Thursday, June 19, 2014

A Seafood Lunch at Pier Market

A visit to Fisherman's Wharf and Pier 39 is not complete without enjoying a seafood meal in an area where fishermen and the fishing trade dwell; hauling in the abundant fresh catch from the sea every single day.

Voted as the "Best Seafood in San Francisco" by the KRON 4 TV Best of the Bay as proudly publicized on their homepage, Pier Market boasts of their fresh seafood served in their very own distinguished styles guaranteed to leave that memorable tastes in their guests' minds (and mouths, of course).



Be welcomed by the warm ambiance as one steps into the restaurant's dining area, where live seafood swim in the tanks at the front of the restaurant which is decked in wooden furnishing.
The casual-dining environment with a light note of elegance in the concept of their interior sends that very message intended by the Simmons family; the founder and developer of Pier 39 and also of this place, and Pier Market Seafood Restaurant has been in operation for more than three decades; managed by the 3rd generation of the family.


One can also choose to enjoy the cool breezy environment in their open concept of alfresco dining; where tables and chairs are laid out under the signature blue shades from the awning, allowing the friendly rays of the sun to shine through amidst the cheerful colors of the garden flowers dancing gaily in the weather. Besides enjoying the food, one can take in the atmosphere of Pier 39 and of the visitors taking a stroll down the wood board floors of the marina.


We chose to dine inside as the breeze was a little too chilly for us tropical climate dwellers, and we made ourselves comfortable as we enjoyed the view from the observation deck which provided scenes of the overall Pier 39 and the famous islands.

Started the meal with their fresh Sourdough Garlic Bread


The term fresh was definitely apt to describe this soft pillowy texture of the bread lined with the crackling crisp outer layer. The firm yet brittle bite of the crust was a perfect complement to the chewy and spongy white bed, and is good enough to enjoy on its own.
Garlic butter is provided as well, as with most bread baskets to start the meal.


One of their house specialties and definitely a unique option to start the meal is their
Crab Cakes ($12.95)


Served with Cajun Remoulade, the well-battered moulds stuffed to the brim with the moist minced crab paste was rather the distinct offering compared to those usually found in the Thai cuisine.
The generously sized crab cakes were mixed with their home recipe, providing that luscious taste of the crab paste which melts in one's mouth against the flaky crumbs adorning the outer skin will definitely leave one with that memorable longing for a second bite.
Try it with a squeeze of lemon and with that special cajun remoulade, and you will be hooked.


Pier Market Mixed Grill $23.95 was a modest platter combining the grill of fresh Salmon, fresh swordfish and shrimp skewer, served along with cole slaw and rice.
(One can opt to have this in Cajun Style, Teriyaki or BBQ Glazed and to serve with either rice or garlic buttered new potatoes).


Slightly left a little longer on the grill which gave it that slight overcooked tastes, the platter is still a good option for one who would like a little more variety of the seafood in one single serving.
I definitely enjoyed not having to choose between salmon and their fresh swordfish and even shrimps, and the serving left us satisfied, though the grill could be improved with a lighter touch.

We were treated to this cookie at the end of the meal; complimentary from the restaurant to polish our overall meal.


We found the shop selling this a few doors away from the restaurant :-)


With the many seafood restaurants around Pier 39 to storm you dizzy with choices for meals, one can easily stumble upon any restaurant and for us, I must say that my lucky stars helped me to decide on Pier Market which turned out to be a good one to add that finishing touch to my experience on Pier 39, Fisherman's Wharf and definitely of San Francisco too.

After all, more than 30 years of operation definitely says something about Pier Market, doesn't it?
Looking forward to visiting again on my next trip :-)

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Fisherman's Wharf, Pier 39 and the Seals

The fishermen neighborhood complete with the fleet of fishing boats docked by the bay, their well-polished hulls glistening in the sun, and windy sea breeze blowing against the flapping tiny flags amidst the bustling urban modernization of a well-established commercial center and marina aptly describes the famous Fisherman's Wharf of San Francisco.

