22.05.2007 - 26.05.2007 21 °C
San Francisco is famous for its Cable Cars. There are also vintage trams running along the hilly streets, lots of electric and regular buses and an underground train system. There is no reason to drive in the centre of San Francisco. Unless you have to drop off a rental car. In fifteen minutes.
There's always an added burst of excitement when driving in a city with tramlines - an extra incentive to check every mirror. Coupled with the fact that the traffic lights in SF seem to be embarassed at holding everyone up and tend to hide behind trees or lurk in corners, and that turning left seems to be some unspeakable crime in the bay area. Driving straight along one street and turning left down another involves three right turns (giving way to pedestrians at each one) before being told that, no, I'm afraid you may not enter this road at this junction. You must circle like a drunken vulture desperately trying to find your way
Welcome to San Fran!
Or something like that. Maybe a little dramatic but the place really is better without the car. Except the fact that your cases are so heavy, and the hills so steep. But, once settled in the hotel, the city is cool.
We're about a block from Union Square, the main shopping district in SF (Yes, Sarah did book the hotel). Plus there is a Cablecar turnaround and a streetcar line within a couple of blocks. During our first full day (Wednesday) we got a streetcar to Fishermans Wharf, which is on the top of the San Fran Peninsula, with views over to Alcatraz and round to the Golden Gate Bridge. It's a Marina, shopping district and ferry terminal and really nice to wander around. Plus it's home to a load of noisy sealions.
The Streetcars in SF are all classics, and from all over the world (we'd call them trams I guess.) They have over 80, of which around 25 run a day, from the US, Italy and Australia - but the 'star' is an open-top one from Blackpool!
In the afternoon we poked around the shops.
On Thursday we got a ferry out to Alcatraz Island. It was originally a military fort, then a military prison, before becoming a State Penitentiary.
The prison buildings are just as you'd expect. Miserable. They're not huge, and there was only ever around 250 inmates at one time on Alcatraz, but it's so weird walking along the bleak corridors and glimpsing a view of the city through a barred window - it's only 1 and a quarter miles off shore. The weather was lovely and warm, and clear, which is unusual for SF. We went on a tour of some escape attempts (none of which are supposed to have worked) and toured the prison and grounds. In the afternoon we did a bit more shopping.
Yesterday we hired a couple of bikes and rode over to Sausalito, across the bay over the Golden Gate Bridge.
The weather was a bit more San Fran (low cloud and fog, and a bit chillier). The ride was good fun (depite Dave nearly flinging himself over the handlebars on the Golden Gate Bridge) and Sausalito is a lovely coastal town.
We got to the bike hire shop (and back from) on a cablecar. On the way we hung off the side, missing parked cars and pedestrians by inches. Good fun, but a bit like a roller coaster up and down the hills. The driver (called a gripman) kinda pulls at a couple of big levers to make it go and stop. I guess a brake and a 'grip' (under the track is a moving cable). It all looks a bit haphazard, and involves lots of bell ringing and frantic movement. Slightly disconcerting.
Today (Saturday) we plan on seeing Lombard Street (the Crookedest (least gramatically correct?) Street in the World) and Golden Gate Park. Tomorrow we jet to Vegas. Yeh Baby!
Hope everyone's well, and Summer gets there soon - or at least before we get back!
Dave and Sarah XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX