USA Road Trip No. 1 - San Francisco to New York

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Sunday, 25 December 2011

Verse 4: San Francisco Day 2 - The Streets of San Francisco

Sunday 3rd Jan. Woke at 4am and dozed in and out of dreams as the sun rose and a golden glow swathed the wooden boards and wonky back stairs of the surrounding houses.


Left the house in the sunny morning light before anyone was up and headed into Mission district on a mission for a good breakfast. Found Boogaloos (open 8am-3pm) on the corner of 22nd and Valencia, a really cool pink, burgundy, gold and black diner specialising in amazing breakfast and it didn’t disappoint. It was packed already at 8.30am on a Sunday morning, mainly wih families and couples, but gradually as the morning wore on, red eyed revellers chasing away their hangovers with Huevos Rancheros and stacks of buttermilk panckes joined the party. Amazing breakfast selection, moderately priced (under $30 for 2 massive breakfasts and drinks), endless coffee (The Minx downed 6 mugs) served by very friendly staff – loads of stuff on the table, various sauces, jug of maple syrup, jar of strawberry jam. Really nice d├ęcor apart from the bizarre art the walls, which was temporary and for sale.

 

Wandered up Valencia St with its selection of thrift and vintage stores, books shops, a really cool Pirate Shop at 826 Valencia - being a Sunday lots of stuff only opened at midday or was closed but window shopping is always fun and kinder to the wallet.

 
 
 

Crossed over onto Market Street and Mr. Igloo received a quip from a chirpy worker that felt as though it was straight out of a movie; “Excuse me sir, excuse me but you dropped something, sir, you dropped something…

…your smile”
 

Delivered with perfect timing and a smile. What a lovely smartarse/philosopher ; )


Wandering impressions: Market Street and the Mission - Lots of rubbish (or trash) on the streets, a lot of people mashed in the head on booze or drugs, staring eyes, shouting, mumbling, piss-heads and bums exchanging pleasantries and insults in equal measure. Between 6th and 5th there were tables laid out for games of chess, a tall black transvestite in a white dress, old dudes pushing pieces round the boards.


Into Chinatown with its noise and colour and smells, tacky shops full of cheap plastic merchandise, shops full of expensive stone, marble and glass work, throngs of people.

 

Into Jackson Square historic district, nestled in the shadows of the towering downtown skyscrapers, and the only part of SF not razed to the ground during the great earthquake and fire of 1906. Low brick buildings and tree lined streets, deadly quiet, not a soul around on this sunny weekend day (must be more of a work area). Out onto The Embarcadero and the sea front overlooking the Bay Bridge. We wandered round the back of building with benches looking out to sea and across to the bridge.


 It was really quiet out on the modern pier, just a couple of people dozing on the benches or leaning on the railings. A seal bobbed about next to the harbour wall. Back into the melee and a big undercover food market full just opposite the Embarcadero Plaza (near Pier 1) of speciality stalls and delicious looking pricey food, cheeses, beers, meats, breads, ice cream, oils, olives.

Being a sunny day we decided to head over to Golden Gate Park the other side of town. Hopped on the number 5 Fulton trolley bus from the Mission bus depot.


Back down Market Street, past the Civic Centre and it’s grand buildings and open spaces, on to a run down residential area, which gave way to the gorgeous and very individual townhouses of Haight-Ashbury (pronounced Hate-Ashbury) area, all meticulously painted wooden boards, sumptuous colours, hanging baskets, front porches, wide bay windows, three storey loveliness. Lots of men with small dogs and ladies on bikes with black rimmed glasses and brightly coloured tights.

A friendly man sitting in front of us told us when to get off and we ambled into Golden Gate park on a gloriously sunny Californian Sunday afternoon. Like all beautifully kept and well loved parks in every city the world over it was thronging with people on Sunday strolls, lying on the grass, riding bikes, jogging, children wobbling on two wheels, parents pushing buggies, hot salty pretzels being munched and the general sound of relaxed and happy people. Wending our way through the tall trees to the white framed, domed Conservatory of Flowers, a must for horticulture lovers.

 
 
 

I went in and oohed and ahhed at the plants while Mr. Igloo sat out on a bench and watched a Japanese family having a professional photo done, it took a good hour to arrange the group, not least because it took granny half an hour to walk from her chair to her designated spot and even then more family member turned up late.

Meanwhile back in the Conservatory of Flowers, Minx was still oohing and ahhing at flowers but had also discovered the amazing automated model of San Francisco made out of various household and tech/sound junk.

 
 
 

 More wandering, people playing Frisbee, pitching baseballs, munched a hot Pretzel and stumbled across the roller disco area, nodded to the tunes for a bit, watched a middle aged lady throw some shapes and children weave their way expertly through the white cones.


Found the California Academy of Sciences with it’s incredible living roof, the huge banners for the aquarium and planetarium grabbed us and led us though the doors. It was a great place although for the entrance fee you were left feeling that there could have been a little more in terms of exhibits – more dinosaur bones. However what was there was brilliant and really well executed, fascinating research and well laid out information. The Aquarium was good but without the draw of really BIG SCARY SHARKS, but other stuff more than made up for that, in particular the Albino Alligator, the unbelievably giant Sea Bass (over 100 years old), spotted jelly fish billowing gracefully in their cylindrical tank, the Leafy Seadragon which has to be seen to be believed – gets our vote as the coolest looking animal in the world, luminescent Sea Nettles glowing orange against the deeply coloured turquoise water of their tank, the Giant Sea Pens looking like voluminous feathers discarded by a burlesque troupe, all the very cool frogs and toads and the astoundingly colourful Philippine Coral Reef.

 
 

After a wander round the other exhibits we went out onto the living roof and marveled at it and the surrounding park – asking ourselves why more buildings in cities don’t have living roofs when they make so much sense environmentally and don’t take that much maintenance once set up… insert answers here please!


Our ticket for the Planetarium show as was 6.30pm so we watched some of the vidoes and explored the education room and then excitedly joined the queue for the show. Word of warning: If you have vertigo don’t sit up the top in a Planetarium especially when it’s the biggest one on the world. We sat at the top in the middle for for the best view and the best chance to vomit. So the show began after a bit of animated preamble by a headset wearing host who stood with his legs too far apart and waved his hands a lot.

Darkness… and then Whoopie Goldberg’s voice boomed out across the auditorium and off we went on a journey to the stars as Whoopie very kindly explained the whole Universe to us. It was very impressive and we were both completely transported, zooming round the stars, nice one Whoopie.

The sun had set by the time we left the Academy and we headed back to the Mission for an overpriced Indian meal at Dosa, which blew the Minx's head off. It was tasty but way too expensive for what it was. It was so hot and expesive that we had to drink lots of beer to forget the price and that led to us forgetting to take a photograph of the meal. In retrospect we should have gone to the Burmese/Thai that Aaron recommended, Yamo on 18th and Mission, cheap, home cooking style and very tasty apparently. A lesson there, always listen to locals and not the Rough Guide. We make mistakes so you don't have to.

Back home to sleep off the jetlag but not before being serenaded by Calypso The Clown using a very loud sewing machine right under our bed until nearly midnight and the fourth flatmate returning from Copenhagen and getting jiggy with it in the garden just outside our window with a guy she met a few weeks ago. And that’s why couch surfing is just brilliant – what hotel is going to give you that authentic SF experience, eh?

Please continue reading here: Road Trip San Francisco Part 3