San Francisco’s Historic Ferry Building

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The weather gods sent us a flawless day to wander San Francisco. Bob and I targeted the historic Ferry Building to enjoy the sun and warm, and indulge a bit of browsing.  It’s a destination easily combined with a trip to Alcatraz, Sausalito, or Fisherman’s Wharf. We decided on the simpler pleasure of hanging out on a bench sipping coffee and watching the Bay. It was the perfect diversion from busy lives.

After soaking in the scenery we treated our palates to the upscale Slanted Door which blends Vietnamese cooking techniques with fresh local ingredients. The restaurant offers ala carte and fixed price menus, each with a dizzying number of choices. Instead of a main dish, we shared several rolls and appetizers, including crispy vegetarian imperial rolls, Vietnamese crêpe with shrimp, and Hanoi style halibut with vermicelli noodles, fresh dill and pineapple-anchovy sauce.  The thought of those flavors should set your taste buds tingling.

Purchasing Olive Oil

Purchasing Olive Oil

Teas for every mood

Teas for every mood

After lunch we wandered halls with magnificent mosaic floors and glass and brick arches. Shoppers milled around us; a few licked ice cream cones and a dozen stood in line to satisfy their sweet tooth with Scharffen Berger’s chocolates. True love was Bob buying me a box of Scharffen Berger squares to take home. The stalls and shops display a diversity of fare that create a foodie heaven where you can mingle with true food-lovers in search of the perfect cheese, wine, pastry, meat, tea, or other gastronomic delight.

Scharffen Berger: for the discriminating sweet tooth

Scharffen Berger: for the discriminating sweet tooth

Who knew there were this many kinds of mushrooms?

Who knew there were this many kinds of mushrooms?

How about a bouquet of flowers to take home?

How about a bouquet of flowers to take home?

First opened in 1898, the Ferry Building sits on the site of the prior wooden Ferry House. In earlier days ferry travel brought as many as 50,000 residents a day from the East Bay and Marin to the city. Although the heyday of ferry commuting is over, some Marin County residents continue to find it an economical and less stressful way to manage the morning commute.

Step out behind for a view of the water

Step Out Behind the Ferry Building for a View of the Bay Bridge

The Ferry Building was the brainchild of architect A. Page Brown, and its 660 feet length supports the world’s largest foundation for a building over water.  Even the earthquakes of 1906 and 1989 couldn’t destroy the building’s grandeur. Its clock tower was modeled after the 12th century bell tower in the Seville Cathedral in Spain and provides an easily recognized San Francisco landmark to guide visitors to the Ferry Building’s doors.

 

video: Historic Journey Down Market Street Towards the Ferry Building.

 

When the bridges opened (Bay Bridge 1936 and Golden Gate Bridge 1937) the ferry commute was mostly forgotten, and the Ferry Building fell into disuse. The sad situation threatened doom for this architectural treasure, but the city recognized a fresh opportunity and turned the large open space into a retail project. Today, with its historic character intact, it draws locals and travelers alike. Everyone enjoys the dramatic views of the San Francisco Bay while shopping, lunching, or meeting up with friends. 

The Ferry Building is liveliest on Saturday morning. If you enjoy crowd watching, that’s the day to go. In front of the building an organic farmers’ market sets up several days of the week, year around. You’ll find the most vendors on the weekend.   San Francisco city guides offer free walking tours several days a week for those who want to learn more about the Ferry Building’s architecture and history.

The San Francisco Ferry Building is located on the Embarcadero, near the end of Market Street. If you drive, there is parking at 75 Howard Street. We chose to take the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) from the East Bay and got off at the first San Francisco stop – Embarcadero.  From there it was a short two block hike, and we perused craft booths that lined the way.

Colorful and interesting treasures to take home

Colorful and interesting treasures to take home

For additional information go to ferrybuildingmarketplace.com or call (415) 983-8030.

 

 

 

 

Julie Albrecht Royce, Travel Adventures Editor, is the author of Traveling Michigan's Sunset Coast and Traveling Michigan's Thumb, both published by Thunder Bay Press. She writes a monthly column for Wandering Educators.

 

 

All photos courtesy and copyright Bob and Julie Royce

 

 

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