Monday, November 28, 2011

Snoring. A Prison. A Bridge. Cable cars - Myths confirmed!

Its me!! I am back online and blogging myself! Ta Buffter, for helping out this mast month or so. I owe you one or two 'favours'!

I have decided that some of the best bits of travelling are actually the travelling parts. I loved the journey from Beijing through to San Francisco. Firstly the bus and subway through Beijing, then Beijing Terminal 3, which is just spectacular. I love airports anyway – I just like the feeling of space and the fact that you are there because it is the start of a journey. But Beijing is awesome. A massive place with a big red roof towering above you. Plus you get to take a cool maglev train to the gates and I also managed to get myself a red gorrila-pod tripod thing for my camera, to replace the old I that I broke on the wall.
3 legs work better for a tripod!

The flight was also really good. I had a window seat and after watching China disappear below us as we took off, I watched a movie and tried to get some sleep – I reckon I got two hours on the whole journey. But when I couldnt sleep I had a peek out of the window. I was the only person with my window blond open, but I was also the only one watching what you could see below. We were passing over the Anchorage area of Northern Canada and it was stunning. Just white snow covered peaks as far as you could see, with frozen lakes and rivers. I have never seen anything so white and so big and I sat in awe for ages as it passed us by. Only a couple of other people eventually opened and looked out of their window blinds. The rest of the plane missed it. I dont understand why so many people nowadays spend their days with their heads buried in their phones or Ipads and listening to music for even the shortest trip. They should be aware of whats around them as there is always something to look at or listen to,. Its what I really like about travelling.

Awesome views from the plane

The route I flew

Timmys! In Vancouver

We landed a little late in Vancouver, but I still had time to get through customs and get a Tim Hortons Iced coffee, before boarding the floght to San Francisco. Unfortunately, the flight sat on the tarmac for over 2 hours, due to winds in SanFrancisco and we eventually arrived there just after 7pm. A quick van transfer later and I was settled in the Hostel into the Hostel in a park, overlooking the GoldenGate bridge. I met one of my room mates, 'Peter', who is Canadian (as ever, these Canadians get everywhere!) he is riding a bike for two years or so from Canada through America down to South America. My laundry is now dry and I am off to bed in a minute. Its been 25 hour since I left the hostel in Beijing. I have slept for 2-3 hours.

On my first full day in SF, I decided to take an aimless wander around the city. The 1st thing I came across was the famous 'Winding street'. Lombard Street as it is called has a series of 90 degree bends as it descends down the side of a steep hillside. Its pretty cool, but it was raining and so after a few photos I made my way into the city centre. I ended up in Union Square, where they have an Ice Rink set up and justdown the road is where the famous San Francisco 'Muni', trams, turn around on a hand driver turntable, watched by hoards of sightseers – especially as today in US Thanksgiving – there were lots of people around.

Next was a walk past the TransAmerica Pryamid – A triangular shaped skyscraper , which is pretty cool. Later, I walked down to the Port of San Francisco, where I saw the Bay Bridge and wandered past all the numbered piers, that all hold different companys and things such as museums or tourist sights, such as the Alcatraz tour company that I will be using to visit 'The Rock', in a couple of days. I continued along the front and also went onto Pier 39, which is like a shopping centre mixed with cafes. Bars and restaurants. I may return there later for dinner. I got a great view of Alcatraz Island and the Golden Gate bridge from the Aquatic Park bay, but didnt hang around as Im going to see them both up close over the next few days.

Raining at Lombard (Winding street)

Sunny at The Transamerica Pyramid

At the Port of San Francisco on Thanksgiving!

Mythbusters fans will recognise this - anyone else wont!

After another broken nights sleep due to another snorer, I was up early again. After breakfast I grabbed a 19 bus and rode across town to see the place where Mythbusters, the Discovery channel tv show, is filmed. I already knew that there was not much to see but the outside of the building, but as it is one of my favourite tv shows, I had to visit it. I found it quite easily and took a few pictures, before going into town. I had seen a 'Merrell', shoe shop yesterday and decided that as my own merrell shoes are getting past it, I would see if the prices were better than UK. They definitely were and I got a really good pair of new shoes, for about 2/3 the price they would cost me at home. I even got a hat and scarf thrown in for nothing and out side there was a giveaway of an energy drink for free too – all in all a good morning out.

