Wednesday, 3rd October 2012
We headed across from Truckee to Emeryville on the final leg of the train journey, which was a lot less scenic than the rest of it. Most of central California is quite arid and flat, with a lot of sunshine. We came into the Bay Area in the afternoon and it was still sunny.
Then, we encountered the San Francisco area and, all of a sudden, there was a pall of fog hanging around it, trapping it in its own little world of fogginess.... We couldn't see the Golden Gate, so that would have to wait.
The train pulled into Emeryville on time and we did the trip across the Bay on a coach, driven by someone whose driving manner was somewhat reminiscent of home... We arrived at Fisherman's Wharf, grabbed a map of the city from the brusque but efficient tourist person and headed off for the next cab. We both realised, very quickly, that we needed our London "game heads" on and we stepped back into our less-relaxed, wary, selves.
It would be an insult to crazy drivers to describe the cabbie as crazy, but he eventually got us to the hotel, a few blocks away from the Tenderloin, with its highly visible population of rough sleepers, dealers and pimps.
The hotel, the Hayes Valley Inn, has two separate bits and we were in the quieter annexe at the back. We had to unlock a gate, and then a main door, to get in....
The first evening was spent back at Fisherman's Wharf after an impressively long wait for a bus, due to the usual urban nonsense of delays. The Wharf is a great place to hang out, being on the Bay (obviously), with a large choice of restaurants and stuff to see; we saw something of the Sealions, but mainly heard them.
We had a very nice dinner at a diner(ish) place and headed back to our hotel.
Thursday 4th October, 2012
The next day, we got up early, bought some all-day passes and headed out to the Golden Gate Bridge. There, we met up with a tour guide, Dan, a former high school English teacher. He was doing the tours for free as part of a non-profit organisation, but tipping is customary. He was excellent value for his tour of the bridge, its more macabre history, photos of its construction and so on.
We walked the 2.4 miles across the Bridge and back, which is well worth doing. They are the best views of SF and it was a matter of pride for us to be able to do something easily, that we would have struggled to do a year earlier. We did have to fight with the cyclists for space, but we're used to that as Londoners.
The trip across the bridge was punctuated by fly-over displays from the US Navy's Blue Angels team and their F/A- 18 Hornets (versatile fighter-bombers which are normally used on aircraft carriers). Their display was impressive, suitably loud and hair-raising at times, as two of them flew within 10 to 20 feet of each other.
In the afternoon, tired and hungry, we headed for a Jewish deli place in the suburbs. The food was nice, but the server was Kevin the Grumpy Teenager.
From there, we headed to Ocean Beach, which is properly on the Pacific Ocean. It was important for us to see and, in Jo's case, dip our toes in the actual Ocean, as opposed to the Bay. The beach was beautifully sandy, very long, and uncrowded. San Francisco is not known for being hot and this day was no exception. It was a great place to spend a couple of hours, though.
From the beach, we took the long-ish bus ride to Union Square, via the suburbs and the Tenderloin. We had to do the old-fashioned Cable Car (the old school trams you see on TV) and it was a fantastic thing to do.
We got off and walked down (and then back up) Lombard St, which is the world's curviest- apparently. From there, we wandered back down to Fisherman's Wharf and headed home after some food.
San Francisco is a crazy, vibrant place with a very strong liberal feel. It's as gay-friendly and liberal as advertised, so it's not everyone's cup of tea. Personally, I loved it and I think Jo quite liked it as well.
Friday 5th October 2012.
The flight to Vegas happened without any hitches. More to follow about Vegas.