Day Forty Seven – Haight Ashbury

Day Forty Seven – Haight Ashbury

At last I have some money in my account. Let’s spend.

We are back on the bus at 11 o’clock for the ‘trip’ to Haight Ashbury. Bright blue skies and it feels a little warmer (but not t-shirt weather)
Today’s tour takes us down through very beautiful and vast San Francisco gardens. I did not realise how big the gardens where and if we had enough time we would have got off at one of the stops and explore the area by foot. Once through the gardens we headed down to the Pacific Ocean beach area which again had some stunning views of the Golden Gate Bridge. We have been lucky on these last two days as very often the bridge is shrouded in fog. Man is was blowing down here as we alighted for a photo opportunity. Cold, yes sir. I heard a Scottish tourist remark that she was cold and that’s saying something coming from there.

We then headed back though the gardens for out next stop. Haight Ashbury. Forever in the history books as the home of the 60’s hippies and of course the Grateful Dead. All those old hippies of the 60’s are no longer here but there are a new breed of street people in the area. The shops have been gentrified but you can still see some evidence of this magical bygone era. Kate wanted a McDonald’s fix. As we approached the entrance I saw a new bred hippie with a couple of dollars in his hand. He told me he was 75 cents short for a hamburger. What the heck I had a pocket full of quarters which would very soon be of no use to me. He was oh so grateful when I gave him my loose change. Kate went an ordered her meal and I watched as my new hippie friend ordered his burger. Bugger me if he didn’t come back to me and offer back the quarters he did not need!

Amoeba records is just a few doors from Maccas and I headed there while Kaye ate. It is the biggest record store in the land and I was overwhelmed with what was on offer. I told you early about the Van Morrison album I found at 101 Records. Well here I found another two Van the Man favourites I have been searching for, the 1971 release ‘Tupelo Honey and 1972’s ‘Saint Dominic’s Preview.’ Both had out of print stickers on them.
Wendy and I also cut loose in a Doc Martin shoe store. My new Doc’s are a sight to behold and maybe the most outlandish boots I have ever had. Just you wait and see.

Back on the bus at 3:30 and an early dinner in China town. There is some serious packing to do as tomorrow we leave for home.

Day Forty Six – Hop On Hop Off

Day Forty Six – Hop On, Hop Off

I am up real early. I have to check my Travel Card balance. I got locked out of the account weeks ago due to too many log in tries. Now my account is sitting at $28 even though I transferred money from my Bank account a few weeks back. I have no money and the vagrancy laws are pretty tough here.

I did have enough for a coffee as I waited for the girls to get ready (see the recurring theme here)?

We walked around to Union Square to purchase a two day pass for the Hop On, Hop Off tourist buses. There are four tours included. No time limit and it is a perfect way to see this very hilly and beautiful city. Each route affords many predetermined stops so when you want to get off to explore a district you can. The tour starts across the road from the expensive and historical St Francis Hotel. The only hotel left in San Francisco where you can have all your change washed for you. The ladies of a century ago wore long white silk gloves and the last thing you wanted was to have your gloves dirtied by small change.

We went thought the district known as the ‘Tenderloin.’ During prohibition there were many speakeasies down this way. The law may have banned alcohol but the people sure did not. The local cops on this beat where of course on the payroll and because they had more money in their pockets they were able to afford a much better cut of meat for their dinner than the cops on other beats who had to settle for hamburger!

We passed City Hall, a very impressive building whose dome is taller than Washington’s. The dome is bedecked in gold leaf and sparkles in the morning sun. Our very informative and funny tour guide told us to note that there was no bird poop on the dome. He said there are two caretakers that live 24/7 in the domes roof and they are named, Grace and Kelly (a pair of Peregrine Falcons.) Also of interest is that the building is not attached to the ground. After the damage of the 1989 earthquake the building (an entire block) was lifted off the ground by four enormous cranes. The building now sits on rollers and can move four feet either way when the next big shake occurs.

We passed an exclusive male- only club by the name of the Bohemian Club. Every U.S. President has been a member of this club. If Hilary Clinton makes the White House then there will be some sort of a problem to resolve. We headed past the Dragon Gates of Chinatown (near our hotel.) They are the only authentic Chines Gates in the U.S. and feature a jade tiles on the roof.

We finished up back at Fisherman’s wharf and explored the rest of the attractions and shops. We got a great view of the Golden Gate Bridge when we joined the bus tour again. If you are up to it you can walk the bridge which borders the Pacific Ocean and San Francisco Bay. The bridge is designed to sway up to 27 feet left and right during an earthquake.

