San Francisco, CA

Trip Start Apr 10, 2012
Trip End Apr 06, 2013

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, California,
Monday, May 7, 2012

After our whirlwind trip to Vegas AK & SJ were looking forward to relaxing and exploring San Francisco. After another long drive (we have clocked up nearly 2000 miles and are now confident? drivers on the US roads) we arrived in San Francisco. We came across the Bay Bridge thinking it was the Golden Gate Bridge (we quickly realised that it wasn't when we seen the Golden Gate bridge in the distance!) and found the Green Tortoise hostel pretty easy with help from TomTom.

Check in was really easy and our first impressions of the hostel were pretty good, its a very unique hostel. Parking is really difficult in SF but the hostel helped us park a short distance away at a private car park and we came back to the hostel $20 lighter! We were shown around the hostel and by the time we got downstairs dinner was being prepared so we got stuck into helping prepare tea (well AK did, best to keep SJ out of the kitchen). The people who work there are all travellers themselves and are really helpful and most of them were so friendly you felt like you had known them for years! Three times a week they offer free dinner as long as people help to prepare the food and every one bus's (clears) their own tables. The rooms are very basic but clean and for the price you pay we thought they were great. The hostel is a bit noisy but we expected that so SJ had her ear plugs in most nights.

On the Tuesday we headed to Mission Street to browse the thrift shops. SJ got some great bargains and spent about $20 in total and came away with loads of stuff. AK was not too impressed being dragged around the shops but he suffered it fairly well. This part of town seems to be a bit poorer as there were a lot of homeless people. We got talking to a nice guy in Walgreens who advised us where to go for the best thrift shops. He had a fab Afro and was dressed really smart, in his own unique way. He had a flared pair of smart checked trousers, a shirt and jacket which was definitely vintage and maybe from the 70s. He topped it all of with a little cap and looked very cool. We think he does most of his shopping in the thrift stores and looks damn good on it.

In the evening we went for Indian food for $5 with a big group from the hostel. It was pretty good food and SJ drank a bottle of rose wine. We got talking to some nice people from all over the world. That's the great thing, you get to speak to such different people with different backgrounds and it's nice learning about them.

On Wednesday we took a bus to Haight/Ashbury street to check out the hippy shops and vintage shops. It was pretty cool and SJ was gutted she couldn't go mad in the vintage shops, they are so much better than the shops back home. We walked right down Haight St. past the Amoeba music shop to Golden Gate park. There are some characters that hang around the park, guys with massive dreadlocks and the longest flared jeans. We were not sure if they were homeless or just spent their time hanging out at the park. We got offered 'stuff', 'herb', 'weed' or basically anything you want from the class A menu! They were smoking hashish pipes in broad day light on the park. It was interesting and AK got a little bit excited. Obviously we didn't stop to sample the goods.

We had free food for tea again and AK went on a pub crawl with a load of people from the hostel. SJ enjoyed some 'me' time and chilled and did some laundry, typical SJ.

We booked tickets for Alcatraz for Thursday afternoon. We nearly didn't make it as the tram took ages and then when we were on our way there AK realised that he had forgotten the tickets we printed out at the hostel. It was ok in the end as we told them we had trouble printing them and they gave us new ones.

We went across the bay on a packed boat and as we were approaching the island we seen a dolphin just in front of the boat. This made SJ very happy. As you approach the island you get a sense of the isolation and hopelessness the prisoners must have felt as it is quite far from the shore and really is just a big rock! Hence the nick name 'The Rock'.

The island has been many things in the past, a lighthouse, a fort to protect the city of San Francisco and a military prison but it is it's time as a federal prison that people think about when you mention Alcatraz. We explored a bit of the island and then took the audio tour around the prison. It's smaller than you imagine, both the corridors and the cells but the level of care was surprisingly good. They had good meals and reading material, exercise time etc. they also had access to health care if required. It doesn't sound much but this was a prison for hard core criminals of their day!

In the evening we took part in hermit crab racing at the hostel....yes hermit crab racing! The hostel provides a free keg of beer and then you all get into teams and shout and cheer on your hermit crab. SJ initially had concerns that the hermit crabs would be getting mistreated by a load of drunken bums picking them up and possibly dropping them but she was relieved to find that they were only handled by their owner.

SJ's team crab won the first race and lost every other one! AK's crab did pretty much the same. It was good fun though and SJ is considering getting pet hermit crabs when she gets home. After the race we sat around drinking beer and then AK and SJ went upstairs to sleep as Friday was a big day....preparing for the green tortoise Canyons of the west tour.

We got up nice and early on Friday and went into town to buy SJ a day back pack and to get some bits and bobs for the tour. We had the whole afternoon to get ready, chill and get some of the blog wasn't to be! AK and SJ got talking to a really nice man who was about 70 (ish) and although we couldn't get a word in edge ways he was really sweet and had lots of interesting things to say. Before we knew it, it was tea time so we decided to help out with tea again. We thought we would just have time to eat some but unfortunately we had to leave to catch the bus so we missed tea.

We got to the bus stop where a big green bus awaited and after introductions to the drivers and filling in some forms (and a quick dash over the road for some tea!) we were on the bus and getting settled for our first night of our trip on the hippy bus!
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