This was the third biggest culture shock of the trip. The first was Vancouver to Hanoi, the second from Kuala Lumpur to Amsterdam. We are so very happy to be back in the land of familiar language. We had underestimated the toll of the communication gap over the past few months. For the first time we could understand and be understood and even joke. We could order what we wanted from a restaurant and expect it to come out right, rather than just hope. Glorious English!
We had been preparing for the customs process hearing it could be intense after collecting as many stamps as we had, and arriving from Colombia. It was shockingly simple, they didn’t even look up as they waved us through. If only the baggage claim was that easy. The one time I check my bag (to bring home a bounty of rum) it doesn’t show up. Arg! Skip to the end of some frustrating phone calls, I got my rum, and some free shorts!
We took the BART from the airport to the centre where we were staying right at sunset. There were breath-taking vistas of the bay area with fog creeping in. Once settled we made a late night pizza run then relaxed to prep for a major day of exploring.
Day one of exploring in San Francisco: We fueled with an epic breakfast at the hostel. An offering of waffles score top marks in any rating. Darren was eager to check out the bicycle commuting, so we headed out on market street. There were waves and waves of the uber hip riding bikes to equally trendy start up jobs around 10:00. That’s the life! We saw bike lanes, bike counters, bike shares and a greenwave.
We wandered toward the Mission district and enjoyed a lot of quirky details along the way. This area had an odd urban/suburban feel. The streets were overly wide for the 2-3 storey buildings that flanked them, but the liveliness and grain of detail was very urban. We loved the iconic bay windows, the bright colours and the twisted metal fire escapes.
We were especially inspired by the parklets. This city has really taken an initiative to have creative public space. The were unique, well used, and open to all.
Over a delicious Indian lunch, we brainstormed ideas for getting more parklets in Vancouver.
We stopped in a cafe and enjoyed the luxury of hearing snippets of conversation around us and a variety of people around us enjoyed the cafe/work culture.
Next we headed to Clarion alley, where the street art is regularly being renewed with strong political messages.
Urban turbine – fun to say, fun to have!
We’d already covered a lot of ground, but this was just the beginning of our exploring for today. We walked back to home base, then headed down market street in the opposite direction, to downtown.
Our hostel’s central location is great, though the vibe of the area is less great. It’s in a district with a lot of theatres and hotels, a sort of no man’s land where no one really lives, but those without homes hang out. It was very sad, but of all the places we have travelled, we saw some of the most dejected looking people here.
The hills may look harmless, but I assure you they are not . we practically had to crawl up some of them.
Downtown was full of people, and most of the traffic was on the sidewalks. We were pleasantly surprised at how light the car traffic was – at that time anyway. There were beautiful old buildings alongside new.
We headed to the water and emerged near the Oakland Bay bridge. We walked along the Embarcadero, the promenade linking all of the piers at the water’s edge. Not quite as sceneic as a walk along the seawall. We started at Pier 1 or some low number, and were heading for 43 – the numbers weren’t going up fast enough.
Oak Bay Bridge
Market at the Ferry building
At Pier 39 you can sometimes see a colony of sea lions, but they were apparently too busy mating.
At walked along the boardwalk at Pier 41, where it was incredibly windy. We saw Forbes Island, Alcatrez and sights of the city in the background. There were flocks of Pelicans flying by too.
Coit Tower and Transamerica Pyramid in the background
We kept meandering past Fisherman’s Wharf, and stopped briefly at the park beach below Ghiradhelli square. I honestly don’t know how our legs were still moving at this point.
We poked around Fort Mason where despite its isolated location there are a number of trendy restaurants and businesses in the old buildings. We were a) underdressed, b) too cheap, and c) wanted a better view of sunset, so we decided against going to a restaurant there. Instead we gathered picnic fare and headed further past Marina Green and the Yacht club for an unobstructed view of the Golden Gate bridge at sunset.
Looking out over Fort Mason, Golden Gate in the background
Fort Mason Great Meadow, reminded me of Full House.
We gathered picnic fare and headed further past Marina Green and the Yacht club for an unobstructed view of the Golden Gate bridge at sunset. It was beyond amazing!
The fog, sun, bridge, paddlers and pellicans all lined up perfectly for this shot.
It was so incredible watching the fast moving fog over the bay. I would love to see this view at different times, different days – it’s constantly changing. If the wind had not been finger numbingly cold, I might have stayed here forever.
This handsome seagull looked so fake.
We got a true taste of the hills as we walked back to our hostel through the Russian Hill and Nob hill neighbourhoods. Insanity!