Postcard 19.3: San Francisco, California


I didn’t know I had family in the Bay Area until I attended a family reunion on the Big Island of Hawaii in July. There, I met my dad’s cousin Sharyn and her husband Tim, who live in Roseville, about 100 miles northeast of San Francisco. I got in touch with them a few weeks before my trip so we could plan to get together during one of the days I was there. So on Sunday, they — along with Sharyn’s sister Karen — made the drive over to show me the best of San Francisco.

Twin Peaks
After a quick stop at San Francisco State University, where their daughter attends college, we headed over to Twin Peaks — two hills at 900 ft in elevation — a lookout point that offers spectacular views of the city. It was a gorgeous day, with barely a cloud in the sky, albeit the fog that rolled over the Golden Gate Bridge. But even the fog created a heavenly atmosphere.

Twin Peaks -- two hills at 900 ft in elevation -- offers spectacular views of the city.
Twin Peaks — two hills at 900 ft in elevation — offers spectacular views of the city.

Lunchtime was just around the corner so we stopped off in the Chinatown district to have dim sum at a Chinese restaurant called City View.

Comparing City View with other dim sum restaurants I’ve eaten at in the past, the ambiance was quieter and more upscale.

As the waitresses pushed carts our way — stacked with a variety of bite-sized dumplings prepared on small plates — we grabbed everything from honey walnut shrimp to look fun rice noodles to chicken feet. And I think I speak for everyone when I say that we weren’t disappointed by our choices.

City View -- a dim sum restaurant in San Francisco's Chinatown -- serves up everything from dumplings to chicken feet to pork buns.
City View — a dim sum restaurant in San Francisco’s Chinatown — serves up everything from dumplings to chicken feet to pork buns.

After lunch, we strolled Chinatown for a bit. I’ve only been to a few Chinatowns in the past — including Honolulu’s, Seattle’s and Los Angeles’ — but in my opinion, San Francisco’s was by far the cleanest and most reminiscent of some areas of China itself. Cheap food and souvenir shops lined the long and steep streets that made up the 10-block span of Chinatown.

Cheap shops and restaurants make up the 10-block span of San Francisco’s Chinatown.
Chinatown grocery store sells dried shrimp and other goods.
A group of senior citizens gather to play cards in a Chinatown park.

Coit Tower
When looking out at the San Francisco city skyline, Coit Tower — a skinny concrete cylinder protruding from the top of a hill — is often the center of attention. But the view from the tower area itself proves equally as impressive.

A statue of Christopher Columbus stands in front of Coit Tower.

We made a quick stop here for some closeup photos of the tower as well as the view of tiny white sailboats floating along the calm blue San Francisco Bay.

The view from Coit Tower shows sailboats floating atop calm blue waters.

“The Princess Diaries” Grove High School
Before visiting, my views and perspectives of the city were shaped by what I had seen in TV shows and movies. But at the same time, I secretly hoped to see these landmarks — made famous by these films — come alive.

Tim and Sharyn were nice enough to take me to a few of these shows’ film locations to see them in person and take photos as proof that I saw them in real life!

We first went to Grove High School, where Mia (Anne Hathaway’s character) made her transition from awkward teenager to a sophisticated young woman in “The Princess Diaries.” To my surprise, the building wasn’t actually a school — it’s a private residence!

The building used as a high school in “The Princess Diaries” is actually a private residence on Lyon Street.

I could almost put myself in Mia’s shoes, walking down the street leading up to Grove High with her partner in crime, Lily.

“Mrs. Doubtfire” House
Our next stop was the famed “Mrs. Doubtfire” home located on Steiner Street. Growing up, this movie was always one I could watch over and over again on my VHS player. Scenes of Robin Williams posed as Euphegenia Doubtfire — with Aerosmith’s “Dude Looks Like a Lady” in the background — still replay vividly in my mind when I think of this film.

When I saw the house up close and personal, I could clearly visualize Mrs. Doubtfire walking up the stairs, eager for more time spent with the Hillard kids.

The famous “Mrs. Doubtfire” home sits on the corner of Steiner Street.

“Full House” House
After snapping a few photos, I typed “‘Full House’ house” into my Google search bar on my phone . “Alamo Square” kept on popping up as the Google result, but I was certain that the Alamo Square homes were only featured in the “Full House” introduction scene.

One website gave us the address to the real “Full House” home which we decided to plug into the GPS and pursue.

As we neared a street of narrow, tightly packed homes with protruding windows, the home which the GPS pointed us to looked similar to the one shown in “Full House,” but was dark blue instead of white. After a quick comparison with the photo I pulled up on Google images, we came to the conclusion that the house was indeed the “Full House” home. Not only did the style of the home match up, but the “No Trespassing” sign was a dead giveaway.

Although most of “Full House” was filmed in a studio, the home — located on Broderick Street — was often shown in transition scenes.

Ocean Beach
I was already falling in love with this city’s beautiful skyline and bay views, but I didn’t realize there were stunning beach views as well.

Tim assured me that northern California’s beaches may not look like Hawaii’s, but they are still picturesque in their own ways.

Ocean Beach runs along the west coast of San Francisco and is also home to the Sutro Baths, once the largest swimming pool complex in the late 19th century. In 1966, a fire burned down the building that housed the baths, according to the National Park Service, but its ruins still remain.

Although Sutro Baths burned down in the ’60s, its ruins can still be seen from a lookout point on Ocean Beach.

Tim was right: The view of the beach was simply ethereal. It reminded me of the Oregon Coast, with bright rays of sunlight seeping through small breaks of ominous clouds, creating a soft glow on the fine sand; its calm rolling waves gently meeting giant rock formations.

The rays of sun that shine through dark clouds create a soft glow on the beach’s fine sand.
Dark, ominous clouds and giant rock formations are what make this beach’s appearance similar to the Oregon Coast.
Giant rocks, seagulls and a mountain backdrop make up the scenery of San Francisco’s Ocean Beach.

This beach might not have been as tropical as the ones I’m familiar with, but it was equally, if not more breathtaking.

Musée Mécanique
Before I said goodbye to Tim, Sharyn and Karen, they offered to make one last stop: Musée Mécanique — an antique arcade located at Fisherman’s Wharf. I was eager to check this place out mostly because I wanted to reenact a scene from “The Princess Diaries,” where Julie Andrews’ character arm wrestles with one of the coin-operated machines.

The entrance of Musee Mecanique welcomes guests into a vintage arcade.

I got my opportunity to try my luck against the machine — which actually ended up being quite a challenge!

I take on an arm wrestling match with a coin-operated machine.
When activated, the Laffing Sal machine — featured in “The Princess Diaries” — appears to laugh at spectators.

Most machines were fairly cheap — about 50 cents to operate each. It’s interesting to think about how today’s way of having fun can end up being so costly and complex. But in a bygone era, these inexpensive and clever machines offered such simple and mindless forms of entertainment.

Activating this machine enables four men to move their legs as if dancing.


Not only did I enjoy a day getting to know family better, but I also had a fulfilling behind-the-scenes tour of San Francisco. I’m truly grateful for their kindness and willingness to show me the best of this wonderful city.

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