If you're going to San Fransisco...
Trip Start May 24, 2009
22Trip End Nov 05, 2009
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Having settled in we were advised to grab some lunch from the local sandwich shop, the Good Luck Sandwich. All the staff at the hostel swear by it and it possibly was the nicest sandwich I've had since I've been here! Re-fueled we cracked out the map and decided to take a walk to Fisherman's Wharf, the tourist area of the waterfront, filled with bars, restaurants and tacky souvenir shops galore, not forgetting the famous Pier 39 Sea Lions.
The next day we had tickets for a visit to Alcatraz, the former US prison on an island in the middle of San Fransisco Bay. Tickets sell out quickly, even at quieter times of the year and we'd had to pick up ours the day before, although the staff at the hostel said that in the middle of summer they sell out a week in advance! The fog had come down pretty heavily that morning and by the time we reached the ferry you could barely see the island from the mainland which made it pretty eerie making our way across the bay. By the time we reached Alcatraz the temperature had dropped and no sunshine was making its way through the clouds, making what is without doubt was always a desolate spot even on a sunny day, even more miserable.
Making our way up the hill we found our way to the main building, which houses the cell blocks, dining hall, offices etc. The National Park Service were putting on a talk about the Bird Man of Alcatraz and we decided to listen to that before we started the audio tour around the building. It was quite interesting, apparently Robert Stroud the 'Bird Man' was a real nasty peice of work (unsurprising really for a double murderer), nothing at all like the way he was portrayed by Burt Lancaster in the film.
Having spent a few hours looking around the island we caught the ferry back to the mainland, hoping that the fog had drifted offshore a bit and that it was warmer back in San Fran, unfortunately we were wrong. Walking back to the hostel you could actually look up and see fog drifting past at building height! San Fransisco has a unique climate compared to the rest of California and it's not unusual for it to be a lot cooler there than just a few miles outside of the city, but that took even me by surprise.
Day three dawned and the plan was to head up to Golden Gate Park and check out the California Academy of Sciences, which combines a natural history museum, acquarium and even it's own rainforest. Unfortunately by the time we found our way to the museum through the park it was 1 o'clock and they had a sign up outside to say that on that day they would be closing at 3pm! We'd be told that you really need to spend a whole day there so the prospect of paying $25 for two hours was pretty unappealing. Instead we decided to check out what else there was to see in the park, which takes up 1017 acres, making it 20% bigger than Central Park in New York (by the way, in case you were wondering I did get that info from Wikipedia, I can't claim to know if off the top of my head!), pretty big.
On Saturday a group of us from the hostel took the metro up to Mission Delores Park to experience a real San Fran Saturday and hang out with the locals. Mission Delores was the original site of the Catholic Mission established in what later became San Fransisco (no Wiki there). The orginal Mission building is still there and a Latin American community has grown up around it and the park just in front. On most Saturdays the locals come and hang out in the park, making the most of the sunshine, playing music, picnicing etc. This Saturday happened to be a particularly sunny one so a large number of people had come out to sunbathe and the line for the local ice cream shop was around the corner.
San Fransisco being the home of more than a few hippies there were a few other intersting sites (and smells) in the park, including the 'Really Really Free Market'. This was basically a jumble sale but without the sale element...they just give the stuff away! I had a quick look out of curiosity and some of the items available included old shoes, half used bottles of clothes detergent, hats and plastic pots...a fine collection! There was also a free bbq, open to anyone who wanted a bite to eat, at absolutely no cost.
Saturday night arrived and a few of us from the hostel fancied a night out. A bit of googling later and we found a club up the road which was having a end of summer beach party. This involved covering the whole club floor with sand, various bits of fishing net and plastic fish. Quite an experience!
On Monday Helen and I and two others from the hostel, an Australian couple, decided to hire a car and take a drive down Pacific Highway 1 to Carmel-by-the-Sea, a small coastel town known for being expremely picturesque. On the way there we stopped off at town other places, Santa Cruz and Monterey
Day 7 - Myself and the Aussies took the train out to the University of California - Berkeley campus for a look around. Berkeley is one of the famous Ivy League universities, similar to our Oxford and Cambridge. The campus is beautiful, lots of impossing while marble buildings surrounded by lawns and woodland, it must be a stunning place to study, and the town of Berkeley itself seemed pretty nice, with lots of coffee shops and little places to eat.
For our last day in San Fransisco we took a walk up to Lombard Street, famous for being the crookidest street in the city.
.From the top of Lombard Street we hopped onto one one San Fransisco's famous cable cars heading down to Union Square, the shopping district of the city. We stopped off for lunch at the Cheesecake Factory, a restaurant known for...well...cheesecake, but also it's generally huge portions. The fact that with each menu they give you a seperate booklet full of calorie counts for each menu item should give it away and I'm pretty sure I consummed my daily recommended calorie intact in one meal! The craziest thing I saw there was the carrot cake, which must have been at least six inchs high, and sliced up generously, I wish I'd taken a picture of it. Ridicously full we waddled around the shops for a while before heading back to the hostel to prepare for our overnight bus to San Diego,
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