An incredibly jam packed day followed our night of a few ales – probably everything there is to see on a tourists to-do list was ticked off. The weather turned out to be ok even though it was forecast for showers again and this was a real brucey bonus considering the wet day we’d had previously.
A few things which we’ve learned about San Fran in our time there which will hopefully paint a better picture of it for you:
– The architecture of the streets and houses on them is quite unique. Virtually every house is different, but they’re mainly ‘terraced’ houses. Different features, colours and heights, but the widths are usually similar and they’re all crammed in. Space on the peninsula city is limited and there isn’t much more room for building new houses, therefore rent is high.
– It’s hilly. As you’ve no doubt seen in the countless movies which have been shot in the City, you can’t go more then one block without going 45 degrees up or 45 degrees down. Good job we had a 4×4, God knows how some of the compact cars cope. It’s that hilly that it’s actually a law that you have to park with your wheels turned into the curb (so that your car stops if the brakes fail).
– Unlike LA, where there is always 3 lanes of traffic on each side of the road, in San Fran there is usually only one on each side, unless you’re on a main road where there’s 2. Suffice to say it’s significantly smaller that LA.
– Trams and cable cars run through certain districts of the City, so there are power cables (which some of the buses run off too) and tracks are littered about the place.
We started off by picking up Russell and Mor from outside their apartment and we headed a couple of miles down the road to a certain part of Lombard Street. It’s a mad little street that’s probably only 60 meters long but incredibly steep. The road winds down the short hill like a snake because it was too steep to just put it in from top to bottom. Although the houses on either side of the street we rather grand, I wouldn’t want to live on it because of the amount of tourists which are attracted to it. Honestly, I found it quite bizarre just how many people were walking up and down the steps which flank the street, taking pictures of it. I mean, yes, we did that too but we didn’t hang about. A lot of the guys there were staring at it in wonder; maybe it was because Milly and I were there that they decided to hang around.
From Lombard Street we travelled a good 30 minutes across town to the Twin Peaks. The Twin Peaks are a couple of large hills overlooking the San Fran skyline. There’s a huge communication tower at the top which looks like a fun climbing frame. You can pretty much see it from wherever you are in the City – we thought it might be an art installation, it wouldn’t surprise us if it was given San Fran’s penchant for art. The view was, as you’d expect, pretty decent.
The next stop on the list was The Painted Ladies. These little Edwardian beauts are 7 detached houses which are adjacent to each other near the Filmore District. I’m not massively sure why they get so much attention. There is certainly more attractive houses about San Fran. Some of the gaffs there are just beautiful – not massive or over exuberant, just wonderfully finished with funky colours and patterns. I think they’ve been shot in a few movies, in fact I know because I’ve Googled it. They’re in Mrs. Doubtfire and one called Full House and a bunch of others too. Here are the pics we got of them so you can decide for yourself.
After our basketball experience of the prior evening we thought we’d be good at it and someone might be up for offering us a contract – out here you can actually pay to go for a trial with one of the NBA teams – so we headed to Russell and Mor’s gym near to the North Beach area of the City. Once there we bounced around the basketball court for a good hour or so and had a game of throwing the ball through the hoop. It’s much more difficult than the pros make it look. Milly couldn’t even reach the basket, with the ball, from the 3 point line and I got hit in the face with the ball on more than one occasion. Don’t think we’ll be getting a call for the All Star team anytime soon.
Hungry after our first bit of exercise in a while, we set off from the gym, up, what seemed like, an endless number of steps, towards the City’s Italian Quarter, where we’d agreed that pizza would be the best medicine. En route to Little Italy we passed the Coit Tower. The Coit Tower is a large monument, which looks a bit like cylindrical sandstone tower and can be seen from most points of the City. It was dedicated to the City by some rich benefactor (as are quite a lot of the national monuments in California). Standing at the bottom of The Tower is a brass statute of Christopher Columbus (the guy that allegedly found The States).
Using our noses to smell the lush Italian roast coffee we found our way to Little Italy and sat down to a feast of pizzas. Milly settled on a meaty number and I opted for a spinach and ricotta calzone. Yummy.
The Italian Quarter was pretty cool. A huge church stood bang in the centre of the area and all around it were gelatto parlours, pizzerias and coffee houses. The Italian tricolour adorned all lampposts and terra cotta was a running theme.
All full of cheese, tomato and baked dough, we meandered back to The Beast and took the short trip down to Pier 39 (where we’d been for lunch the previous afternoon) to have a wonder around. We perused the souvenir shops for a while but couldn’t resist going to the Pier’s main attraction, it’s seals!
Situated on one side of the pier are dozens upon (literally) dozens of seals. The majority of them were laid there sleeping and doing nowt, but there was a few playful characters taking turns to chuck each other in whilst bleating at the top of their voice. Apparently they don’t know what makes them congregate there – it’s probably the good supply of herring in the area, but it was mad to read that after an earthquake a good while ago, more of them descended on the area each day. At one point there was 1,700 chilling about the Pier. Although we were enjoying ourselves immensely, we had to get off because a seagull had shitted on Milly’s back and she wasn’t keen to hang around and be yet more target practice for the yellow beaked pests.
We thought to start the next day as we did the last, by seeing as much of the city as possible. Following some breakfast, we headed down to the Marina district to have a perv over the Fine Art Museum. What an amazing structure; it reminded me of the Sept of Baylor from Game of Thrones. It was going to get demolished back in the 60s but there was a petition and they ended up enhancing it rather than knocking it down. All credit to them because it’s a wonderful structure. Unfortunatley we didn’t have time to admire its contents though.
The rain had now started to come down heavily but there was one thing missing from our San Fran trip, a trip on a cable car. We popped down to a place near the pier called Ghiradelli Square. It’s pretty much a tourist shopping district; overpriced markets and coffee but there’s a cable car station there and it was cool to look around. Unfortunatley the rain saw to it that the cable cars weren’t running, but it was still a nice place to walk around, even if it was wet. Would be a nice place to go for a meal and drinks in the evening too we thought, but you’d need to remortgage your house to do so.
Just before we shot off to our next destination we paid a trip to the Castro District. This area has a rich history and is like a gay mecca. It was home to Harvey Milk, a gay rights activist in the 70s who Sean Penn played in the brilliant portrayal of his life in the film, Milk. Like the Italian District had red, white and green badged everywhere, the Castro District had the classic rainbow flag draped from every object you could hang a flag from. Again, we didn’t have time to hang about too long and I’m sure you wouldn’t get the full flavour for the place unless you had a few beers there on a Friday evening, but it looked wicked and it’s good to see the place being idolised by straight and gay folk alike.
Rather sadly we then had to leave San Fran and make our way over to Yosemite (not that we were sad about going to Yosemite, just sad to leave San Fran) as we needed our country fix after spending so many days in the city.