...be sure to wear some flowers in your hair

Trip Start Sep 02, 2007
Trip End Sep 16, 2007

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Flag of United States  , California
Monday, September 3, 2007

I woke up a lot during my first night due to jetlag, meaning that I feel back to sleep most of the morning when I should have been getting up and sightseeing on my spare day. This was Labour Day - a public holiday - which I'd cunningly included at the start of my work trip!

I finally arose just before 12 and after extracting exact instructions from the concierge on how much and how to pay, where to get on and off, and what to think on the journey, caught a bus to Alamo Square to see the Painted Ladies (see photo). On the way there I got a great view of City Hall, which is built in the same style as the Capitol, but with a taller central dome that is gilded. It glistened majestically in the sunlight.

As I rounded the brow of the hill at the top of Alamo Square, a strong cold wind whipped across the park, making an otherwise hot day decidedly chilly. I'd heard about the notorious unpredictability of SF weather. Locals always carry a scarf in the summer to protect against the freezing fog that rolls in from the sea at any time. Never one to be far from my ear-muffs and gloves, I had come prepared. There was still a bright blue sky at this point, but within an hour a swirling mist had arrived. I've now found out that the wind signals the fog's arrival. Brrrr.

Apart from the famous row of Painted Ladies, the area is absolutely heaving with gorgeous Queen-Anne style houses - rows of large Victorian buildings sporting corner turrets, oriel windows, gabled peaks, balconies, wrap-around porches, and intricate decorative details, all painted in pastel colours.
I headed on to my main purpose for visiting this area - Haight Street. Following a walking tour around the Haight Ashbury district I saw lots of buildings that used to be somewhere very trippy and cool, and the still-running free healthcare clinic keeping the spirit alive. At the height of the summer of love, free food and lodging was there for the taking along this strip.

Stopping outside the Grateful Dead's old house, I was staring up at it, trying to imagine what it must have been like when they lived there, when a man parked his car in the neighbouring driveway and got out. I felt a bit sheepish, as I thought the residents in this area must get really fed up of fans and tourists hanging about. But no, he didn't seem to be at all. He shouted out a jolly 'Yes... it is!' and then proceeded to tell me that they had lived next door in his house too. It was almost like he felt left out!
I ate lunch in a café sitting at a great people-watching table by the window. There sure were a lot of oddballs ambling past. Leaving, I narrowly avoided a guy who was a bit shouty, and naked apart from a shred of white material wrapped around his groin, his body covered in cuts. He would have looked like Jesus but he had a shaved head. When I came out of a shop ten minutes later he was sitting in the gutter getting arrested. Shame really, because he was the best freak I saw by far.

I was planning to go on to Golden Gate Park after 'doing' Haight Street, but I ran out of time because I couldn't stop shopping! I'm not usually one for shopping anyway, let alone when I visit another country - I just see it as a waste of sightseeing time - but there is a huge choice of thrift and clothing exchange stores. I'm used to having to scour charity shop rails for something wearable, but here clothes I liked kept turning up everywhere I looked. I haven't bought any new outfits for a while, and once the floodgates were open I went a bit mad. The hypocrisy of my consumer frenzy during my hippy pilgrimage didn't pass me by.

Finally emerging, slightly dazed, from my shopping-induced high, the afternoon was turning into evening and I was almost at the end of Haight Street. It reminded me a lot of Nimbin's main street (in Australia) but a larger, more frenetic, less self-conscious version. And just like Nimbin, it attracts darker characters and down-and-outs. Shortly after seeing the Summer of Love 40th anniversary poster (see photo), a bum offered me some of his summer of love, swaying his hips in his best provocative manner. I appreciated his reality check actually. For 39 years people have been coming here on the flower-powered bandwagon, but the free love and idealistic life has long gone. It was quite special to see where it all happened though.
I ate dinner at an empty veggie Indian restaurant that did a wicked Mango Lassi and got the bus back to my hotel.
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woodlouse on

San Fran Fan
hello Angie
lovely to read your funny travel tales. Veggie food disaster and amorous man are the best bits so far for me!
Hippy rainbow colours - parodic? - I'll remember that next time you put your festival outfit on!

angiedarren on

flower child
hi baby

sounds like you're having fun :-) Like the pics and your tales are amusing as always. See you soon.

D x

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