I’d always thought that American airports would be impressive, but I have to say that I much prefer a British airport I found it very strange that you exit the plane straight into the departure lounge. As I was flying domestic from Vegas there was no customs so I happily went to baggage claim to pick up my priority luggage. As this was my second visit to SFO I felt quite a pro at purchasing my BART ticket. My accommodation in San Francisco was an air bnb in a top floor apartment staying with Bridgette and Jose. Jose was there to welcome me on the Saturday night but I think I might of disappointed him when I said I was going to have an early night instead of going out to some bars he recommended. Fortunately he was going out with his mates so I didn’t have to make much small talk, I got some lasagne from the local shop, had a lovely long shower and watched some Netflix.
When planning my trip, my San Francisco aims were to ride a trolley car, cycle over the golden gate bridge and visit Alcatraz. The next morning I was very leisurely and didn’t get up until 10 am, from the apartment I caught the BART to Powell street. I arrived right outside tourist information so I went for a wander and bumped into Morgan Freeman, who didn’t look entirely happy to be there.
Upon exiting I stumbled into the queue for the trolley car which was about 75 people long, 45 minutes later I jumped on with the sole aim of hanging off the outside. I gave mother Harada a quick ring to let her know, as we love the trolley song in from Meet me in St. Louis. True to the song; “clang, clang went the trolley. Ding, ding, ding went the bell”. But sadly there was no John Truett for my heart strings to go zing, zing, zing. In fact it was full of fat Americans moaning that it cost $7. I however really enjoyed my ride chugging up the hills. Eventually I managed to get a spot at the front of the trolley. With the hair whipping in my hair, I couldn’t help but smile because in that moment I felt so content and free. It reminded me of my favourite skiing feeling, whizzing down a empty straight slope, tapping my poles behind me.
In what can only be described as fate, as I hadn’t looked at the trolley route, I ended up at northwest corner of San Fran right next to 3 bicycle hire shops. My trusty stead was a specialised black hybrid at a cost of $30 for the day. Following very detailed instructions of the route, I set off along the cycle path. I’d only cycled for about 10 minutes when I spotted a Safeway and suddenly remembered all I had for breakfast was a banana. From the deli I had a Philly cheese hot steak sandwich and grabbed a coke and some weird tortillas that looked like Quakers (I wouldn’t recommend them). I munched my lunch with a perfect waterside view with the bridge to my left and Alcatraz to my right. I’m not sure why I was so slow but it took me over an hour to get to the bridge start. Perhaps my continual stopping to get a perfect photo of the bridge or avoiding inept tourist cyclists had something to do with it.
There is quite a slope up to the start of the bridge, luckily my thighs powered through and I overtook many inept “holiday only” cyclists. To me bad cycling is such an unattractive trait. I got a bit annoyed around the turrets as you are warned they are narrow so what do people do, stop for a photo and block the whole thing up.
When on the bridge I wanted to enjoy my ride so I only took a photo when I was precisely in the middle. It was quite windy up there and at one point when posing the beaver perilously on the edge I thought she might slip off. At least the location of her end would be memorable, far better than the bear I lost at the age of 5 on the streets of Liverpool as we ran from George Henry Lees to dad. A mangy dog probably got her.
At the other side of the bridge there seemed to be a cold spot which was very refreshing and then a steep decline on the road to Sausalito. You feel like you’ve crossed into another country as its not as windy and is full of small independent restaurants that reminded me of the Lego Parisian restaurant. I had an ice lolly at the harbour to cool down and cycled a bit further along the coast for a dip in the icy cold sea. The recommendation is to return via ferry, the crossing is 40 minutes and you have queue for an hour before the ferry you want to catch to ensure you get on. I was having none of this as the cycle is probably only 1 h if you don’t stop, so I returned over the bridge. What was a great windy slope on the way down from the bridge, turned out to be a right bugger to cycle up. I set off determined but only made it halfway. After dropping the bike off I wandered down the piers and stumbled across the Musée Mécanique, a building full of coin operated amusements with the majority of things costing a quarter. I made a doll called Susie dance, a model fairground light up and move and the career pilot informed me I’m a clock watcher. It also had the biggest collection of penny souvenir mashers so I got a few to add to my holiday collection. I was all of a to do about what to do for dinner. My plan had been to go home and shower and come back out, but it was already 7 pm on a Sunday evening and it seemed to much of hassle, so instead I caught the j church to 16th street and wandered across to Valencia street, which was full of restaurants of all different cuisines. I was tempted by a tiki restaurant but settled for curry up now, an Indian street kitchen. By now I was suffering with fatigue and couldn’t decide what to eat, so the waiter ordered for me. I had a thali platter with chicken tikka and gobi, which was really good and just what I fancied. I did a far bit of eavesdropping, especially when I lady shrieked she’d got raccoons. I returned to the apartment about 10:30 and Bridgette had now returned so I stayed up for a bit to chat about films, which seemed a favourite subject of theirs.