Dating back to its early history from the days of the Gold Rush in San Francisco which drew a crowd of migrating Italian fishermen to the coast eager to earn from the flowing opportunities, Fisherman's Wharf has seen generations of bidding fishermen until this very day. The early boats in sign were emblematic of the Italian's common fishing boats; known as feluccas, seen bobbing up and down along the bay as the early ancestors of these fishermen scour the coast for their catch. The lateen-rigged sailboats, or the feluccas represent the identity of the fishermen, or as they were modeled in the same build and design known to the fishermen as in their very homeland.
The fishing boats were not the only thing these fishermen brought, as they serenaded the bay with their songs; one that was beautifully and hauntingly melodious, as their common language of communication which can even be heard over the thick shrouds of fog.

Most of the fishermen settled down in the area close to the wharf and the fishing industry continues until this very day, by the great grandchildren known to be the descendants of the early fisher folks , in this very area, forming the heart of the Fisherman's Wharf with their unmistakable sights of fishing fleet and turning the place into one of the dearest attractions in San Francisco among the locals and tourists.


Pier 39 is the most well-known pier located at the edge of Fisherman's Wharf; bringing to life the commercialization of a shopping establishment forming the pulse of this very marina itself along with the seafood restaurants, souvenir shops, video arcade, aquarium all being part of the list of attractions.
The popular tourist attraction was the brainchild of entrepreneur Warren Simmons and was officially open to the public in the year 1978.




Pier 39 overlooks the tourists spots of Angel Island, Alcatraz Island (where the once notoriously famous prison was located), Bay Bridge and even the iconic Golden Gate Bridge which can be spotted on a clear day at this very marina.


Take a stroll down the wooden plank boards of Pier 39 among the tourists and locals and take in the lively environment set up by the local vendors running the shops here, while enjoying the cool and windy sea breeze blowing from the bay.
It can be quite a relaxing experience, and I can definitely see the appeal of this place and the reasons for its popularity. Friendly locals, interesting displays and merchandise, chilly sea breeze and scenic views from around the area are all just the few to name capturing one's attention while here on Pier 39.





Pier 39 is not just any ordinary pier filled with only the commercial aspects as it is also the home to the California Sea Lions which were originally spotted along the San Francisco Bay.
The seals have since found their new homes near Pier 39; hauling their body masses on the docks since the year 1989. While the reasons for their migration remains unclear, it was believed that the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake could be one of the starting points for the seals to move to their new homes; sheltered and being within a bay which provided more security to the families of seals.


The masses of sea lions resting on the docks quickly garnered public attention and the sight of these mammals became one of the tourist attraction as well.
Viewing docks are set up for one to take in the natural image of these live seals plopped on the wooden docks and it can be quite a daunting sight to watch the masses, or at least it was for me.



The marina is indeed full of its charms and life, as seen in the living pictures of the snapshots which are just capturing the tip of the essence of the offerings of Pier 39.
I am easily captivated by the simple view of a marina, with that picturesque scene of boats resting peacefully by the docks, and the occasional floating/bobbing motion which explains my personal fixation on this place.




As the sign says, Fisherman's Wharf and Pier 39 is definitely the pride and part of the soul of San Francisco's identity and definitely truly significant of the city itself.

What else says better about this City by the Bay than a visit to capture that view of life by the bay itself?


Friday, June 13, 2014

Lombard Street: The Crooked Street of San Francisco


If you have seen a shot of the above in any travel sites or books/magazines, chances are you have heard of and known of this famous street in San Francisco.

Dubbed "The Most Crooked Street" or "The Crooked Street in San Francisco", this is definitely one of the most unique and interesting landmark in the city; after the famous iconic landmark of the Golden Gate Bridge, that is.


Lombard Street is not purely this single street, as it spans from the east to the west of San Francisco, covering the major junction of US Route 101. The Street spans from the western terminus at the Presidio to the east; the Cow Hollow neighborhood and continuing from the Russian Hill to the Telegraph Hill where it breaks off to Telegraph Hill Boulevard; Pioneer Park and Colt Tower and picks up again at Winthrop Street. Its end point rests on The Embarcadero.


The famous point of this street is the Lombard Street's one-way block on Russian Hill, known for its steep and curvaceous gradient featuring eight hairpin turns; tightly so, is a challenge for drivers as one takes a plunge down this bend. For the local residents however, needless to say, they are just too used to the road that there is no longer any element of fascination in it; or maybe not so true.