Our tour today also takes us across the famous bridge. It is hold on to your hat time as the wind up on the bridge is howling (and cold). We are heading to the beautiful bay hamlet of Sausalito. Stunning views of San Francisco and very expensive property. Lovely shops and restaurants. Robin Williams lived and died in his home just a few miles from here.

We had a late lunch of fish and chips and were back on the bus by 3 o’clock.

Our tour guide told us that there are 10 distinct micro climates in the Bay area that I can believe. On the way back into San Francisco we listened to Scott McKenzie’s iconic hippie era hit and Otis Readings ‘Sitting on the Dock of the Bay.’ Very appropriate although we reminded that no smoking was the rule on the bus, even medical marijuana!

We caught up with Ann, Jeanette and Mike (WOW regulars) for drinks on Nob Hill at the exclusive hotel Top of the Mark. Unfortunately for me this meant another trek up another very steep hill. It was worth it though as the Bar is located on the 18th floor and the panoramic views of San Francisco are breath taking.

We all decided to have dinner at an Italian Restaurant (in Little Italy) which was cool and then walked a short distance to a dive bar (the Saloon.) It is hard to find some blues music in this town and Mr. Google said this bar was the best for the blues. Well it wasn’t. The bar made some of the dives in New Orleans look classy. It certainly didn’t have the good vibes of New Orleans bars. We stayed for a short time then said our goodbyes and headed home.

Day Forty Five – Alcatraz

Day Forty Five – Alcatraz

Up at 9:30 for a coffee and donut across the road at Starbucks while the girls get ready for our first full day in San Francisco.

Today we are going to Alcatraz. Kate has her map app up and running and told me that it is only a half hour walk to the ferry terminal! Maybe that is true on a flat wicket but this is San Francisco and no way is it a 30 minute walk. Against my better judgement I have been talked into walking. The temperature is somewhat cooler than New Orleans and Memphis. Around the 15 degrees Celsius. Windy, wow, you know what it can be like in Collins Street when you get that cold gale blowing, well San Fran is a lot like that (all over). Believe it or not there are many bike riders around this city. Up- hill you are up on your peddles, puffing like an old steam train, the next minute you are flying downhill like Cadel Evans. I am sure the girls were trying to kill me. Thirty minute walk my arse, even a mountain goat would have protested.

We finally made the wharf. Luckily we had booked our tickets for the tour on-line as a sign reads that all tours for the day had been sold. There is already a long queue waiting to board the ferry for the eleven o’clock tour. One of the tour people saw my cane and insisted that we sit down and that we will be ushered into the front of the line once boarding commences. I feel a little embarrassed with the excellent service but Kate is rather pleased with the special treatment.

We got to sit right up front of the ferry on the top deck, it was cold but sure gave us a great view of ‘the rock’ as we approached. The view of San Francisco is not shabby either.

‘Break the rules and you go to prison, break the prison rules and you go to Alcatraz.’

Once we landed we were greeted by a Ranger who gave us a brief history of Alcatraz and then told us that there is no time limit to the tour. Ferries come every half hour and you can take your time. I must say it is one of the best tours I have ever been on. You stroll around the island and slowly make your way to the top of the rock where the main cell house is located. The tour features audio and it is a fascinating insight into this hell on water. I can’t imagine how cold it would have been here in winter. The girls went crazy in the gift shop. The island is alive with nesting birds and at this time of the year. We spent well over two hours looking around before heading back.

Back at the wharf and it is only a five minute walk to the famous Pier 39 where there are many clothing stores and of course the famous restaurants serving the freshest of seafood. We found a cool shop selling terrific tote bags and I just had to have one. Kate then located Club Tattoo where she had some stretching done to her ear lobes and I had a new ear ring put in. Not many fathers would have their daughter pay for a new ear ring.
Alongside the pier there are hundreds of sea lions lazing on man- made wooden structures. A sight (and smell to behold). The sea lions used to live on seal rock but moved after the 1989 earthquake. They are now a huge tourist attraction.
Hunger was calling and we opted for the Pier Market restaurant. Crab cakes and then of course a serve of the world renown clam chowder. Delicious.

Being a glutton for punishment I said I was up for the walk back to our hotel. Even though I again nearly expired we found a great record shop (101 Music) on our way back. A record shop stacked to the rafters with all sorts of goodies. Kate had never seen so many cassette tapes in one place. The guy running the business looked and sounded like an old hippie from the 60’s. I struck gold. I have been trying to get a C.D. copy of Van Morrison’s 1970 release ‘His Band and Street Choir’ for a while now. I have the album on L.P. I believe that Van ‘the man’ was at his productive best in the first few years of the 70’s. Well I found it and it only cost $4.99 U.S.

All in all a great day in San Francisco. By the way I have been told by a local that under no circumstances do you call the bay- city Frisco. It is an automatic $25 fine!