March 12, 2015
I drove south through Sonoma and Marin Counties, past the houseboats on the bay at Sausalito, across the Golden Gate Bridge into San Francisco, and arrived earlier than the hostel’s official 3:00 check-in time. But lucky me, housekeeping was ahead of schedule and I was given my key card, leaving me plenty of time to wander the grounds before the Thursday spaghetti dinner in the hostel’s Cafe Nero. Spaghetti, salad and a surprisingly good glass of wine for $10, $3 for spaghetti only (all excellent!).
What must be one of the world’s great hostels is located on the grounds of historic Fort Mason in San Francisco. I’d stayed there once before and again had a priceless view from above my bed, of San Francisco Bay, Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge. On a grassy wooded bayside hill, guarded by fortifications, $45 a night with free parking in one of the City’s finest neighborhoods, in one of the country’s most expensive cities, it has to be one of the deals of the century. True, I had to share the room with 3 other ladies, but it was a small price to pay. One of my roommates was a student from China studying in York, England, another from Japan, about to start a job in the Osaka court system, both enthusiastic and friendly, a benefit I don’t get when I stay alone.
"Set in a waterfront National Park, the San Francisco Fisherman's Wharf Hostel..."
For self-catering, a huge fully-equipped kitchen,
indoor/outdoor dining, pool table and jukebox.
The location of Fort Mason, in the Marina, is home ground for my family. My father’s high school, Galileo, is on the corner to the east, and his junior high (now middle school), Marina, a block to the west. My grandmother’s apartment, of which I have fond memories and a photo of what, I believe, is my 5th birthday party, a short walk away at the corner of Greenwich and Scott.
Fort Mason is the lesser known little sibling of the Presidio, which occupies a large piece of real estate on the approach to the Golden Gate Bridge. Since being vacated by the US military, both are administered by the National Park Service, Fort Mason since the 1970s. The Park Service team and Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy, who manage Fort Mason, are housed in one of the historic buildings on the upper fort, to facilitate activities and rentals to individuals and non-profits, including the hostel. Many of these tenants are located in the warehouse area on the lower level beside the bay, originally designed by the military for moving men and material in and out of the fort.
These links give an idea of the range of activities and resources housed at Fort Mason.
My bed, behind the "HOSTEL" sign...
...guarded by the artillery of Black Point Battery, ...
...bigger than the commanding general's gun!
As I walked through the grounds of the commanding general’s house, a flock of the famous green parrots of Telegraph Hill flew low overhead, giving voice as they do, and reminding me of a pair with varying numbers of offspring who returned and disturbed the peace year after year in the walnut tree in front of my home in Redwood City, 25 miles to the south, in the ‘70s and ‘80s. I went down the path alongside the beautiful house, to a point that overlooks Fisherman’s Wharf and the bay to the east. I attempted to capture a photo of the scene but the breadth of it was beyond the capacity of my camera and I had to laugh, along with a young man also admiring the panoramic view, who agreed it was a sight best recorded in memory.
Famous gourmet vegetarian restaurant at Fort Mason, Greens.
View from inside, below.
Go to The Interval’s website to learn about the
Orrery, above, and the Chime generator, below.
Now privately occupied, former military housing, modest and grand.
Read the history of Fort Mason and learn why my bed at the hostel
is guarded by the fortifications and cannon of Black Point Battery:
I wholeheartedly recommend a visit to Fort Mason and a stay at the hostel,
if one is so inclined. Book early: http://www.sfhostels.org/fishermans-wharf
Catch up with previous episodes of ‘Road Trip’, here.
And click here for all of PortMoresby’s contributions.