A Travellerspoint blog

San Francisco: Old Forts and Bridges.

Days Four and Five.

Palace of Fine Arts.

We started the next day with a visit to the Civic Centre. The Civic Centre is odd because it is full of wonderful buildings and statues but is surrounded by a run down area with a homelessness problem. I would recommend visiting in the day rather than in the evening; by daylight it seemed perfectly safe. The most prominent building in the civic centre is the lovely city hall with its huge dome. We also passed the San Francisco Library, The Asian Art Museum, the pioneer monument and the Ashurbanipal Monument. The Pioneer Monument was created by F.H. Happersberger and dedicated to the city of San Francisco by James Lick in 1894. The Ashurbanipal Monument is a bronze sculpture by Fred Parhad, an artist of Assyrian descent. This monument depicts an Assyrian king.

The Library.

City Hall.

Abraham Lincoln Statue.

There was a massive amount of activity going on at City Hall when we visited. I am guessing that most of it was linked to Chinese New Year as there were people in traditional Chinese clothes and Chinese bands. We watched for a while. I loved the beautiful Chinese outfits the ladies with the lanterns were wearing.

Outside City Hall.

Outside City Hall.

Outside City Hall.

Outside City Hall.

Outside City Hall.

Then we headed off to Golden Gate Park. In the 1860s San Franciscans decided they wanted a park like Central Park in New York. Golden Gate Park was painstakingly developed on sand and shore dunes just outside the city limits. Engineer, William Hammond Hall, conducted a survey and made a topographic map of the park site in 1870. His assistant was Scotsman, John McLaren. McLaren devoted his life to building the park. He lived in McLaren Lodge in Golden Gate Park until 1943 when he died at the age of 96. There is a statue comemorating John McLaren in the park's lovely rhododendron garden.

The only fog we saw in San Francisco.

John McLaren.

John McLaren Garden.

John McLaren Garden.

John McLaren Garden.

John McLaren Garden.

John McLaren Garden.

We got to Golden Gate Park by number 21 bus from Market and Powell Street. The driver was very friendly and asked us which part of the park we wanted. We said anywhere we are visiting all of it. He found that hilarious and said it would be impossible as the park was so long. In the end we easily walked the length of the park. We may not have seen absolutely everything but we saw a lot. We intended to pay to go into the Japanese Tea Garden, but it was way too busy, so we didn't. Everything we saw was free and it kept us busy for around four or five hours.

We started up at the Conservatory of Flowers end then had a look at the lily pond which was very pretty, but had no lilies in February.

Conservatory of Flowers.

Conservatory of Flowers.

Golden Gate Park.

Golden Gate Park.

Probably the most visited part of Golden Gate Park is the Music Concourse and its surrounding museums. The Music Concourse was built for the California Midwinter International Exposition of 1894. It centres on the Spreckels Temple of Music. This area is filled with lots of statues, fountains and trees. The museums around it include the De Young Museum of Fine Art, the Academy of Sciences, the Japanese Tea Garden and the Botanic Gardens. We did not visit the museums, though we had intended to go to the Japanese Tea Garden, but it was just too busy.

Japanese Tea Garden.

Lily Pond.

De Young Museum.

Japanese Tea Garden.

Stow Lake is a beautiful man made lake in Golden Gate Park. It dates from 1893. There is an island in the middle of the lake which you can access via a bridge. On the island you can visit a pretty little Chinese pagoda. This lake is very popular for boating and lots of people were rowing around it when we visited. There is a tragic story connected to Stow Lake. Legend states that a young mother pushed her infant to the lake in his pram. She then got deep into conversation with a stranger and failed to notice the pram roll into the lake. By the time she discovered what had happened it was too late and her baby had drowned. Her ghost all dressed in white wanders around the lake at night looking for her lost child.

Stow Lake.

Stow Lake.

Stow Lake.

Stow Lake.

A major road passes through the middle of Golden Gate Park and after the road you wander past greenery and a few scattered lakes. Eventually we reached a field of bison. They were far from the fence so my photos are taken with a zoom and may not be totally clear. A herd of American bison has lived in Golden Gate Park since 1892. Bison were close to extinction by the time Golden Gate Park’s herd was established. They are cared for by staff from the San Francisco zoo.


