Our Honeymoon Journal
     Entry 2 - 22 August 2000
In the city of San Francisco. Cool and foggy, then clearing to a warm afternoon.  Click here to see what the weather is like today...
  Day 1 of sightseeing in San Francisco

Vanessa My first impressions of San Francisco on our bus trip from the airport to the hotel made me a little less nervous about venturing out on our first day of sightseeing. I know it sounds silly, but having never been overseas before, I had been feeling somewhat apprehensive. However, so many elements in the landscape seemed familiar, and thus comforting, in a strange sort of way. The area around the airport reminded me strongly of parts of the Gold Coast (flat stretches of land with mountains dotted here and there). Parts of the city simply screamed "Sydney"! at me. Some footpaths I saw are the same horrible red concrete fit-together brick that litter many of Brisbane's streets. Other places of SF I saw, however, are very different from home. I saw a street going up a hill that was so steep that the footpath was a stairway! Traffic lights seem to be the same, but some of the pedestrian crossing signs are very different - "go" is a white figure walking (instead of green), while "wait" is a red hand (instead of a red standing figure). The traffic itself is chaotic, to put it simply. (I now know why Chris drives the way he does - he's picked up some bad habits when driving over here.) Something else I saw along some streets that was comfortingly familiar - gum trees.
Chris Bad habits? I have no bad driving habits! You want to walk? :-)
Vanessa The people here are amazing and wonderful. There is a huge mix of cultures. So far, quite a number of people we have had to interact with could not speak English very well, but most of them have been very friendly and helpful. Anyhow, as I said, I went to sleep feeling rather more relaxed and looking forward to doing some sight seeing.
  The day dawned with a bleak, grey sky and a cold wind blowing. Even though it is mid-summer over here, it was colder than when we left home in Brisbane in the middle of winter! Chris told me that SF was like that - weird weather. Luckily, we had packed a few warm clothes. Rugged up as best we could, we went for breakfast. (We have it good in Australia - most places to stay include breakfast as part of the package. Not so here, but they do at least provide an electric jug with tea bags and coffee sachets. As Chris was having his shower, I tried the complimentary tea with powdered "creamer". It tasted really horrible!)
  On the way to breakfast, we learned two things about SF. Everyone dresses in dull colours (I was wearing a dark blue, black and aqua patterned skirt that was just about the brightest clothes I saw all day!) and the sewer grates smell really bad.
  We used the utensils properly.We walked down to the business district a couple blocks away and managed to find a nice little cafe called "Monte's Eatz". They serve everything from cereal to bacon and eggs - and tea and coffee. We had a wholesome and very filling breakfast ($13.40) and then went back to the inn to freshen up and get our "tourist stuff". It was now well after 10am!

We put our new camera backpack to the test. The first thing Chris did was remove half its "useless" straps. Finally comfortable with our separate loads (I wore another backpack with general things like sunglasses, some maps, umbrellas...) we set off for our first stop - Coit Tower. Chris had showed me on a map where it was and we both agreed that it was in easy walking distance from where we were staying if we went along Grant Street and then up Greenwich Street. As the crow flies, it is, but as the crow walks, it was up an excessively steep hill, especially for one as unfit as I am. I was puffing and blowing like a steam train by the time we got to the top of the hill.
Coit Tower. (11 photos) For those as uneducated as I was, Coit Tower was built as a monument to the volunteer firemen of the 1850's and '60s. As I said, it is on a hill. A big hill. A steeeeeeep hill. The tower has a magnificent view of the city, of Alcatraz, of the Golden Gate Bridge, of the Oakland Bay Bridge and of the Bay itself. We did the usual touristy thing and took lots of photos. I didn't get any of the mural painted inside the tower - it was too dark and I don't have a flash. I think these murals were painted during the Great Depression and they depict scenes of daily life of the times. (I later found a website with some photos of the Coit Tower murals.)
  Having seen what we wanted, walked back down the steeeeeeep hill and headed towards Fishermen's Wharf. Along the way, we passed many interesting buildings, as we had on our way from the inn to the Tower. Most buildings were two or three stories high. The ones we passed on the way to the Tower along Grant Street had shops in their lower floors with living areas above, but the ones closer to the Wharf were mostly all residential. All the buildings were crammed together - walls joining walls with no space between. It was just a continuous front of buildings all the way. This, I was to learn, is typical of this area of SF. No room for gardens - only the odd tree in the footpath and flowerboxes hanging from windows.
