Set Loose In Funky San Francisco

Trip Start Sep 29, 2007
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Trip End Dec 20, 2010


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Flag of United States  , California
Wednesday, October 3, 2007

If you're going to San Francisco.... be sure to wear flowers in your hair.

We were suffering from some insane jet lag & mad nicotine withdrawals coming off the Qantas flying kangaroo & trawling through hours of time at immigration and customs entering the USA. We were trying to find the commune house of the Green Tortoise Hostel from where Alana and i had purchased our van from back in 1996 after hitching back from the Grand Canyon. Instead we scored a room in a beautiful shoebox sized building in the red light - Chinatown - Little Italy area. We scored the tiny penthouse overlooking the Transamerica Pyramid building in the Financial District, the tallest building in the city.

We ended up having a crash nanna nap to kill the jet lag before we surrendered to the excitement of the start of the journey. Out on the town we passed through the dragon adorned Pagoda Gates of Chinatown on Grant Avenue and adventured around the traditional herb pharmacies, temples, garment factories with divine fabrics and those poultry shops with the crispy ducks hanging in the windows,stores filled with giant dragonheads, lanterns, carvings and tea tasting, taking in the aroma of exotic cuisine and bright neon lights.

San Francisco is all about the food for us. So we kicked off with a traditional diner seeking out the oldest restaurant in The City called Tadiche Grill on California Street. It didn't disappoint. This place was very busy with locals. It's Croatian owned, very traditional San Fran old
skool and feels like you are walking into an episode of  the television series Seinfeld. There is a long diner style bench at the bar which we insisted on sitting at. The very polite male waiters chatted to us about the city as they went about their work, they were all clad in long white doctor's coats. The boys immediately brought us some sour dough bread and two pints of Sierra Nevada beer. The reason we came here was to try some fish native to the West coast of the USA. We shared a Petrale Sole fish with tartare and fries and a Halibut, spinach and cheese baked dish. Divine.

 Discovering the city of San Fran by foot is a workout on the legs thahnks to the hilly topography, thanks to our sponsors Keens for the urban hiking shoes. This was the beginning of our training for trekking later in the journey when we make it to Patagonia in the South of Chile.

We retired early to our little penthouse room at The Green Tortoise shoebox house. The next day was mad crazy fun. We fit alot into our days just in case we wouldn't have time for it all before flying down into Mexico.

Early this morning we ventured over to the Ferry Plaza building at Pier one where they were
setting up for the day. There was a variety of produce including cheese, flowers, truffle mushrooms and oils, luscious coffee, heirloom tomatoes and the best venue was a caviar bar where you could sample loads of varieties. This would be a great place to get picnic delights. Nadine ate a hot blueberry New York bagel for breakfast Yankee stylin. We decided to walk across the whole city because you see all the little back street and hear authentic conversations plus there is alot of urban art and graffiti hidden away in obscure places.

 We checked out The Martin Luther King memorial in Yerba Buena Gardens which was behind a
waterfall and was made up of his most famous speeches and quotes and some images. We trekked Folsom Street, Market street and the SOMA (South Of Market) areas which consisted of a huge diversity of people and vacant warehouses being transformed. We hit Haight Street next which is an area with a colourful vibrant history of beatniks and bohemians, poets, artists, philosophers, revolutionaries and flower children that flocked there and the Summer Of Love events which happened there. Gorgeous Victorian architecture lines the streets of this neighbourhood. Houses in every colour and awesome street art. We saw Janis Joplin and The Greatful Dead's previous residential houses. The community here is recognized for its creativity and diversity and this is expressed by the hybrid mixture of shops and residents, all the cool cats live here. The shopping is funky and eclectic with a new age and hippie edge. There were many gorgeous vintage clothing stores where you can swap or buy the most divine threads. I was going to go for a tacky souvenir of a Deadheads tie dye T-shirt but went for the Haight-Ashbury snow dome instead. We checked out the medical cannabis dispensaries and ate huge New York style pepperoni pizza slices. What a great neighbourhood where a part of the sixties lives on. We went to the top of Alamo Square to see the "painted ladies" which are colourful Victorian houses with the San Francisco skyline in the backdrop. These are 19th century houses which have been preserved after most were lost to the 1906 earthquake and fire disaster. Fabulous view.

Next we went into Golden Gate Park which didn't feel altogether safe. Hippie Hill has lost it's charm. There were still people playing music and playing hacky sack but lots of teenagers and punks roaming around. We visited the Japanese Tea Gardens and wandered around the plethora of lakes, groves and gardens. There were huge goldfish in tranquil koi ponds, large bonsai style trees, pagodas, a zengarden and a large bronze Buddha statue which was made in 1790. We thought about renting a paddle boat on Stow Lake but decided we were exhausted. We underestimated the size of the park which is about 3.3miles wide.

