San Francisco Obsession

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Ever since I was a young nerd watching music documentaries, I’ve wanted to go to San Francisco.

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But strangely, until I got to the airport, I had forgotten all about all those hours watching VHS and dreaming about wearing tie-dye and walking through Haight-Ashbury. It wasn’t until I was settled in my temporary home that I realised. “I’m HERE!” I was so excited. I couldn’t sit still.

The next day was sunny and I walked up Valencia St, then onto Haight. The pastel houses and blue sky were so bright that I actually felt giddy. I was full of energy and it seemed like the city was, too.

My week in San Francisco was really wonderful. The people I met were all positive and interested in the world. The sun shone every day, and all the food was delicious.

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Mission

I stayed in two different rooms, because I extended my stay to a full week. They were both in the Mission, which is colourful and vibrant, and very Hispanic. I saw avocados for sale there for 79 cents! It wasn’t really near Downtown but one great point about San Francisco is that it’s quite easy to get around with public transport. You can always use Uber or Lyft as well.

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Old-school F streetcar

Fisherman’s Wharf is nice to visit for a few hours but every local knows that it’s where all the tourists hang out. I enjoyed being among all the people and next to the bay.

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I didn’t visit Alcatraz. I’ve been to a few prisons before as a tourist and find it consistently depressing. But to each their own. I found a museum of antique arcade games which you could still play for a quarter. They were creepy.

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One of my days was spent riding over the Golden Gate Bridge and I’ve already written about that. When the weather turned chilly later in the week I headed to Golden Gate Park.  IMG_0365 IMG_0362

 

You could spend days exploring the park and I guess that plenty of people do, but I went straight for De Young museum to explore their art galleries. There was a special exhibition of Georgia O’Keeffe’s works from her time at Lake George. These paintings were compelling but I have to admit I rushed through them so I could see the rest of the museum before closing time. One California-inspired painting really stood out.

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“A Particular Kind Of Heaven” by Ed Ruscha

Anyone who has listened to the podcast 99% Invisible recently will have learnt about Sutro Baths. They are ruins of an elaborate bathing complex built in 1898. Imagine my delight when I realised that I could actually visit Sutro Baths! It was every bit as lovely as I imagined. It was windy and cold but the sea was sparkling and the air was fresh and salty.

IMG_0388 IMG_0391 IMG_0393 IMG_0396 IMG_0406My run of sunny days continued right up to the Sunday before I left, when I got up early to climb the big hill at Bernal Heights Park, which had spectacular views of the shiny city – my new favourite place.

IMG_0433 IMG_0428 IMG_0424 IMG_0438I even saw a snake. A passerby noticed it and told me that it was a gopher snake. Not very scary.

IMG_0432The people I was staying with (I am now a big fan of Airbnb) invited me to join them at the How Weird Street Faire. People danced and smoked and drank in the sun, every costume more bizarre than the last. It was great.

IMG_0439 IMG_0444 IMG_0441I hear that the Folsom Street Fair is more crazy though. Something for next time.

I left for Oakland to get my train to Portland, feeling very grateful for everything I’d seen and all the people I’d met. What a beautiful, fascinating place. It was a sad goodbye to California.

I woke up in Oregon.

Golden Gate Bridge bike ride

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I’ve always loved cycling and am missing my nice old Schwinn quite a bit while I’m away. Before coming to San Francisco I’d heard that a nice thing to do was to hire a bike and pedal over the famous red bridge to the little towns on the other side. I didn’t waste any time – in fact, it might have been better to wait an extra day to avoid doing this big trip on the hottest day of the month, but such is life.

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There are plenty of bicycle hire shops in SF but I chose Blazing Saddles because I could get a discount for booking online. It was $36 for the full day and they gave me some maps and directions. I still got lost, but that was all part of the fun – thank goodness for Google Maps.

I rode along the bay to Fort Point, also known as the spot in Hitchcock’s Vertigo where Madeleine is about to jump into the San Francisco Bay. What a film, what a city!

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The climb up to the bridge’s entry point was the most strenuous part of the whole trip, made worse because I was wearing jeans – I really didn’t bring a lot of outfits to the States. I got up to the bridge all sweaty and red-faced but absolutely loving it. Look, there’s the city, and we’re all standing on the GOLDEN GATE BRIDGE!!

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From there the ride was pretty easy, down to the little seaside town of Sausalito.

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View from Sausalito

Some bikers get the ferry back from there, some go on into the forest to see some redwoods, which I intended to do, but in the end I continued on to the next town on the water which is called Tiburon.

Riding around on a hot day past the green hills and little rivers, I was the happiest girl in the world. I had no idea that the Bay Area looked like this – what a stunner!

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When I reached the ferry terminal at Tiburon, I got off my bike and starting seeing stars. It had been a long ride – I think about 25 kilometres and it was about 29 degrees that day. I staggered over to the cafe on the wharf and guzzled an iced coffee while I waited for my boat.

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Ferry terminal at Tiburon, with SF in the background across the bay

This was probably the only “touristy” thing I did in San Francisco but ended up being one of the best things I’ve done, ever. Gorgeous weather, amazing scenery and some much-needed fitness and fresh air. I’m still raving about it.
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