Pier 39. (3 photos) Yummy!We eventually reached Pier 39 at Fisherman's Wharf. Once again, I was strongly reminded of parts of Australia - Darling Harbour, Gold Coast and Brisbane's South Bank all rolled into one bright, noisy, colourful and happy tourist trap. The shops sold the usual assortment of touristy stuff (mostly expensive and tacky), but we did see a glass shop that had some beautiful items for sale. We stood for some time at the window, admiring the range of colourful glass bottles, paperweights and figurines. We didn't buy anything - glass, of course, is hard to carry safely and we had a long trip ahead of us! Resigned to this, we moved on to a donut shop. I had my first taste of American donuts, mini donuts in fact, and they were really good.
Sea Lions. (2 photos) Smelly, noisy, but entertaining.Further along, we came to a boardwalk and I could hear a strange sound in the distance. At first, I had no idea what it was - Chris then told me what I had begun to suspect - it was the sound of sea lions! Lots of sea lions. Some bright person had built a whole lot of floating wooden rafts and moored them near where the boardwalk turned into a small quay. The sea lions obviously like the rafts, for every platform was covered in sunbaking animals. The tourists obviously liked the idea too. They were lined up along the boardwalk and were having a great time as well, watching the antics of the sea lions. The same thoughtful person who had made the rafts had also made some elevated platforms for photographers (like me :-) ) to stand on and get a good view over the heads of the other tourists. We took some photos and then moved on. It was nearing lunch time (about 1pm), and after all our walking, we were hungry!
  Chris had eaten at a restaurant here before, and was looking forward to sharing its experience with me. I'll let Chris write about that...
Chris A place to avoid!The place was the Fisherman's Grotto #9. I had a very good meal there in the upstairs restaurant when I was here in 1992. I knew the place was expensive, but I thought it would be worth breaking the budget for a good seafood meal in SF. Unfortunately, the quality of the food has gone down greatly. We both ordered prawn dishes - Vanessa had a Jumbo Prawn Salad, while I had Prawns sauteed in garlic, mushrooms and some other stuff (can't remember). The prawns had little or no flavour. Vanessa had 8 prawns, while I had 6. There was some veges (carrot and broccoli) and pasta with mine, while the salad for Vanessa was a huge plate of lettuce with 2 small cherry tomatoes, 2 olives and a narrow strip of limp capsicum. Each meal was about $US20, which I think was at least $US15 too much. Never again! (Total cost: $51.43 plus $5.57 tip.)
Vanessa After lunch, we headed towards the shops again. The day was getting quite warm, so we purchased two soft cloth hats from a shop called "Bay Company/Tradewinds". That same shop had lots of interesting souvenirs so we picked up a Chinese-style Fortune Fish for our friend Michelle who collects goldfish. We also found an "Endangered Species" store and Chris bought a great T shirt with a wolf's head on it ($20.62). He wanted to get the version that had eyes which glowed in the dark, but the shop didn't have his size.
Ghirardelli Square. (2 photos) Special blend, but it wasn't the best flavour.We finished our trek of the Wharf area at Ghirardelli Square. Ghirardelli's is a famous local brand of chocolate - the factory is on the square. I think this is the history: it is a very old factory and was heavily into advertising. They had one of the first light up signs in the area - a huge double sided "Ghirardelli". During the war, the sign had to be turned off for the blackout and it somehow either got damaged or fell into disrepair. One side of the sign was eventually fixed, and that is the famous sign that everyone now knows and photographs. The square is surrounded by all sorts of dinky shops filled with expensive items. Chris bought a coffee and that was the only thing we bought there - everything was too overpriced or we just didn't want it. Normally, the coffee Chris has had in the USA has had a burnt flavour to it. While this particular coffee still had some burned flavour to it, it wasn't overpowering.
