Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Round the world travel: San Francisco, California, USA

Where I was

San Francisco has been a dream city for me for as long as I can remember.  Home of Charmed (don't judge me the first season was ok) and Crazy Taxi, and most importantly land of the beatniks, it has been one of those magical, mythical cities in my imagination, a place where anything could happen and in fact has happened.

Unlike most of the cities on the West Coast, San Francisco is quite compact due to being on a peninsula.  It's an easy city to get around and get familiar with.  I was glad to have several weeks, because the best finds in a place as bohemian as this are always the unexpected, hidden ones.

Though it's the longest I've stayed in any place so far, it wasn't long enough.  Like so many before me, my heart aches to go back and never leave again.

Where I stayed

Still in Oakland in my lovely roof cabin.  SF is a 20 min train ride from Oakland on the BART.  The BART is by far the most comfortable transport system I've encountered so far.  The seats are like sofas and it just shushes smoothly along the tracks.

What I read

Bill Bryson's 'Down Under' in preparation for my move to Australia.  Just reminded me how many creatures there want you dead.

What I listened to

More NPR.  This week was a great interview with Stephen Colbert and alot of interesting presidential debate coverage.

Endor - 'Endor'  Honestly cannot get enough of this album.  Ages ago I read a review of them which basically said, 'If you don't like this then you don't like music'. I'm inclined to agree wholeheartedly.

What I ate

PB and J sandwiches in Washington Sq Park.  Packed lunches were my way of making up for splashing too much cash on the cabin.  Worth it, though.

Chowder in a sourdough bread bowl along Fisherman's Wharf.  Apparently there's some kind of red vs white chowder battle that has waged throughout the ages, but I couldn't figure it out and went for red just to be healthier (ha!).  I just wish I knew what happened to all the middle of the loaves...

Starbucks salted caramel mochas.  These lovelies are so yum they're worth the mini soul death that results from entering the buck of stars.

An ice cream the size of my face as a reward for all the hill walking that SF entails.  Organic vanilla and velvety as hell. Yum.  Was forced to eat it using an old Costa card, since the tub did not come with a spoon.  I wasn't a Girl Guide for nothing I tell ya!

When last week's chilli ran out I made a giant pot of chicken and vegetable curry.  The supermarkets in the US are so, so much more fun than home.  There's just so many things you couldn't possibly need, ever.

An ice cold beer at the Alice Now and Zen festival.  See, Seattle, this is how you do things.

What I did

Walked around. Alot.  The houses are all so beautiful, brightly painted and showing splashes of individuality and there is so much amazing street art I eventually stopped taking pictures, because I'd've been there forever and ever.  Likewise the rainbow flags. Awesome.

Took in the view from Coit Tower.  I had to appreciate it at length, since the excessive number of steps to get to the top almost killed me.  Thought it was going to be like In Bruges...

Rode the cable cars.  They are cold, rickety, uncomfortable and absolutely perfect.  I hope they stay utterly exempt from modernisation.

Wandered the tourist hell of Fisherman's Wharf.  It is actually laughably awful, but there are sea lions, so...

Hung out at North Beach.  Tried not to excitedly exclaim, 'I'm in California!' every five seconds.  I now know what all the fuss is about.

Took the boat to Alcatraz.  An absolute must-do, it was sunny in SF and got steadily creepier and darker as we approached the island.  Tres atmospheric.  The audiotour is award winning with good reason and the prison itself is as cold and hopeless as you'd imagine. Shudder.

Went to the free Alice Now and Zen festival and saw Alanis freaking Morrisette headline.  I have never been so star struck in all my life.  I literally cried when she walked on stage.  She is perfect.

Got my hipster on in the Haight Ashbury neighbourhood.  It really is very cool there, all organic coffee shops, record stores and tattoo parlours.  Continued my hunt for Twilight Sad's first album on vinyl to no avail.

Saw Alt-J instore at Amoeba Records.  They were awesome and the record store is basically Empire Records come to life.  I did ask if they were hiring, but they weren't.  I want to make a joke about going back and shooting up the place Warren-style, but I'm scared the internet nazis will get me.

Took in the Beat Museum, Caffe Trieste, bar Vesuvio and the City Lights Bookstore on a beat walking tour.  The museum is a great family run repository of beatnik memorabilia, including the recent acquisition of the car used in the new film adaptation of On The Road complete with 2000 miles worth of road dust.  As for City Lights, I love me a good bookstore and a bookstore with that much history and controversy was amazing just to stand in and breathe...

Yoga at the airpot in the designated and fully equipped yoga room.  Without doubt the most Californian thing ever.  Every airport should have one.  SFO is the best airport I've ever been in, by the way.  Every thing is locally sourced, organic, sustainable and super, super cool.

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