Thursday, May 24, 2012

San Francisco Monday and Tuesday

Toured the city on the upper deck of this bus
I’m sitting at San Francisco International Airport, waiting to board.  Good thing I got here early – it took an hour to get through security, the line was so long.

(Well, I was - this is a delayed post - Thursday morning now and off to see Ray with the "girls" from Panama City in Florida.)

I’m sorry to be leaving San Francisco.  It seems a very easy place to live – as long as you have the money.  I’m told a city flat – that is, one bedroom and kitchenette – will set you back $3 million.

I’ve just spent two days sightseeing independently.  I started with an open-topped double decker downtown tour.  This took me through the financial district, to Union Square, City Hall, the Chinese section, little Italy and back to Fisherman’s Wharf.  It took an hour and a half and was a good way to orientate myself.

After going to the Boudin bakery for lunch, I decided to walk through the city – down Stockton Street – past Washington Square and the Chinese section.  The latter was teeming with fruit and grocery shops.  I arrived at Union Square and into Macy’s department store.
I’ve never been to Macy’s before, and the tourist guide said that if an overseas tourist presented ID to the concierge, a 10% discount would be given.  This was too good to pass up, so I bought a couple of really nice bags.

I then continued walking, and eventually arrived at the Caltrain.  By this time it was 6:15pm, so I only had 30 minutes to wait for the train I arranged to take back to Menlo Park where Caroline kindly picked me up.  I have done without a mobile phone this week, and without 3G, so all my arrangements had to be made in advance.  It didn’t do me any harm.

Waiting for the train at Menlo Park
Being more familiar with the streets, I made it a priority to plan my “must sees” for this morning, since I had limited time.  Caroline drove me to the station on her way to work at 7:15am, and I met a very nice “mature aged” woman who actually asked me for help – to change some money.  Anyway, she was very friendly and interested in my travels, and we chatted all the way into the city.  She helped me get on and off the train too, with my backpack and wheelie bag, which are OK to carry on the flat, but difficult climbing down four steep steps to the platform.  Our trains are much better than San Francisco’s in that regard.

My plan this morning was to drop off my bags ($5 per bag for safekeeping) at the California Welcome Centre at Pier 39.  This enabled me to undertake my plan with ease.  I wanted to see the “painted ladies” at Alamo Square and to take a ride in a cable car.  My ticket for the open top sight-seeing bus was for 24 hours, so I caught the bus around to the City Hall stop, and then a trolley bus to Alamo Square, where I took plenty of pictures of the unusual architecture.
Painted ladies at Alemo Square

I then caught another trolley bus to the corner of Powell and Market Streets, where I queued for the cable car.  The ride only cost $6, and was well-worthwhile.  The hills really are steep.
Cable car at Powell Street
I was very impressed with the public transport in San Francisco.  There is a train (Caltrain), MUNI – electric buses, trams (mostly brought in from other cities which have given them up), the Bay Area Rapid Transit or BART for short, and the cable car, which is more than a tourist activity.

Because I had spent so long sight-seeing, I decided to catch a yellow taxi - $50 plus tip – to the airport.  There were cheaper public transport alternatives, but I didn’t want the worry of not having enough time at the airport.

So now I’m on the plane to London, and I’m surrounded by French people – my schoolgirl French is useless.  The two girls opposite me are Liverpudlians though, and they are friendly.
So ends my week in the USA.  What a wonderful time I’ve had, thanks to Elizabeth and her girls in Los Angeles and Orange County, and Caroline and Kent in Menlo Park, San Francisco.  They were perfect hosts.  There are some photos of Elizabeth and Caroline throughout this blog, but not one of Kent I’m sorry to say.  He took the opportunity whilst Caroline and I were out to catch up on his assignments – he’s just finished the law component, but is still finishing his business studies at Graduate school at Stanford University, which is just down the road from their place.

Elizabeth and Caroline both went to the University of Alabama, where Elizabeth was three years ahead of Caroline and a great help to the latter in her first year of studies.  They and their cousin Erin are more like sisters than cousins, they are really close to each other.  All of them grew up for part of their childhoods at least in Panama City, Florida where their nana, my cousin Shirley had them stay in the school holidays.  They have wonderful memories of those days.

And now they are jealous of me seeing their mothers and grandmother and aunt in London, hopefully on Thursday.  We plan to go up to Banbury in Oxfordshire, where I will introduce them to cousin Raymond.  I’ve known about RaymoTrish visited us in Australia.  John and I were on a trip around Australia that year, so we had to detour back to Canberra to meet him.

Ray has just had a triple bypass, and isn’t yet well enough to travel, so that is why we are going up to Banbury to see him.

I shall edit this post later and put in the pictures.  I have only just found out how to enable my laptop for wifi at this hotel.

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