San Francisco: Walking the Golden Gate

Yesterday I decided to wander into San Francisco, to get a feel of the city. I had no plan, it was a mystery day. All I knew is that I didn’t want to use the BART system for travel, as I had checked that out yesterday and it ‘was a bit of a zoo’ to quote a local.

I headed out on foot nice and early and wandered down through the beautiful, hilly streets enjoying the crisp morning air and sunlight. Flowers abound in the neighbourhood I am in – all my favourites: roses, jasmine, wisteria, jonquils…. the smells releasing as the sun warms them up. A glorious way to travel.

As I left suburbia and hit a main street full of shops, I came across a bus stop. I asked the guy if the bus he was waiting for was heading into SF – and sure enough it was, and only a few minutes away. Great! The bus terminated in the financial district, in a huge bus depot so I was able to learn which bus I would need to catch that would take me right outside my door on the way home, and the timing that service kicked in. Awesome – my day was beginning to unfold!

I headed [as I do] straight for the water, discovering the Port of San Francisco, which has Ferries running all round the Bay, and a great indoor artisan food market [note to self, if I ever live here…]. I see the Golden Gate Bridge in the distance and decide that will be my mark for the day. I head towards it, following the shoreline most of the way. Along the way, somewhere near the Alcatraz port, I discover seals! Giant ones! That was a surprise… they are gorgeous, full of character, puffing their chests out and rolling around. I watch them playing for a bit, take the obligatory Alcatraz photo and press on. I have a bridge to catch!

Once you pass the heavily built up port attractions, the bay turns into wonderful parkland, with sandy beaches, people running dogs, or just running, mums with strollers… a really nice part of town. A lot of the area was rehabilitated in the eighties, and they planted native bushes and flowering species which is really lovely. I walk and I walk and I walk, wondering what happens when I get to the bridge? Do I walk around its base? Can pedestrians cross the bridge or is it just for cars? What happens next – do I turn around and walk another 2 1/2 hours back? Oh, the mystery of it all!

I finally make it to the bridge and discover to my delight that it is fully set up of people to enjoy! There is a special lane dedicated to walkers and bikers, so not only do I get to climb it, I get to walk to the other side. My adventure now becomes really interesting, because on the other side is a peninsula of beautiful rolling green hills, no skyscrapers, just small village-like buildings, and of course, more water.

I take in the majestic engineering of this monument, built in my favourite era. It is truly magnificent. The striking deep orange vermillion colour against the blue sky. The beautiful curving arches and the lovely Art Deco features on the towers. The sheer size and span of it, all of these features truly to do warrant the Golden Gate Bridge as a Wonder of the Modern World and the most beautiful bridge in the world.

Arriving at the other side, I am exhilarated and take a moment to sit at the viewing area and take stock to consider where to from here. I look down towards the seaside village below, as see a ferry making its way towards the shore. The rest of my day becomes apparent – I will wander into the village for a well-deserved lunch and catch a ferry back to San Francisco.

And so it is, a great lunch at the Napa Valley Burger Co followed by a brisk ferry ride back to the city. I walk back the the bus stop and find my bus waiting for me – too easy! A gloriously memorable day.