Saturday, May 17, 2008

The Journey: San Francisco

More beautiful scenery, more breathtaking views, one after the other. But after leaving the campsite, sparkling in the sun and promising more warmth than the night before, we arrived at San Francisco. The Golden Gate Bridge lived up to all expectations, but San Francisco was even better than we could have imagined. For the first time ever, Neil said this was a city where he could live!

Since we had not booked a hotel for our stay our first objective was to find a room for the night (with secure parking). We checked out a Travelodge that was booked up (they claimed) and were wending our way through traffic and beautiful buildings galore, when we spied a Comfort Inn in a great location -- expecially for the likes of us who would only be staying for about 36 hours. Not only did we get a great rate, we also had access to a secure and gated parking garage.

No time to catch our breath, we booked in and took our leave of the hotel and headed for Fisherman's Wharf. It was soon apparant that we should have planned for a much longer stay! Alcatraz would have been a great destination to head for a few hours! We saw a couple of great shops where Neil found a model sailboat he went back for the next day. We both impressed with the lack of tourist 'tat' -- but that impression was not to last, unfortunately. However, we loved the open museum of old boats that were on display. I haven't seen tourists of so many nationalities since I was last in London!

We had a hard time figuring out the public transportation and also understanding that the famed cable cars are a tourist attraction and not public transportation. Nevertheless, we did get a kick out of seeing a tramcar from Milan, Italy that was identical to one we road in Rome many years ago! Had we had longer we would have opted for a cable car ride for $11 for one trip, but by the time we'd figured it out it was getting late and dusky and we were getting tired!

The biggest disappointment of our stay was the restaurant we chose. We decided on an Italian place and to be fair my food was excellent --ravioli with homemade pasta. But Neil's calamari and French fries were cooked in stale old oil and were fried rather gray and horrible. Should have stuck to The Rough Guide for restaurant advice.

The next morning, after a very reasonable breakfast at our hotel, we had to take an unexpected walk to find an optician. The evening before as I was working on my computer, my glasses fell apart. That is the screw that holds the frame together around the lens came lose and try as I might I could not fit it back together. The woman at reception was very helpful and found us the nearest optician's office and off we trotted to Union Street to Eyes in Disguise, a very trendy boutique type of place, where they very kindly fixed my glasses and so restored by eye sight! Union Street was a very pretty street with great shops and wonderful Victorian houses.

Now that I could see once again, we decided to take our leave of the hotel and see more of the city by car, before leaving for our Yosemite adventure. First a visit to Fisherman Wharf to collect a small boat model and then on to the cable car station to take a photo and then to Safeway for a bag of ice and some fresh rolls. Shopping finished we continued to briefly explore the area around and under the Golden Gate Bridge: There is a fort where Union soldiers trained during the Civil War and also what look like barracks where I think the navy may have trained during World War II. Next we decided to try and find the Pacific for a last au revoir. After a period of trial and error we succeeded in finding a road with the ocean straight ahead in the distance. On and on down the street we went for many many blocks. At least we reached our destination and since it was lunch time we opened up the back of the van and made some sandwiches, which due to the wind and cool air we ate sitting inside rather than on the available bench along the beach. I don't remember much about the place except there was a big rock that was white from pigeon/bird droppings and there was a sign warning people that the currents and rib tide were dangerous and several people had drowned for not taking head to the warnings.

And so we were again on our way, headed toward Market Street and the freeway out of town via the San Mateo Bridge en route to Merced, California. We didn't manage to get to see much of the famous downtown area, but we did get a fantastic view of San Francisco and the bay. Unfortunately, the pictures are a bit overcast.

This is a city we plan to visit again and for several days longer. Hey, I think that's Alcatraz in the distance to the right!

Ands so we travelled to Merced 80 miles from Yosemite, a very personal pilgrimage.

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