My first solo journey to San Francisco begins in Dublin, at the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) station. Windswept and raucous with traffic noise (the highway runs six lanes on either side), BART is nonetheless the way to get there.
At this hour, around 10:30, the trains are empty enough for everyone riding to put their feet up on the seat next to them and doze, or read, or watch for deer along the hillsides (I saw four). One elderly lady had a successful method of keeping other passengers at a distance: she sang off-key chants in a foreign tongue, eyes shut, reveling in the music of her walkman. I'll remember that one for the future.
Getting off at the Embarcadero Station, I make my way down the last little bit of Market Street to the Embarcadero Plaza, with its multitude of sidewalk cafes and artists' booths and souvenir vendors. Hundreds of people are already playing and dining in the Plaza and adjoining park, taking advantage of lunchtime.
My preferred path is the landward side of the Embarcadero. The bay side is more heavily used by tourists, who get a kick out of all the skaters, bicyclists, and skateboarders who zoom along the wide sidewalks. My side is shadier, with little parks and plantings tucked in here and there, and slower-paced, as I won't have to dodge people on wheels.
Even at 11:30 on a weekday, the streetcars that run from Market Street to Fisherman's Wharf are already full. That's okay -- the walk is going to take me past Levi's Plaza (yes, the folks who make the jeans), a gorgeous park with ponds and shade and benches to soothe the soul and delight the eye. Levi's Plaza is tucked away behind a high hedge, across the Embarcadero from the Foreign Trade Services Building. This is where I'll stop for a breather, and to watch a mom and dad following their toddler about the lawns.
I cross the street at Lombard to the bay side. Wide stretches of decking invite the passers-by to amble to the railings and gaze at Angel Island and the many yachts that are so fortunate as to be docked near Pier 39. The fellow in the picture appears to be playing "Titanic" in the wind, which is an OK occupation on the Wharf!
My goal is near, a perfect little spot for writing, with some sun, some shade, and colorful shrubs and flower beds all around. The shops of Fisherman's Wharf's Pier 39 are less than a block away, but the tranquility of these little havens by the bay is amazing. I can curl up on a bench here, pull out the ol' notebook, and let the pen and paper plot a couple new chapters.
I'll finish my adventure with a plate of tempura calamari at Sinbad's Restaurant near the Ferry Building back at the end of Market Street, and a chilled glass of Fume Blanc. Gardens on the entrance side, and a view of the Bay Bridge, the working docks of Oakland, and the beautiful Bay itself make dining at Sinbad's a treat for the eyes; I keep coming back for the best calamari I've ever tasted, and all the other goodies, too, from the shrimp scampi (with luscious mushrooms, scallions, and rice pilaf) to the evil temptation of New York cheesecake with a stylish swirl of raspberry sauce.
For a first outing to the City on my own, the day was a tremendous success. Traveling alone can be a bit scary, but at no time was I accosted, ogled, or importuned. Great city. I'll be back.