San Francisco with Renee

03 – 06 September 2010

I managed to get from Seattle to San Francisco, I even managed to be there as Renee came through the airport gate. We negotiated a shuttle into San Francisco to our Casa Loma hotel in Union Square district, checked in and checked out the room. Later we went out to Typical Dinner - San Francisco-3.JPGdinner at Ruth’s Chris Steak House where we enjoyed a deliciously tender steak on a  romantic table decorated with rose petals (General tip: If you ever want rose petals on your dinner table just say that you’re on your anniversary).

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The following day we explored San Francisco by foot and on the Muni system which proved an interesting experience in itself. We were on the bus, I’d never squeezed my way onto such a full bus before, and then more people got on! Renee and I were trying our best not to invade anyone’s personal space in such a cramped environment. I was precariously trying to stand behind the yellow line so that I wouldn’t get told off by the driver, the space was really too tight so I was leaning over the line while holding onto the overhead rail. Out of the blue this old grouchy lady who was sitting down to my left tells me “keep your feet away from my feet.” I laughed in disbelief and attempted to shuffle a little further away from her. She then puts on an even grumpier face and told me “I don’t think it’s funny,” which I could easily tell from her over exaggerated facial expression. I was polite and just told her that I could tell, which didn’t go down too well but she shut up for the rest of the journey anyway. I would have perfectly understood if I was standing on her toes or something, which I wasn’t, but even then you would normally expect someone to speak to you a little nicer. You’ll encounter the friendliest and the least friendly in the United States, sometimes in the oddest places. Despite this incident we pushed on taking in random streets, China Town and finally a movie before heading back to our hotel.

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On our second full day in San Francisco we hired bicycles and embarked on an epic bicycle ride around the city. We pedaled through the Golden Gate park, along the waterfront and over the Golden Gate Bridge. We rode against the biggest SUV’s that America could throw against us on the high speed stretch to Sausalito where we had fish and chips for lunch before catching the ferry back to downtown San Francisco. Maybe it’s just public transport in San Francisco but again we encountered an interesting character, this time more positive in the form of the big black American who constantly yelled humorous boarding instructions. “GET OFF YOUR BICYCLES AND WALK THEM ONTO THE FERRY. HAVE YOUR BICYCLES ON YOUR LEFT HAND SIDE. WHEN YOU ARE ON THE FERRY GIVE YOUR BICYCLES TO THE BICYCLE DUDE. YOU DO NOT NEED TO LOCK YOUR BICYLES. YOUR BICYCLE WILL NOT BE STOLEN WHILE YOU ARE ON THE FERRY – UNLESS SOMEONE SWIMS OFF WITH IT. IF YOU SEE SOMEONE SWIMMING AWAY WITH YOUR BICYCLE ALERT A CREW MEMBER. DO NOT JUMP IN THE WATER AFTER THE PERSON SWIMMING AWAY WITH YOUR BICYCLE.” He went on and on, and when he’d ran out of stuff to say he started again. He talked the whole time we were queuing to board the boat, and then again when we were getting off. What a legend. Having taken the ferry from Sausalito back to downtown San Francisco we still had quite a long cycle along the waterfront and through town to get back to cycle hire place for 7pm. It was quite a push and both Renee and I were exhausted by the time we wheeled our bicycles back into the hire shop.

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Having returned our bikes we embarked on a mammoth trip across town to try visit a Mexican place that I really wanted to go to since I’d read such fantastic online reviews for it. It took us over an hour to get there at which point we found the place closed, I’m eternally grateful that Renee didn’t just kill me then and there. Down the road I found another Mexican place where I got a cheap feed, we then grabbed a bottle of wine and embarked on the long journey back to our hotel.

On the sixth of September, our final full day in San Francisco, we had a trip to Alcatraz booked. That morning we mistimed how long it would take to get to our ferry and ended up making a final rush involving a fortunately enthusiastic taxi driver – but finally we made it and boarded the ferry. Alcatraz was interesting but I don’t really get the hype around the place. To me it was just an out of use prison, secure yes, but probably over hyped through Hollywood dramatisation of some of the inmates the place has housed. For your information these included: Al “Scarface” Capone, “Doc” Barker, Alvin “Creepy” Karpis, George “Machine Gun” Kelly, Floyd Hamilton and Robert Stroud, the “Birdman of Alcatraz”. Otherwise I didn’t see any particular controversy to warrant such international fame, everyone who was there probably deserved to be.

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After Alcatraz Renee and I wondered along the waterfront past Fisherman’s Wharf where we saw a bunch of lazy seals, we visited the Ghirardelli chocolate shop and walked down Filbert Street, one of the steepest navigable streets in the Southern Hemisphere. Finally, totally exhausted once again, we had an interesting experience at a Thail restaurant to close off the day.

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The next day the excitement was to continue with a shuttle to pick up our airport rental car before embarking on our trip to Napa Valley, yes wine district!