It all went a little pear shaped from here. We took a bus to The Castro District where there is a thriving gay and lesbian community here to munch on dim sums. The area has become a symbol of gay and lesbian pride throughout the world. It was not as large as Sydney's Oxford Street but did boast a massive rainbow pride flag marking the start of the street. We went to a bar called The Cafe which was popular with locals for a Rolling Rock beer which was to become the first of many that nite. I ate a tasty little morsel of a dim sum on Castro Street. There is also an old theatre here which was playing old horror movies and has popcorn and a live organist inside the cinema, tops.

Next we went searching for The Lexington club which is the most popular grrl bar in The City and is located in the Mission District on 19th and Lexington Street. We were trying to locate a Drag
King venue which we were hoping to find as king performances originatedin San Fran. No luck.  The bar was divey and dark but friendly. We people watched for awhile and there was a dog roaming around the bar with oneof those injury lamp shades on it's head. Funny to watch. The bartender hooked us up to go to a gig in SOMA at a bar called The Stud and it turned out to be a queer punk nite called "Men are Evil Except For My Girlfriend", horrendous. We went to a bar called Amnesia where we drank pints of beer of many brands including Pear Cider, Anchor Steam and one called Reality Czech, i don't remember much after that. There was a folk singer singing but we decided to grab half an all American cheeseburger each at a place called "The
Burger Joint". Nadine secretly loves that plastic American cheese. We went into a shop called "The Curiosity Shoppe", It turns out it was the opening of an art gallery and the people we met there were curious and slightly bizarre. I met the artist Shaun who was from Washington and had
painted these tiny bats pictures of all different species of bat. There were live bats
strategically suspended from the ceilings on branches. Loved it. We got a taxi to The Stud
and stayed to watch two horrendous girl bands scream and indie emo dance. We stood up on a podium next to a dancer's cage and got our jive on.

Rolled home completely drunk. It was a superb but exhausting day.

Next day we got up a little late with a headache and a latte. mmmmmm.... American beer.
Booked an airport shuttle for 5:15 am tomorrow for plane to Mexico. Mailed a postcard to Jackson and Izabella. Walked through the North beach area on Columbus Avenue which has a diverse ethnic mix but is predominantly Italian and known as Little Italy of The West. We sat in a traditional cafe  called "The Steps Of Rome" which claimed to brew the best coffee in the world and watched San Francisco hipsters and funsters. We saw the vintage streetcars and cable cars on our way to Fisherman's Wharf. The cars are National landmarks and a vital link in San Francisco's transportation system. 

There was an impressive air show on where the planes flew close together in formation and drew pictures in the sky. A little scary and heart stopping to watch. We went to Musee Mechanique on Pier 45 which has old carnival games that have been refurbished back to working order and had our photo taken in an old black and white photo booth. The dish of the day was dungeness crab sandwiches and seafood chowder in a sourdough bread bowl, a signature San Francisco dish. Delicious! The crabs are cooked in steaming cauldrons and one of the vendors posed for me.

There was no fog today so we boarded a rogue bay cruise boat with a Gilligan's Island crew of loud Yanks. This was so we could view the city and sail under the majestic Golden Gate Bridge which  is 1.2miles long. The bridge is not actually red as i thought but is actually an international orange colour. The cruise commentary was filled with lame jokes by captains John and Jeff. This
alone was worth the $10. We saw seals swimming and got a great view of Alcatraz Island.

The afternoon was well spent walking along the ocean front to Pier 39 taking in the magicians, living statues (street performers painted and posing as statues to busk for money), rappers, caricature sketchers and a funky band playing dressed in sailor costumes.

We kicked back and watched the stinky sea lions barking and rolling around in the bay before 
buying some Californian taffy in hundreds of flavours and walked home.We bought a quintessential Taquiera from near our hostel in North Beach and Nadine got on the Budweisers. When we arrived at the hotel we were lucky enough to see a spectacular light show, the sky erupted with a beautifully orchestrated firework show over the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. The fireworks seemed to be happening just for us and we felt they were a good omen and marker for the beginning of our journey.

Whirlwind tour of San Fran done and dusted, we leave for Mexico tomorrow. yipppiiieeeeeeee!!!!! Hola Central America, we have one whole night left to learn some Spanish! necessito mucho escuela de Espanol
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