The afternoon wasnt bad either! I took a local bus the 2 miles or so down to the Golden Gate Bridge. It was packed with tourists – some just standing around taking photos, others like myself, taking a walk along the bridge. I went to the middle and back, taking pictires along the way – including one photo, where I attached my camera to the handrail by the roadway and took a photo of myself only to realise that the camera and tripod had swung around and were now upside down on the rail. At least I know it wont fall off if I attach it properly!

I watched a fantastic sunset drop down beside the bridge and then found a good spot to take more photos, down by an old dock as the sun finally left for the day and the bridge dropped into darkness, albeit with its lights blazing into the darkness. Its another one of those sights that I have thought about for years and finally I was there – once again on my own, taking my time and enjoying the sea air and the views of the bridge. I decided to walk back to the hostel and did ot an a little under an hour – it tested my new shoes, which held up perfectly and should last me a couple of years at least – just like my old ones, that are now no more.

Guess which ones are the old ones?

What Bridge?

Nice sunset


More cool

Im heading off to bed early tonight to try and catch up on more sleep and hopefully to get up for my visit to Alcatraz tomorrow.

Well, what a day it was – Alcatraz was great. Not only a good boat trip over, but one of the few museums/tourist sites that I have visited where they give you exactly what you want to see. From the great free gouded tour on arrival telling you all abou the history of the Island, to the brilliant audio tour, where you listen to actual prisoners and guards telling you their stories and about the penitentiary itself in theor own words and the stories of what occurred here. It wasnt biased in any way and gave theor own accounts in theirown words. It also had a great bit about the most famous escape attempt – which was re-told in the Clint Eastwood movie. It was superb to see the actual cells that they escaped from and which were made up as they were found when the escape was discovered, plus the pipes they climbed down from the roof and where they entered the sea. You can also see why the belief is that the 3 men drowned – as around the island the tides and water is treacherous to say the least. I was really lucky too as today there was one of the few surviving prisoners - Robert 'Bob', Luke, giving a talk on his experiences including a few weeks in solitary confinement in block 'D' and how he remembered his 5 years in prison here. He is now 83 years old and surprisingly he was a really nice bloke and had a really good sense of humour about the place.

All in all, it was suggested to spend 2 ½ hours on 'The Rock', but I was there for nearly 5 hours and loved every minute. I decided to splurge out and had a really great steak on the way home along with a couple of beers at one of the bars by the seafront. It was well deserved as I have walked everywhere for most of this week and must have covered 20 miles or so. A rest tomorrow I think!

View from the Alcatraz ferry

Arriving on The Rock


The Rock

Escape from Alcatraz - The real cell!

In the prison recreation yard

I did have a rest today – I went into town on the bus and came back riding the famous old San Francisco Cable cars – they look like trams, but are actually pulled along by cables buried under the streets. (A fact that became apparent today as one line was out of order because of a snapped cable!) It is a great ride, watching the grip man control the car with a series of handles that allow the car to grip the cable going up and brake going down. It was a fun time as people squealed and screamed like a mix between being on a a roller coaster and at a firework display.

I got off the cable car to go and visit 'Coit Tower', which is on a hill and gives fantastic views over the whole of the city and the bay area. An elevator takes you up to 210 feet for the views. I took some photos stayed for a while admiring the views and then headed back to the hostel, stopping just one more time at one of the famous junctions from the car chase in the Steve Mcqueen movie - Bullitt. It hasnt changed that much in the last 40 years since it was filmed.

Riding the tram

San Francisco from the Coit tower

Cable car safety tips

That was San Francisco. I have done everything I planned to do and more! Alcatraz, Golden Gate Bridge, Cable Cars, Pier 39 and Mythbusters – plus a great look around a really cool city.






Panorama of SF (Click to make it bigger)

I leave here tomorrow morning and head south – Next stop - City of the Angels  

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