Thanks Ross Allen, TV creative extraordinaire, for inspiring the blog post title 😉
SF or San Francisco. People round here don’t tend to call it San Fran. Which is what most tourists seem to call it. I spent a week here. It was only ever just a stop off on the way back (because my flight tickets is a round the world I had to land somewhere in North/South America, and I’d always wanted to go to SF), I never really had any intention of travelling elsewhere. And, to be honest, by the time I got there I was just about ready to come home, so any longer than a week would have felt a bit of a drag I reckon.
No hostels this time, I stayed with a guy I met in New Zealand. Another brief meeting, I met this guy for all of 5 minutes at the hostel I stayed at in Queenstown. I was quite hungover and pretty tired; everyone else was drinking his Jack Daniels but I felt shit and went to bed early. But, in true traveller style, we swapped contact details and a month or so later he gave me his sofa for a week while I stayed here. That cool traveller hospitality. I also got to meet his very cute dog Tango.
San Francisco is awesome. It was a bit of a culture shock from New Zealand. There’s a lot of homeless people here. And a lot of ‘interesting’ people. The area I stayed near is quite a hippy hangout so there’s a whiff of weed pretty much everywhere you go, and a lot of people talking to themselves (or people that don’t seem to be there) and just chilling/flaking out. On my first day I had someone tell me that they loved me and that I had pretty feet. Now, as soon as he said the latter I knew he was not quite with it. Pretty feet? I don’t think so. NZ is so laid back, so friendly and there’s not a lot of people that SF was a bit of a slap in the face. That’s not to say people aren’t friendly here; they most definitely are, but there’s also a lot of people that aren’t so much. Like the woman on a bus who was talking about if someone makes eye contact with her she finds it really rude and was quite specific about what she’d do to someone if they dared to look at her. I didn’t look at her. Or the man who was calling the bus driver a ‘motherf*cking b*tch’. Not sure what the driver had done to piss him off. Or the woman who was shouting obscenities at someone she was pretending to be on the phone to “f*ck you asshole, you’re not my boyfriend” before jumping off the bus and running down the street with the guy who was shouting at the bus driver. I liked going on the buses. They were interesting. Because it’s real life at it’s best. This is what it’s like people. This is real life. These people are real. They exist, they live, they travel. It’s not like my life, but that’s the thing about travel; you get your eyes opened to the world. I like being immersed and surrounded by all kinds of different people; to other people and their lives.
When I landed a heatwave started. Typical, of course. Usual temperature should have been around 18 ish degrees. For the first few days I was there it was around 30. It was hot, but not unbearable though. What did surprise me was everyone around commenting on how hot and how awful it was. I didn’t think it was too bad, but I remembered that this is an oddity for SF. Their temperatures rarely get that high, especially for days at a time. It also made me realise that I had kind of become accustomed to higher temperatures. This hopefully will bode me well should we have a hot summer in the UK this year.
It also meant that there was none of the famous San Francisco fog for most of the week. So wherever I went I got great views. The place I stayed in had a great view of the Golden Gate Bridge, which I could see most mornings. The city is really pretty, I loved all the coloured houses on the hills and the steps up to some of the most amazing doorways I’ve seen. The place I was staying in felt very American. It had a laundry in the basement, a trash chute and the kitchen just looked like ones I’d seen on the TV in films, with a window out that faced the neighbour’s window which was in exactly the same place. For some reason I loved how American it was, I loved the little corner shop a few doors down, and the lovely little cafes and grocery store at the end of the road. The brunch of omelette and potatoes I had at one place was to die for. It also had outlets (plug sockets) that constantly looked frightened. They made me smile every time I charged my phone.
I had quite a busy week. A mixture of sightseeing, normal stuff, a cheeky run, a fair bit of socialising and some lazing about. Here’s a brief run down.
- Haight Street. A road full of vintage shops, cafes, smoke shops, tattoo and piercing places and a few things in between, with all kinds of different characters milling about. A great place to just wander down and absorb the atmosphere.
