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Thursday, March 31, 2011

Out and about in San Francisco...

The first day in SF we walked downtown to catch the cable car only to find that most of the network is closed for maintenance. There are shuttle buses which connect to the one route still operating. So we rode the bus up the hills to Lombard St and then caught the cable car to Fisherman’s Wharf. This is a huge area on the waterfront. It’s full of shops, restaurants and tour operators etc.

The view from the park near Hyde st,Wharf

The 1 cable car route still working at the moment
While DH went into a nearby camera shop, I walked around the park and wharf area of Hyde St Wharf. From there you get a great view of the Golden Gate Bridge, as well as other features of the beautiful bay. DH ended up buying his dream telescopic lens which he’s had lots of fun using since then. We were checking in with Grays Tours about a tour we’d booked in Australia as well as looking at booking some more tours. That first day we ended up travelling by bus, cable car, tram and light rail, all using our $26 transport pass which is valid for a week. We had 3 rides on the cable car so that was $15 already!  Just near where the shuttlebus met the cable car is a street called Lombard St. This is a long, steep street like a lot of SF streets, but this one is special! It has at one end a zig-zag one way configuration for cars to drive down. The curves of this zig zag are bordered by low, beautifully clipped hedges. Tourists were swarming around taking pictures just like DH and I were doing. (see previous post)
Before we went back to our hotel, we (see previous post) caught buses which took us over the other big bridge here, Bay Bridge, which is double decker and very very long! It took a lot of walking to find the bus stop for these buses as there is a lot of construction going on regarding bus stations and interchanges.  We went to this place called Treasure Island and took lots of photos looking back to the city.
That night we set the alarm for 6 am so that we were ready to be picked up from the hotel for a tour we’d Muir Wood and Sausalita.

We got to the wharf very early and saw this worker cleaning the rubbish bins with a high pressure hose

The seagulls here seem to be larger than the ones at home. When they are swimming they look like a small duck!

Rainbow Tunnel on the way to Muir Wood

One of the large redwood trees in Muir Wood

The creek in Muir Wood

The road into Muir Wood is winding and quite high! The area is very lush!
We headed over the Golden Gate Bridge, which our guide told us is painted international orange and it gets its name from the Golden Gate Strait which it spans. He also said that the bridge has lane dividers which are moved into place by people dragging the dividers behind utes/pickups! (most of us have bridges and highways that use those red/green symbols above the lanes!) Our guide also commented that the bridge’s pedestrian walkway is the No 1 suicide spot in the US. I don’t know if he was joking or not but he said that there has been a proposal to put a net under this walkway but that no-one has said what would happen to people caught in this net????
To get to Muir Wood which is to the north of San Francisco, we travelled into Marin County.  Our driver/guide, Rich, told us that this county is very expensive real estate and is home to a number of celebrities, such as Andre Agassi & Steffi Graf, Sean Penn, George Lucas and Robert Redford. Muir Wood is a National Park which has the large and very tall, sequoia redwood trees. DH and I enjoyed our walk through the wood/park but I was disappointed that I couldn’t spend more time in the gift shop because it had beautiful quality items and I could only have a quick look before we had to head back to the bus. However we had enough time to admire these tall beauties and to reflect on the history of this area and some amazing people who ‘were ahead of their time’! In the early 1900s timber companies were moving further afield to find forests to fell redwood trees to provide timber for homes of that time which were mainly built of timber. The Conservation Movement was in its infancy and 2 supporters were William Kent and his wife, Elizabeth. The Kents were concerned about losing this forest to the timber company and fought to save it. Eventually in 1905 they bought the 400 acres for $45000 to protect it and donated it to the state. In 1908, President Roosevelt legislated for the land to be protected as a National Monument. The President wanted the area to be called after its benefactors but the Kents insisted it be named in honour John Muir, a writer and philosopher and a founding father of the conservation movement.
After Muir Wood we headed to Sausalita, a charming beachside area. We walked to the waterfront from the bus park and looked back at the city. We the walked up to the shops and had an icecream which was yummy! Then a quick look in some shops and then it was time to board the bus. We came back to the Pier with the tour bus and then we decided to catch a light rail train to the ferry building which is further along the seafront and catch the ferry back to Sausalita. This time, we had a leisurely late lunch (3.30) looking out over the sea. Then we had an equally leisurely walk around the shops. DH had seen something in the morning that he thought he’d buy for one of the girls and then in the afternoon, he bought it!

