Having done our research as clever little travelers, by reading the Rough Guide, we knew San Fran had no train stop, so we booked our ticket to go to the nearest station – Oakland. The Rough Guide explicitly says Oakland is the ONLY connection to San Fran, whereas the nearest town, Emeryville, has NO transport at all. Just try to imagine the surprise of two travelers fast asleep in their bunks, hearing over the intercom that “If you’re travelling on to San Fran get off right now in, you’re at Emeryville – the ONLY connection to San Fran!” ….. We’re talking some very quick dressing (t-shirt inside etc etc) and a super quick exit from the Amtrak. Thanks once again Rough Guide!
We have now spent 5 very enjoyable nights in San Francisco. Great weather in a beautiful city with lots to see / do and lots of great places to eat / drink. The only one downside we found was the hills – They really are something special (see photo below). This meant a five minute walk from A – B became either a 2 minute journey (down) or a 20 minute journey (up). We now have extremely strong legs!
Now we’re getting towards the end of the USA experience I should note that it’s been an interesting cultural experience. Rather than talk about the difference is politics, poverty levels or socio-economic demographics I’ll say this ……. American restaurants just can’t spice their food (Hot Chicken Wings in Athens as the exception)! Now I’m not a “Vindaloo Boy” and never go crazy but English restaurants do know how to prepare a spicy dish. This was my firm believe when I arrived in San Fran and on eating another curry (note: given my boredom to date I did ask for something hot) another mild, mild, mild dish …. Then ………………………... Has anyone heard of Birds Eye Chilies’? ... Apparently the preparation of choice in San Fran is not to disseminate the spice over a whole dish, simply to throw kill-you-hot chilies into the food. It’s was J saying “are you Ok – you’ve gone very very red” that gave it away - Not to mention the fact that I thought I’d eaten a hot lump of coal!
It’s a popular belief in England that we have the “most surveyed country” (eg CCTV cameras) but I swear the yanks have us licked. I grant, you can’t see CCTV in every town centre, however when you see a sign on a bus saying “we are currently recording your picture (nothing new there) ……. “and your voice” you do start to think that society is being monitored closely over here. Do I feel safer for being monitored “no” … have I remained silent on local bus journeys “yes”.
As we had 5 nights in San Fran we went to see the new Indiana Jones movie. Aparently, to make an good / solid Indiana Jones film, the recipe is as follows:
- One portion of Eastern European bad guys (who can’t aim for love nor money)
- Two portions of rather angry natives (again see comment above for aiming skills)
- A heaped teaspoon of a greedy friend, who Indy just can’t quite save
- One portion of handsome man, preferably Harrison Ford (note if your HF is past its best, a fresher, younger HF substitute can be used)
- Three portions of rather elaborate ancient doors and booby traps
- One snake (obviously)
- More than a hint of nasty insect
- A dash of power mad villain
- Finally, top off with a nice clean Black and White plot – Morality is clear people!
Haight Ashbury is the Hippy part of San Fran, lots of tie-dye and incense burners. It has a bounty of vintage shops and something called “Amoeba Records”.
On entering Amoeba Records I honestly thought I’d lost my wife – It was the strange vacant glint in her eye, the slightly open mouthed expression and then fact that she almost sprinted into the music section. I should explain that Amoeba Records is an IKEA size store containing nothing but music and film. Folks, if you have a muso as a wife, expect to lose her, and a large portion of cash if you ever visit this establishment. (Note: Mum, more vinyl on the way home!).
Top 3 tourist things we did in San Fran:
1) Alcatraz – Excellent audio tour of the prison, smelt of bird poo.
2) Napa / Sonoma Valley Wine Tour – Beautiful countryside - Hic.
3) Went to the Golden Gate bridge (for those of you that don’t know this – J has a fascination with bridges – odd but true!)
New stop LA then the Cooks Islands!