Cable Cars. (4 photos) We retraced our steps back a block to the Hyde Street Cable Car terminus. There was a long queue for the cable cars, but we were determined and stood it out. During that time, the crowd was "entertained" by some buskers and a lady doing a spiel about the cable cars and talking about the plight of the homeless people of SF. I will say now, I have never seen so many homeless people in all my life as there are in this city. They are everywhere, begging for money. Some are quite creative - for example, there was a man hiding in a cardboard box painted like a monster and he flapped the cardboard mouth when he asked for money. One gentleman, at the Wharf, was putting on quite a show by "hiding" behind some cut branches and jumping out at passers by. To be truthful, I have mixed feelings about these folk. It is sad that anyone has to live on the streets, but I am truly left wondering by another observation I have made. I have never seen so many "help wanted" signs in all my life! There seems to be more jobs available here than people to take them. True, they have all been sales, or cooks and cleaners etc, not exactly high paying jobs, but they are jobs, none-the-less. Having been unemployed myself at times in the past and desperate for work and not been able to get a job - I just have to wonder... All that aside, after waiting about an hour, we eventually got onto one of the famous San Francisco cable cars. (It was now about 4pm.)
  We took the cable car all the way to its other terminus at Powell Street. It was an interesting ride up and down the hills. (I was glad we didn't have to walk them.) We went past many more of the tightly packed townhouses - some brightly painted and others falling into disrepair. Travelling by cable car is an excellent, quick way to see the city. The cable car stopped at intersections to pick up and let down passengers, much to the other traffic's consternation. There were lots of honking horns. (You'd think the locals would be used to it by now!) We also went past Lombard Street - Chris pointed it out to me and said he hopes we'll get to drive down it when we get the car in a few days' time. I looked at the long line of cars going down that world-famous street and thought we'll have to get in early to avoid the rush...
  Powell Street is pretty much in the centre of the city. We popped into a souvenir shop and bought a couple of items. First on the list was a bar of Ghirardelli Milk Chocolate. We also purchased a small model cable car for my father, an oven mitt set for Chris' sister Carmel and an assortment of post cards. We then had a brief look at the Nordstrom Mall (a posh shopping mall) and we then had an even briefer look at the Metreon (a high tech shopping mall). In the Metreon, we walked through a Microsoft shop - Chris in his Java T shirt and me carrying a Sun Systems backpack :-) - on the way to a fantastic games arcade in an area called the Airtight Garage. Its decor is amazing - real "Rocketeer" 1940's slick art-deco style. I'm afraid that's the best way I can describe it.
  Enriching our cultural knowledge - uh huh!By now, our feet were really beginning to hurt and it was getting late in the day. It was about 5pm and I was wanting to have a look at the Magritte exhibition currently on show at the SFMOMA - SF Museum of Modern Art. We got there at about 5.15pm and the ticket seller kindly informed us that if we waited a few minutes, we could get in for free because it was getting close to closing time. As I knew Chris has absolutely no interest in modern art or surrealism, I thought this was a good idea. So did he. It was also a good excuse to rest our weary feet for a short while. So we waited, then walked in for free and had a quick look at the exhibition. It was okay. There was a good range of Magritte's works and some were famous paintings (Chris said even he recognised one!), so I'm glad we made the time and effort to see it. We bought a Magritte postcard as a memento.
  Feeling culturally satisfied, we left the museum (by the way, the building itself is amazing - a very Ancient Egyptian feel to it) and I followed Chris through the early evening crowds to a shop he had been planning to visit. It was a toy shop! It had some interesting stock and we managed to pick up a Babylon 5 doll (Franklin) for half price. We also bought something else, but I won't say what it is here because it is a surprise for our friend Michelle. (A plush Obi Wan Kenobi doll.) :-)
  Sore, tired and a blister.Our feet had just about fallen off from all the walking we'd done, but there was one more shop that Chris wanted to visit. A computer store. He had visited it the last time he was here and said it was very good. Unfortunately, he couldn't remember exactly where it was, so we had to walk around some more. We eventually gave up looking for it (our feet were really quite painful by now and it was after 6pm) and we decided to head back to the inn. Along the way, we stopped off at a Carl Jr's (a hamburger place much like McDonalds and Hungry Jacks) and bought some burgers and chips - sorry - "fries" for tea to eat back in our room. (Cost: $7.65)
  After tea, Chris managed to get the laptop going and checked our email while I wrote up some notes for our journal.
  In conclusion: even after being in San Francisco for a day or so, visiting here has really made me appreciate living in Brisbane. (Brisbane, Queensland, not Brisbane the suburb of San Francisco!) Our quality of life is SO much better. The air is cleaner, the city is cleaner. We have so many more gardens and trees spread throughout the entire city, not just limited to a few areas. I guess San Francisco is a much older city with a larger population in a possibly smaller area - so I guess I can understand how it is the way it is. It certainly has its own charm, and I am glad to have the opportunity to see it. I can't wait to see more of it tomorrow!