Right at the bottom of Golden Gate Park where it meets the ocean stand two windmills. One is known as Murphy's Windmill and the other as the Dutch Windmill. These windmills were once responsible for pumping as much as 1½ million gallons of water on a daily basis. Dutch windmill is surrounded by beautiful flowers in springtime. Murphy's windmill took its name from a local banker.

Dutch Windmill.

Dutch Windmill.

Murphy's Windmill.

OK, Americans will not be impressed with this. To them it is probably an everyday occurence, but I have never ever seen a wild racoon before and suddenly there in Golden Gate Park I was face to face with one. I took some photos. I've heard racoons can be aggressive. This one seemed quite timid, but to me at least, oh so cute.



At the end of Golden Gate Park you will come to a busy road and if you cross it, you are at a long sandy beach stretching along the Pacific Ocean. It was very windy and really quite chilly when we reached here, but there were still lots of people on the beach. In the distance we could see Cliff House and Seal Rocks. The scenery was very beautiful; the ocean was powerful and rough with large breaking waves.

Ocean Beach.

Seal Rocks.

The Original Cliff House was built in 1863 as a fashionable resort for the wealthy. It was a one­ story wooden building which overlooked Seal Rocks. In 1881, Adolph Sutro, a self­made millionaire, who would one day become mayor of San Francisco, bought Cliff House and began to redevelop it as a family­-friendly venue. Unfortunately, on Christmas Day, 1894 fire destroyed the original wooden Cliff House building. Within six months of the fire, Sutro had plans for a new Cliff House which opened in 1896. It was eight­ stories tall and looked like a castle. This building survived the 1906 earthquake, but was destroyed by fire in September 1907.

The Sutro Baths.

Cliff House.

Sutro Baths.

Ocean Beach.

After Sutro's death in 1898, his properties passed to his daughter, Emma Sutro Merritt. She constructed a third Cliff House from fireproof steel­reinforced concrete. The Sutro family sold Cliff House in 1937. In 1977, the National Park Service bought the property and made it part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. It is now a restaurant. Adolph Sutro, also developed the Sutro Baths in 1894. He constructed an ocean pool aquarium in the rocks north of the Cliff House and a massive public bath house covering three acres nearby. At first the baths were very popular, but their popularity declined during the Great Depression and they are now just stunningly beautiful ruins.

We were fortunate enough to be up at Cliff House and the Sutro Baths just as the sun began to set. It was magical. The views over towards Seal Rocks in particular were spectacular. We got back to downtown easily from this area on the number 38 bus.

Sunset Over Seal Rocks.

Sunset over Ocean Beach.

That evening we ate in Sears Fine Foods again.

Next day we went to see the beautiful Golden Gate Bridge. Amazing as it may seem when I planned out our trip to San Francisco, I did not include a visit to the Golden Gate Bridge in my plan. This was due to me assuming we would be really close to it when we visited Fisherman's Wharf. Of course, we could see the bridge from Fisherman's Wharf, but very, very far away. Well, the Golden Gate Bridge is a must do world famous site, so had to adjust our plans to fit it in. To get there we used two buses from downtown ­ the number 38 and then changed on Presidio Park Avenue to the number 28. The 28 dropped us at the parking lot right next to the bridge.

Golden Gate Bridge is a suspension bridge linking San Francisco to Marin County across the Golden Gate Strait. It is 4,200 feet long. It opened in 1937 and until 1964 was the longest suspension bridge in the world. It is painted international orange. Golden Gate Bridge is extremely famous and extremely beautiful. It's another of my world famous sites done and is up there with the Great Wall of China, Sydney Opera House, Ayers Rock and many others. It looks wonderful when you are at the same height as its roadway and wonderful when you are at sea level below. We walked halfway across it and it was absolutely heaving with people doing the same. This was out of season, so I'm guessing that walk would be awful in summer. In short no trip to San Francisco would be complete without a visit here. We even returned at night when it was lit up, but our photos of this were nothing great.