- I went downtown (they don’t call it a CDB here) to have a wander round a couple of times. I sat in Union Square and ate my lunch, went to the Cheesecake Factory in Macy’s and walked all the way up Market.
- I walked all the way along the Embarcadero from Market to Fisherman’s wharf, stopping at Pier 39 to marvel at the tourist tat and sea lions, and gaze out over Alcatraz (didn’t manage to get round to have a tour as it was all booked up too far in advance).
- I went on a tour on the back of a motorbike with a guy I’d never met before. Thank you couchsurfing for the intro, and thank you Brando for an awesome couple of hours. Great way to see the city and so cool to go down the famously crooked Lombard Street on the back of a Suzuki gszr 600.
- The Golden Gate Park was just a few blocks from where I was staying, so I hung out there a bit, and also managed to fit a little 4 miler in one morning too. Huge park. Well, this is America. Everything is BIG over here.
- I treated myself to an end-of-travelling tattoo, a proper haircut and a new nose stud. I’d had my eye on a tattoo design for a while, although when I first went to the studio I left with a booking for a completely different design and size. However, when I went back we realised it might not work exactly how I wanted it so I went back to plan A. And the haircut was just fab. I went from straggly-haired-hadn’t-been-cut-in-a-year-and-a-half-traveller to nice-and-tidy-with-a-few-layers. It felt nice to do something normal and something that was a standard thing in my old life was turned into a bit of a treat and a luxury. Travelling makes you appreciate the little things.
- I drank mint juleps on a roof somewhere downtown with Rodin and some of his workmates, in honour of the Kentucky Derby, a bit like an American Grand National. A mint julep is a bit like a mojito but made with bourbon. Basically bourbon, mint, sugar and lime. Surprisingly tasty, especially given that I’m not a huge fan of bourbon after drinking far too much of it when I was younger. I also got to check out a SF office where their conference room was called The Batcave, their kitchen was stocked with food, including nutella and cookie dough spread and they had a fatboy hammock in their meeting area. The whole place was pretty groovy, although it was still an office, and still reminded me that I have to get a job at some point.
- I had meatloaf for the very first time. I figured that as I was in America, I’d try something that I see mentioned on the TV all the time. It was in a trendy restaurant in the Castro area, so I’m guessing it’s maybe not like the one that everyone’s Mom cooks that isn’t that great. This was was bloody amazing!
- I rode a cable car. San Francisco is famous for it’s little cable cars that trundle up and down some of the hills because they are so steep. They’re pretty cute and although they’re not that fast and there are cheaper public transport options, they’re really quite handy to get from Fisherman’s Wharf to Market and are a must do for tourists.
- I went to the How Weird Street Faire on the afternoon before I flew home. It’s a festival where anything goes. And I mean, anything goes. I saw all kinds of weird and wonderful things, costumes and people, danced in the street to some wicked DJ’s, soaked up the great friendly vibe and just marvelled at some of the amazing costumes. I loved how expressive and accepting everyone was, and amused myself by trying to picture something like this being held in Lincoln. Maybe, hey? Who’d be up for it?
- And of course, no one can go to San Francisco without going to the Golden Gate bridge. The iconic piece of orange engineering separating San Francisco and Marin County. The Bay Bridge on the other side of the city is actually bigger and longer, but it’s not orange. It doesn’t have the same impact. I walked across the GG bridge and back again (about 3.5 miles in total) and it was beautiful. The views up at the towers as you pass them are just fab, and the views back to the city and across to Marin County are stunning. I was lucky it was such a clear and sunny day (although epically windy) and we got great shots in every direction.
All in all, a fun filled week, filled with new stuff, new friends, new experiences and the excitement that I’d be going home at the end of it. It was hard not to try to wish it away the nearer my flight got, but SF is such a great city it was easy to keep myself busy and out of mischief. I could have stayed longer, but a week was about enough. I did everything I wanted to (and a bit more). Well, apart from Alcatraz, but I couldn’t help that. And besides, it’s always good to keep something back for next time.