Weird Weather and Mega Steep Hills!

Trip Start Apr 27, 2009
Trip End Apr 27, 2010

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Flag of United States  , California
Saturday, September 5, 2009

A short flight from LA took me to San Francisco and after a ride on the BART and a visit to one of the hostels in the city that I wasn't booked into I finally got checked back into the world of bunkbeds - can't say I missed it!

During my time in San Francisco I've learned a couple of hints that are vital to an enjoyable time there:

1. No matter what the weather looks like dress in layers! The weather changes not only throughout the day but from block to block. One minute I needed my jumper to stave off the chill then the next I was wishing for those trousers that can be transformed into shorts - it was hard work!

Speaking of hard work...

2. Leave extra time to get anywhere because the maps don't show the contours of the city and what looks like a short stroll can end up feeling like a hillwalking expedition! Some of the streets are at a 45 degree angle so it takes a little longer than anticipated to get to a destination.

All the hard work is worth it though, San Francisco is a beautiful city and it's unique weather and quirky geography combine to give some spectacular views.

I went on a city tour with a guide called Dylan. We visited some of the many neighbourhoods of the city from the Castro (where the biggest rainbow flag in the world gives a hint that it's the centre of the gay community) to Nob Hill (where the houses have a fantastic view of the bay and will generally cost over $1million) and the Marina. I found the marina area interesting because it's one of the few flat areas in the city and is built on reclaimed land filled in with rubble from the huge earthquake that hit the city in the 80's. The houses are beautiful but if (when according to Dylan) another earthquake hits the area is likely to be very badly damaged. I suppose it's something that people choose to live with but I don't think I could! We also went up to the top of Twin Peaks for a view down onto the city and the bay area beyond it. After the city tour we went over the Golden Gate Bridge to Marin County to visit John Muir Woods which has some of the tallest trees in the world, the Californian Redwood. Some of them are around 200m tall and hundreds of years old surviving many fires and, although the outer layer of the tree is fine, the inside has been burnt out creating hollows - one of them was big enough for me to stand inside! On our way back to the city we stopped at a viewpoint for the Golden Gate Bridge. The morning fog had almost cleared away leaving a beautiful view of the bridge and the city beyond it.

Another day I went on a boat trip out to Alcatraz. The island was smaller and much closer to the city that I thought. It's around a mile offshore so it seems strange that no-one managed to escape but the water is freezing and apparently the currents are deadly (I just took the guide's word for that!). The proximity to the city provided extra torment for the prisoners who were able to hear many of the celebrations happening on the mainland (especially at New Year). The tour of the cellblock was very interesting especially as the tape was narrated by former prisoners and guards rather than a tour guide. I got shut in one of the solitary confinement cells for about a minute - it doesn't sound long but it was pitch black and I can't imagine being in there for hours or days at a time. After I was released and completed the tour I was glad to be headed back to the mainland!

I also went to visit some of the other attractions in the city - the beach and piers down at Chrissy Field, the really, really smelly, but entertaining, sealions at Pier 39 and Fisherman's Wharf and, of course, the section of Lombard Street that claims the title for the "crookedest street". I was certainly glad that I wasn't driving down it and that I don't live on it! Over a one block stretch there must be about 8 hairpin bends, and just to add some extra variety it's on a 45 degree gradient. Definitely a street that I wouldn't want to drive a Caravelle down!!

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