Golden Gate Bridge.

Golden Gate Bridge.

View from the Golden Gate Bridge.

Golden Gate Bridge.

Golden Gate Bridge.

As well as walking on the bridge, I went under it to see Fort Point, which is interestingly located right underneath the Golden Gate Bridge. Fort Point was built by the U.S. army around 1853, shortly before the American Civil War. Its purpose was to defend San Francisco Bay against hostile enemy warships. It is free to enter the fort. It has some old cannons and a few items of historical interest, but a lot of its appeal is its location ­below one of the most famous bridges in the world. Address: Marine Dr San Francisco, CA 94123.

Fort Point.

Fort Point and Bridge.

We got to the Palace of Fine Arts by number 28 bus. The Palace of Fine Arts was constructed for the 1915 Panama­ Pacific Exposition. Its purpose was, and indeed is, to house art exhibitions. It was designed by Bernard Maybeck, who was inspired by classical Roman and Greek architecture. It is located on a lagoon. When we visited, several brides were having their photos taken there. Address: 3601 Lyon Street.

Palace of Fine Arts.

Beautiful Bride.

After visiting the Palace of Fine Arts we walked to the presidio main post. This was the site of the first Spanish fort when Europeans arrived in this area. A Spanish garrison was established here in 1776. Then the area fell under Mexican control. It became an important U.S. Army post in 1847. We found this area quite interesting. It had some beautiful old wooden houses. We visited the former officers' club, the chapel and the military cemetery. The Presidio area is large. We did not manage to cover all of it. The Main Post is also home to a Walt Disney Museum which we did not visit.

Presidio Main Post.

Presidio .



Presidio Main Post.

Presidio Chapel.

The National Cemetery.

We walked from the Main Post on the Presidio to a lovely old chapel, then visited the national cemetery. This is the final resting place for the nation's military veterans and their families. 30,000 Americans are laid to rest here including Civil War generals, Medal of Honor recipients, Buffalo Soldiers, and a Union spy. There's a good view towards the Golden Gate Bridge from here. Address: 50 Moraga Ave.

That evening we ate in Johnny Foley's Irish House which is on O'Farrell Street. We went here on a Friday night and it was very busy, so we were asked to wait to be seated. It actually only took a few minutes as the restaurant is very big with different rooms. We were in one of the back rooms. It was crowded and very noisy. Portions looked big so we decided to share a fish, chips and mushy peas. You can share a meal between two here by paying an extra $2, which we thought was quite a good idea. The fish and chips were excellent. The mushy peas tasted nothing like mushy peas as I know them and were a bit of a disappointment, but not a big deal as the rest was so good. Service was pleasant and efficient. Beer was good. We had the draught Sierra Nevada IPA and Anchor Steam Beer our favourites. Address: 243 O'Farrell Street, San Francisco, CA 94102

Johnny Foley's.

Sadly next day we left San Francisco and flew back to Hong Kong. It had been a wonderful trip.

Posted by irenevt 05:22 Archived in USA Tagged san francisco

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I love your little racoon. My uncle had a pet racoon when I was very young. Generally, they are a nuisance because they are so smart that they can get into nearly anything . . . and do.

You didn't go into the DeYoung Museum or the Legion of Honor. You have to return. When you return, let me know and you can come over to Sacramento and see our Golden Gate Bridge. It really is golden but it's call Tower Bridge. We'll take you to the Crocker (remember Charles Crocker?) Art Museum and the wonderful Railway Museum in our Old Town. BTW, have you read "Men to Match My Mountains" by Irving Stone? It's about the Big Four you mentioned a couple posts back. If you haven't read it, visit your library and find a copy. Interesting history.

Super blog.

by Beausoleil

Thank you so much. We would love to return some day and it would be great to meet up and see your home town.

I did not realise racoons could be pets.I found it really cute.

All the best,


by irenevt

I enjoyed this blog, lovely pictures.I"ll not get to SF or HK, so this was great. All the best Alec.

by alectrevor

Thank you for visiting, Alec.

by irenevt

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