Exploring San Francisco and Berkeley

I brought the rain with me to San Francisco when I was there for the Amnesty International conference two weeks ago (see last entry), although fortunately it didn’t stay around long. I emerged from the BART tunnel I took from the Oakland Airport to a warm rain.  I overheard a girl telling a guy, “. . .but I checked the weather before I left home. . .”  Sorry about that, I always seem to pack some from Seattle. . .

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First thing I did after checking into the hostel (conveniently across the street from the conference hotel this year, the Hilton) and eating (at my former favorite cheap Tenderloin restaurant, sadly not as good as I remembered, nor as cheap), was to hop a cable car. 

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I had bought my 7 day MUNI Visitor Passport (good on buses, cable cars & trolleys) from the booth near the cable car as soon as I got out of the BART tunnel. Still the best deal if you like to ride the cable cars like me (which are otherwise $5 for a one way trip, no transfers), MUNI Passports are currently $11 for one day, $18 for 3 days and $24 for 7 days. Another $3 for a system map is a good idea if you’re also planning on taking the buses.

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I passed the strike against the Hyatt I mentioned in my last entry on the conference (where two of the striking workers spoke), going through Chinatown to Fisherman’s Wharf.

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On my second trip of the day via cable car, I had forgotten it wasn’t a good idea to get caught in the long line later in the day on a Friday if you had someplace to be like an Amnesty International conference opening night event. Fortunately, there was a one man band, unfortunately playing for very little in tips, to pass the time in line at the cable car turnaround at the end of the Hyde Street line.

Bonus!  I ended up on the running board on the way back!  Always a fun way to ride.  Unfortunately, I ended up riding backwards because the running board was packed, which gives me extreme vertigo.  In the words of U2: “Hello! Hello! This is no place for vertigo. o. . o. . .” I terrified both myself and the young guy next to me I kept reassuring I was alright.

Made it to the conference opener at Glide Memorial Church in one piece (see previous entry for details), and, of course, rode the cable car one more time that evening. 

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Photo by JoJo Tran

After the long day at the conference Saturday, I went out to eat at Johnny Foley’s with Laura and JoJo from our Seattle Amnesty International group. The food was excellent and filling (which made up for it being a little expensive for my budget).

After dinner, I hopped the cable car again, this time with Laura and JoJo.  We stopped at the Musee Mechanique, which unfortunately was just closing, but we did get to put a couple quarters in Laughing Sal (video above from my 2006 trip).  We also wandered down to Pier 39, where we could hear and see in the moonlight the sea lions in all their noisy splendor.

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Sunday after the conference, I walked over to Japantown to see the Peace Pagoda. After that, I stopped at Taqueria el Sol back near the hostel for a delicious lunch, then the Irish Castle Shop, where I found a cool Irish t-shirt on sale for $10.

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UC Berkeley Gate: Photo by JoJo Tran

After that, I met up with JoJo, and we headed to Berkeley via BART to see our friend Michelle, a former AI Group 4 member who just started school at Berkeley on a scholarship this fall.  It took us a long time to drag Michelle away from her studies, so JoJo and I explored downtown Berkeley, the campus and Telegraph Ave. and took a lot of photos.

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UC Berkeley library

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Rasputin Music on Telegraph Ave.

We finally connected up with Michelle on Telegraph Ave., and went to Cafe Mattina, a restaurant JoJo had spotted that turned out to be a good deal for starving students (and tourists). Michelle and I had wine for $3, while JoJo had a huge salad with a slab of homemade bread for $3.50.

JoJo's Salad

Photo by JoJo Tran

We talked for a long time about human rights, college and life.  The cost of living in Berkeley has become totally ridiculous, and adds to the stress of student life.  Michele found a fairly affordable apartment, but told tales of students splitting rooms (dorm style, not housemates like I had in Eugene) and still paying $1500 each a month! Eek. Of course, now California just raised their college fees by 32% and students are occupying buildings on both the Berkeley and Santa Cruz campuses (with the NY Times showing photos of cops in riot gear surrounding one of the Berkeley buildings I just walked by a couple weeks ago).

