The plan was to go to the San Francisco wharves, but immediately I got sidetracked by the Market Street Prototyping Festival. Since it was on for just three days, I went down Market Street looking for them all. In hindsight I should have maybe waited for the next day because some of the displays weren't fully up and running yet.
As someone who was basically only doing BART and walking the rest of downtown San Francisco, I really liked Walk Your City, which was a sort of low-key yet useful way to encourage exploring the city and paying attention to what is around. Where persons are likely to pause, a sign points informs you of a feature not too far away. And in a busy city where you are more likely to dodge and weave around pedestrians than you are to look around at the stores and institutions around you, this can be a nice way to call attention to city features. If it does take off, I hope it doesn't get co-opted by advertising.
Along the way I also found two concrete concaves, like radar dishes, set many meters apart from each other. If you sat in the seat right in front of it, you could talk to the person sitting in the opposite dish. It was an interesting way to engage people, as well as to ice-break talking to total strangers. Darned if I could remember exactly where it was, though. But I seem to remember it being near an artificial park with bridge over an artificial stream.
It was approaching lunch time for me and I spotted Boudin Bakery & Cafe on Market Street. As I had mentioned to my Berkeley friend that I was headed to check out the Wharf, she mentioned having had a very nice clam chowder at "Boudin Bakery" (there are various outlets, often with a slightly different name but all with "Boudin").
As serendipity would have it, the 619 Market Street location was probably the best choice for having their "famous" Clam Chowder in Sourdough Bowl because the wharf locations charged almost $1.50 more for the same (which still comes in near or under many other restaurants on the Wharf).
Dining in also gets you the all-important bathroom code -- just about everywhere in San Francisco, bathrooms are for "paying customers only", enforced by code locks.
Boudin was my first experience of San Francisco chowder, and from that point I decided to keep an eye out for more chowder when I ate my way across the Wharf on another day.
My first experience of the space was an incredible contrast to bustling downtown Market Street and sunny San Francisco weather. Step inside and you are suddenly in a dim, cool, grotto complete with the soothing sounds of an artificial, leafy waterfall of oriental inspiration. Beyond that was the museum/gallery proper with its displays, and hardly anyone inside its remarkably extensive maze. And this cool and quiet oasis from the anxiety of day-to-day life was completely free to visit! As for the exhibits, they were definitely worth looking at, such as lions painted with fur-like fur comprised of an unbelievable amount of fine, individual strokes. Read the exhibit descriptions to discover these and other details that the casual eye might miss.
IAMA is open Tuesday to Sunday, 10 AM to 5 PM. Free tours every second Sunday of the month at 1:30 PM.
If you even just need a quiet place to sit and rest out of the sun, the cavernous lobby has some seating off to the side. Respectfully ask if you may use the washroom and the security staff will let you have the code.
Once I had exhausted IAMA and Prototype exhibits, I hiked myself over to Tartine to have a peek.
I say "hiked" because whereas Berkeley was basically nice and flat and easy to walk, San Francisco has a hilly regions on which the citizens insisted on building, so there are parts where you get a stairmaster up one way and sometimes a harrowing drop on the other made more irritating by flights of short steps which slow you down more than carefully proceeding down the steep slope.
If you are not up for hiking, take the bus or railcars. If you are running all around San Francisco, get a transit fare pass. I was splitting my time between San Francisco and Berkeley and was told the passes wouldn't work in Berkeley, so I gave the pass a pass, so to speak.
Also, I found that exploring on foot meant spotting interesting sights and stores more often, and having much more flexibility to just stop and check them out. Passes are for when you know where you are going and just want to get there by bus without a lot of distractions. Or if you can't handle hills, some of which are seriously more annoying than those in New Westminster, BC.
It was about 2:30 PM, there was a long line-up at Tartine. And if there were any seating it was on the sidewalk with no shelter from the too-bright sun. Of those seated, many had numbers on their table, indicating orders yet to be filled. Maybe it was famous (so famous they don't even need to have a name on their store window or awning!) but I gave up. Besides, I had a Reiki clinic to go to in Berkeley and didn't want to be rushed.