Round The World and other travels

A frequent flyer's collection of trip diaries

This is: Round The World 2004

Glorious weather in San Francisco

I had set the alarm for 0700 to ensure that I would be up and about in plenty of time for an organised walking tour that I had booked for 1000 - a first-rate recommendation by fellow-FlyerTalker sftrvlr, whom I would be meeting later in the day. I had breakfast in the hotel, but unfortunately the restaurant was over-crowded with tour groups. I got myself organised and was ready for the road by 0830. The sunshine was already glorious in a totally cloudless blue sky.

I hadn't realised that the hotel was so well situated - just over a block away from the cable car turnaround at Beach & Hyde. One of the big advantages of visiting the city out of the high season, and of making a nice early start, was that I was able to just walk up and board the cable car - no waiting in line for ages, followed by hanging on for dear life on the running boards   I bought a day pass for the entire transit system for USD9 - great value considering that a one-way cable-car trip is now a hefty USD3. I enjoyed renewing my acquaintance with the famous system and in no time at all I was in Union Square, home of the almost equally famous St Francis Hotel, where the tour would start at 1000. I wandered around in the morning sunshine until closer to the appointed time.

I met my tour guide Peter at about 0945 and was surprised, but not at all disappointed, to find that I was to be the only participant. We covered the Union Square area, Chinatown, the former Barbary Coast district and North Beach / Little Italy, at a nice, leisurely pace. The great attraction of doing a tour like this, instead of just walking around on your own, is that you learn much more and get to see some real gems that you would almost certainly miss on your own. One example would be the little art gallery in Maiden Lane that was a prototype for the Guggenheim Museum in New York. Another example was the Tosca Cafe / Bar, hangout of movie stars, with opera extracts in the juke box and the first cappuccino machines in America, which served brandy and hot chocolate under the guise of cappuccino during prohibition!

Ghirardelli Square, from near the Beach & Hyde cable car teminus St Francis Hotel, starting point of my walking tour Cable car passing St Francis Hotel, Union Square
Chinatown Gate Hang On! Good name for real estate agents in an earthquake zone! Tosca Cafe, and one of those famous cappuccino machines
R L Stevenson memorial, as featured on my front page! Characters in Treasure Island are said to be based on people he met in San Francisco. Trans America Pyramid

Peter had warned me that we might finish early, given that there was no big group to move around, but in the event we started early at 0950 and didn't finish until 1255! Considering the neighbourhood that I was now in, I had a wholly appropriate Italian lunch at a nearby eatery. Following lunch, I wandered around the Washington Square area and then made my way to the Cable Car Museum - I'm sure this used to be called the Cable Car Barn - before walking up to California Street to sample the real thing once again. I rode a car to the Van Ness end of the line, then moved to a front seat and rode the same car for the full length of the line to California & Market. I was then able to try out more vintage transit by switching to a streetcar on the F line to get back to Fisherman's Wharf. Unlike the cable cars, which charge premium fares, the F line is a regular part of the city's transit system, but is distinguished by being operated entirely by vintage streetcars assembled from around the United States and the world. I caught sight of the line's ex-Blackpool tram on three separate occasions but was not able to photograph it

Church of Sts Peter and Paul, in Washington Square Coit Tower : pre-captioned photo! Steady on, now! I do still have a week to go, you know!
Winding gear at the Cable Car Museum California Street Old St Mary's
California Street cable car Ferry Building and F Line vintage streetcar

Back at the hotel, I freshened up and set out again for my meet-up with sftrvlr (a.k.a. Bruce). By riding the F line end-to-end to 17th & Castro, I was within easy walking distance of his apartment. I had drinks with Bruce and his flat-mate Michael (also an occasional FTer!) and then the three of us went out for a very nice Thai meal at a local restaurant. It was a most enjoyable evening. Once again, I had met up with fellow FlyerTalkers and found that - perhaps not surprisingly - we had a great deal in common and got on really well. Thanks, guys, for a great evening out

I returned to my hotel, riding the F line end-to-end once more, pleasantly tired after one of the best days of the whole trip, in one of my favourite cities in the world

Wed 31 Mar

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