San Francisco: Downtown and Chinatown

Our first day of our California, Oahu holiday vacay was spent in San Francisco! We stayed outside of San Francisco at the Hyatt House Belmont/Redwood Shores residential hotel in Belmont purely for the reason they had a gym and kitchen. We tend to stay if possible self catering as it saves money, allows more time to explore not being tied to finding vegan restaurants, check out supermarkets and we get to have breakfast of our choice. The gym because P knew I’d go crazy if I just did hotel room workouts for 2 weeks. His ears would hurt.

Another reason why we stayed outside was after calculating Uber costs it was cheaper to hire a car which worked in our favour over the next few days. P reserved parking ahead and there was a little culture shock driving to the parking. He picked one of cheaper carparks which was I think in the one of the roughest inner city neighbourhoods. He didn’t know! Neither of us did! $25 all day parking. Others were $35 plus. Lots of homeless people (there are homeless people in Barcelona but not to the extent of San Francisco. This was a whole other level of homelessness) lining the sidewalks, a lot high. I think it was the open drug use and it’s affect that was the eye opener. It was hard not to stare which I knew was the one thing I shouldn’t be doing. While I was curious how they ended up homeless, I got a feeling most were looking out for each other as tents lined the sidewalks. Yes, it made me uncomfortable and at the same time I felt safe. There I said it. The parking turned out to be only a few blocks away from the centre or downtown San Fransisco. Google Maps you know everything!

Driving into San FranciscoDowntown posh part

Okay. I got photosnappy. The chances of visiting San Francisco again are low to never, so I snapped away. It took awhile to get the settings for streets after usually taking nature photos.

One thing I couldn’t get my head around was the lack of winter coats. The temperature was the same as Barcelona. Less humid with more wind but more or less the same. I’m sure we stuck out in our winter coats. People didn’t seem to have coats in any of the places we visited in North California. Maybe because people drive everywhere. January in Spain, people are in winter coats even if the average high is 13-15C. People wore jumpers and winter hats to keep warm. Made no sense to me! If anyone can explain, please explain!

Perhaps the only time I saw people wearing coats was in San Francisco 

After a little shopping at the mall we considered taking a cable car as queues weren’t long, but Chinatown was our goal that day and time was pushing on.

Guard dogF9670

Chinatown while the oldest Chinatown outside of China was a little disappointing. We stuck mostly to the main street though which caters to tourists so maybe this is why. Most stores were gemstones, retail and wholesale jewerly, tourist gift shops or restaurants. Only turning off down a side street we hit gold. A vegetarian vegan Chinese restaurant, Enjoy Vegetarian! One of the handful of times we ate out and the best meal perhaps out! Warm food against the chilly wind! Jasmine tea on arrival and steaming hot food that filled our bellies for the walking ahead 🙂

I don’t know what I expecting as the the only other Chinatown I’ve been to is London’s but it wasn’t this! The murals down streets joining main street were for me the best part of Chinatown. So much detail, colour, creativity, talent and skill in each one! Cross the crosswalks without peeking down a street you miss them.

Terracotta Army I didn’t notice the horses until editing!

With full bellies we crossed through Chinatown towards Pier 39 at perhaps one of the best times time to visit. It was the first day of the Chinese Lunar New Year! Shops were chasing away ghosts with firecrackers. Firecrackers strung up in huge ribbons snaking around and up over store doorways. The noise deafening as they popped. Smoke so thick it lingering afterwards for a few moments. The air filled with the heavy smell of sulphur that tickled and itched my nose. People ran towards the explosions and smoke to catch them. Us included. Perfect time to visit Chinatown!

Pier 39, unsuccessful Ubers back to parking (I think purely of its location) in a post to come. Sometimes yep, I’m quoting Crash Landing On You, sometimes the wrong train takes you to the right station. If we had got an Uber back we would have never experienced San Francisco’s hills walking back with their hidden gems down alleyways, parking that defies gravity and beautiful architecture. It was all under the light of street lights, so don’t judge if during the daytime the magic’s not there!


I’m hoping in a few months travel be it local or international will get back to normal or a new normal. So many people rely on tourism and the Covid-19 virus will for sure impact tourism hard. I think we forget about how much people rely on people for even the basic of things that we don’t notice who.


  1. […] and failing to get an Uber back from Fisherman’s Wharf just up from Pier 39, I think purely on the location of the car park, we decided to walk back to the car. Google maps know everything. Walking to the pier it was flat. […]

  2. says:

    Ha, there were more Chinese New Year celebrations in Chinatowns all over the world than in China, sadly…

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