San Francisco (part 4) – Lombart Street, SF City Hall, Ocean Beach, Japantown & Chinatown

Posted on: November 11, 2014


I went to San Francisco again last October to find a rental apartment prior to my permanent move here. At the same time, my husband had a company event to attend to. So, while he was going to the conferences, I explored San Francisco by myself. During my previous visits to SF, I only went to the famous attractions as recommended by TripAdvisor or travel books. This time, I revisited few of the attractions and went to some local yarn shops (I crochet and I need to know where to get my supply when I move here). For a female traveller, SF is generally a safe city to travel alone. There are parts of the city that you want to avoid. For example, I wanted to go to a yarn store in Mission area. I googled the direction and it gave me the BART station where I should get off and the walking direction to the shop. However, when I searched for the corresponding BART station, a lot of locals give bad reviews about the surroundings of the station (their main complaint was that there were a lot of homeless people and drunk people around the area). This made me uncomfortable since I was really new in the city. Fortunately, there is another alternative to get there without getting off at that sketchy station – although it would take a bit longer.  My suggestion is that always do a little research about your destination, especially if it’s a bit off where the people usually go.

When we arrived on Friday morning, me and my husband rented a car to go around the city. We already visited Lombard Street in 2007. However, my husband never actually drove on San Francisco’s most crookedest street. If you want to drive through the eight sharp turns street, go to Russian Hill area between Hyde St. and Leavenworth St or type this address on your GPS: 1018 Lombard Street, San Francisco, California 94109 (ref). This attraction can be very crowded with lots of tourists buses. If you don’t want to drive to the area, you can take Hyde Street cable car to bring you to the upper part of the crooked street. For more information, click here.

Lombart St

Lombard Street

In the evening, we went to San Francisco City Hall. The exterior of this building reminded me of Les Invalides (Napoleon’s tomb) in Paris. The present city hall was actually built 2 blocks away from the original building that was ruined during 1906 earthquake. Across the street, there are California Public Utilities Commission headquarter building, San Francisco Opera, and Louise M. Davies Symphony Hall (the home of San Francisco Symphony).

SF City Hall

San Francisco City Hall

SF Symphony Hall

California Public Utilities Commission (left); San Francisco Opera (mid); Louise M. Davies Symphony Hall (right)

The following day, we decided to explore another side of San Francisco using public transportation. The BART is a rapid transit system connecting the Bay area (north of San Mateo County to San Francisco to East Bay). It has five lines with lots of stations (see here for the list of stations). If you’re using smart phone, google map automatically gives you the BART station names whenever you choose the public transit or you can check its official website to plan your trip. The ticket fare is based on the distance you are going to travel, i.e. which station you’ll be getting off. There are charts of fee on the ticket vending machines to determine how much you should pay. These vending machines accept cash, debit card, or credit card. If you think buying each ticket for each trip is a hassle, you can buy a Clipper card. Clipper is re-loadable card that you can use time over time by tapping the card to the sensor at the entry gates. This way, you don’t have to bother figuring out how much you should pay on your trip. Watch out for the balance of the card every time you scan it on the gate. If you are short of balance prior exiting the station, there will be a vending machine inside to re-fill your card. Clipper card is sold at some BART station and most Walgreens stores.

Muni is another public transportation only in the city of San Francisco that includes buses, light rail train, and cable car. Click here for its official website. For cable car the fee is $6.00 for a single trip; while for muni bus and rail the fee is $2.25 for 90 minutes (that means you can do multiple transfers to another bus or rail within 90 minutes without paying for another fee – ref). If you paying the ticket by cash on board, be sure to bring exact fare as it won’t give you any change. The driver will give you a piece of paper as proof of payment so you can do multiple transfers within 90 minutes. However, if you are a Clipper card holder, you can just tap the card at the machine at the front or back door of the buses and muni. You must tap your Clipper card every time you enter even though it is within 90 minutes period. The system is smart enough not to re-charge you within this period. Sometimes, there’s a ticket officer with a scanner to check whether you tap your card when you’re entering or not. Most of the historical muni buses are travelling within the city (see the picture below). The inside of the buses is kept as vintage as possible. It felt like we were travelling in the past 🙂



Since we didn’t have any plan for that day, we decided to take #5L bus toward Ocean Beach. This bus took us pass through the southern part of Golden Gate Park before ending at the Ocean Beach. The bus driver told us to take a short hike on the rugged staircase (at La Playa Street) leading to the Sutro Height Park at the top. It gave us a beautiful view of the beach. In fact, it is one of the highest points in the city where you can have a view of San Francisco. This area was actually ‘Playland at the Beach’ amusement park until it closed its gate in 1972. The bottom of the area is called Sutro Dunes. This place is now used to re-introduce Californian native plants (ref). Along the way uphill, we saw cactus, succulents, and even small banana trees!

