San Francisco- Day 1
Trip Start May 06, 2010
79Trip End Dec 17, 2010
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Within a few blocks I passed restaurants offering every kind of food imaginable. There is also an amazing eclectic mix of shops from Tiffany's to comic stores! There are old buildings, new buildings, all sorts of shapes and sizes from different era's all happily mixed together looking so natural a blend it's like a jigsaw puzzle- everything just fits together. This city is an absolute feast for the eyes.
I arrived yesterday afternoon but wasn't feeling 100% so only went for a small wander around in the immediate vicinity of the hostel and managed not to get lost which was good
This morning I had breakfast at the hostel which was the best breakfast ever! They have home made porridge here and the chef had put fruit and cinnamon in it and it is gorgeous. They also have bagels, muffins and fresh fruit salad so you can have loads. There was tea as well, which was great as the last 2 hostels only had coffee so I was well happy!
After stuffing myself with porridge and muffins I set out to explore the city. I got completely lost in a short space of time and ended up in Mission district which isn't the best area. It is one of the oldest districts in San Fran and has a high concentration of homeless people there. (San Fran has a high percentage of homeless people full stop, the most I have seen to date. Some sit silently hoping for a bit of change, others are more flamboyant whilst there are also others who are clearly drunk. I passed one guy who had a sign saying "money required for alcohol research". At least he's honest!!) I didn't feel unsafe in Mission as it was daylight but I wasn't entirely comfortable either so I got a muni (Subway) to a stop I recognised and ended up near the hostel again.
I set off again and this time had a plan! Instead of just wandering about and hoping for the best I decided to follow a tour outlined in my guidebook. It is meant for drivers as it is a 49 mile scenic drive but I figure I can break it down into chunks and do a bit each day with a combination of walking and muni transport
My first place of interest was Japan Town. San Francisco is one of only 3 cities with a Japan town and this one is the oldest of them all. The Japanese population here have had their ups and downs over the years as to how they have been treated by the American state but they have remained and are now embraced by a multicultural American society. I didn't see all of the town. There is a self guided tour of the area that you can do but there didn't seem to be any maps available to take away so you had to memorise it. I couldn't do that as my memory is awful so I saw the peace centre which outlines their history and walked along a few streets in the area. It is very peaceful and very understated there, all very subtle and it seemlessly blends in with the surrounding city.
Then I went to China Town. The contrast between the two towns is very marked. A massive dragon sign marks the entrance and China Town is a buzzing hive of activity, colour and ornate buildings. It is the best China Town I have seen. It is a large area with a huge range of shops and restaurants. A lot of the shops are very touristy and full of tack but it is great fun to walk around and just soak up the atmosphere.
My walk then took me onto Grace Cathedral
I then went to Coit Tower. You have to walk up some very steep hills to get to this tower but it is worth it. It costs $5 to go to the top which you access by elevator and in return you get panoramic views over the city and they are fantastic. I had to queue for ages to get up to the top but I was very pleased I went.
I got a bit lost coming out of the tower as I couldn't find the guided route signs. I was supposed to head towards the pier but couldn't find the road that was marked in the book. I have 2 maps with me but San Fran is so big that all maps are concentrated and miss out many streets so it can be quite tricky to find your way around!! I had a rough idea of the direction to go in so just found my own way back to the pier but I ended up being at the wrong end! It was by then after 6pm so I decided to pick up the route tomorrow and made my way back to the hostel.
I had dinner at the hostel as they give you a 2 course home cooked meal for $5. I didn't have to eat lunch due to the big breakfast which is free so it's working out quite cheap! The dinner was delicious, roast chicken with rosemary rice and carrot cake- yum yum. I was so hungry after walking all day I could have had 2 lots!!
I have had a great first day and I can't wait to get out and about again tomorrow. If I look at the map of the area I covered today it looks tiny but I was walking for 8 hours solid!! I'm actually worried I'm not going to see it all!
I have experienced some of the notorious San Fransisco steep hills as well. There are some short one's and some really long one's! I've had to do 2 long ones today but it wasn't too bad. Looking down them once you have got to the top is great. I haven't done Nob Hill yet though, it is the steepest one. It may well be on the agenda tomorrow! If I don't lose a stone by the time leave here I won't be happy!