San Frantastic

Trip Start Mar 13, 2010
Trip End Feb 13, 2011

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Flag of United States  , California
Friday, January 28, 2011

It was a seven hour drive north from LA to the city that provided a backdrop to many film classics such as Escape from Alcatraz, The Towering Inferno, and Homeward Bound II - Lost in San Francisco to name but a few!

We had the choice to either take a shorter route down massive highways, or a somewhat longer and more meandering route - The Pacific Ocean Coastal Drive. The Coast route is supposed to be one of the best drives in America however, after chatting to some girls in our hostel who had just done it, it seemed that as it was January it was mainly fog with nothing to see! We then calculated that by the time we got to the pretty parts, fog or no fog, it would have been too dark to see anything anyway, so we decided to cut our losses and head down the big highway instead.

The journey went pretty quickly with only a few stops to replenish ourselves with more beige American fast food. (All of us began to suffer from some form of malnourishment/bowel problems by the end of the two weeks - Mark and I were especially hard hit as our previous two weeks had been spent living almost exclusively on fresh tropical fruit on Rarotonga).

But that was all still to come - and the novelty of super-size meals with bottomless 'soda' was still exciting at this point so it was in with the 5,000 calorie meals and onward with the road trip!

Pulling in to San Francisco was definitely a shock to the system after being in the LA bubble for a few days - the streets were gritty, there was graffiti and in places some windows were even boarded up. The roads were narrow and we had trouble finding any parking near our hostel - in fact we had to circle the block a few times using a nearby theater on 'Nob Hill' (with a lit board displaying the current showing of "Touch our Junk") as a landmark to get our bearings.

Eventually we found out that our hostel had an agreement with a parking facility a few blocks away so we handed over our beloved minivan and headed up the first of many hills with our rucksacks to check in and crash after a loooong day.

Another 'perk' in our hostel was that they provided free unlimited pancakes for breakfast. Well...they provided a kitchen, a stove and a jug of pancake batter, the rest was up to us. Needless to say there were a few pancake casualties before we got the hang of it. But once we did, they weren't half bad - starting the day with more heavy doughy beige stuff, this time covered in syrup, was just what our constitutions needed!

The first morning was used to gather information and plan what we wanted to see in San Francisco. After a trip to the tourist information we left with thousands of leaflets and ideas and calculated that it would actually be cheaper to buy a 3 day pass for one of the open air bus tours than to pay for public transport around the city - so that's exactly what we did. We would soon come to know the tour commentary off by heart. We even had a favourite driver who's accent was amazing. Highlights included Cafe Zoetrope, which featured in The Godfather, and the building used in The Towering Inferno. It got to the point where we would talk along with the guide as we sat up top..."and on your left is Oooold First Church".

In the afternoon we decided to have a look around Fisherman's Wharf, unfortunately the weather was a bit drizzly and quite cold. However, we soon warmed up by piling on some more calories in Bubba Gumps (a themed restaurant based on Forest Gump) which was amazing. We then went out and had a look at the famous sea lions on Pier 39. It was a bit of a shock to the system seeing just how HUGE they were - they were pretty smelly and noisey to boot. There haven't always been sea lions in San Francisco, apparently they just mysteriously turned up on Pier 39 after an earthquake hit the city - no one is really sure why, but most experts seem to think it's something to do with an underwater geological change. Maybe they just heard how good Bubba Gumps is...
We spent the next day walking, walking, and walking. San Francisco is famous for its hills but until you've tried walking up them you have no idea, some of them were so steep I felt like if I'd stretched out my hand in front on me it would touch pavement. And bizarrely nearly every one of these hills was lined with parked cars, the lifespan of their handbrakes in that city must be minuscule. We walked/trudged up to the Coit Tower where we were rewarded for our efforts with our first view of The Golden Gate Bridge which was amazing. Then, ever the gluttons for punishment, we headed across to Lombard Street which has eight sharp turns that have earned the street the distinction of being the most crookedest [read: winding] street in the world.

After days of eating nothing but stodge all the excercise was hard going, in fact on our way back to Nob Hill, Kate and I (who were holding up the rear scaling another almighty hill) decided to hail a passing taxi and ruthlessly zoomed away leaving the others to walk the rest of the way. In our defence they clearly didn't need assistance as they were so far ahead! That night we rested our weary limbs ready for The Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz the following day.
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