The next morning was an early start as id booked myself on to the Alcatraz 9:10 tour. It’s quite strict down there, you have to start queuing 30 minutes prior to departure, which I guess is needed seeing as they have 5000 visitors a day and every trip is usually full. Ranger John was there to welcome us to the Island who looked very much like Ted Dansen. He’s clearly very passionate about Alcatraz as he’s interviewed ex prisoners, written books and even swam from the island to shore to see if it could be done. I started by watching a 15 minute video on the history of the island. I have now since learnt that it is basically the top of a hill in the bay and that it was a post for the U.S. Army as it is a perfect viewing point to protect against enemy during the height of the gold rush. The prison we know today was built on top of the barracks the army had built for soldier convicts and in fact was only open for 29 years! But in a way it still seemed a happy place as staff of the prison lived their with their families and lived a relatively normal life. Post prison it became Indian Land in 1969 for 19 months and you can still see graffiti from that era on the water tower. I was most fascinated by the escape attempts as I do like Shawkshank redemption.
From the dock it’s quite a steep walk up to the prison and you enter through the shower block. A place I feel the gay would of enjoyed. From there you pick up the audio tour which I have to say I was very impressed by. It was clear, informative and gave you enough time to get about. The bits I enjoyed the most were seeing the remnants of the escape plots/ shootings and going into d block, the punishment cells with no light. Since returning I have watched escape from Alcatraz, it was good to see a place I’ve visited as it should of been, especially the wardens office which is now completely bare.
From Alcatraz I wandered around Pier 39 which was full of souvenir shops, I did the touristy thing and looked at the sea lions but I wasn’t impressed. Lunch was pleasantly spent eating mussels in the sun with a side of fries. From there I walked up a steep hill to visit windy Lombard street, which had lovely hydrangeas that reminded me of my home that I was starting to miss. By now I’d got the hang of the network connections so caught several buses firstly to visit the painted ladies houses and then back to the bay to the wave organ located at the end of the harbour past the yacht club. Concrete tunnels that start below the water line run upto the sitting area creating an echo splashy kind of noise. By the time I arrived the sun was low and no one was around. I sat and listened for a bit until a wave splashed me in the face. I’m not a fan of deep water at the best of times, but there is something about the sea at night that scares me so I ran back down the spit with the lucky beaver in my fist. For dinner I went Italian as I hadn’t had any pasta for over two weeks. I ate at a restaurant called Vicoletto and had the best bruschetta I’ve ever had for a starter and my main of pork tagliatelle was also excellent. I skipped dessert but had a mango ice lolly with the hosts when I got home 🙂
I think by now I’d had my fill of San Fran, I’d visited everything I’d wanted too and I think the last day I tried to think of things but failed a bit. It didn’t help that the weather had changed and the day was grey and windy. In the morning I visited billy goat hill park as I’d seen on Pinterest there was a swing. Unfortunately it had been cut down, but I enjoyed the view of the city whilst sipping on a hot chocolate. I didn’t really do much in the afternoon except buy a California Republic hoodie and some cocoa powder for Jessop. I think the day was against me though as everything seemed to take such a long time and it didn’t get much better. My red eye flight to JFK was due to depart at 22:30, as soon as I sat down I started to watch Hot Pursuit with Reese Witherspoon which I found really funny. I managed to watched the whole film and we still hadn’t taken off as the hydraulics were leaking. The passenger next to me told me this had happened to him the other week, so it seems bad luck was following him. In the end we had to swap planes and departed 2 h late. Donned in my eye mask, flight socks and California sweatshirt I snuggled up with my pillows and blanket and managed to sleep the entire 5.5 h flight.
Photos can be found here