Exploring San Francisco in a day is not enough. And so the following day, I thought of coming back—via public transport! Here’s the story of my solo flight to SFO, mostly in pictures.
Going to San Francisco from Pleasant Hill by public transport was quite unimaginable before the day I actually went to San Francisco. When we arrived, one of the first thing I noticed was the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) station in Powell, the same spot where the cable car turns around. When I realized that BART would actually take me so a very good spot in the city, it was just a matter of finding where BART is in my area. Fortunately, there’s a BART station where I live! Not so fortunate though is that it’s a 30 minute walk (about 3K). Times like these I thank God for making me a runner as I’m not so easily daunted by such “walking distance.”
As with all countries with winter, you have to check the weather first before going out. I had days that when you looked out the window it’s all bright, sunny, and the sky is blue, but the temperature was around 2°C! It may also be warm now but definitely when the sun sets the temperature could drop quickly so you have to wear clothes that are appropriate. Since I’ve had the chance of running in freezing temperatures before I already had an idea on my outfit.
Since the weather was sunny and the temperature was cool to warm, a warm top is enough with a cotton tee under it for added warmth and to absorb sweat. The top layer could also be removed in case it gets too warm, and I brought along my very light windproof and waterproof jacket just in case it gets too windy or worse, rain. For my bottom I had warm compression tights layered with my lightweight cargo shorts for a more “decent” look and storage. For my feet it’s my ever so reliable adidas Energy Boost. A small “loot bag” is enough for me to carry my jacket, water, and some other items during this trip.
From my hotel, it indeed was quite some distance. The weather was on the cool side but with my outfit and the bright sun in my face it really gets warm when you run. I don’t want to arrive in BART Pleasant Hill Station dripping in sweat (in this cool weather) so I managed a run-walk strategy to get there. I really couldn’t run the entire distance anyway as my camera is hanging from my neck and I have to follow directions provided by Google Maps on my phone.
A trip to San Francisco (Powell Station) from Pleasant Hill costs $5.25 one way and the train departs every 20 minutes. They use a very thin plastic card with a print on how much credit you initially loaded it, and you can reload it in any ticketing machine in any BART station. You have to load it at least the exact amount of your fare but you can load it much more in case you want to reuse it. The minimum fee to ride BART is $1.85 (1 station), and that’s also the minimum total amount it should have when reloading. From Pleasant Hill, Powell is less than a 45 minute trip via the Milbrae train.
Less than an hour later, I’m back in San Francisco. And what a huge difference a good weather makes in this city! Yesterday, the skies were gloomy and there are hardly any tourists. Now that the skies are blue, tourists are just everywhere! We were really lucky that we got to enjoy San Francisco without the flock of tourists, and I still am lucky now as I got to enjoy SFO in a good weather!
My first stop was Union Square. It’s very close to the BART Powell Station so it’s a relatively easy walk. Relatively easy because walking around SFO is a challenge due to its hills! No major hills yet to this spot, and it’s a very good place to begin because there’s free Wi-Fi in the area so you can get online and preload your maps or guides and tell everyone in social networking sites what you’re up to. 🙂
At this point in time I found Apple Maps much more useful than Google Maps in finding good spots to visit around San Francisco. Apple Maps displays points of interest in the map itself so I didn’t have to search for it. Searching works if you know what to look for, and if you don’t have a data connection, it just won’t work.
After pre-loading Apple Maps data in Union Square’s free Wi-Fi, I went to my next and closest point of interest, Chinatown. As much as I would’ve loved to experience more of this place, I only had enough time to just look around, take some shots, and pass through.
After Chinatown, I was on my way to the bay area itself. There were lots of interesting sights along the way, including San Francisco’s iconic Transamerica Pyramid building.
Then I arrived at the Port of San Francisco. It was just a beautiful place to visit. I think this was the closest I ever got to the waters here in California. There were lots of people, lots of sights to see, and there were lots of birds!
Then I started getting hungry so I thought of getting to Pier 39 as one of my friends suggested. I took a detour off the tourist path and just figured some alternate route.
And I thought I’ve seen the tourists! Pier 39 is just packed! As in like Metro Manila malls on sale packed! So many places I could eat, all of them with lines of tourists waiting to be seated. How can a single person line me find a table in such dire times? Since I didn’t stood a chance of eating here, might as well enjoy the sights.
Sea Lions. They were the biggest surprise of my visit to Pier 39! First, I haven’t seen one in the flesh. And second, I didn’t know they were there! And what’s nice about these sea lions is that they’re not pets or for show. They are there because they choose to be there! In short, they’re wild! And the flock of people didn’t seem to bother them with their activities. They’re quite fun to watch as they go about their day. The setting may not be natural, but that didn’t keep them from being themselves.
Afterwards, I headed back to Ghirardelli Square, hoping to find a store where I could sit and eat, but to no avail. It was a good decision that I got some extra calories before leaving Pier 39.
I just decided to head back to Powell where there’s a better chance for me to find a spot to eat. But along the way I found myself around Grace Cathedral.
Grace Cathedral is one of the most beautiful churches I’ve ever been to. It was a Sunday so I was hoping that I could pray inside this church, but much to my disappointment they cordoned off most of the entrance, and the little space they provided for people to enter marked “Suggested donation: $10.” I admit I was appalled by this sign as they were implying a “donation” of a certain amount if you want to come in. I was coming in as a Catholic rather than a tourist so I was really disappointed that a church would ask for a donation before entering. And they do have a person watching over that entrance in his so called “information” booth. Not that I don’t have that money to spare, but donations are to be given wholeheartedly, not by force, and not with a specific amount.
Afterwards, I was back in Chinatown, and eventually in Powell. Due to hunger, fatigue, and lack of options I just went into the first store that have open tables for my late lunch. As expected, the default food in this side of the world is steak so it was a no brainer. But despite my hunger, my taste buds just can’t be coerced to accepting my lunch was decent. I won’t mention the place, but it was easily the worst meal I’ve ever had in this side of the world. So not worthy of my 20++ bucks.
Then it was time for shopping! There are quite a lot of stores in and around Union Square so there’s just so much to see.
Before I finally run out of sunlight, I did have one last special stop to make: The Cheesecake Factory! I just so love their cheesecake. And as expected, the line of people waiting to be seated was long so I didn’t plan on having my dinner here. But I do need to have a slice of my favorite cheesecake to take home with me in Pleasant Hill.
Afterwards, it’s time to go home.
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Bay Area Chronicles