Thursday, 15 December 2011

Golden in San Fran

We watched a couple of surfers scoot around a dolphin offshore at our campsite before we headed out for our second day. Driving along the coast we passed the zoo, some Dutch windmills, the gorgeous white sands of Ocean Beach, the Presidio grounds and rows of colourful homes packed closely together up and down the hills. Many houses are boxlike in design, we assume to withstand earthquakes. They are very picturesque painted in soft pastels: pink, turquoise, peach and milky-green next to colours of the desert: tan, brick, cream and olive. Drove across the famous Golden Gate Bridge; parked and walked back looking over the bay, across to the city on the hill, Alcatraz and the harbour dotted with saturday-sailboats.

After our bridge hike, we drove up the narrow, winding roads on the hills of  Golden Gate Recreation Area
and Presidio. There are a number of decaying military fortifications and empty soldier's quarters from the past. Ancient grooves in the rust and chocolate coloured cliffs looked like the rhythmic lines on a topographic map. The sun was heading closer to the Pacific so that the light conditions created a glow on the huge Norfolk and Sitca pine trees. A group of small deer, quite common all around the west coast, nibbled grass and watched with caution as I approached with my camera. The waves of San Francisco Bay crashed on the rocks below where a group of white seals casually lay about. Most spectacular was the full view of the Golden Gate Bridge spanning the harbour with its iconic strength.

Our third day at the bay was the most challenging for my broken foot. We hiked from the pier over some rambling steps up Telegraph Hill to Coit tower. Our climb wound past some great homes with porches looking out over the bay and gardens crammed with lavender, roses, holly, orange and lemon trees. I sat with Dixie while Chris went up the 210' art deco tower which provided "coit" the amazing view all around San Francisco. I chose to enjoy the amazing series of  floor to ceiling murals painted in the 1930's around the interior walls at the tower's base. They depict scenes of  life in California before the depression such as city scenes of markets and bakeries, farming in the valley and the old fishing docks."Coit" fabulous!

We wandered about the city, observing the intricate architectural details, amazing moldings and carved roundels, exterior staircases and great windows which are standard on all the old buildings whether they are  upper class apartments or battered old shops. Dixie enjoyed her first museum; a tour of Cable Car history and engineering. We walked through Chinatown, the Italian Sector and North Beach nightclub district. We again concluded that the best way to see a city is on foot.

Dixie was booked into the "Wags Dog & Cat Hotel" for our last day in San Fran. She loved her stay at the "high end" doggie day care. The place sold designer dog treats, toys, bedding and of course "fashions" in their shop and provided private rooms decked out like human-motel rooms with raised bed, floor mat. Sensible Dixie opted for the all day large dog play area.

After a relaxing breakfast at Fisherman's Wharf, Chris and I boarded the tour boat bound for Alcatraz. The day was very cold, windy and overcast; perfect for a prison break! The cell blocks, the yard and prison guard and their family residences are all decrepit: with peeling paint, rust, mold and crumbling bricks. We utilised the audio tour voiced by former guards and prisoners. Listening to their voices as we walked the cell blocks and looked through the bars and up at the three floors of cells it was easy to imagine the atmosphere at Alcatraz when the most despicable villains occupied the penitentiary. We prowled around for a couple of hours picturing the riots and cell breaks as well as the likes of Al Capone confined to his 6 'x 8'x 10' cell, small bed, shelf and toilet in the corner; enviously listening to the sounds of New Year's Celebrations drifting across the bay from San Fran and in through the bars. We must watch Clint Eastwood's "Escape from Alcatraz" soon and so should you!

Once off "the rock" we trekked down to California Street cable car up to a different part of town including Nob Hill, known for its elegant hotels including the gorgeous Mark Hopkins Hotel.(google it)
Rejuvenated with an authentic Italian lunch and continued our long walk about enjoying the sights and sounds. We could not resist one last cable car ride back into Union Square. Back in the car, Chris "Bullit" drove down the crazy series of hairpin turns of the infamous Lombard Street. He then raced up and down a few more streets...just because he could! Back at the RV we watched Steve McQueen peel through San Fran's streets in his famous "Bullit" high speed chase. It's a classic film worth a watch if you have not seen it in awhile.

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