), the morning light was filtering through the clouds… We got both Lombard Street and Fisherman’s Wharf all to ourselves, and if you’ve ever been to San Francisco, you’ll know how much of a treat that was.

So we went back to the hotel, collected my parents, had breakfast… and did it all again.

(These photos were taken by my mum: thanks, mum!)

Before we left the UK, we’d all agreed that on our first morning in San Francisco we’d all still be jetlagged from the flight, so we’d just take it easy, and not try to fit in too much. Ha! From our hotel, we walked through Chinatown and back down to Fisherman’s Wharf, stopping on the way at Lombard Street, which was now absolutely thronged with tourists: Terry and I were really glad we’d taken our early morning walk.  We had lunch at Ghirardelli Square, next to the famous chocolate factory, before walking out onto one of the piers for a view back to the city, and over the bay.

Obligatory cupcake photo, as required by Blogger law. This one was made with Ghirardelli chocolate, and was the sweetest thing I’ve ever tasted, EVER.

Don’t ask.

After that, we wandered back along to Fisherman’s Wharf, and Pier 39.

When you tell people you’re going to San Francisco, they instantly start telling you not to go to Pier 39 under any circumstances: not even if someone holds a gun to your head and tries to force you. The reasoning for this is that Pier 39 is OMGTOURISTY and is therefore SO! AWFUL! that death would be preferable to a few minutes on its boards. We were given this sage piece of advice numerous times by various people, so naturally we went to Pier 39 as soon as we possibly could. Well, you see, we ARE tourists. And it’s not like we’re going to travel all that way and then not see the pier, is it? So we went there, expecting it to be some terrible, Hades-like place, and of course, it wasn’t at all. Actually, we quite liked it. And we wouldn’t have wanted to miss seeing these faces:

They reminded me of Rubin. He smiles like that when he’s asleep, too.

And, with that, I’ve crossed the 1,000 words mark, so the rest of my San Francisco tale will have to wait for another day. Because, yes, there’s more. I haven’t even finished day 1 yet. Well, I DID warn you…