On A San Francisco High

Trip Start May 02, 2006
Trip End Mar 02, 2007

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Flag of United States  , California
Tuesday, May 9, 2006

Well we're in San Francisco. It's my second time here and Kat's first and we both whole heartedly agree that it's the certainly one of, if not the prettiest city on earth (behind Sydney of course). The streets, the bay, the architecture and of course, the bums. 7 x 7 miles of sheer happiness.

We landed in LA to pick up our connecting flight after a 15 hr flight from Sydney which apart from the boredom factor was realtively uneventful. Oh, and Kat managing to spill red wine all over herself and a full glass of water down my pants. Certainly made for some strange looks from our fellow passengers on the bathroom visits.

Our 2 hr customs experience however was a little more interesting. America's strict passport control is certainly an eye opener when coming from Australia where they essentially laught at your crap passport photo and wave you through. 2 index fingerprints and a photo later we were through to LA where another major queue to get from the international to domestic gates ensued. Reminesent of the queue ride from a Simpsons episode some years back.

A quick hop from LA to SF into the waiting arms of the Wilkins clan. Certainly a welcome sight after 18hrs on the move.

Firstly to Alcatraz Island. I won't bore you with historical details (if you're interested go here) - http://www.nps.gov/alcatraz/ needless to say it's a fairly impressive historical place of interest in anyone's book. Only the hardest crims were sent to 'the rock' including Al Capone (and Clint Eastwood). These days however it's overrun with tourists (mainly of the large Americano variety) and enormous seagulls and the inevitable crap they both leave behind.

That being said it's incredibly interesting and well worth the visit if you're ever in town. Now that the old ball and chain has been attached I felt strangely at home.

On our return to the mainland we stopped by and smelt, sorry, checked out the seals that have taken up residence on pier 39, not far from where you catch the ferry to the rock. The seals apparently just turned up one day after the '89 earthquake and have never left. In days gone by the foul smelling beasts would be minced up into a chinaman's wonton but these days they're protected by state law. So they just loll about all day doing nothing but stink the joint out.

The next couple of days we just hit the streets by ourselves or with Em and baby Cole. We hit the recently renovated Ferry Building which is now a centre of excellence for all things nice. Nice food, nice wine, nice chocolate, sort of nice everything I guess. We had a wonderful lunch of fresh Californian seafood and wine overlooking San Francisco bay. Have I asked how work is by the way ?

With our full stomachs and tipsy demeanours we made our way across town to the legion of honour. This was a memorial built in honour of America's fallen from the first world war and to see that it remains a useful and interesting part of San Francisco culture it has been converted to a fine art museum. It has a fairly substantial collection of impressionest and post impressionest paintings (see photos). Throw in the second biggest collection of Rodin sculptures and you have an enjoyable afternoons viewing (give it a couple of months and we'll be avoiding museums like the plague so best we get in there early).

After a few days of walking around it was time to head off to the Sonoma Valley for a weekend of food, wine, swimming and general clowing around. I was lucky enough to have visited the Napa Valley when I was last in Cisco and Sonoma certainly matches the Napa in it's beauty and quality of wineries. We spent the Saturday tasting wines in and around Sonoma and Caneros (some seriously tasty pinots were had) and out for dinner at a superb italian restaurant. Man this honeymoon stuff is tough. Lazily we just chilled by the pool on the Sunday, eating and drinking until it was time to head back into the city.

Our last couple of days in Cisco were spent visiting three of the more interesting parts of the city - The Mission (Spanish Qtr), The Castro (Gay Qtr) and Haight-Ashbury (Dirty Hippies). The Mission was quite an experience, in some parts you wouldn't know you were in America, the food, the people, the street signs, you're in Mexico baby. One of the more famous aspects around the mission are the murals that have been painted and maintained over the years. Some are quite spectacular and some not so. I knocked back more than a couple of tacos which would give Mr Old El Paso a run for his money in the tasty department.

The Castro was, well, pretty much gay. A strange sort of militant vibe seems to exist which was interesting to note. We did the usual things most straight visitors probably do I guess, I had my photo taken on the gayest corner on Earth (18th and Castro), browsed gay mags and literature in the gayest bookstore on earth (we now know how to tell if our cat or dog is gay - Mike and Em, we think your cat Leah is a lesbian) and generally just browsed about as only two people with 10 months up their sleeves can do.

From there we walked up and down the hills of Cisco in search of the new age hippies of the Haight. The haight has a marvellous history and was probably something else 'back in the day'. It was essentially where the summer of free love began and is celebrated in many songs of the era. One thing that a lot of people don't know however is that one Charles Manson got his little cult started here as well. People will take hits from the bong I guess. Anyway, the architecture in and around the Haight area is pure San Francisco and well worth the effort of taking half a day to walk the streets. You work the glutes and the eyeballs at the same time.

Well our time went way to fast in SF. Staying with friends you love and who's time you enjoy immensely makes it hard to say goodbye. Thanks to Mike and Em for letting us stay in your beautiful home and for being the hosts with most. The saddest thing about meeting up with good friends overseas is having to say goodbye and wonder when we'll get to meetup again. Whether it's next week, next year or whenever, the three of you will never be far from our hearts. Greeeeeeeeeeeeeek.

Next stop - New York.


Nath and Kat.

Now get back to work..

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