Hills, Sealions, Two bikes and a Chinaman

Trip Start Aug 21, 2009
Trip End Aug 20, 2010

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Flag of United States  , California
Friday, October 9, 2009


Simon: It was pretty late by the time we got off the train and got the shuttle bus from Oakland (where the train stopped) over the Bay Bridge to Downtown San Francisco, so after grabbing a slice of Pizza each, we jumped into our hostel beds and slept for like 13 hours (after sleeping in a chair for 2 days, the bunk beds were SO comfy!)

Our hostel was in the centre of San Francisco near Union Square. It was surrounded by 5 star hotels like the Hilton and the Marriott, which cost like $300 a night, so we were pretty chuffed with the location for $25 each. We left our hostel and noticed that it was pretty darn busy in the streets, but we'd been warned about a Bluegrass music festival about 2 miles away in the park, so we thought that it must be that. We kept walking, and started to notice more and more strange looking people wearing less and less clothes, until we heard some REALLY loud music about a 2 blocks from our hostel.

We arrived on the main street, Market, just in time to see big floats cruising past with super-loud music being pumped from them, and thousands of neon-clad people wearing generally not much at all (one girl was wearing leggings and 2 strategically placed stickers! Another guy was wearing face paint. Only face paint...) Needless to say, we both were shocked, and felt horribly over dressed, but we followed the floats down to the Civic Center where we learnt that it was LoveFest, an annual expression of San Francisco's liberalness! We hung around the Civic Center for a while laughing at the costumes (or lack of, usually from old fat men) and people blatantly smoking illegal drugs sitting on police cars. After a very eventful first morning and afternoon, we headed to the supermarket and stocked up for our week ahead.

Flo: The first day was crazy! We really didn't expect that! :) Our second day we got up really early and decided to try and explore lots of the city. We left around 8am and walked towards Chinatown. It was really pretty with lots of Chinese food shops and herbal medicine shops, and all the signs and shop names and menus were in Chinese! There were old men and women in a park doing Tai Chi, and a massive funeral procession with a band marching in front of the coffin. We bought a few postcards from a little old chinese lady, and carried on through towards our next stop, Coit Tower.

Between Chinatown and Coit Tower, we soon learned that San Francisco is the hilliest place EVER! the streets up to the tower were so steep they had steps instead of a path!! Parking on them couldn't be very easy! Anyways, we climbed about 400 steps up to the base of the tower, and thankfully there was a lift to the top! The tower isn't very tall, but because it's right on the top of a hill, it's higher up than pretty much anywhere else in the city.

Obviously, the views were amazing! you could see out across the whole bay and the city below we got our first sight of Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge, and we planned our route for the afternoon from the top! The journey down from the tower was just as hard, if not worse, because a part of the street was just steep wooden stairs that went down the side of the hill! We got to the bottom and walked out onto the Waterfront.

Simon: We went to one of the piers on the waterfront and booked our boat tickets to Alcatraz for later that day, then we headed off down to the main tourist area, Pier 39. This is where a pier has been turned from warehouses to tourist restaurants and shops with street performers everywhere and everything generally costing an awful lot. We had a look around and watched a unicyclist fall off (hahaha!!) then left and walked a bit further down to where things weren't so overpriced for some lunch. We ate at a burger joint called 'Johnny Rockets' which was just like the 50's burger places on the movies! The waitress even made us some ketchup faces on plates, and the food was superb. Flo especially liked her really big thick milkshake!

After lunch we went to check out some of the more famous residents of San Francisco, the Sea lions that sleep in the sun on one of the piers. There was hundreds of them! and the pontoons they were on were crammed with sea lions! Little baby ones would jump out of the water and onto the bigger ones, then the bigger ones would wake up and growl at the little one, and try and bite them! There were a few gigantic adult ones who had a whole pontoon to themselves and none of the others dared go near them! They smelt pretty bad because they were in the sun all day, but they were pretty entertaining.

The day ended with a (very windy, check the picture of Flo!) boat trip to Alcatraz Island, home of the famous prison. I thought we'd be guided round a bit of the exterior and told a few stories and that would be that, but once we left the boat, we could pretty much go where we pleased! The old ruins of some of the buildings were pretty cool and the views back across to San Francisco were great. The main Prison building though was the best part. We got to walk through the rows of cells, even go in some of them! We also had an audio tour from 3 actual prisoners who told us all about the different parts of the prison, like a break out attempt that ended with 8 people dead and the military throwing grenades through the roof (which you can still see the holes from today!) It was really interesting and pretty eerie, especially as we were on the last tour, so the sun was setting and it was pretty much deserted! At one point we walked back through the cell block and nobody else at all was there!! I think Flo was a bit worried that we'd miss the last boat, so we hurried out and back down to the dock.

