The Windier City

Trip Start May 08, 2006
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Trip End May 06, 2007


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Flag of United States  , California
Saturday, May 27, 2006

I arrived in San Francisco 5 hours late at 10:30pm. It's at times like this that I wonder why the English complain about our train system. We get dozens of trains going to the same destination in a day, they're pretty much on time or a couple of minutes late and they're faster than a car for the most part. American trains have one, maybe two trains going to the same destination per day, delays of 1 hour or more is common and they run at about 30-40mph in some parts of the country. It doesn't really bother a lowly traveller such as myself as I have all the time in the world (and it gives me more opportunities for reading), but I can perfectly understand why Americans would rather fly.
It seems the only reason to take the train in this country is if you want to see some nice scenery and indeed, some people I have spoken to are doing just that - a trip through the Rockies and back in the same day and some friendly conversation with complete strangers. Trains in England are designed to get you from place to place as fast as possible... Amtrak seems to offer short holidays for city-weary Americans.

I was slightly worried about trying to find my way to the hostel in darkness but the place was easy enough to get to. One tube ride and a short walk later I was settled into my room and then back out to take a look at the live music venue I passed on the way down.

San Francisco is a strange city. It is quite small (pretty much a first in the US) with a handful of highrise buildings downtown and a number of smaller districts that supply the nightlife and the less commercial shops.
I did the usual touristy stuff - I rode the cable cars, went to see the Golden Gate Bridge, Fisherman's Wharf, Chinatown - and the evenings were spent in various pubs and clubs. The strange thing was that nothing really inspired me or excited me in the way that some of my previous destinations did. There was nothing to really make me stop and go 'WOW!' (with the possible exception of a Quesadilla Suiza from the local Mexican takeaway).

The Golden Gate Park was a worthy day-trip where there are plenty of museums and different attractions including the Chinese gardens complete with pagodas and tea rooms, botanical gardens, and plenty of ageing hippies to point and laugh at.

I also went to the Castro - the gayest district on the planet - where a plethora of rainbow flags, men holding hands, and more hairdresser shops than hairs on its residents' heads were awaiting me. It was a fascinating culture shock and as soon as you walk in, there is a feeling of security that you don't get anywhere else in the city. Probably because of the sublime lack of tramps shaking cups in your face and yelling death threats at each other.

All in all, San Fran is an interesting city, but I could find no reason to get wrapped up in it as so many people have in the past.
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