"i left my heart on San Francisco"

Trip Start Oct 04, 2004
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of United States  , California
Thursday, October 7, 2004

After another interesting taxi journey form the station (he didn't speak English and we had to direct him) we arrived at Toby's flat, a little exhausted but glad to be out of that taxi! Toby or any of you who dont know, works for my old firm Bonhams, he is covering one of their workers whilst she is on maternity leave, and surprisingly for Bonhams, they had got him quite a nice flat! Although i cant say much about the landlady choice of artwork that she had hanging form the wall, ranging from nude pictures of her girlfriend to pictures of her cat - see the pictures above! This was great for us as it was a free roof over our head and meant for the next 2 days we had a familiar face to talk to. After a couple of cold beers and watching Austin Powers we called it a night.

We were up early, 7:30 to be exact, thats earlier than i used to get up for work back in England! We woke up with Toby as he had to get to work and he thought it best we went with him so that he could direct us to the nearest bus stop with out us getting lost again! Luckily he only lived 5 mins walk from work (which to all current Bonhams employee' isnt as grand as you think it would be, Bond is much nicer) and only a couple more minutes to the bus stop. After paying the miniscule price of $1.25 (about 60p) we headed into downtown San Fran.

I knew very little about San Fran before we got there. I knew it had a prison on an island, Alcatraz, there was a big bridge, they used trams and of course the steeps roads, but after a quick visit to their tourist information centre I knew a lot more. We discovered that there was a lot more to keep us occupied. San fran had a China Town and Little Italy, there was a district call Haight Ashbury, which to all 'older' readers of this will know this is where the hippy movement started and you could also get great views of San Fran from the Coit Tower located on Telegrath Hill.

It looked like we were in fro a busy day walking so we mad our way to our first 'attraction' the trams.! Although these are most commonly thought of as tourist attractions, they are still very popular with the local people of San Fran. There is one line that runs east to West and another 2 running North to South, the line from Market Street to Fishermans Wharf being the most popular with tourists due to its route up and down all the steep roads you see in the movies. We queued up with all the other tourists eager to jump on, camera in one hand, holding on for dear life with the other. We were told that our 15 minute wait was extremely short, compared to the usual 2hour wait you would have on a weekend.

This was the first time i realized i was actually away and seeing the world. I was hanging onto one of the 'San Francisco's' Trams going up one of 'San Francisco's' sleepiest roads and in the distance was Alcatraz! The sun was shining, there wasnt a cloud in the sky and i was loving it!

We were dropped off at Fishermans Wharf. This is a tourist trap, full with tacky gift shops, Seaworld and fairground rides. It did actually once be a thriving fishing town, until they caught all the fish, so now all the fishing boats have been converted to passenger ferry's taking the hundreds of thousand tourists around the bay on day trips. Our stomachs were crying out for food by then so we treated ourselves to our first proper American Breakfast. True to form we misjust the time and with 5 minutes to spare we realized that our ferry was due to depart. So once again (twice in 2 days) we were running!

After looks of disgust from the crew we boarded late, Dan eagally ran upstairs to the top deck leaving me to collapse in a ball of sweat in the toilets! I really must start getting fit! eventually, after nearly suffering a fatal asthma attack, i made it up deck to see the wonder which is Alcatraz get nearer. We jumped off with all the other people and joined a tour with this crazy American Park Warden. After an hour and still only half way up the hill to the prison we broke rank and went off alone, must to the disgust of the women! Instead we donned some 'groovy' Headphones and took the audio tour.

We stayed on the island for over 2 hours visiting the cells, library, kitchen and dining room, and also sat outside in their exercise yard (see picture at top). Alcatraz is one of those places you have to see and is really hard to describe, typically the photos of it were lost when the cd snapped but if your bored at work check out this site.


Once back on the mainland we decided to walk up telegraph hill to Coit Tower a recommendation of the bloke in the info centre. The 'Hill' bit of it should have sent warning bells to us but it didnt, so after walking for 30 mins up the steepiest streets imaginable we reached it. Although i havent got a clue what it is/was for, only finding out that we were travelling up to the top in the same lift as the one it opened with, it did give great 360degrees views of San Fran. We had an annoyingly happy lift boy telling us this info coming out with the same jokes i imagine he says a hundred times a day - not a job for the clostaphobic!

