The Strangest Place in San Francisco

21 11 2007

Yesterday Hugo and I continued our quest to visit all the tourist traps of San Francisco. We’d already been to the Ferry Building, Chinatown, and attempted to go to the zoo. But yesterday’s destination was the biggest trap of all — Pier 39, a huge collection of crap souvenir shops, chowder-in-a-sourdough-bowl purveyors, and bewildered visitors wearing white sneakers and sports teams paraphernalia.*

We hopped on the J to the Embarcadero then boarded an old streetcar on the F line. These old cars, from places like Milan and Philadelphia are very nicely restored. Unfortunately, they also lurch a lot — something Hugo, who was trying to nap in the Bjorn, found annoying.  We had intended to take the F to Fisherman’s Wharf but deboarded at Pier 39 instead. Truthfully, I’m not sure if there’s a difference between the two, and we just decided to get off where most of the other tourists did. The scene we entered was truly the strangest place I’ve ever been in the City — and I lived in the Mission for many years. Think of every lame pedestrian mall, tchotchke seller, saltwater taffy hawker, unfunny t-shirt shop, funnel cake maker, and terrible overpriced corporate chain restaurant you’ve ever seen and drop it onto one of the most beautiful spots in America: the edge of San Francisco Bay with views of the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz Island. That, my friends, is Pier 39. Suffice it to say, Hugo was not impressed.

What posseses a visitor to this fair town to pay for an airline ticket and hotel room only to drop a load of cash at the Official Bubba Gump’s Merchandise Store? Did you really travel all the way from France, or Austria, or Des Moines just to eat at the “Salsa Grill” and shop for crap at “Treasure Ireland“?

I’m not upset at the tourists, don’t get me wrong. And I’m not one of these people that sneer at tourists (well, sometimes, when they stop in the middle of a sidewalk and block foot traffic), after all, unless you never leave home, you’re a tourist at some point. We’re tourists everywhere we go, whether it’s Vietnam, or South America, or France. I’m just bewildered that places like Pier 39 can thrive.

We didn’t stick around too long. Hugo was getting bored, even by the sight of the sea lions raising a ruckus. At the end of the video you can catch him just starting to open his eyes.

 *Yes, yes, I have way too many FC Barcelona t-shirts (as will my son), but somehow I feel that doesn’t count.





2 responses

21 11 2007
Sandra C


25 11 2007

Great stories… Would you be interested in having your blog entry featured on my website?

Byron, The Bay Area Critic

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