Gate-Way to San Francisco; Selina Philpin Headed for California and the City by the Bay - Home to the Golden Gate Bridge, Cable Cars and Alcatraz

South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales), November 20, 2010 | Go to article overview

Gate-Way to San Francisco; Selina Philpin Headed for California and the City by the Bay - Home to the Golden Gate Bridge, Cable Cars and Alcatraz


The airport security guard handed me back my passport with a smile, saying: "Welcome - San Francisco is right through those doors." His friendly greeting was what I would come to expect from the city folk during my stay on America's West Coast.

A hippy haven for the '60s' cultural movement, San Francisco still retains its flower-power status and laid-back manner.

On approach, Frisco appears like any another city; it isn't until you delve into its centre that you can appreciate its diverse nature and magnificent undulating terrain.

First stop, Hotel Whitcomb, located on the effervescent Market Street in the district of SoMa, downtown San Francisco.

A boutique hotel which mixes contemporary amenities and historical architecture, it even has a diminutive museum, holding memorabilia from its time as City Hall after the devastating Earthquake of 1906.

For breakfast, we ate banana pancakes and lashings of golden syrup with refillable coffee in The Market Street Grill, attached to the hotel.

It offered various traditional American break-fasts. It was reasonably priced and the service was so good, we dined there every morning.

Offering a peaceful stay, the hotel is a comfortable distance away from the hustle and bustle of Union Square and the vibrant Castro District, which are accessible both on foot or by taking a quick ride on the streetcar with a stop situated just outside the hotel.

We walked to the premier shopping district of Union Square for our first meal and stumbled upon Sears, which dates back to 1938.

I chose the Angus Flat Iron Steak, costing a respectful $21.95 and served with sumptuous sweet potato fries.

As we paid our bill, the waiter gave us a token to use on the slot machine with the opportunity to win a free meal.

If you have a sweet tooth try the Cheesecake Factory on Macy's Sky Terrace, portions are huge and there is a great view over Union Square from the balcony.

Famous for having the world's only man-operated cable cars, we took our first legendary ride from the Powell Street turntable.

Up the hill, across the flat, up the hill again, then all the way down. A cable car ride is almost mandatory for visitors.

I felt my knuckles whiten as we chugged upwards, feeling as though our fate lay in the strength of the conductor operating the giant brake leaver; a thrilling experience and exclusive to San Francisco.

Jumping off at California Street, we visited Chinatown. Remarkably, it is the largest Chinatown outside of Asia, as well as the oldest in North America.

We spotted the Bank of Canton, once the Chinese Telephone Exchange and the Sing Chong Building, one of the first buildings rebuilt after the 1906 earthquake.

The following day, we visited Fisherman's Wharf and Pier 39. "Head north and follow the smell of fish," uttered the cable car conductor. His advice was spot on.

Fisherman's Wharf presents a multitude of dining possibilities from the inexpensive Burger King to the delectable Hard Rock Cafe on Pier 39, which offers an array of flamboyant cocktails.

Fine waterside cuisine is delivered by Capurro's, serving a selection of fresh local seafood. …

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