Waking up today was a little disorientating because I was in a bed, the top bunk to be specific. Drinking on an empty stomach with an early wake up, not the best idea. I did wake up earlier than I needed too as I wanted to nab the good shower fore the rest of the hostel woke up. It was a decent shower but it was disheartening to head to a free breakfast where I couldn’t eat anything. Luckily I’d packed a few breakfast biscuits from home to tide me over in situations like this.
At ten we were supposed to meet our Urban Adventures guide Christian in China Town. Coincidently this was the guy that actually helped train our guide Seth for Trek America. He started off by introducing himself and giving us some background information on China Town, its background and a bit about how it came about. For Chinese culture it’s the second largest area outside of China itself. Walking around you could mistake it for actually being in China, it really didn’t feel like I was in San Francisco at all. Our first stop on this tour was at a shop that had opened in the 1920’s, it sold a lot of traditional Chinese treats but it is most famous for its moon cakes. They are tiny pastries, which have a salted egg center. They are linked to a Chinese urban legend or myth depending on your view, I sadly couldn’t try it but everyone else seemed to like it and said the outside tasted like marzipan.
We then continued our tour to a temple that can be traced all the way back to one of the first three Chinese men to set foot and their roots in San Francisco. If we didn’t have Christian guiding us we probably would have walked straight past it, it was this little doorway and then the actual temple was on the fourth floor and it was beautiful inside with lanterns lining the roof and little deities everywhere. The bigger the lantern on the roof the more they donated to the temple; we couldn’t take pictures as this was a holy place. For a two-dollar donation you could get your fortune told, so obviously I paid. The first step is that you light an incense stick and put it in the bowl of sand. Then you kneel down and shake a pot of sticks at a 45 degree angle until one falls out and the number on that stick corresponds to a piece of paper with your fortune on. I think the highest fortune number I saw was just over 100. I got 13, which is unlucky for some but apparently not for me. It was pretty positive I thought or at least it seemed that way when I read it, luckily it was at this point that the lady that speaks the best English turned up and was ready to interpret our fortunes into terms that applied to our lives. With mine she told me that I have a great family, that a king has blessed me and that if I work hard and use my background I will get a good job and become famous and have a good family of my own. I’d just like to have the good job bit I’m not bothered about being famous really, but compared to the others mine was the only really happy fortune.
From there we headed to a fortune cookie shop and were told some history on the fortune cookie. It was a cool little shop, more like a factory where the women that work there turn out about 20,000 cookies a day. They looked like such pro’s sat there barely looking at what their hands were doing, having a nice chat with each other. Again I didn’t get to try one freshly made but it was enough just to see them make them.
The next activity I could actually participate in, tea tasting. The guy hosting it was hilarious and very well informed. We got to try black, white, green, chrysanthemum and one more tea that tasted and smelled like bubble bath. I didn’t really like any of them until the last one as it reminded me of Parma Violets. Some of the teas on the walls sounded good as they had mango or blueberry flavoured tea.
Continuing our tour we walked through an alley that was made up of murals which was pretty unique and at the end of the alley there is one of the oldest book shops in Northern America; City Lights bookshop. It was the independent store that would print anything and everything it deemed readable and that other publishers wouldn’t touch. I’m glad it exists, as there shouldn’t be restrictions in literature.
From there we walked to see the Saloon, the oldest bar that is believed to have survived the great San Fran fire all because a firefighter wanted to save the brothel above it.
Our tour ended in a small park called Washington Square, Christian had been a great guide and that was reflected in how we all tipped. As some of the group had booked Alcatraz they had to book it over to where they needed to be to make their time slot. Mel and me decided to have our own little tour around the city.
First on our little excursion was Lombard Street, which is famous for being the most crooked street in America. It was so steep walking up to see it at one point I felt like being on all fours would get us their quicker as my knees were at my chest! It was seriously cool though and props to the drivers that navigate their way down it. Luckily Mel had phone service so we could Google the places we wanted to see and the way to get there. The streets although super hilly were on a grid so it was fairly easy to navigate, we decided to walk to each of our destinations and next up was the Mrs Doubtfire house. We found it pretty easily and it was smaller than I remember it being. Outside on the sidewalk people had signed tributes to Robin Williams, which I thought was pretty sweet.
We set of walking again and this time in search of the Full House/Fuller House house, this one was more for Mel as it wasn’t something I’ve ever watched. It had a nice sign outside of it that was pretty funny when Mel explained the references within the message for people to be respectful.
Upwards and onwards to the painted ladies, which reminded me of rainbow row in Charleston. Again I thought they would be larger whenever I’ve seen them in conjunction with San Fran. Our last stop on this epic walking tour was the That’s So Raven House. There were some lovely green areas and parks that we walked through to get there and again we found it pretty easily. I sent a picture to my sisters, as they would know that house straightaway. We took a picture and then took an uber back to the hostel, as we were knackered, our little sight seeing excursion had been 20,000 steps so 5.5 miles long. We didn’t stay still for long though as we had been back for maybe ten minutes before we decided to walk to Pier 39. This added another 2 miles to our trip but it was worth it.
The pier was super cool but very windy. There was a Christmas shop so I continued my trip tradition and bought an ornament to take home.
As it was so windy we found a chip shop that actually did proper chips so that was our dinner sorted. It warmed us up from the inside as we headed back to the hostel to catch up with everyone before having a somewhat early night.