01.09.2013 - 04.09.2013 25 °C
The train to San Francisco was smooth, on time and had beautiful scenery. Amtrak was almost back in our good books. We came through thick fog on the Golden Gate bridge, it was like a planes descent through clouds - and out into the sunshine the other side. We were back on air bnbs for SF, and made our way to Mission District where our host awaited us...
Our room was fantastic, the best we'd stayed in so far, with an enormous comfy bed in a beautiful period property, plus there was a very fluffy Siamese cat, and two sweet pooches with long tails which our host W had dyed bright turquoise (It doesn't hurt the pups and as its no where near their skin, apparently). W was a camp dad of four kids who had flown the nest, and has a 28 year old Brazilian boyfriend. So San Fran. He rents out all four spare bedrooms to air bnbers in his children's absence, although we did wonder if the kids knew about Júlio..
San Francisco was action packed for us. As Michael had never been before, over the next few days we took in big city walks, including Lombard Street, trolleys, cable cars, the harbour, Crissy Fields, Haight-Ashbury, Nob Hill, plus great restaurants and crazy bars in Mission. Seeing as neither of us had been to Alcatraz, we went to get tickets from the pier, only to be told it was fully booked for weeks. Our only option was to come at 6am the following morning and queue for the overflow tickets, which we might do, seeing how the evening went... We found an amazing vegetarian restaurant in Mission called Herbivore, and absolutely exhausted from the days walk, a rewarding beer and delicious dinner down we were ready to say goodnight.
Alcatraz it is!
It's quite refreshing to see the city before sunrise, and we flew over the hills in our taxi, and made it to the Pier 39 by 6am - there were already 40 people in the queue! There were 60 tickets for sale though so we were in. With a few hours to kill we wandered down Fishersman's Wharf and breakfasted with the stinky sea lions, with no one else in sight. I remembered coming here with my mum and brother years ago and doing a green screen enactment which made it look as though we were on a magic carpet over San Fran! Must dig out that VHS.
Alcatraz was definitely worth the early wake up. We did the audio tour and learnt all about the inmates, the plotted escapes and the creepy cells. It's so weird that the inmates could watch the city, and sometimes even hear people on the piers if the wind was right. Being inside Alcatraz blows your imagination for what life must have been like for the select criminals who called this island home. We like to think that the guys who escaped just before Alcatraz closed made it to South America and maybe we'll bump into them in the mountains of Bolivia...
'The Rock' itself provides great views of SF and we could see the crazy hills that we dragged ourselves up the day before, glistening in parallel lines across the City.
Alcatraz was a total hit... Until we got to the gift shop, where Chiara went to buy our friends Charlie & Alex a postcard (they strongly recommended Alcatraz) only to discover her purse was gone. A tense boat journey back... But so thankfully someone had found it on the pier and handed it in. It had her driving license in, so that would have meant the road trip to Vegas was off! THANK YOU to that kind person! (All cards and $100 returned).
In the afternoon we met with a friend from London - Tom, and his friend Harry and we sat in Dolores Park with some beers in the sunshine swapping travel stories and observing all the local nutters in the park. (SF's version of London Fields and the first place in America where drinking tinnies seems to be acceptable! PS. their cans of beer are HUGE)
It was good to see a friendly face after our few weeks away and when it got cold we did a mini bar-tour in Mission (so many good watering holes was hard to know when to end...) and got pretty steaming in some cool places. Nice to see you guys, wonder if you felt as rough as us the next day for our train journey!
We packed so much in to our three days and could have stayed much longer, we loved the fact this city has the ocean, the culture, and so much to fill your days with. San Francisco is different to the rest of the states, it doesn't feel like California, shin splitting hills, crazy unpredictable weather, ancient trams, and I imagine the people of San Francisco like it just like that... Truly unique.
We vote it our favourite place on our journey through America!