The street's rising popularity despite its early establishment in the year 1922 is attributed to its unique twists and turns as a vehicle makes its way in a zig-zagging manner around the turns and bends of this interesting street. The street was in fact, a solution for the precipitous gradient of the hill itself; which at a 27% was too steep for the most vehicles, posing high risks to the safety of the drivers and even pedestrians, not to mention the danger it posed to the wheel chairs, making it uncomfortably hazardous to most of the users.
The inclusion of the bends and turns; while still appearing to be challenging, is designed to curb and minimize the risk of the vehicles taking a sharp dive as they brake and navigate cautiously around the bends.


The brainchild of the property owner, Carl Henry, the street was then constructed in 1922, is one-way traffic road heading downhill (naturally so), with a length of 600 feet (180m).

Paved with red bricks and decorated with the beautiful garden blooms, Lombard Street's Russian Hill neighborhood where this sloped-driveway is located, quickly became the most prominent neighborhood streets with its unique attributes and catapulted into stardom in the world; drawing tourists from all over the globe swarming the neighborhood hoping to catch a glimpse of this much-acclaimed street.

The neighborhood is no longer enjoying their quiet moments, definitely, I can attest to that, as tourists, and people are all just crowding around the area to snap a few shots of this unique street which is definitely one of its kind in the world.
If the street is not occupied with its own nicknames to fill its own guest book, there is one more to add to the list as one of "The Crookedest Streets in the World"; and not just in San Francisco or United States alone.

The best way to experience this famous downhill slope way of Lombard Street is to take a drive in your car to navigate around the eight hairpin turns; taking each one at a time to delve in that surreal experience but it was definitely worth it.


Taking a good shot of the street can be a challenge; wrestling the crowds and also the angle (which, provided you can disperse the crowds hovering impatiently near you as you take each shot).
An aerial view would be ideal; or from afar, to get those cables out of sight (as mine had so unfortunately included). One of the best location, and most recommended would be from Colt Tower which provided a complete and ideal view of this one-way drive.

Flowers in bloom, cars appearing like miniatures on the bends, and the red bricks make this part of Lombard Street seem like a fictional and imaginary land which only exists in story books; but this is as real as can be and is definitely well worth the time and value to be included in any sightseeing list while in San Francisco.


It is definitely a picturesque location that one can walk away and bring home proud, to stash in the collection of one of the postcard locations in San Francisco (and the world); and of course, a tick off the travel bucket list for unique locations around the world.


Postcard from San Francisco: Golden Gate Bridge

"It's just a bridge, what is there to photograph?"
"It's the Golden Gate Bridge!!"
"So? It's just another bridge, and we have way bigger and more magnificent bridges in our country which surpass this bridge anytime"

Those were the words I heard in an exchange between an elderly couple standing less than ten feet away from me; as the wife was bouncing with enthusiasm and excitement upon the sight of the Golden Gate Bridge upon descending from their bus, desperately trying to get the best shot of the bridge from every angle, the husband stuck his hands into his pockets and watched with an expression of boredom and disinterest.

Well, in my own response To the elderly sir, there may be many bridges around the world, but your wife is definitely not wrong that this is THE Golden Gate Bridge, the iconic and world-recognized emblem which best represents the famous city of San Francisco in the United States of America.


The Golden Gate Bridge is synonymous with the term San Francisco as the very image of this bridge pops up by default when the name of the city is mentioned.
Yes, such is the power of this iconic bridge, which has, for decades, captured the hearts and attention of the world since its official launch in the year 1937.

In fact, some travel guide books; namely Frommers, referred to this very bridge as "possibly one of the most beautiful and certainly the most photographed bridge in the world".

The unmistakable bold red metal colors of the suspension bridge is simply a symbol or a representation of the city; and a sight to behold as one enters this; one of the most populous city in the United States, as can be seen in most images or postcards related to San Francisco.


It is definitely not just any bridge; it is almost as if the bridge is San Francisco itself; being such an icon of fame and world-renowned status.

