San Francisco

Trip Start Apr 06, 2010
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of United States  , California
Thursday, June 10, 2010

We had been excited about getting to San Francisco for ages and after a quick lunch by the beach in Santa Cruz we drove north into the 'city by the bay' up Highway 101. First impressions are just as we expected, the city is full of hills. If you were not driving up a steep hill, you were rolling down a steep hill. This has the advantage that when you are at the top of the hill you get great views of the city and we could see the golden gate bridge over the tops of the houses as we came into downtown. We found a nice hotel right near to union square and the civic centre, which made it easy to ride the famous cable cars that have been pulling people up the San Fran hills for 150 years!

The cable cars run down to the bay area known as Fishermans Wharf, where we hired bikes for the afternoon for a nice leisurely ride over the Golden Gate Bridge. We were given a map at the hire depot and failed to realise quite how far this route was and quite how hard it would be to ride up hill and into the wind for 3 hours. The ride to the bridge nearly killed Dan (and his rear end had only just recovered from the mule ride) but the views from the top were definitely worth the effort! The wind roars across the bay filled with cruise liners, cargo ships and the prison on the rock, Alcatraz. We continued across the bridge (over 1.7 miles long alone) and into the town of Sausilito, an Italian styled community on the north side of the bay. We conveniently found an ice cream parlour (no chance of any calories being lost on this bike ride) and joined the queue for the ferry back to the bike kiosk. Dan was lucky enough to celebrate his birthday in the city and that night we went out for a huge steak meal at 50s style Mel's drive-in diner, a welcome change to instant noodles and soup we live on during our camping expeditions.

The next morning we went back down to the wharf and went on a tour of Alcatraz, now part of the National Park system and preserved for tours and sightseeing. The prison was originally built as a fort to protect the bay in 1853, and used during the american civil and second world wars by the army to defend the city and detain POWs. It later became a military prison and holding centre, before being transferred to the united states correctional department in 1933 and converted into a federal prison. During the 29 years that it operated as a penitentiary, Alcatraz came to house some of the country's worst and most high profile prisoners, for example George "machine gun" Kelly, "Baby Face" Nelson and Al Capone. It was shut down and abandoned due to excessive running costs and severe deterioration from the weather in 1963. The tour around the prison is a self guided audio tour with accounts from the old guards and actual ex-inmates which makes the whole experience that much more real. It was a scary place and had signs on the walls with quotes like ' If you break the rules, you go to prison. If you break the prison rules, you go to Alcatraz'.

Pier 39 at Fishermans Wharf is home to a huge sea lion colony; the bigger males were constantly chasing the smaller ones away from the females, rearing up and barking at them. The wharf is a great area with lots of street artists and performers everywhere; the best one we saw of the day was a group of 5 guys breakdancing, they were awesome. We took a really old street car back downtown that evening which must have been in service for nearly 100 years, and despite being packed in like sardines was a memorable journey back to the hotel.

The hotel was right across the street from a bar showing the 'soccer cup' and we managed to get in for the England vs USA match which was a result. Surprisingly the bar was full of USA fans (we didn't think anyone would be in there!) and we had to listen to their chants of "Rooney, you suck man" and they were probably right. We left town that afternoon and were heading back inland for one of the best known and busiest national parks in America, Yosemite.
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MUM on

That ice cream looks nice lou !! Wow dan first a donkey and now a bike you are certainly keeping fit !! another fantastic blog with amazing pics as ever - a pleasure to view xx

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