Sunday 12th October – Monday 13th October
San Francisco, USA
Trolleys and cable cars, San Francisco
Coming from Gateshead, we know hilly when we see it, but San Francisco takes the biscuit. And since the late 1800s the solution has been the cable car – a small carriage that zips up and down the hills using a moving cable under the street (in places you can see and hear the cable under the street; the cable car essentially grabs onto the cable with a huge pair of pliers in order to move along).
There are only forty cars and a couple of cable car lines left in the city, and although many other cities once had them, these are the now the only remaining working lines in the world. And they are more fun to ride than any public transport should be, especially when you get to hang onto the outside of the carriage as it descends a steep hill into downtown San Francisco.
In addition, the city still has a network of trams (US: trolleys or street cars) covering parts of the city that are a bit flatter. A number of the lines are served by historic trams from across the USA and elsewhere in the world.
On Sunday, we took the tram and cable car (and one of the city’s electric buses) to the cable car museum, to find out more. The museum is small but fascinating….not least because the very same building houses the workings of the system, which keep the cables moving at a constant pace of 9.5 miles per hour.
A final baseball fix, The Castro
As I mentioned in our last post, the Giants weren’t playing at home while we were in town, but we couldn’t miss the opportunity to watch an away game in a sports bar with the local fans! We found an amazing bar, called Hi Tops (the only gay sports bar in town, apparently), not far from our apartment.
The atmosphere was fantastic, not least because it was a very close game. The St Louis Cardinals took the lead a couple of times, only for the Giants to draw level, and even edge one point ahead in the top of the seventh and ninth innings. Unfortunately, it then fell flat when the Cardinals scored a walk off home run in the bottom of the ninth, leaving the series tied at one all (the series is the best of seven games….let’s go Giants!).
Exploring the Castro and Mission
We had a few hours before our flight to Sydney on Monday, so after checking out of our apartment, we took a bit of time to walk around the Castro and Mission districts.
The Castro wears its gay heritage on its sleeve – from our lunchtime stop, Harvey’s (one of the original gay bars in the area, and now named after Harvey Milk, the first openly gay elected representative of the area, who was assassinated a short time after his election) through to the brand new rainbow zebra crossings (US: crosswalks) in the heart of the district.
Mission, meanwhile, just a short walk away, is another lovely area where you can find the most beautiful murals in the most unexpected places.
Dolores Park also gave us one last beautiful view of this truly fantastic city.
Video of the day
Everyone knows the Golden Gate Bridge, but the Bay Bridge is making a bid for similar fame at the moment.
The artist Leo Villareal has created The Bay Lights, a beautiful piece of public art on the bridge. Consisting of 25,000 LED lights which have been individually programmed, the result is a mesmerising (and never repeating) display of lights across the span of the bridge, 1.8 miles wide and 500 feet high. It’ll be here for two years (though there is already a fundraising campaign to keep it longer) and we went to take a look on Sunday evening. A truly beautiful and mesmerising piece of art – this video from the New York Times shows a bit more about it.