Part of the street scene in Sausalito

On Wednesday we did 2 tours that we had booked in Brisbane, ages ago. Firstly in the morning, we did the City Tour which in reality seemed to be totally different from what we had booked. It was only for an hour instead of the 2 hours we expected and it was just in the downtown area, not further afield such as under the Golden Gate Bridge as we thought. Perhaps we misread the details or maybe Grays here is not as good as in Australia. Remember our Grand Canyon Tour which was supposed to include Hoover Dam????  We drove through a bumber of neighbourhoods, including the reclaimed area of North Beach (originally this area was in the bay!), Pacific Heights and Nob Hill, and yes that is where the rich and famous live along with Pacific Heights!
Anyway, one good thing came from doing the city tour and that was we found that public transport went to Coit that is what we did!
One of the many stores in China Town

One of the mansions we saw on the city tour

Coit Tower

One of the views from Coit Tower
This structure is built on Telegraph Hill and was commissioned by the heiress, Lillie Hancock Coit in the 1930s to honour the firefighters of the time, many who lost their lives in the great earthquake of 1906 which triggered serious fires. In those days the fire brigade was made up of volunteers, most of which were wealthy people. This tower is very tall and features quite a few murals which depict scenes of everyday life of those times. DH and I took photos from the street level and then we paid $5 and took the lift and stairs to the top. If I thought the view downstairs was impressive...well from the top of the tower, it was amazing!! We spent quite a while just looking and taking photos and in DH’s case, video footage
Then it was back to the waterfront to catch our boat for our trip to Alcatraz. This island has been a civil war fort, a military prison as well as being the ‘most notorious federal penitentiaries in US history’. The island closed as a prison in the 1960s and then for a while it was taken over by Native Americans who wanted to highlight their plight of being forced off their lands and sent to reservations. It is now a part of the National Parks system. We were told that the walk uphill to the cellblock where the tour starts is equal to walking up a 13 storey building. I’m stubborn, I wouldn’t use the little shuttle so my calf muscles ‘were screaming’ by the end of the day but my iron levels must be still good as I didn’t get puffed much more than someone else my age!!!
Before we went up to the old cellblock, we stopped in the little theatre and watched a video presentation which is meant to provide an orientation for the visitor. As part of our ticket, they provided an audio presentation, similar to what we had in Europe and UK. (the photo at the top of my blog page shows me listening to the audio presentation at Stonehenge.) The audio presentation featured not only a narrator but also wove in dialogue from previous prisoners and former officers. It was very well done and the 45 minutes was enthralling!

 Today we went for a ride on the Metro (train) under the bay (in a tunnel of course! Lol) to Oakland. We got off in the downtown area and walked around...and then I saw a Dress Barn. I found some nice summer tops in there and I will need them as the weather is really warming up now. The tops here in the US tend to have quite a nice cut and fit so I convinced myself it wouldn’t hurt to take some home!
Then we came back to SF and walked down to Chinatown. It is huge! Chinatown here covers 7 streets and 4 large city blocks. Our main objective was to get another case in which to put our shopping; most of it is gifts but I’ve bought ‘blender’ fabrics at various places for a fellow blogger who is sewing together quilt blocks donated for victims of natural disasters in 3 countries. We found a cheap large bag and also had a Chinese meal in one of the larger restaurants.


Claud said...

Wow - you did a lot, but it all sounds great. I'm glad you're enjoying all the beautiful places in San Fran. Safe travels!

Maria said...

Thanks Claud! We will be on 'your side of the country' tomorrow night!...and I believe it is cold!

Dmarie said...

oh, SF is definitely on my bucket list!! so tickled for you to get to go there!!

Maria said...

Thank you Dmarie! As an item on a bucket list, SF would have to be 'up there'; it's lovely and historical and just such a pretty location...