Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Still in San Francisco

So I'm still in San Francisco and have one day to go before heading to Seattle.

So far I've pretty much exhausted most things that I wanted to do except that I still haven't been to Alcatraz. On the first two days I didn't venture very far, I just stayed around the central city or Fisherman's wharf, Rode the F line and cable cars, as well as having a look at the Ferry Building which is now a market of sorts. I also visited the F line museum and the Cable Car Museum, which also happens to be the car barn and winding house for the cables.

On Friday I ventured down to the Monterey Aquarium about 3 hours drive south of San Francisco. I was on a bus tour so I didn't really have enough time to see it properly, but I got to have a good look at the main exhibits, which were the Sea Otters and the Kelp Forrest.

The actual tour was pretty interesting too. The driver knew all kinds of little factoids of information, particularly the natural and human history of the area. The coast was quite spectacular, a bit like the Surf coast and Great Ocean Road in Victoria. I got so interested in the history of California that I bought a book on it tonight.

Monterey itself is quite historic, originally being settled by the Spanish hundereds of years ago. It was also home to author John Steinbeck, who set many of his novels in the area. We also visited Pebble Beach golf course and saw some very expensive real estate, including one of Clint Eastwood's former houses. The final stop on the tour was the town of Carmel, which is a very exclusive and beautiful town. Clint Eastwood was mayor for a while a few years back.

Saturday was a bit of a rest day, and moving day from hotel to hostel. I couldn't book all the nights at the one place so I decided to spend some time at a hotel and the rest at the hostel. The hotel was really good. It was cheap and the rooms were tiny, but it was more than adequate and very well located. So if you come to San Francisco I would recommend the Mosser Hotel if you are on a buidget. There is nothing wrong with the hostel either except needing to flash a bit of paper at reception every time you walk in for "security reasons". You could flash any old bit of paper. The other upside is free wifi which seems standard in hostels over here. In both hotels I've stayed at, it has been pay for use. The private room I am in is also about twice the size of the one I was in at the Mosser.

Yesterday I got the bus to the Golden Gate Bridge and then walked across. I picked a good day for two reasons. The first being it was overcast, which meant no fog, which was a big plus for visibilty, the second reason being that the Blue Angels put their airshow on when I was going across, so they were flying all around the bridge almost the whole time. The bridge is pretty long, 4200 feet or so on the main span I think I read.

When I got to the other side I stopped at the lookout overlooking the bay and the bridge for a while before continuing down the side of the road (with no footpath) to the town of Sausalito. While the walk was bit hair raising walking beside a windy road with cars only a foot away and no footpath it was probably worth it. Sausalito is a town that literally clings to the hillside in order to get the best view of the bay (reminds me of Sydney in a way). One house I saw even had it's own funicular to get from the garage at street level to the house high up on the Hill. Sausalito is very exlusive, the main street is line with expensive cars and boutiques. From here it was a short 20 minute ferry ride back across the bay to fisherman's wharf.

Today I decided to seek out Lombard Street, "the worlds windiest street". That is the street that zig zags down the hill. It turns out that the Powell-Hyde cable car line drops you off right at the top. I really like riding the cable car on the footboard, lots of fun. It just wouldn't happen in Australia, mind you the maximum speed is only 9mph.

After that I walked some of the way to Coit Tower before luckily coming across a bus that would take me there. Public tranport is fantastic in San Francisco. Coit Tower was bequethed to the city by the well known, rich, tomboy Lillie Hitchcock Coit when she died. Inside are murals painted by out of work artists during the great depression depicting every day Californian life. The views from the tower ($5 to go up plus tip to the elevator driver).

Leaving Coit tower I made my way to Fisherman's wharf and after walking around a bit I decided to visit the Aquarium of the Bay. What a disappointment. while it was interesting to finally find out what type of fish all the pelicans, seals, cormorants and fisherman I had seen catching, the overall display looked a bit run down. They had a touch pool where you could pat a Leopard Shark as well as some small skates and rays. The collection of other animals was a bit random though, as they also had tree frogs, Chinchillas (yes Chinchillas) Tarantulas, Tortoises, and what caught my attention, a "Blue Tongue Skink". I really felt for my Aussie mate, the poor thing looked very bored in its small enclosure. They also had the african Hedgehog, which according to the sign also inhabits New Zealand as well as the continents of Africa and Asia.

So that's what I've been doing so far. Maybe tomorrow I will visit Alcatraz.

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