San Francisco

Trip Start Nov 01, 2005
Trip End Apr 14, 2006

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Flag of United States  , California
Thursday, November 3, 2005

Despite me trying to stay up as late as possible last night, I was still wide awake by 5:45 this morning, so I figured I might as well have an early start. I had my free breakfast (bagels and jam) while working out where to go today. I walked through the business district just when all the 'big suits' were going to work, so it was quite busy. The area itself is really glamarous and expensive- big skyscrapers, and shops similar to bond street. Even the business districts in London arent quite the same- I guess its something about US cities. 2 things i hadnt realised when planning my route; I had no idea how long the distances were and the maps dont show where the hills are! I think I did enough training for the day just by climbing all the hills! Unfortunately all the shops were closed (9am) but it meant it was pretty quiet.

I decided to try and get the BART (bay area rapid transit system)- so went underground and took a long time working out how to get the ticket! There was a guy from Birmingham playing 'Wonderwall' which made me think of home- and there was a gathering of Brits listening to him.

I got to my destination SO quickly- 4 mins as opposed to the hour it would have taken to walk, and entered the Mission District. It was amazing to go through all the different neighbourhoods- it was like complete seperate communities from different parts of the world- something we dont seem to have in our cities. Anyway I think Mission is the Hispanic/Latin American neighbourhood. There were white wash houses, and certain styles quite different to any other neighbourhood. I cant upload the photos At the mo cos there isnt a socket on this computer, but I'll try and do some ASAP. At this stage in the day I was really enjoying just wandering around, going wherever took my fancy, not having to go anywhere in particular. I came across this amazing church I hadnt really heard of (but I think it is a tourist attraction), Mission Dolores. It was enormous and very well kept. I think you had to pay $5 to go for a tour, so I decided to carry on. I stuck my head in a side entrance, and held the door open for a woman coming out with a pram- and saw the inside of the church. I couldnt not go in, so in I went and wandered around for a bit. I was still unsure whether I was meant to have paid for this or not, but when I left through the gift shop, the lady issuing tickets gave me a bit of a strange look, so I guess I must have sneaked in! It was beautiful though,. with big domes and stained glass windows.

I carried on down this street for about half an hour through the Castro neighbourhood (known for its gay population), but it wasnt really that different to Mission. I climbed this massive hill (yet again, deceived by the map) through a little park. The best bit of climbing these hills though are the views! I could see all the way down one street to the bay, and could see the golden gate bridge too. It was somewhat relaxing to see the sea- I'm looking forward to tomorrow!

I then carried on up to Haight-Ashbury or something- the hippy neighbourhood. I was asked for change by a homeless person on the street. I think he was quite surprised for me to acknowledge him albeit just saying 'no' so he said 'OK thankyou, have a nice day'!!! Wouldnt get that happening in Reading... I felt like I needed an energy boost, so I stopped off for a smoothie which was yummy and had added vitamins (since I'm not getting much fruit or vegetables at the moment). The shops there were great- psychadelic signs and uber-cool clothes. Lots of vintage stuff that I'd love to go out and buy and get some great outfits- but alas I'm living on a budget, so I just window shopped. I saw a strange guy who was dressed up in black and platform boots, like something out of Rocky Horror show! Oh and lots of Bob Marley playing too.

I finally made it to the Golden Gate Park- and it is enormous. I had no idea it would be so big- didnt look it on the map! It probably didnt help that I was just wandering down random pathways, but it was really nice to see some grass, big tall trees, birds (larks I think) and lots of squirrels! There were also lots of 'bums' (Alistair will know what i mean- Tony Hawks) in the park, walking around with all their posessions in shopping trolleys. I guess they dont have anywhere else to go so why not be surrounded by nature.

There was a really tranquil AIDS memorial park too with walkways and streams etc so I spent a bit of time there, before making my way up to the Japanese Tea Garden. It was nice, but also a total tourist trap. The plus side was that I could take as many photos as I wanted cos I felt like I was surrounded by fellow tourists! I had the customary Jasmine tea with crackers and cookies (my fortune said that 'you never hesitate to challenge difficult situations') overlooking a pond and bonzai (?) trees. I felt like I was playing 'whats the time mr wolf' with the pidgeons though- literally, every time I turned my back, they crept towards the cookies, and then when I turned round they stopped dead and stared at me!! I left and then promptly got lost. (not in the garden itself, but trying to find my way out of the park!) I went round in circles and ended up passing the botanical gardens about 6 times... by this time I was getting pretty tired and just wanted to sit down and relax. I thought I'd found my way out, but when I checked the map, it turned out that I had come out on the wrong side. I couldnt face the long walk without a bit of sustinance, so I went and got takeaway 'Thai style fried rice with chicken' and ate it in the park. Yum! It was a really nice day, so I was sitting in the sun on the grass eating my thai and suddenly I didnt feel so bad.

I went to try and find the natural history museum and planetarium that had been recommended but couldnt see it anywhere! I asked for directions and the guy pointed me in the direction of a sign 'The All New San Francisco Science Area will be rebuilt in 2008'. The reason I hadnt been able to see it was becasue it was a building site!

Not only did I manage to find my way to the bus stop and get the right bus, but throughout the day I was mistaken for a local 3 times! V.proud. I couldnt believe how crowded the bus was- SF public transport really isnt that great. I had to stand for the 20min journey, packed in between about 30 other people standing. I tried to pay, but there were so many people the bus driver didnt ask me, so I got a free lift! According to the bus driver its the busiest bus route in America. I can believe that. Everytime Ive seen a bus its been packed!

I got out the bus at Union Square again- busier this time, the peace and quiet of the morning all but forgotten- but the shops were open! I had to go into Macys and I LOVED it. They should get one in London! There was an entire floor of handbags and perfume :D Unfortunately again everything was out of my price range but if I ever win the lottery, I am THERE! I remebered the dresses in Macys in New York (which I think was posher than this one) so headed up to that floor. Thought I might as well try on a couple of dresses- $189, $250 and $384 respectively... still, it was fun trying them on even if I could never buy them :)

I noticed that there was a cheescake factory on the top floor- and I love cheescake!!! I had 'caramel apple strudel' flavour and it was amazing... I would go back there but $7 for a slice of cheescake is a bit expensive. (more than my massive carton of thai fried rice!) Good views over Union Square though. On the bill they print 'Don't worry, be happy'- presumable thats because having seen the size of your bill, you will be quite worried!

I then walked up through Chinatown which was yet another amazing neighbourhood- I felt like I was in China (the only difference I could think of was that there werent any 'oriental' smells) it was great! They were celebrating National China day I think so there were lanterns hanging across the street as decoration.

It was only a matter of time before I lost something- unfortunately the first thing I lost was my credit card... I looked through all my stuff and couldnt find it anywhere- I'd put it seperate from my other cards just in case in my money belt and it was gone! I had no idea where it could be, but then I remembered going into STA Travel and taking out my tickets (which were in the same pocket). I phoned them up and, thank God, they'd found it. So i'm going to pick it up tomorrow morning. I'll try and be more careful in future... but at least they found it!

Theres free dinner tonight at the hostel, but then after that I'm just gonna crash out- I'm exhasted! I think I walked about 8 miles but I feel like I've walked around the entire San Francisco city- and I'm doing my long bike ride tomorrow!
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