Saturday, July 21 , 2018, 12:40 pm | A Few Clouds 71º


Judy Crowell: Bay Bridge No Longer ‘Ugly Step-Sister’ to Golden Gate

Sprawling section of San Francisco near the span offers plenty for visitors

The Bay Bridge across San Francisco Bay will provide a dawn-to-dusk extravaganza utilizing 25,000 individual white LED lights.
The Bay Bridge across San Francisco Bay will provide a dawn-to-dusk extravaganza utilizing 25,000 individual white LED lights. (James Ewing photo)

[Click here for gallery of related photos]

Renowned American artist Leo Villareal transformed the Bay Bridge across San Francisco Bay into a dawn-to-dusk extravaganza from 2013 to 2015, utilizing 25,000 individual white LED lights along 1.8 miles of the span to create mesmerizing moving patterns of sparkle.

So entranced were locals and visitors that the state of California commissioned him to turn this temporary wonderland into a permanent exhibit — scheduled to open on Super Bowl Sunday and you won’t want to miss it.

Some of the best views are from the Hotel Vitale, which anchors not only the area surrounding the bridge but the spectacular Ferry Building, Fisherman’s Wharf and Embarcadero, a Spanish word meaning ‘the place to embark.’

I can’t think of a better place to embark from than the boutique Hotel Vitale, with its panoramic views, limestone bathrooms, large workstations with ergonomic desk chairs, penthouse suites with rooftop soaking tubs, and bustling outdoor patio restaurant, Americano.

It’s this section of sprawling San Francisco I want to tell you about.

Fisherman’s Wharf and Pier 39, with its resident sea lions, continue to draw some of the largest crowds to Ghiradelli Square, Cannery Shopping Center, Ripley’s Believe It or Not Museum, Floating Forbes Island Restaurant and Bubba Gump Shrimp Co.

Some of the best views in San Francisco are from the Hotel Vitale. Click to view larger
Some of the best views in San Francisco are from the Hotel Vitale. (Judy Crowell photo)

We did a “been there, done that” and walked back to the spectacular people’s marketplace in the Ferry Building, completed in the Beaux Arts style in 1898.

Built as a terminal for ferries traveling across San Francisco Bay, one could spend an entire day or more wandering around the food/gift hall and never get bored or hungry.

Places to eat are all casual, with The Slanted Door at the top of the price and ‘formality’ chart, although nothing is formal here.

Here the views of the bay are lovely, and the nationally-acclaimed Vietnamese cuisine outstanding; favorites are the vegetarian spring rolls and cellophane noodles with Dungeness crab.

Newly opened is boulibar for a prix fixe menu and fabulous cocktails five nights a week.

Sit at the cheese and dairy bar at Cowgirl Sidekick for a quick, inexpensive breakfast or delicious bowl of soup with salad for lunch. Marketbar offers a Mediterranean menu and Gott’s Roadside has the best doggone milk shakes and hamburgers I’ve ever tasted, but think outside the box and try their mouth-watering ahi tuna burger.

If you prefer to carry-out, most places offer this and every Saturday, Tuesday and Thursday from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., there’s the most incredible Farmer’s Market you’ll ever experience.

Unique gift items are at every turn: glassybaby, Heath Ceramics, The Gardener, Book Passage, The Imperial Tea Court, and charming little packages of chocolates, jellies, stationery, and all sorts of goodies at various stalls.

Westminster chimes resound from the Ferry Building clock every hour and half-hour, and will make you strain your neck to see the beautiful four dials, each 22 feet in diameter atop this 245-foot-high tower, designed after a 12th century Spanish bell tower.

A mile-and-a-half walk or a 5-minute ride away is Saints Peter and Paul Church on Telegraph Hill, known as the “Italian Cathedral of the West.”

As gorgeous on the inside as it is on the outside, it’s where Joe DiMaggio served as an altar boy, and where he was married, the first time.

Second time around, with Marilyn Monroe, they had to settle for posing for pictures on the steps of the church since he had not obtained an annulment from his first marriage.

Right around the corner is an institution: Mama’s on Washington Square for omelets, homemade jams and pastries. Expect a line.

This manageable slice of the multi-faceted, always exciting metropolis of San Francisco claimed my affection. So much more to explore in this vast, beautiful city.

A parorama shows the Ferry Building and the Bay Bridge in San Francisco. Click to view larger
A parorama shows the Ferry Building and the Bay Bridge in San Francisco. (Judy Crowell photo)

— Judy Crowell is a Noozhawk contributing writer, author, freelance travel writer and Santa Barbara resident. She can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). The opinions expressed are her own.

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