‘The Golden Gate Bridge is something to behold’ we agreed, as we admired it from our vantage point in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. Taking the necessary scenic photos we prepared a mid-morning snack in a surreal location, again marvelling at the beauty of something manmade that so perfectly compliments it’s surrounding landscape. Can you believe the US navy originally wanted to paint it black and yellow stripes? Good thing architect Irving Morrow changed their mind to the now famous ‘International Orange’ (more useless bridge facts here!).
Swim Time! Heading down to Baker Beach, which lies in the shadow of the iconic bridge, we settled in for the morning as you can park here for free. Strolling to the beach, the breakers crashing into the shore soon fill the nostrils with a crisp salty aroma. Dropping the bags it was into the water, being careful not to venture too far out as this stretch of beach has some of the strongest rips and under currents, and fatalities have unfortunately occurred. The spot is still popular with the young crowd and locals wanting to escape the city grind, as we found when cooking up some lunch, having a couple of occasions when people popped their heads in to admire our home.
We chose not to stay in a campground in San Francisco, as they were few and far between, instead opting to find free incognito parking on the street, eventually ending up in the Haight-Ashbury District, right opposite a hippy house complete with tinkling wind chimes, mirrors and giant peace sign on a pole. Deciding to perch on one of the notoriously steep streets, knowing that Sarah would later be crushed by the mass of Matt as she slept, we turned the wheel into the gutter as an added precaution against a failed handbrake in the middle of the night. The district is known as the centre of the cities psychedelic 60’s past and 1967 ‘Summer of Love’. Ashbury Street just up the road (opposite Buena Vista Park) has some famous houses once occupied by the likes of Janis Joplin and the Grateful Dead. Just head to the park and watch where all the tourists are pointing their cameras and you’ll see which ones.
Removing the bikes from the back we glided downhill to the City Hall that stands prominently at the end of our street, like a proud general of the city of San Francisco. The library and Civic Centre plaza adjacent to City Hall had a strange mix of early morning Tai Chi enthusiasts surrounded by, sadly, many homeless people who had made this square their home. With tickets knowingly secured for an afternoon tour of Alcratz two weeks previously (highly recommended, you’ll struggle to get them on the day throughout most of the year), we rode through a fruit and veg market along, funnily enough, Market Street stocked with tempting looking seasonal produce, though at a premium price, on the way to the most famous of tourist pleasures, the San Francisco Cable Car.
Starting at the Powell Street terminal and forking out enough Dead Presidents to keep us fed for a week, we jostled for pole position at the front of the side boards. Standing up with arms wrapped securely around the poles, the trolley jolted to life and began it’s accent towards the pinnacle at Nob Hill. Zipping, no, labouring, past nose to nose with other cars, pedestrians and the odd role model mother dashing across the path of the wooden carriage, we’d regularly stop on what would seem an impossible gradient, where one has the feeling that the only way is backward.
Temporarily transported back into the days of yesteryear, when this would have been the only way to negotiate the streets other than a leg burning walk, the trolley jerked to a start again, taking off swiftly and bringing us back to the present day, with the old folks who’d just boarded scrambling for the security of the internal bench seats. We choose not to stay on the trolley to the end of the line as we’d reached our first pit stop and were now in the vicinity of Lombard Street. We thought it prudent to save the energy for the arduous walk back up the hill at the end of the day.
Lombard Street claims to be the worlds most crooked thoroughfare. We did originally want to take Porkchop down the ridiculously tight eight hairpin bends (in one block!), though after seeing the many other small cars struggling to navigate it, we were glad that we didn’t – Porkchop most definitely would have been marooned on one of the bends. With an immaculately maintained garden throughout it’s a wonder the residents of the local houses are so patient with the constant stream of tourist traffic at their door steps.
A totally unrelated note here from Matt: Whilst, yes, I may tie my hair up and look like a pineapple at times, it’s still rude to stick your camera lens in my face whilst I’m trying to relax and enjoy my day. The trials and tribulations of being a celebrity hey? Truly though, a small polite ‘Can I take your photo please?’ shows respect and personal space to others. This is one of the first lessons any person picking up a camera should learn and abide by, not only to myself but to anyone when taking a close up shot. Rant over.