From Bay to Beach

Trip Start Aug 24, 2012
Trip End Sep 19, 2012

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Flag of United States  , California
Sunday, August 26, 2012

I think I need a 3D map... Especially in San Francisco...

'It's only one and a half miles, Google Maps says,' I coaxed Shane as we disembarked the Street Car at Market and Castro.

'Yeah, but it's about a mile vertically, too,' he pointed out, gesturing up (and up) 17th Street which was our route from the Castro to Golden Gate Park.

The sun was shining on San Francisco, so rather than catch the BART (underground) from Downtown to the park, I'd opted to stay above ground and take a nice pleasant stroll.

'Well, nothing we can do about that. Come on, Shane, a bit of an uphill hike never hurt anybody!'

It mightn't hurt anybody, but apparently Shane's huffing and puffing frightened a young lady walking in front of us enough that she crossed to the other side just to avoid him. I couldn't really blame her; he was hamming it up just a smidgen.

Despite Shane's concerns, once we were over the hill, it was easy walking towards delightful houses flanked with a hillside covered with blue gums. We could have been at home.

What was nothing like home was Shane's enthusiasm for a picnic in the park. And his desire to indulge in a little vino with his organic roast beef and salad sandwich from the Whole Foods Market (a chain store that I would live in if we had it at home).

So armed with sambos, Pinot Grigio and juice to mix it with (because that makes drinking in the middle of the day more acceptable, doesn't it?) we embarked on our journey.

We meandered past the Academy of Science, with it's living roof, and marvelled at the De Young Museum's unique architecture. The park itself is home to many cultural landmarks, and if we had a week just for Golden Gate Park, we could have visited them all. But our time was on a budget - this Virgo has toilet breaks scheduled (more on that later).

At the Music Concourse, we sat to reapply sunscreen to the dulcet tones of a very...cuddly man making noises that sounded a bit like a didgeridoo being played by anyone but a professional didgeridoo player. Something like a cross between blowing a raspberry and moaning in pain. The instrument and its player were part of an orchestra there performing to celebrate Ukrainian National Day. I would have loved to stay all day to treat my ears, but like I said, we were on a schedule.

Which went out the window when we paid our $7 and stepped through the temple-like gates into the Japanese Garden.

Inside the walled garden a riot of colour, light and shade morphed into being. While meticulously designed to provide ample places to find a zen-like state of calm, it unfortunately failed completely to do that, just because of the sheer volume of camera happy nutters clogging the meandering pathways and stepping stone bridges.

I was desperate to capture the relaxing atmosphere, and determined to out wait the crowds to get some people free shots. Other dawdling people combined with my well documented lack of patience meant I wasn't really soaking up said atmosphere. In the end I gave up entirely, opting to go with the flow - who really cares if our photos are full of randoms?

I dragged Shane around the garden twice before he tapped his watch to remind me of the schedule. And so we moved on.

As we circumnavigated Stow Lake, teeming with Canadian Geese and tortoises sunning themselves on logs, I faced a new dilemma; lunch time wine combined with Shane's itty bitty bladder. He started for a restroom for the fourth time since lunch. I dragged him back, pulled out our map, and with a very patient mum voice, coaxed him...

' you see, sweetie, there's another toilet just up ahead, so I think you might be able to hold on, don't you? Good boy!'

We hiked our way past Rainbow Falls and an enormous Celtic Cross commemorating the first use of the Common Prayer Book in California, past Lloyd Lake with a memorial to the great earthquake and fire of San Francisco in 1906, before Shane decided he really couldn't wait any longer, and we detoured from our path to seek a men's room.

After our stop, Shane almost bounced along. I wasn't sure if it was because he was feeling lighter, or if he was just excited about approaching the Bison Paddock, inhabited since 1894. He was so excited that he mused aloud about changing his surname to 'Buffalkill', which he soon discounted because Bison aren't really Buffalo, and he didn't really want to kill them in any case.

Perhaps they heard him and fled, perhaps not, but whatever happened, when we approached, not a Bison was to be seen. With heavy hearts (and legs - we'd been walking for over two hours by this stage) we set out through the wild parts of the park towards the finish line. We were determined to make it from one end of the park to the other, and not even the Coyote warnings posted regularly as we left the more manicured parts behind were going to put us off.

Finally in the distance the hush hush of the ocean could be heard, and on the horizon appeared the giant wooden sails of the Dutch Windmill - our final stop before we reached the beach. We collapsed onto the lawn for a breather before heading out to see the sea.

It hit me as I pulled out the map to check where the free park shuttle would pick us up that we had walked over half the width of San Francisco in one day! No wonder we were exhausted! And while the shuttle would take us back to the main gate, we still had o make our way back to the other side of the city!

Our trusty San Francisco map, complete with its lovely colour coded public transport routes, came to the rescue, and we headed towards Haight Street to hop on a number 71 bus that would take us right back to where we began that morning. Thank goodness for the amazing MUNI transport system in San Francisco!

As it turned out, our walk through the Haight was worthwhile in itself. A neighborhood renowned as the Mecca for flower power in the 60's, and the place folks like Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix called home. Even Charles Manson started his cult in the Haight. We strolled past trendy bars, thrift stores spilling recycled fashion out onto the sidewalk, and hippie stores wafting incense into our path. If we hadn't just walked halfway across the city, I would have been tempted to stay and browse. But the sun and the many kilometers we'd walked had taken their toll, and we very gratefully clambered onto a bus, and trundled our way back over the big hill to Union Square.
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