San Francisco

There can hardly be anything worse than reading about people enjoying themselves while you are slaving away at work so this will be the last of my holiday blog entries from the great city of San Francisco. You may go back to your lives now and be content that I will soon be rejoining you in boring old UK, wishing I was away somewhere more entertaining, with bigger and better food and with decent weather.

Leaving Napa it took me some time to convince my Satnav that we would be entering San Francisco via the Golden Gate Bridge and it attempted several times to fool me into going via the much less interesting Bay Bridge – or even to add an hour to my journey and by-pass all the bridges. Quite why Tom Tom would design a system that even contemplated accessing San Francisco any other way is beyond me. In any case, I finally got it to take me the right way by adding a waypoint a mile from the bridge.

And it was well worth it….


We ‘mist’ the top.

I can’t explain why I felt some sort of strange emotion passing under the bridge arches which were, rather perfectly, shrouded in San Francisco bay mist. Perhaps I was suddenly Steve MacQueen in my Mustang. There was something that tickled the movie buff in me and emerging from the tunnel, and then finding the bridge upon me so suddenly was like getting a surprise gift. I confess I kind of gasped.

If I were to examine the child in me I would say it’s probably because the Golden Gate Bridge is the one you could make out of Meccano. It’s the original suspension bridge of boyhood imagination.

It is, of course, still possible I was in movie star mode as I spun the tyres at least once in town (the car has more torque than a Fiat Panda driver is used to). We arrived safely though and I said a tearful goodbye to the car that took us down California’s North West coast, through a few trees and across the most famous bridge in the world.

After checking in at our hotel (which featured in the Hitchcock Film Vertigo) we took a walk out to get a sense of the city and wandered down towards the Presidio, a park close to the bridge. It’s a hilly place so walking is not really the way to go but we persevered for a few hours at least. Looking for a coffee we were directed to a cluster of buildings where we were told George Lucas has offices and where there is a small museum of Star Wars artefacts in the reception area.  It was not on any visitor guide but we were told if we found the Yoda Fountain, it was behind it.


Hotel Vertigo

Well if there was ever a quest for an adventurer, finding Yoda’s fountain and the secret collection of artefacts behind it is it. We swallowed out coffee and cakes and scoured the park for the Jedi master. A few wrong turns and some assistance from the helpful residents of the city later, the bronze-cast statue was before us. The water trickling in the sun beneath the great sage sounded like a whispering Obi Wan – ‘use the Force’ . Behind the edifice sat the entrance to Lucasfilm’s administrative centre. And beyond the great entrance doors – the museum.


‘Found it you have….’


Now I cannot tell you exactly where it is because the memory is wiped from your mind the moment you leave. I probably couldn’t find it again – but it is there. Oh yes…. it is indeed.


‘You must never speak of this location to another….’

We returned briefly to our hotel but only to pick up our tickets to Alcatraz and there was no time for food. We would be running on empty for the four to five hours we intended to be on the Rock. What did we do to deserve such a sentence?

Alcatraz is a fantastic and chilling experience and leaving it later in the day meant we were there when dark came and it got all spooky and atmospheric.  The hotdog on the boat back was also a pretty chilling experience but needs must – we were starving.


You really have to be there.

First thing next day we boarded the Hop On Hop Off tour bus and did the entire circuit including another freezing trip over the bridge on the open top deck. Of course we could have stayed on the bottom deck but where’s the fun in that? We did in fact repeat the circuit again that day.


The Streets of San Francisco

The highlights of San Francisco are impossible to list, it’s a great city. A bit dirty and smelly (especially the herbal fumes) but it is a wonderful experience nonetheless. The number of movies shot in the city adds interest to the place because you turn a corner and find something familiar without even knowing why.  I particularly liked finding Dirty Harry locations.


The Church where Scorpio threatens to kill a priest.

We visited the Fisherman’s wharf which was very touristy and spent some time in Union Square where we ate lunch at the Cheesecake Factory. The club sandwich was – meh – aliright, but the cheesecake was off-the-charts-rest-of-the-day-feeling-stuffed-and-just-a-little-pukey delicious.


That is a solid lump of chocolate ganache on there.

Having done the tour twice we left it tight at the end of the day for the theatre we booked while in Seattle. Bianca Del Rio is a drag comedienne in the vein of Julian Clary but with more venom and with no holds barred. She is playing in the UK next year and I would recommend it to anyone with a strong stomach and no qualms about hearing EVERYONE being thoroughly character-assassinated.

Today, we booked our bus to the airport, stored our bags with the hotel and took the bus to the Walt Disney Family Museum. It traces the life of Walt Disney through to his death and describes the early pioneering of animation in movies. It’s a good way to spend two to three hours and a dreadful way to spend twenty dollars at the same time. The cafe is dire.

We had a chicken thing (dog vomit) sandwich and a cheese toastie. With one cup of diet coke – twenty bucks. Dear Lord – it ‘disney’ bear thinking about.

Reflecting on the last twenty odd days we were glad we trained for the Great North Run because we used a lot of energy and needed our fitness to pack in everything. The driving was alright at the beginning and then great when we were introduced to Trixy the Mustang. What we love about America is the attention on value everywhere. I am able to post this blog because there is free wifi at the airport. I was able to keep you up to date and research things all the way through my holiday because every hotel provides wifi as part of the deal. We could print out tickets for shows at the last minute because there are printers and computers in hotel receptions for this purpose.

The final thing I have to do is to show you which of our holiday party did that bungee jump. We drew straws and guess who got the short one?


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