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The Barbary Coast Trail is a scenic 4 mile walk and, if you follow the guide book, a cable car ride through some of the most interesting and suprisingly flat areas of San Francisco. A series of medallions with directional arrows designate the route of the trail and with the exception of the park in North Beach are in exceptional condition. We started at the beginning of the trail at the original mint and made our way through Union Square, China Town, Jackson Square, North Beach ending the walk through Fisherman's wharf and Ghiradelli Square.
I really enjoyed being out in the sunshine but it is always enlightening to see the city through the eyes of a tourist. With our book in hand the locals asked us if we needed assistance, the panhandlers asked us for cash and we got to feel and smell the lively city we call home. I especially enjoyed having the book fill in some of the seamier details of SF. Maiden Lane used to bump up against the churches lined around Union Square and was known for its bordellos instead of it fashionable shops. We also found the fortune cookie factory and watched as two older women operated these huge machines, folding and inserting fortunes. We bought a bag of cookies for a dollar. Jackson Square was far more interesting than North Beach proper. The older buildings, remnants from the past seemed to have character though they did not have the cute Italian waiters asking if we wanted an early dinner ... trade offs!
The highlight of the discovery of the Jack Early Park. The JEP is more of a stair case to an observation deck, that if a guide book hadn't told me its location would have seemed like a private alleyway. From the bird's nest view, you can see the Golden Gate bridge, Angel Island, Alcatraz and more unobstructed. Fantastic! Overall, it is a great way to spend an afternoon.