Monday 21st – Saturday 26th May
We had five days/nights in San Francisco. The first night I wrote a post about our flight and first impressions and then promptly lost it in the Ethernet ether, so I’ll take that as a sign that it included inappropriate and jet-lagged commentary. Not that I can remember.
I’m sure we only skimmed the surface of the city but we enjoyed what we saw. In the end we did the hop-on hop-off bus twice, once in the rain and once in the dry, with a big contrast on both days. On the second trip we crossed the Golden Gate Bridge in a small bus designed to look like a cable car, and went on for a stroll through the picturesque village of Sausalito. On our return we got a much better look at Golden Gate Park, such a beautiful green belt for the city.
Speaking of cable cars, we managed to ride the Powell-Hyde one all the way from Fisherman’s Wharf down to the end of the line in Market Street. This route goes up hill and down dale, quite a thrill for the first-timer.
We also enjoyed our half-day out on Alcatraz, where apart from reliving the days of the inmates and its earlier history, we were treated to the sight of hundreds of nesting birds, in particular the large western seagull. Returning to Pier 33, we went on to explore the waterfront, where we discovered the noisy, barking sea lions at the end of Pier 39. Then we walked on further, in search of fish markets. Plenty of restaurants serving clam chowder and boiled crab, but no fresh fish to be found. Poking our noses into back-ways we finally found a crab fisherman getting his pots ready. Our chat with him revealed that there are no fishmongers as such on Fishermans Wharf. Seems it is too busy with tourists for personal buyers to come there.
On a two hour night tour we crossed the Bay Bridge to Treasure Island and watched San Francisco light up as day turned to dusk. The bridge itself was lit with hundreds of LED lights. Very beautiful and fantastically cold!
We rode the public buses several times and all the drivers were friendly and great entertainment. One even stopped to show us his fishing photos when he got ahead of schedule. He’d caught a 23″ rainbow trout. Very impressive.
The city was easy to navigate, being as how it is mostly a grid system. But for the novice visitor it is easy to find oneself in the less salubrious streets, as even one block can make a difference in socio-economic circumstances. There is a huge contrast between some mean streets lined with parking stations and car repair shops, and those with the fabulous architecture such as the “painted ladies” – Victorian mansions painted in several colours. Near our hotel was one that was under scaffolding on day one and then gradually revealed itself to show off its new paint job which included gold trims on the fence and certain parts of the facade.
Our hotel was lovely. Very old world which wouldn’t suit everyone, but I love that stuff. For me, one Hilton or such class is the same as another, and tells me nothing about place. We slept in a huge four poster bed in an eclectically furnished spacious room in what had supposedly once been a private mansion which survived the 19006 earthquake and fire. It was west of Van Ness Avenue which had been used a fire break we were told.
We discovered the bar in our hotel (the Majestic) was also frequented by locals, so that gave us the chance to mingle. One night there was a fund-raiser in the restaurant. A group of around thirty young women, some with their moms, came to an art class. Under the instruction of a patient and talented young man, over the course of two or three hours, each participant produced a floral still life. They were all amazingly good, even though for most participants it was their first painting attempt. If they contributed to the cause they got to take their painting home. All of the women had professional careers (ie disposable income – think Google and Twitter employees) so I don’t know why some left theirs behind. At the end of the night I got into conversation with two of the women and their mothers. They were so articulate and happy to discuss a range of issues and current events. They didn’t shy away from speaking their mind, and if their opinions differed they debated in a respectful manner, explaining why they didn’t agree. It took me a while to settle to sleep that night as the conversation was so stimulating.
We ate in the hotel sometimes, and outside at other times. One night we stopped in a bar on Polk Street, again frequented only by locals who were playing a wooden building block game provided by the bar, then we went on for a lamb shank tagine at a Moroccan restaurant. Another time we tried a diner, Tommys Joynt, that served “American” food – in our case roast meat from the carvery with servings we had no hope of finishing. Rushing to pick up the hire car this morning, we called into a cafe owned by an Iranian guy. Our breakfast to go was a delicious vegetarian wrap. The city has a cosmopolitan residency, with the most common accent I heard being Latino. Although I wasn’t able to pick the birth country, I learned that as well as Mexican, Central American races are also well represented, more so than those from parts of South America.
I haven’t had a chance to sort my photos yet, so am not attaching any to this post. No doubt when I do, I will discover many things I have forgotten to document!
Many thanks to those who have commented on the last couple of posts and I will do my best to answer soon. In the meantime, it is goodnight from me 😀