Steep streets, cable cars, big bridges

Trip Start Dec 28, 2007
Trip End Aug 28, 2008

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Flag of United States  , California
Thursday, July 10, 2008

We made our way to Honolulu Int'l to find ourselves in one of the only modern day hub airports without air conditioning! The walkways and shops open out into gardens at the edge of the tarmac and the raised corridors have no glass so you are literally feet from a noisy 747 as it pulls up to a gate - very strange. Anyway, the 5 hour flight passed quickly due to a very chatty man sitting next to us who told us all about the US mainland and where to go in San Francisco. What we found amazing is that although he loves America he would move England quicker than you could say, err, line. He said it was clean, had better transport and was much more inviting than the cities where he lives - we would later see what he meant. After avoiding what the locals call 'gypsie cabs' we got to our hotel on Market Street and checked in. We found a cheap deal for this hotel on the main street car route to the harbour and booked a 'petite' queen room which the receptionist confirmed. Just by saying 'well, as long as it's big enough for both of us' we got upgraded to a King room and headed off to our room which, after two trips to reception to check the room number as the cards were not working, had a rather grumpy man in it who opened the door and mumbled "I think you have the wrong room". Oops!

Our full day in the city was spent riding the cable and street cars up and down the streets and wandering around Fishermans' Wharf. At Pier 39 we took in the views of Alcatraz, the bridges and some sealions before grabbing some lunch and sampling some of the biggest strawberries you have ever seen. We then headed along the streets past the TransAmerica Pyramid and had a ride on one of the famous cable cars which traverses the city up and down the steep streets. The operators are entertaining as they ring rhythms on the bell and you hang off the side like monkeys. We headed back to the wharf for dinner and found ourleves in a diner where Chris tried the snapper and Claire had ribs. But in America you don't just get a few ribs, you get 10! And a pile of vegetables. And bread. We also tried 'hush puppies' which are balls of deep-fried corn just because of the silly name.

The following morning we checked out early and headed back to the piers to catch our boat to Alcatraz. After a ride across the bay we grabbed a tour book and began our exploration of the rock. We saw the out buildings and civilian housing before entering the cell house and grabbing our free guide headsets (so don't laugh if you see any photos with us wearing orange and blue radio sets). The tour took us around the different corridors, in cells, through the dining halls and control room before showing us D-block where the naughtiest men were kept. A fascinating place topped off by meeting one of only five remaining ex-inmates. We then headed for the tram back to downtown but after waiting for nearly an hour in the sun we grabbed a taxi with another couple who used to live in Skegness, picked up a car and collected out bags from the hotel. Navigating San Francisco is easier aid than done as nearly every other street is one-way. Nevertherless we found our way via a the 'crookedest street', drove across the Golden Gate Bridge and headed inland towards Yosemite.
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