Anytime MJ and I arrive to a new city, we like to spend a few hours exploring on foot to help gain our bearings for the days ahead. After an awesome lunch at the historic Ferry Building, the next logical destination was San Francisco's Pier 39 and Fisherman's Wharf, just a mile or so further down the Embarcadero.
I envisioned this as a leisurely stroll along San Francisco's waterfront, but the gale force winds which accompanied us had other ideas. With our heads down, fighting to make any sort of progress, it was about now that I wished I'd turned down that second vegan donut.
|It was a pretty, albeit windy, walk...|
When we finally arrived at Pier 39, it was pretty much exactly as I'd expected. Being from Florida, I have spent most of my life surrounded by tourist traps, and can sniff them out at a distance of up to 8 miles. While Florida has hardened my tolerance for tourists, the main reason we visited Pier 39 was so I could buy my traditional souvenir pin from the Hard Rock Cafe...the 29th of my collection. Now who's the tourist?
|My favorite tourist trap...|
With my pin in hand, I was ready to retreat back to the comfortable confines of our hotel room for a nap, but MJ insisted that we explore the rest of the Pier. I followed along, whining like a kid forced to dress up for his cousin's wedding. We passed Bubba Gump Shrimp, the carousel, and one cheesy souvenir shop after another. I was pretty miserable, until I heard this odd barking in the distance...
|Our hotel (near the Transamerica in the background) seemed miles and miles away.|
Somewhere between our hike up the wind tunnel and my grumbling about fanny packs, I managed to forget about Pier 39's famous sea lions in residence. There were only a few milling around, but their constant barking and playful fights with one another made me smile and overlook the guy standing next to me in an I <3 San Francisco t-shirt.
|What a life...|
The smell of sourdough in the air alerted my Spidey Sense that it was time to head toward Fisherman's Wharf. The highly intoxicating aroma was coming from the Boudin Sourdough factory, which captured our attention - and my wallet - for more than a few minutes.
|I'll take one of each please...|
As we finally made our way into Fisherman's Wharf, the size of the crowd didn't seem to change, but what was for sale most certainly did. T-shirt shops were replaced with one stall after another of freshly cooked seafood. Using a technique I adopted from Anthony Bourdain, it was easy to see who really had the good stuff. One stall hocking steamed crab had a line a mile long, while the one adjacent to it couldn't give their own away. Sadly, for the first time in my life I turned down the opportunity to indulge in large quantities of shellfish.
|Sooooo....how long ago did you cook these?|
Every city with any sort of tourist appeal has a place like Fisherman's Wharf and Pier 39. New Orleans has Bourbon Street, New York...Times Square, Barcelona...Las Ramblas. And while these places may lack a bit of authenticity to the city they come to represent, one thing they have in common is the need for any traveler to see them at least once. In the case of Fisherman's Wharf and Pier 39, once is probably all you need.
Enjoy Your Stay