There is much for Golden Gate Bridge to be the pride of San Francisco (and even the United States as well); with it being declared as one of the Wonders of the Modern World by the American Society of Civil Engineers - Wikipedia)

Golden Gate Bridge was also named the world's longest suspension bridge main span; with its length of 4,200 feet (1,300m) - a title it held for at least three decades since its opening until the year 1964 when it was succeeded by ten other bridges in the world, and now holds the second longest suspension bridge in the United States; right after New York City's Verrazano-Narrows Bridge.

The famous suspension bridge spans across the Golden Gate Straits connecting both the San Francisco Bay and the Pacific Ocean; linking the city of San Francisco from its northern peninsula to Marin County.  Its establishment resorts to solve the commuting woes for the early settlers between the Marin County to San Francisco; whereby the only mode of transportation was via boat as they transport water to the city of San Francisco.
The early conception of the bridge as a commuting option posed many challenges to the engineering as the strait commanded strong currents and tidal waves, along with the savaging winds and the depth of the water which made it a difficult and near-impossible mission with their then-technology. Fogs were also common problem plaguing the strait which added to the difficulty of the construction of the bridge.

A former engineering student, James Wilkins' proposal made it through, and Joseph Strauss, an avid engineer and poet, was then tasked to the alteration of the design with his background and experience working on other bridges (his graduate thesis was on a railroad bridge across the Bering Strait).
The progressive findings on metallurgy then paved the way for the concept of a suspension bridge; which was the most practical idea at that time.

The conceptualization till the establishment of the famous bridge spanned for a decade; facing oppositions as well from various parties, with concerns raised on the risks of the bridge posing a hazard to the marine traffic and also the potential of ship collision or causing obstruction to the main harbors for the navy defense.
However, its construction finally made it through, or we would not be witnesses to the world-famous bridge today.

The name of the Golden Gate Bridge was coined way before the bridge even began its construction or design; when it was discussed in the year 1917, by Strauss and city engineer of San Francisco, M.M. O Shaughnessy and was then officially legalized in the year 1923 with the passing of the Golden Gate Bridge and Highway District Act by the state legislation.

Hung from two major cables passing through two main towers, the bridge spans a length of 8,981 feet (2,737m) and six vehicle traffic lanes; ferrying commuters on its busy roads everyday.

Pedestrians and cyclists are also fond of this iconic landmark, and designated lanes have been included on both sides of the bridges for them to enjoy the walk and ride down the bridge. While initially the two-way traffic lanes were separated by only metal curbs, railings were then added to prevent the cyclists from slipping onto the roadways.





Golden Gate Bridge is command center of tourism for the city of San Francisco, and there is no one who will be seen skipping this landmark off their sightseeing list when in the city, as it is almost a huge no, to have not visited this bridge which is internationally recognized as the iconic symbol of the the city itself.
Tour buses and cars flock to the Golden Gate area; to catch a glimpse, and like the couple described above in my opening, to photograph themselves and of the much celebrated bridge.


Golden Gate Bridge on a cloudy day (on the day I was there)

One can also spot the statue of the legendary Joseph Strauss; the brilliant designer who was responsible behind this world renowned suspension bridge.


The bridge stands as an icon of the city of San Francisco, with views of the city and also a speck in the background which is the famous Alcatraz Island (where the prison was once situated).


Having been featured in one too many media; from films, movies, books, it goes to show that the world can never get too much of the characteristic bridge.

The Golden Gate Bridge is the picture of San Francisco, in all its stark contrast of bold red standing in might and dignity; painting that picture perfect postcard for the famous city.


With all its dues, Golden Gate Bridge is definitely a star.


That Is why, My dear sir, this is not just any bridge :-)

Friday, June 6, 2014

The City by the Bay - San Francisco


San Francisco is known by its many nicknames; from "Fog City", "The City That Knows How", "The Golden City", "The Golden Gate City" to being compared to the other famous cities such as "Baghdad by the Bay" or even "Paris of the West", or just simply referred to fondly as San Fran, this is definitely "Everybody's Favorite City".

Located on the West Coast of the United States of America, San Francisco and at the north end of the San Francisco Peninsula, the metropolis also encompasses part of the Pacific Ocean and the San Francisco Bay with a land area coverage of 46.9 square miles (121 square kilometers).
The city's strategic location overlooks a few famous and picturesque islands such as the Treasure Island, Alcatraz (where the famous prison was once located), and a few other islands, just to name a few, besides being obviously surrounded by the sea to form its unique bay location.

