Day 16 – Touring the town

This is the day I think I fell in love with this city.

Was up early to meet the tour bus and it appeared that we weren’t the only ones as we met a guy and a girl from Leicester who were touring the world. They had just come from New York and would be going to Australia and New Zealand next year. The tour bus was relatively on time and then we picked up Mary from Delaware at the Courtyard Marriott. That ended up being the entire tour group as Paul and Marilyn took us on a journey around San Francisco.

The tour started at Fisherman’s Wharf where we were yesterday and where the tour company is located. Our first stop was the Palace of Fine Arts in the Presidio. This was the building that they kept from the World’s Fair in 1915 because it was the most popular one. The building had been made from chickenwire and stuff so that by the sixties it had virtually crumbled away. So with the help of the original architect a bunch of people got the money together to restore it to it’s former glory for our viewing pleasure.

Back in the bus and we headed to the Golden Gate bridge. We drove along the bay and checked out the native vegetation to get some perspective on what San Francisco looked like when it was just sand dunes. Mary and I checked out the souvenir shop where you could buy rivets from the bridge while Pauline visited the restroom. The view of the gate was once again amazing.

We then went under the expressway to the other side of the presidio and headed down to Baker Beach where we saw a windmill as we headed in to Golden Gate Park. I can’t believe that they actually have bison in the park. The bloody camera started playing up at this point so I didn’t actually get a photo (it turned out to be the dodgy batteries we paid a fortune for in Monte Carlo, LV). We had a look at the arberetum and the australian plants, then took a quick glance and the japanese tea garden and a drive past the wooden flower conservatory which had been restored. Lovely.

Took a slow drive down Haight St checking out all the excellent shops, me glad that I would be able to come back, Pauline upset because she wouldn’t be able to. Went to take a picture of the Haight-Ashbury street sign but the camera buggered up again. Paul then took the bus up to Twin Peaks where he offered us the option to do the tourist thing and get a 180 degree view, or do the real walk up a few stairs and get a 360 degree view. We chose 360 and were greatly rewarded for it. Simply stunning, especially since it was a lovely sunny day without a cloud in site. I took a couple of pictures before the camera well and truly packed it in so Paul couldn’t get a picture of Pauline and I on the peaks. It was really cold up on the hill, so we headed back to the bus. Apparently they don’t do the Twin Peaks on foggy or rainy days, so we wever very lucky.

Down the peaks and we headed through the Castro on the way to the civic centre. Did a drive by of the Opera House, library, City Hall and the Symphony Hall. The city hall is very attractive and I will be back to take pictures. Went up the tourist strip of chinatown through the gates, then turned to go down the street that the actual chinese people use. Right next door to Chinatown is little italy or more properly known as North Beach. This is were the beatniks hung out like Kerouac. I will certainly stop by here, and they supposedly have some excellent restaurants. A few turns later and we were back at the tour office and the wharf to kill time until our Alcatraz trip.

This is where I fulfilled my wish to have clam chowder in sourdough. There were about 5 stores in a row selling it so it was hard to pick one. After purchasing I followed Pauline and Mary around so they could find chicken on a “Fisherman’s Wharf”. I’m the one that hates seafood!!! So we found a place and while they were purchasing their food I at my chowder and watched a girl get pooed on by a seagull, then have a fight with her boyfriend when she through her jacket in the bin because of it. What a waste. Pauline ordered chicken strips and a side order of chips, but the strips came with chips so she had overdosed. A while later a homeless lady came by so Pauline gave her the side order of chips and I gave her my leftover bread. She was happy and it was better than going in the bin or to the pooey birds. Speaking of which the birds then dropped one on Mary’s purse and drink so she decided she had finished her meal.

I had dropped the camera when we got off the tour bus and it had split a little so we took a walk to one of the many pharmacies where I bought some more batteries and a glasses fixing tool to fix the camera. After fastening the camera screws and replacing the batteries the camera was ready to go so we headed back to the Sea lions for more pictures.

We then joined the line for Alcatraz on the Blue and Gold fleet boat and took a serene journey out to the rock. The views of the city and the bridge were awe-inspiring and all I could think of was how much it would suck to be a prisoner and see those views and know you wouldn’t be a part of it for years. As soon as we got off the boat I was struck by how close the Tony Hawk game was to the reality. I was ready to skate everywhere. 🙂

There was a lady announcing where to go, and the second she said “audio tour” we were off up the hill for a cardiovascular workout. The audio tour is highly rated for good reason as you get a set of headphones to be guided around the cell blocks. The audio involves real prisoners and guards remembering their times in the specific areas the tour takes you, relaying events such as escapes, solitary jail time, the cells of capone and the bird man and the dining hall. I kept looking around because of all the sounds like people talking and cells clanking etc. Since everyone else was doing the tour it was quite odd to see them go up and touch the bars or stand near the radiator until you realise they were told to do it by the tape. I paused mine a couple of times and it was just silent even though there were possibly over 100 people in my immediate vacinity. Very sereal. My favourite bit was seeing the heads made by escapees in the beds in the actual cells that they escaped from using spoons. I had recently watched a documentary on it so it was really great. The tour took us down cellblocks A,B and C, the dining hall, the library, the isolation area and a view of the recreation area.

After the tour we had a quick glance in the shop then wandered around the island. There was a video about the occupation of the island by indians so we stopped for a while then got back on the boat. The trip was just as good as the trip over and I decided I could look at the city every day. We got back on the F line streetcar to go to the hotel because Pauline had a drink date with the people from the convention. A few minutes stop at the hotel then we went and registered for the Macworld conference and I dropped Pauline off at the Courtyard Marriott for drinks.

I think I must have been sunburned during the day or windburned, and my skin is hitting ultra dryness but I can see why this is one of the most loved cities in the world. I can’t wait to explore the rest of the city after getting an overview of it today. AMAZING!!!!!!

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