Flo: Next day we decided to walk the 3 miles to Golden Gate Park (Simon: which has nothing to do with the bridge btw) where we walked around for a few hours in the sun. On the way we walked through Little Japan and Haight-Ashbury, which is where the Hippies have hung out since the 70's. We had a yummy sandwich and a smoothie for lunch in a little cafe in The Haight. After lunch we walked up to the 'Painted Ladies' which is a row of Victorian houses painted pretty colours, and they overlook San Francisco. We got some cool pictures, and a gang of 6 year old schoolkids and their teacher walked past having a lesson about architecture! I think they'd be learning ABC's or Times Tables in England!! We got to the park and walked around the lake and boathouse, then we went to the island in the middle of the lake and climbed to the top of the hill, where we could see out to all of San Francisco.

Simon finally let me go shopping the next day!! We went to Westfield San Francisco (which is the same as the one in London - big!) i bought some new pink sunglasses and a necklace :) that's all he'd allow!! After that we took a walk down to the Ferry building where they have a cool (but expensive) market area where they sell stuff like grow-your-own mushrooms! After that we wandered back to the hostel past the TransAmerica Pyramid, but you can't go to the top :(

The next day was my fave day, and perhaps the best thing we've done so far, we rented bikes and cycled over the Golden Gate Bridge!! We were up and out pretty early, so we took off with plenty of the day to cycle it. We were aiming to reach the little town across the bay, Sausilito, by lunch time.

We cycled from the bike depot at Fisherman's Wharf along the waterfront, stopping every so often to get some photos. The actual Bridge took about 20 minutes to cycle over, it would have been faster if the stupid pedestrians got out of the way!

We got to the other side just in time, because when we got to the view point at the other side, the fog started rolling in and blew over the bridge, meaning we couldn't see the other side! The journey from the viewpoint to Sausalito took about 20 minutes, and it was all downhill! 

Sausalito is a tiny little town on the side of a hill overlooking the bay and San Francisco, where apparently the most expensive houses in California are! The view and the location were both really amazing, and we stopped at a cafe for lunch on the waterfront.

After cycling through the town to the end, we decided to have an ice cream to give us some energy to cycle back up the hills to the Bridge - that was the bit i was dreading! It wasn't too bad though, even though we pushed our bikes a couple of times! The bridge was still covered in fog when we got back, so cycling across, it was quite strange being able to see the water below, but not either side!!

We got to the other side and went to the viewpoint to get some celebration pictures. We got there just as a group of Chinese tourists got there, so we asked one of them to take the picture. He did. Then he asked us in basic english "Photo with me?" he got in on the picture and asked his friends to take pictures of the 3 of us!! There was like 5 cameras snapping away! I smiled and waved! lol!! Unfortunately, we didn't get one with Friendly-Chinese-Man :( but it was so cool!!

Simon: They must have thought i was Lance Armstrong. I have his toned physique and boyish good looks.

Flo: hahahahahaha!!

Simon: Shut it. Anyway, after our 16 mile cycle ride and 4 miles walking to and from the bike shop, we were knackered. the next day we took it easy and leisurely walked around the parts of San Fran we hadn't seen yet, like Ghirardelli Square (It's a big chocolate company here, and that's where their factory used to be) where we got lots of free samples and ogled the massive chocolate sundaes in the cafe there.

Also we saw this really really awesome One Man Band street performing just outside. It was this young guy and he played guitar, harmonica, drums and tambourine all at once! And he sung when he wasn't harmonica-ing! If he was on Britain of America's got Talent, he would win 100%. way better than those bloody dancing muppets!

The last 2 things we did were go check out Lombard Street, which is the 'crookedest street in San Francisco', and is all curvy and pretty. Lots of tourists, but it was pretty cool. Then finally, because we were lazy that day, and we'd cycled loads the day before, we got the Historic SF Cable Car from the wharf, all the way over the hills to our hostel the other side of town. I hung off of the side obviously, because it was way cooler than just sitting (which is what Flo did :P) 

Flo: Oi! i didn't want to be dangerous! You nearly hit cars and street signs!!

Simon: Yea, but it was fun! Anyway, we got to the hostel and packed, ready for Flo's Uncle who picked us up the next day to go north, to Fortuna!

Byeeeee :)

Simon + Flo


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