Rush for the golden city

Gita Conn says the best way for first-time vis­i­tors to see San Fran­cisco is just to take the tourist trail

The Jewish Chronicle - - TRAVEL -

FIRST-TIME VIS­I­TORS TO San Fran­cisco, heads burst­ing with images from books films count­less TV se­ries and the lyrics from so many songs, may not know quite wher e t o b e g i n ex­plor­ing this most iconic of Amer­i­can cities. The so­lu­tion is to swal­low your pride and do the proper tourist stuff. To catch the breadth and beauty of this penin­sula city, sit on the open top deck of a City Tour bus ($20 for a two-day hop-on, hop-off ticket) as it glides over the Golden Gate Bridge.

So­phis­ti­cates may re­coil from a rec­om­men­da­tion to stay in Fish­er­man’s Wharf. But, cos­seted in the friend­li­ness of a cosy inn, the Wharf has un­de­ni­able at­trac­tions and is an ex­cel­lent base for tour­ing the city.

San Fran­cisco ex­cels at trans­form­ing its var­i­ous his­toric sites into tourist at­trac­tions, few more bizarrely than Al­ca­traz, the fed­eral max­i­mum se­cu­rity prison from 1934 un­til 1963. Reached via a boat trip across the Bay, one of this must-see at­trac­tion’s spook­i­est as­pect is in the clearly au­di­ble sounds of life be­ing lived in the city so near yet so re­mote for its hap­less in­mates.

Back on the main­land, the Ferry Build­ing — just a few stops on a bus or on one of the city’s trams from the Wharf — is an­other his­toric ex­am­ple of re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion.

Opened in 1898, it was the trans­porta­tion hub for trains from the East, for fer­ries from the east­ern sub­urbs. To­day it has a mar­ket­place, lo­cated along the Em­bar­cadero at the foot of Mar­ket Street which is burst­ing with shops, cafes, deli’s, spe­cial­ist shops and book shops.

Union Square, the im­pos­ing heart of the city, is the place for the up-mar­ket shop­per un­in­ter­ested in the knock­down prices of Wharf ven­dors. All the de­part­ment and de­signer stores (Vuit­ton, Gucci, Ar­mani, Ralph Lauren, Marc Ja­cobs; Saks, Neiman Mar­cus, Nord­strom) are in the square or in the streets sur­round­ing it while Chi­na­town is just a few blocks north-west for cheap sou­venirs and knock-offs.

While in Union Square, visit the theatre booth where you can buy half-price tick­ets for the day’s per­for­mances. We picked up tick­ets for a great re­vue at the Eureka Theatre for just $32.50.

Ex­it­ing the theatre, we were ac­costed by a large lady ask­ing if we would cab-share. Breath­lessly, she ex­plained that she had been a judge in the Ma-

San Fran­cisco’s most iconic sight, the city’s Golden Gate Bridge

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