After a quick stop in Monterey overnight it was off to San Francisco home of hills and Alcatraz. We did visit Fishermans wharf whilst in Monterey, which was a small pretty harbour area but did unfortunately miss out on seeing Pebble Beach the day before. We thought about backtracking but eventually decided to carry on to San Francisco taking in the scenic Pacific Highway route. After breakfast of Waffles and syrup, which I had never had before and probably won't rush to have again, it was off on our way. A couple of wrong directions later and finally we were on route 1 heading north. The views whilst good were not as good as we had experienced previously in New Zealand but it was worth seeing.
The Pacific Ocean certainly has some lovely colours to it. The weather was bright and sunny but the wind certainly had a chill to it. Eventually the twin sometimes single lane highways turned into six or more lanes, I lost count, with cars and trucks speeding along on both sides. Having the Sat Nav gave a lot of confidence though and soon we were off the highway and into the City.
The only trouble on the roads I was really struggling with though was when you come to a crossroads and you have to stop, because it’s then a case of who goes first. After talking to a coach driver he told me that it was give way to the right if everyone was obeying the traffic laws but it was often a case of proceeding with caution. Anyway after travelling down what I think was Lombard Street for ages we came to our Motel and parked up safely for a few days. The guy on reception was fine even though I had read reviews to the contrary and I asked him to book us on the City Tour Bus and Alcatraz visit for the following day. For the rest of our day we went for a walk down to Fishermans Wharf (they seem to be everywhere) and walked along the harbour visiting some of the Piers. Pier 39 was one I had heard of before and it was full of all kinds of shops and tourists a plenty. Much like in Los Angeles though there is a large homeless population that are sitting begging, dressed up or acting out things to try and earn a few bucks. To be fair they don’t really bother you except one who camouflages himself and leaps out at you screaming.
At the end of the pier was a great view of the bay and Alcatraz. Yet again we were lucky and the sun was out, especially as all they have had here is rain, rain and more rain. The next few days were to be warming up nicely as well. We eventually decided on a place to eat, Jonny Rockets old style diner and I had possibly the best milkshake I had ever had along with some food. It was then back to our room walking up the hills.
All good exercise that we badly need!
29th March – San Francisco – San Francisco –0 miles – Francisco Bay Inn
An early start of 8:20am, (early for us anyway) as we are picked up by a shuttle bus to take us to the tour office. We pay our final fee and board a luxury coach. The tour is to take 3 ½ hours visiting all the main attractions and then dropping us off at Pier 33 to catch the ferry to Alcatraz leaving enough time for a bit of lunch. The driver is quite a character, very knowledgeable about the City and pretty amusing with a Latino sort of accent. He guides the coach around the City with no problems and we visit the famous Golden Gate Bridge first, stop there for a while to take pictures. Then off to the Golden Gate Park,
another stop and we went up a tower to get some great views, much like the sky towers with a 360 degree view but nowhere near as high. There are also some lovely gardens to visit here but this wasn’t the time as we had to get going.
If we had more time I would definitely spend a good day here. Onwards we went for some more fantastic views of San Francisco on the Twin Peaks. A lot of the time nothing can be seen due to the fog that is well known here but as usual we were lucky and had great clear views. Once we had finished we were off to the Civic Centre for a short stop to admire the fantastic looking buildings here. One if not more are built on floating foundations so that the building will ride earthquakes and just move with the earth. Whilst here we heard a siren blaring out with a strange voice coming out loudly, but fortunately saying that it was only a test, clearly they are concerned about an overdue earthquake. Here also are many homeless people but they don’t move them out as they require there votes at election times as much as the other communities, such as the very large gay community here as well. We passed through many other places also such as Union Square, Chinatown, Nob Hill and many others. It was a very worthwhile tour.
Once we were dropped off at Pier 33 we had some chilli, described as soup and a very popular thing here, a bread bowl, which is basically a loaf of bread know as sour dough that you take the top off leaving a hollw and place your food in. It has a somewhat strange taste that I think is flavoured with clam chowder. They actually have a famous bread baking place on the Wharf where you can watch them make the bread from the roadside. Once we were fed we took our place in the queue for the ferry to Alcatraz, just a short ten minute ride, 1 ½ miles, to the island known as the Rock. It was freezing as we sat on top even though the sun was shining brightly and once at the island you could see the swirls
in the current that was famously known to stop the prisoners escaping. The tour started with a 20 minute video on the history before you walked up the steep hills to the shower rooms and cells. It was here that you were given headsets to tour with commentary at your own pace. The commentary was from former inmates and guards reflecting on their time and covered escape attempts and famous convicts held there. Two of the more famous captives being Al Capone and the Birdman.
No one is known to have escaped the Rock although five men were never found that had escaped, mostly they were presumed dead although others say they fled to Mexico as they were learning Spanish, two did make it across the water but were captured. There are lots of other tales that escape me now. The place itself is much as you would expect full of cells, very small cells at that and Sue didn’t like the feeling much in there but I felt to get the best you had to imaging for yourself what went on, which is not so easy with lots of people all bustling around you trying to take photos. Not sure would like to be alone there at night though. All in all worth the trip though just to be part of history. Once back we had enough time for another stroll before stopping for dinner at a jazz restaurant I think was called Louis Blues Bar, something like that anyway for those that know it here. Also before dinner we bumped into a couple of girls that we had been on a tour with in Los Angeles, they said they were coming here but you don’t expect to see them again with so many people around. Maybe we will also see them in Vegas as they will be there as well when we are as well.
30th March – San Francisco – San Francisco – 0 miles – Francisco Bay Inn
A slow start today as Sue needs to catch up with some Laundry, which unfortunately has to be done and I need to catch up with the blog. Once the chores had been done it was off and out again. The weather was looking fantastic so the shorts were back on. Sue had noted from the TV that the San Francisco Giants (formally the New York Giants)
were playing today against the Oakland Athletics in a pre-season baseball match so we set off to watch the game as we want to see different games that we don’t see back home and also how the atmosphere and crowds compare. We took a cable bus for just 2 bucks to the other side of town and found the stadium. The help at the ticket office was so much better than you get in England and nothing ever seems to be too much trouble. We were advised to get tickets in the lower section and were to the front and right of the pitcher so not a bad view. The atmosphere was exactly as I expected a very family friendly, although the prices inside for beer and food not so friendly. The game itself was pretty dull with only one run scored in the first 8 innings by the Athletics. In the 9th the Athletics failed to score and with no runs and 2 strikes the Giants were looking dead and buried, however with players on 2nd and 3rd base the final hitter hit into space and the two on bases made it home for a 2 – 1 victory to the Giants.
The place erupted and at last there was something to cheer about. Not sure I would rush back again but would maybe like to see a proper league game with the main players as I’m sure it must be better than this. After the game it was back to Union Square to get some of the famous cheesecake from Macy’s that Sue had set her heart on. We then tried to get the tram back but a policeman said that they currently weren’t working so we caught the bus back to Lombard Street so that we could climb heart attack hill and then go down the crooked street. We then noticed that the trams were working but to get tickets meant another long walk so it was back up the crooked street and down heart attack hill, back to our room for a well deserved slice of cheesecake and a beer