I (Might Have) Left My Heart in San Francisco

I haven’t had time to update my blog these past few days… the work onboard is endlessly hectic! I kinda missed sitting here in front of my laptop, leaning back and just letting my fingers play along the keyboard. But I guess I have to make this post quick, before work catches up with me again!

It has been over a month since the ship was in San Francisco. We sailed our way into port in broad daylight! As we slid into harbor, we were warmly welcomed by two of Frisco’s most famous landmarks — the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz!

San Francisco

Cruise ship Balmoral passengers and crew — jumped out to deck and took their share of Instagrammable selfies!

We had our grand entrance as the ship passed under the elegant yet imposing superstructure that was the Golden Gate Bridge. Its “International Orange” color starkly stood out from the landscape, and as we closed in we had a good chance to admire the art-deco lines of one of the most iconic man-made structures in the world.

Being San Francisco’s most famous landmark and symbol, it’s hardly surprising that almost everyone — passengers and crew — jumped out to deck and took their share of Instagrammable selfies! The 2,737-meter span of the bridge stretched on either side of our points of view, proudly standing as the lifeline that gave San Francisco its first boost as a primary driver of the US economy.

Alcatraz

A little further into the harbor, the notorious Alcatraz stood somberly. The cold waves of the the Bay crashed into its rocky isle, making a show for us as we glide our way smoothly to our assigned berth. Once known as an inescapable prison, Alcatraz used to be the home of several high-profile convicts. Of course, that reputation just paved the way for the marvelous escape that Clint Eastwood famously portrayed in Hollywood.

Today, the prison island is a famous tourist destination. It is a National Historic Landmark, and has a host of exhibits to educate visitors about the various activities the island played host to in its history. Did you know that Alcatraz was also the site of a military base, a military prison, and Native American activist activities at varying points in history? In the prison house itself, Cell Number 181 is a famous attraction — it was the cell where notorious mobster Al Capone was incarcerated during his stint in Alcatraz!

Here’s my not-so-Instagrammable shot of Alcatraz — hey, I think it’s not half-bad!

Alcatraz

The Alcatraz viewed from cruise ship Balmoral.

Pier 39

From these two sights, our mammoth cruise ship inched its way into Pier 35, our home for the duration of our stay in Frisco. By around 1PM, the ship was already moored alongside. Our berth is particularly fortuitous, since we’re just a walking distance to Pier 39! This is the entertainment center of the San Francisco piers, complete with everything from virtual reality rides to shops and restos. There are also different marine animals here, such as sea lions and others found in the Aquarium of the Bay (another spot within Pier 39).

Pier 39

Pier 39

Of course, I had my own plan here in San Francisco. As mentioned in a previous post, I will be meeting some of my high school classmates (and a cousin) while here! Of course, I also wanted to spend some time visiting the Golden Gate Bridge. This was a plan that was two years in the making — I had actually started planning for this back in 2017! Now that it’s 2019, I finally got to tick two boxes off my bucket list: hold this mini-reunion, and finally get to know the great Golden Gate a bit better.

Golden Gate’s vantage point.

With my classmates and cousin at the Golden Gate’s vantage point.

It was my classmates and cousin who drove me to the Golden Gate’s vantage point. From here, I could take all the great pics that I want! And I’m talking those kinds of pictures that appear on magazine pages and posters — this is where they’ve been shot. While our ship passing under the bridge provided us a different viewpoint earlier that day, this one where I’m at is something else entirely. It’s also fun knowing that there’s a designated viewing spot for the Golden Gate, complete with a souvenir shop! This last one has all the basic stuff from t-shirts to fridge magnets and mugs. Read my post about the Golden Gate here!

Dinner at Isla Restaurant

Of course, a visit to San Francisco wouldn’t be complete without treating my taste buds to some tasty Filipino dishes! I’ve been craving for some home-made Pinoy food, so it’s really great to have a taste of this even if I’m not yet in the Philippines. I’m talking about a sumptuous dinner at Isla Restaurant, in San Bruno, California. It’s about an hour’s drive from the Golden Gate, and is just plain perfect for those craving for some original Filipino dishes while in San Francisco. They offer a host of mouth-watering Filipino meals, from pansit, to liempo, to crispy pata, to chicharon, to sisig, to ginataan… of course the staples (adobo, sinigang, nilaga, tinola, etc.) are also all there. Oh, and they have meal deals, too!

 

Isla Restaurant

At Isla restaurant with cousin Bryan Gaje and high school classmates – Fred and Beng Generoso (with daughter Faye) and Rene Paulines. (left to right)

I can say that my San Francisco visit was truly remarkable. Aside from the reunion and the bridge, I also managed to squeeze in more of the city’s highlights:

Palace of Fine Arts

Palace of Fine Arts

Palace of Fine Arts

We passed Palace of Fine Arts on the way to the Golden Gate — though unfortunately we weren’t able to go inside. I was taken by the building’s architecture just looking out of the car’s window! I missed seeing the beauty inside, since the traffic was particularly terrible that day and we had no time to stop over. Thanks to my colleague April Camille Malig, though, for lending me photo!

Cable Car

Cable Car

Cable Car by Lars Olav

Also while on the road, I was able to see one of Frisco’s famous landmarks. I didn’t get a chance to take a good pic, so thanks to Lars-Olav Kvalsvik for allowing me to use this photo of the cable car! This ride is pretty historic, its original routes dating back to 1873. The queue to the cars can be pretty long, but I’m told it’s worth it!

Oracle Park

Oracle Park

Oracle Park

Of course one shouldn’t miss the Oracle Park, which is home to the San Francisco Giants! My cousin took me there on the day he drove me back to the ship from a sleepover in his home in Sacramento! It’s the quintessential ballpark, its clean and efficient lines hiding a wealth of high-tech and luxurious features. I’m talking about wait and concierge services, a garden, a fan vault (and fan lot) for the Giants, the McCovey Cove, and more! Of course one can’t help but marvel at the huge space that 63,000 fans could occupy in a game.

As I type this, we’re now back in the Atlantic side of the world. Yes, that means we’ve once more gone through the fun journey that is the Panama Canal! We may have left the Pacific, but I’m still turning over the events of my San Francisco visit in my head. That, and the other things that happened during that part of the cruise.

Mini-reunion photos:

If there was a takeaway for that leg of the journey, it’s the simple fact that the world is indeed huge. By this, I mean there are always new things to do and discover. One can read all the travel blogs, guides, and reviews there are, but still be surprised at the things one will see when he’s in that new place. That’s the true wonder of traveling — not just knowing what to do and where to go, not just planning and going places, but actually being there, reveling in the pulse of that tourist destination. Because in the end, it’s not our travel notes or the pictures we take that will truly matter. It’s how dear the experience became in our lives simply because we experienced them.

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