JoJo got some more of that good homemade bread from the Cafe Mattina and shared it with me on the way back to the BART tunnel. We also stopped for $1 ice cream for JoJo in downtown Berkeley (which I sadly can have no more, but enjoyed vicariously).

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Monday morning I took the cable car to Fisherman’s Wharf again and wandered through the Maritime Park, checking out the ships and machinery.

Then I went back to Pier 39 to see the sea lions in the day light.  Wow! They had a population explosion since I was last there two years ago, as you can see from the video above.

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Hopping the cable car back, I was thinking of getting off in North Beach to go to a cafe, but stayed on, only to hop off near the Cable Car Museum while it was stopped there awhile, going to the Gallery Cafe across the street first.

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In addition to all the old cable cars and equipment (and video from the 1800s on a continuous loop), the Cable Car Museum is also the gear house, which runs the whole cable car system (shown above).

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Then I took the cable car to Sacramento Street and hopped a bus to the neighborhood near China Beach.  I walked by a lot of ritzy houses and followed the signs to the public beach.  I dipped my feet into the ocean.  Ahh!  It’s cold and rainy in Seattle tonight, but it was warm and pleasant at the beach in SF a couple weeks ago. 

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After that, I walked by some of the fancy houses again until I reached the Lands End Trail in Lincoln Park.  It’s a beautiful walk, and one of those places you can get away from the city while you’re still in the city.

I walked way down to Mile Point Beach off the trail, which as you can see above, is a much rockier beach than China Beach, and had a good surf going.

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I hiked all the way to the Sutro Baths and went down to explore them. Only the ducks bathing in them these days.

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I hopped a bus going down Geary Street back to downtown. 

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I was hungry when I got back, and I thought I’d take advantage of staying at the hostel and cook.  While I was thinking of going to the Whole Foods in SOMA, I thought I’d check out the shops at the Ferry Building first.  I found a pre-seasoned chicken breast cut for $2 and also got myself a roll at the bakery to take back and fix in the hostel kitchen.

After checking out and locking my things in a locker, I went over to the Amnesty International office with JoJo on Tuesday morning and picked up batches of AI literature for our local group back in Seattle.  I went back and left those in the locker, traveling light as I hopped the cable car again. 

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I took the Mason Street line to it’s Taylor Street turnaround, then headed back to North Beach (Little Italy).  I didn’t walk up Coit Tower this trip, but proceeded down Columbus Ave.  I had coffee and a cookie at Caffe Roma, where local neighbors were hanging out, some using the free wi-fi.

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I wandered up Green Street because it looked interesting walking by a number of restaurants and the 101 Music store above and discovered Grant Ave. in North Beach which I had missed on my previous trips (being more familiar with it’s Chinatown stretch).

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I walked by more businesses, including another record store and an Irish pub, and proceeded on toward Chinatown.

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I walked by the famous City Lights Book Store and walked through their alley checking out the murals on City Lights and a building on the other side of the alley as I cut through to Chinatown.

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I was getting hungry, so I started checking out the menus as I walked by, stopping to browse at a shop and coming out with a small dragon statue on my way. 

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The cartoon above the New Woey Loy Goey Restaurant menu amused me and brought me back, saying I know there’s good food at this restaurant because Chinese people were eating there.  Right on both counts.  I believe I was the only one not of Chinese ancestry in the restaurant, where noon hour conversations in Chinese were going on around me.  I sat at the lunch counter where the menu behind it was all in Chinese except the prices (but, yes, I ordered off an English menu, and knew what I was getting).

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I stopped at a fruit stand for desert, then headed off toward the cable car line for what I knew would be my last ride.

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I met up with JoJo and gave him my MUNI pass as he was staying longer than me (and the MUNI pass doesn’t work on BART anyways). Then I went back to pick up my luggage from the locker and headed back to the BART station on Powell to the Oakland Airport and my flight home.

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