Coit Tower & TransamericaMost people who grow up in a particular city have their own favorite spots that may not be a part of a tourist’s itinerary, but which nevertheless are places to which they return when they are no longer residents, but visitors.

When I was growing up in San Francisco, it was hammered into my head every day that if you wanted to get some San Francisco memorabilia, you should go anywhere except Fisherman’s Wharf, because everything sold in that area was overpriced to rip off the tourists. However, there are some things that are sold at Fisherman’s Wharf that aren’t sold anywhere else, like Alcatraz shirts…so when my husband told me that he wanted me to bring back an Alcatraz shirt for him (to replace the “Alcatraz: Psycho Ward Outpatient” shirt that he got last time we were here together), I realized that I had no choice but to visit the tourist trap that was Fisherman’s Wharf.

Don’t get me wrong; it’s not like I’d never been to the Fisherman’s Wharf area before. It’s a great place to go on dates as a high school student, and even when I was younger, my mom dated a puppeteer who did shows at the Cannery every weekend, so I did a great deal of wandering around that area in my youth. But I always knew that anything that I bought there would cost at least a dollar more than it should.

Pier 39Pier 39 was the first stop on my “tour,” since I knew I’d have to buy an Alcatraz shirt (the ferries to Alcatraz leave from Pier 39). I parked in the big parking lot next to the pier and wandered around taking pictures. It was still cold and foggy (I had forgotten that summer in San Francisco usually means highs in the 50s), so I was on the search for a jacket over my poorly-chosen summer dress. Turns out that I was doomed to spend too much money at the tourist trap, and I ought to just get used to the idea.

Sea LionsSince I used to love going to Pier 39 to watch the sea lions when I was young, so I made my way through the crowds to the end of the pier to see them again. I don’t remember there being a ranger/interpreter by the sea lions when I was younger, but someone was there this time, armed with a microphone and portable speaker, to talk about sea lions, other sea mammals, and marine conservation in general. I was happy that they provided this valuable information to tourists for free, so I wandered up to the Marine Mammal Center store directly upstairs to give them some of my money and buy a jacket (hey, if I’m going to overpay for something at Pier 39, I’d rather the profits go to benefit an organization committed to the environment than some random store).

I realized while I was down there that from Fisherman’s Wharf, you can see quite a few landmarks from that area. From the pedestrian bridge running between the parking lot and Pier 39, you can see the Bay Bridge, the Golden Gate Bridge (when it’s not hidden in the fog), Coit Tower, the Transamerica Building, and Alcatraz. Walk a few blocks, and you’re at Ghirardelli Square or the Cannery. No wonder it’s such a tourist hotspot!

Ghirardelli SquareGhirardelli Square holds many good memories for me, because my grandfather used to take me there when I was a kid. I believe that’s where my love for chocolate really started, and even though I know it’s all pretty much the same, I believe in my heart of hearts that Ghirardelli chocolate is the best chocolate in the world. I apologize to the Hershey’s fanatics out there or those that believe the only good chocolate is Swiss chocolate…the fact of the matter is, if I ever leave my heart in San Francisco, it’ll be swimming in a vat of Ghirardelli chocolate.

Maren’s Guide to San Francisco (Part 1)
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