Chinatown in San Francisco

We arrived in San Francisco (SF) after a wonderful 10 days travelling across the US my AFS family.

On arrival in SF a number of little irritating things happened. Trevor discovered that he had left his brand new Royal Caribbean cap on the plane, the Uber service would not connect on my phone and the taxi took us to the wrong hotel. We were directed to down the hill for 2 blocks – SF is very steep – but they could not tell us whether to turn left or right at the intersection. Off we went down the hill with our suitcases and backpacks irritated because we used a taxi to save us walking with our luggage, especially up and down these steep hills.

Tram in intersectionThe tram has to stop in the intersection as the hills are too steep

A shop owner on the corner directed us up the hill for 2 full blocks. His shop was filled with very beautiful but delicate ornaments and things so I had to be very careful. The average price of any item was $200. It was quite a climb with a set of stairs halfway up, not for disabled or elderly to undertake unless very fit.

Items in shop 5Gorgeous fragile merchandise in a Chinese shop

We arrived at the Grant Hotel which was nowhere near as grand as the one to which we had been taken incorrectly. All staff were Chinese and spoke little English but were generally friendly. We registered and went to our room which was very comfortable. We decided to spend the afternoon exploring the area and so unwind. We went to the front desk and asked for ideas on where interesting places are. The young lady who spoke the best English said that there was Chinatown down the road: “How far?” “Not sure”. “Left or right?” “Not sure”. We realised that we would not get too far with any more questions so decided to find our own way as they had no map nor any pamphlets for anything.

Grant Hotel signEntrance to the Grant Hotel and buildings in Bush Street

Church of Our Lady of VictoriesChurch of Our Lady of Victories opp the Grant Hotel

We went back down the road up which we had earlier climbed and try our luck. It turned into a most interesting afternoon. On one corner we met up with the hop on/hop off bus and were pleased to learn that we could catch it there in the morning. One question answered without problem!

One more hill down and there, on the left, was the Chinatown Arch and all the beautiful architecture as well as many more shops like the one I had entered earlier. It was a most fascinating area to wander through and we actually chatted to a couple of the shop owners. One woman told us that she and her husband had had 3 such shops, all in the same block, for over 40 years but they wanted to sell so everything was half-price. Sounded good until you saw the original price and she would not take no for an answer. Even though we were on holiday she would get it delivered to our home address free of charge. She even followed us out into the street to try everything to get a sale.

Chinese ArchThe Chinese Arch

Animal statues outside the shop

Animal statues including the 3 monkeys

Ent to shopEntrance to one of the shops

We continued down the hill to find that we were in the financial district of the area. Instead of beautifully designed and decorated buildings there were concrete edifices with marble veneers. There were fewer pedestrians but those that were there were in smart suits and carried brief cases. So different in a space of a couple of blocks.

When we returned to the hotel, tired and thirsty, we discovered that we had to pay for plain coffee, not something we had experienced at any other hotel, and it was $10 per cup on card only. On principle we stayed with water. 

One of the main reasons I chose the particular room for us as it said it had a bath but when we came to use it there was no plug. Phoning Reception was a most impossible experience. There was now a young man on duty and he spoke less English than the 3 day staff together. Even when I realised that it is called a stopper in the US and that I wished to use the tub instead of the bath he sort of understood and replied, “All in trash!” The following morning we spoke to the day staff who said they would sort it out. When we returned that evening a brand new one was handed to us. We did not expect that.

About Me

I was born into the early part of the Baby Boomer generation, the 3rd of what came to be a family of 6 daughters. Although both our parents, who are now deceased, had been raised in rural Natal (now KwaZulu-Natal) and the 2 eldest daughters were born in a country town, the other 4 of us were all born at home in Durban. Read More

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