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There is no way you can see all of San Francisco on a short visit. At best you must treat it as a voluminous grab bag to be dipped into. Its contents are cultures and lifestyles that differ from one area to the next. History in museums and missions and well-preserved buildings. And the harbourfront crammed with sightseeing and fishing boats. If you devoted a week to unusual architecture you still wouldn't see it all.

There are walking tours and bicycles for hire, ferry boat rides to unique little seaside communities and excursions to outlying valleys where vineyards prosper. I want to do it all, but it's simply not possible. So, blessed with warm sunshine on my one day here, I choose to walk. Here's how it went:

A brief stroll from my hotel, Chinatown is the second largest Chinese community east of Asia. Residents number close to 100,000, and it seems as if all of them are out and about this Saturday morning. Confusion on Grant Avenue is total. Cable cars clatter through. Tourists wander against traffic lights to reach souvenir shops on both sides of the street. Impervious to the commotion, locals go about their business of carefully selecting vegetables and spices from sidewalk stalls. They seek out the fishmongers and herbalists, sellers of tea and noodles.

Nearby, the Cable Car Barn Museum reveals massive wheels winding eighteen kilometres of thick steel cable that pull cable-cars up the city's wickedly steep hills. When Andrew S. Hallidie invented these motorless vehicles in 1873, they were ridiculed as "Hallidie's Folly". Now designated official landmarks, they will take you on any of three routes for a $2 fare per ride, $6 for all day. I can easily hop a cable car from here for Ghirardelli Square, but the day is young so I continue my walk.