Sutro Bath2

Sutro Dunes and view from the stairs leading to Sutro Height Park

At the northern side, we saw the famous restaurant Cliff House overlooking the beautiful Pacific Ocean. On the further north, you can see the ruin of Sutro Baths, the famous swimming pool complex built in the late 19th century. We didn’t climb up to the park and decided to head to the beach instead. Ocean Beach stretches 3.5 miles along the west coast of San Francisco. The white sandy beach is a popular destination for family and definitely a great place to enjoy the sunset.

Ocean Beach

Sutro Bath

Sunset at Ocean Beach

On Monday, I braved myself to find a great brunch cafe. Yelp recommended Tartine Bakery & Cafe in Mission area (at the corner of Guerrero St. & 18th St.). They offer various type of sandwiches ranging from $13-14.25 a portion. I ordered Jambon Royale & Gruyère and thought it was a pretty expensive sandwich so it’d better be worth it! And I was right! After waiting for 5 minutes, the waiter brought me a plate with a sandwich cut in 3 big pieces! I could only ate 2 smaller pieces and wrapped the big piece for my hubby. The sandwich itself was awesome! The generous amount of ham and gruyere in between 2 crispy yet moist bread is just nyummmm! Later, when my hubby ate the leftover, he said that the sandwich was really good! Most of yelp reviewer said that the Banana Cream Tart is a must try and it was delicious!!! The curd is not too sweet and it has lots of banana slices inside. I also bought a small Lemon Meringue Tart that is also delicious but not as good as the banana tart. Another pastry I bought was the flaky and delicious Frangipane Croissant (almond butter croissant). *Notice how many time I repeat the word delicious? Yes! Tartine’s pastries are awesome!* Check out their menu here.

Tartine Bakery

Tartine Bakery & Cafe: Royal Jambon (left) and banana cream tart & lemon meringue tart (right)

After a satisfying brunch, I went to ImagiKnit, one of yarn stores in the city. This must be the yarn heaven for knitter and crocheter around the bay area. The shop sells hundreds varieties of yarn. There are shelf after shelf of colourful yarns. At the very back of the store, there is a small section for buttons. There is also a yarn winder that can be used for free if you buy the yarn there. I must warn you that most of the yarns are high quality designer or boutique yarns so the price is a bit higher than the ones at Michaels. I will definitely come back here in the future to buy some luxurious yarns for a special project.


ImagiKnit yarn store

Flax is another art & craft supply store. Occupying a vast warehouse-like building, it has various supplies from sketch books, painting supply, art pens, etc. At the right wing of the store, it has a kid section containing creative toys for kids. Nearby the cashier area, there are several stands with colourful ribbons that is sold by yard. At the back of the store, there is a big room with grey drawers filled with hundreds of scrap paper! This is really a heaven for scrapbookers!


Flax art & craft store

The following day, I went to Japantown that is located on Post Street, between Fillmore Street (to the west) and Laguna Street (to the east). The five-tiered Peace Pagoda is the icon of the J Town. There are lots of Japanese restaurants inside the Japan centre (including Benihana) and also around the neighbourhood. I googled best dessert near Japantown and it recommended mochi from Benkyodo Co. I bought the green tea mochi (pictured) and red bean mochi. They are bigger than the store bought mochi and super chewy but not overly sweet. Nyummm… I also wanted to try the crunchy coffee cake from Yasukochi’s Sweet Shop but they run out of the slices ones 😦 This shop is actually located inside Super Mira Supermarket at the corner of Sutter St. and Buchanan St. Many people in yelp recommended to get there early for the crunchy coffee cake because it run out fast. I will go back here to get the famous cake!

Inside the Japan Centre, there are lots of Japanese stores, such as Daiso ($2+ store) and Kinokuniya bookstore. The Daiso store has pretty much similar items to the ones we usually visit in Vancouver, BC. On the other hand, Kinokuniya bookstore has lots of authentic Japanese books! I totally adore Japanese art & craft books! Not only do the pictures are pretty, the instruction is easy to follow even I don’t understand Japanese! My dad used to bought me lots of these books whenever he travelled to Japan and honestly, I would buy more if only I had all the money in the world hahaha….


Japantown: mochi from Benkyodo Co. (top) and cute books & plush toys (bottom)

The next day, I had to go to Chinatown to sign up for utilities account for our new rental apartment. Walking around this area made me crave for a Chinese dim sum. *yes… we ate too much Western food during that week* After I visiting the utilities office, I bought 2 cups of bubble tea at 1+ Tea House (one for me and one for my hubby). I then walked to my hubby’s office to meet him. Unfortunately, he had to rush to a meeting, so I had to have lunch alone. I bought a dim sum combo at Yank Sing 2 Go and ate at the small siting area in front of the store. If you want to dine in the restaurant, they have a spacious room next door. Craving fulfilled and I was one happy girl! 🙂


China Town

I will continue posting interesting attractions around San Francisco and the Bay area since I live here now! So, stay tuned for my new adventure 🙂


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