Tag Archives: San Francisco

Cable cars and rocking the Castro

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.

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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. 

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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. 

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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.

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Mission, meanwhile, just a short walk away, is another lovely area where you can find the most beautiful murals in the most unexpected places. 

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Dolores Park also gave us one last beautiful view of this truly fantastic city.

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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.

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San Francisco: fly balls and flying machines

Thursday 9th October – Saturday 11th October
San Francisco, USA

Our journey from Monterey to San Francisco on Thursday involved a bus to San Jose (the civic heart of Silicon Valley), a short train ride to Emeryville Amtrak station, then a coach and subway to our apartment in the Castro neighbourhood.

Ferry Building and AT&T Park, Downtown San Francisco
For our first full day in San Francisco we decided to explore the downtown area of the city.

We remember the Ferry Building really well from our last visit: a beautiful old building on the waterfront, with some fantastic food stalls inside.

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We eventually decided on lunch at Delica, which was a fusion of Japanese and Californian food.

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We haven’t written much about the baseball season for a while, but never fear: it’s still going! There are now just four teams left in the playoffs (and the winners of those games will meet in the World Series very soon), of which one is my team: the San Francisco Giants.

The Giants weren’t playing at home while we were in town, but we took a quick trip to AT&T Park, the Giants’ home.

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This is basically where our fascination with baseball began: we saw the Giants play a really exciting game here on our visit in 2010. The ballpark is absolutely beautiful, including fantastic views of the waterfront (it’s so close to the water that some people sit in kayaks in the water alongside the ballpark during home games, to try and catch home run balls that end up in the water!). It was great to see the ballpark (and much of the city) adorned with reminders of the Giant’s great postseason run. This picture is of Buster Posey, the Giants’ catcher and one of our favourite players.

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Fleet Week, Golden Gate National Recreation Area
“So are you here for Fleet Week?”

We decided to take a different tack with accommodation in San Francisco – for the first time we decided to use Airbnb, and rented an apartment in Castro from John, a lovely guy who gave us some great tips about where to go while we were in town. He had also assumed Fleet Week was our destination. As it turns out, Fleet Week is a huge event, attracting about one million people each year, that honours the men and women of the US Armed Forces, as well as other Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Response personnel.

It seemed rude not to go.

On Saturday, we boarded a bus to the Marina Green, where the main event was taking place. The bus got stuck in traffic on the way – at first we thought it must be a traffic collision, but we overheard a few people talking about the President. Sure enough, we caught a glimpse of motorbikes and police cars speeding by, along with a huge car complete with US flags on the hood! Turns out, Obama was in town for a political speech on Friday night, followed by a fundraisers in Pacific Heights (where we were travelling through) on Saturday morning. The local media seemed less impressed than us, though, mainly complaining about the traffic jams!

Finally at the waterfront, and a walk along to the Marina gave fantastic views of the Golden Gate Bridge.

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We then took a walk and settled down to watch the airshow.

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It was a fabulous show, and the Blue Angels (the US Navy’s equivalent of the Red Arrows) were particularly impressive (and loud!)

Song of the day
‘Save Me, San Franciso’ by Train is one of Joanna’s favourite songs, and the video is a good excuse for some great shots of the city.