Besides the bay and islands, San Francisco is also a hilly city and it is no wonder this city is so famous for its hills as there are more than 50 hills alone in the city. That would probably attribute to the reason behind the hilly roads and landscape of the entire city; and most of the neighborhoods also found their names from the hills on which they are located.
It is not surprising to see the topography of the streets being generally sloped; and even more interesting is the houses which are located along these unusually sharp gradients on some of the streets, if not all.

I can only imagine their challenges in getting their cars in and out of the houses, and also during the early construction of the residential homes in this city.
Already a hilly city to begin with, the city owe some of its inclining roads with the steep gradients to the active earth movement which leads to the earthquakes in the city; though not on a daily basis.

The hills, the bay, and a lovely climate are just the few reasons to boost the tourism here in San Francisco. Popular with tourists and locals alike, San Francisco has more to boast than just its natural topography and geographical factor, as the city woos with the eclectic charms stored in the many attractions all within the county. It leaves little to wonder then about the statistics of the county which lands itself as the second most densely populated city in the United States, and also the 4th most populous city in the state of California; and the 14th most populous in the entire country.


It is in fact the density of the city which one would first be greeted with upon entering the city from the freeway; and also the aerial view from the plane as one flies into the borders of this county, a definite living proof of the large population gathered here and that the city is indeed in favor as a favorite place to settle down.


There is just so much to love about San Francisco; from the wonderful and kind climate which sends the cool air into the typically hot summer weather, to the unique slants on the roads and the view of the sea everywhere one goes, the natural qualities are already drawing the attention of potential home settlers, besides luring the avid tourists to the lair of this densely populated county.


The melting pot of a variety of culture resulting from the migrating communities; particularly the Chinese, which formed the largest single ethnic minority group, along with the other Asian groups comprising of the Filipinos, Vietnamese, Cambodians, Thais, Laotians, Koreans, Japanese, Mongolians, Indonesians, etc, San Francisco is truly a place splattered with the unique mix of colorful cultures which paints the city with its unique identity.


With the large community of the Chinese and also the Asians forming the minorities in the city, Chinatown is just a customary area to gather all these regional migrants and settlers in one place in particular and became one of the main tourist attractions in the city. It is not surprising to find Chinatown everywhere though; as the Chinese population are indeed widespread around the world, and almost every major city in the world would have their very own Chinatown.
The Oriental style of the shops, and the street decorations, and of course, the Chinese characters on the sign boards are sure telltale signs that one is in Chinatown and this very Chinatown in San Francisco is home to not just the Chinese but also the other ethnicities from Asia.


The trams, the famous Pier 39, the much visited Alcatraz island where the former prison was located, the unique topography of the streets, and the iconic Golden Gate Bridge are among the many attractions listed in San Francisco.

A city formerly associated with gold; and prospered quickly due to the California Gold Rush back in the year 1849, which earned another of its well-known nickname among the Chinese during that time as the "Gold Mountain" and many would flock to this place to find opportunities to establish their own fortune. Its almost instantaneous growth due to the Gold Rush also made it the largest city on the West Coast then.

San Francisco is derived from a Spanish word for Saint Francis; associated with the mission of the Spanish for the St Francis of Assisi and also for the purpose of colonization when they established a fort at the Golden Gate, which led to the founding and early beginning of the city in the year 1776.
It may have started with the Spanish mission, but a stroke of luck and the natural potential of the land spiked the rapid growth of the city which sustained until this very day as it continues to grow in both popularity and population.



It is one of the major cities in the United States and is recognized as one of the important business, investment and financial capitals with five leading banking corporations setting up their headquarters in this very city along with a few of other prominent social media and retail organizations.

Even a tourist like me loved every bit of the city upon landing my feet here on the first half of the day and is there still a question mark to why this is known as "Everybody's Favorite City"?
It is indeed a lovable city, which warms up to anyone who visits and embraces those who call it home, conjuring images of wonderful memories to stir that yearning to return to this city.

San Fran, is truly a beautiful place to live in and it is also my very own favorite city~

To be continued with the attractions of San Francisco...
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