We did realise though that the golden Gate Bridge was a bit further than expected so another bus journey was in order. Luckily San Fran has an excellent Public Transport system and each bus route is marked on the map we were given. It was on the bus we noticed how friendly American people are. There had been a number of times now when people just get up from their original seat, sit down next to us and start talking. I'm not to sure if we stick out but we seem to attract old ladies! They are ALL certain we are Australian and are quite shocked to find out were not. Being called Australian was a novelty at first, but after the 20th person saying it, it starts to get annoying. They all want to hear our life story and all make sure we get off at the right stop, usually quite disappointed that we have to get off so early! When was the last time you spoke to anyone on a London Bus!?

The Golden Gate Bridge is another one of those wonders that has to be seen to be believed. Not realizing the distance we started to walk over, stopping like most people to take pictures every 5 minutes. Like the Coit Tower you had great views of Alcatraz and San Francisco main town, but also from the bridge you can people kitesurfing on the San Francisco Bay. These waters are freezing with dangerous currents which makes them mad to do it! It makes Southend's kitesurfers look like amateurs in comparison!

When we finally made it to the other side it suddenly dawned on us that there wasnt a bus that goes back over it so with great anguish we headed back our feet starting to throb from the miles we had walked over the day. The sun started to set though so we got some great photo's of the bridge.

At about 8, after getting lost again walking back to Toby's, we got back and collapsed in front of the TV. The amount of channels that American TV have has always amazed me, Toby alone had over 40, but you can get over 200 if you get cable. To be fair though over half were Spanish of which all seemed to be running Spanish talk shows like Jerry Springer 24 hours a day. Of the channels that we could watch, there was one thing we noticed. They have so many ad breaks. In a episode of friends we watched, there was 3 alone. one after the credits, one in the middle, and one before the final scene. Although very annoying, it was interesting to see what the Americans try to sell to each other. Favorite ads were the cream for genital herpes, with the great slogan "they just keep coming back"! and the advert for an ear/nose/trimmer that had changed the words in the song Macho macho man to micro micro match.

We did attempt a night out, but as you can imagine San Fran on a Wednesday night isnt particularly kicking. We did find one group of girls though. After watching them park their lexus's (very expensive) I'd thought i'd try the ol' English line on them to see if it is true what they say about americans loving our accents, but to no avail, looks like it isn't as easy as the film Love Actually makes it out to be! After that we called it a night!

We awoke later the next morning deciding not to get up at 7:30 this time! More due to the hangover than anything else! We were due to catch the train tonight so we spent the day seeing all the sights we missed the previous day. San Fran is quite a small city in comparison to others i had been to so we were able to walk to most of the other sites. Chinatown wasnt overly impressive, personally I thought it looked like some one had put a Chinese gate in front of Tottenham Court road, as instead of all the Chinese shops, there were hundreds of Indian Electrical shops. I did get a good bargain for a new camera lens after some great haggling! Then it was off to Little Italy - as it sounds really just a few Italian restaurants with more Italians living there!

Lastly we jumped on our last bus to the area known as Haight Asbury. As i said earlier, this was where the hippy movement started, so it was like a time warp driving down the main street. ONe thing i found funny was a tramp (which are everywhere!) had a sign asking for money for weed. At least he was honest!

So Finally that was San Francisco in 48hours. If the rest of America is like this then i'm going to love it here. The people were so friendly and luckily the weather was stunning for the whole 2 days. One final thought though, for a city that is supposed to be the Gay capital of the world i didnt seeing many gay people - or at least people that looked gay. The only 2 we noticed were wearing England football tops!

Pointless Fact about San Fran:
San Francisco cable cars are the only moving National Historic Landmark, and 9.7 million people take a nine mile per hour ride on them each year. At the Cable Car Barn Museum, 500-horsepower electric motors turn the endless cable loops

Funny thing seen in San Fran:
Americans are very paranoid about law suits so people have to walk in front of a moving tractor waving a flag when its moving!

I promise these will get shorter as time goes by!

Oh, in case you want to do what i'm doing a good travel website:
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