Day 14 – San Francisco
Posted by Mike
We’re staying in the Richmond area of San Francisco, very close to the Golden Gate Park. We’re going to explore the park later today after we’ve visited a local bike shop to ask them to give our bikes a bit of tender love and care.
Richmond is fairly close to the sea, so when the fog rolls into the SF bay, (as it quite often does), then Richmond becomes a bit grey and overcast too. There has been fog since we rode over the Golden Gate Bridge on Wednesday, but as SF is quite large you can go to other parts of the city and be in beautiful sunshine. Yesterday we walked into downtown and had lovely weather almost all day.
We started our tourist trail at the Yerba Buena Gardens, impressive fountains in memory of Martin Luther, beautiful planting and live music all on offer. We stopped and had some tea and a bite to eat.
We continued over to the SF MoMA, past the museum of contemporary Jewish History and on down Mission Street to the Ferry Terminal Building, which has been converted into a bit of a foody heaven with nice outlets, stalls and restaurants. We picked up some ‘artisan’ bread to take back for dinner and had an ice cream, (quite indulgent on a non-cycling day). The ice cream stall had an amazing range of flavours – I eventually decided on caramel and buttered pecan ice cream, while Mike had pear and blood orange sorbet. Delicious!
Still on with the SF tourist trail. We visited the Trans-America pyramid building, it’s no longer possible able to go to the top of this iconic SF skyscraper (the tallest building in SF), as it’s been closed since 9/11. It’s nonetheless very impressive from the ground.
Next stop, Telegraph Hill and Coit Tower. We climbed up to the tower via a very long set of twisting steps, some were constructed of wood and wove their way through the most lovely private gardens. It was all very reminiscent of Barbary Lane from Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City books.
The top of Telegraph Hill affords a wonderful view across the city – Golden Gate Bridge is still shrouded in fog. We didn’t go up Coit Tower itself as the queue was quite long and in any case the real beauty of the tower are the wonderful murals inside the room at the base that were painted in the 1930s and depict working life in California at that time. The work was undertaken by left-leaning artists, influenced and sometimes taught by Diego Rivera. Beautiful. They were branded ‘communist propaganda’ by some newspapers and critics and one mural had to be removed.
We then walked down Telegraph Hill to Lombard Street, reputed to be the most crooked street in the world. It’s a very steep section of road that has eight sharp turns to help drivers navigate the 40 degree slope. It’s a huge tourist attraction, so lots of people were around taking photos. It’s not a street I’d like to live on as there seemed to be an almost constant stream of motor cars going down the street (it’s one-way) to test their driving skills. We saw a few cyclists too and even a skateboarder testing it out – neither of which I’d be too keen on trying.
Finally we caught a cable car for a very short ride down towards Fisherman’s Wharf, Fort Mason Park and Ghirardelli Square. The square was once home to the Ghirardelli chocolate factory, (since relocated) and has been converted into shops and restaurants.
We stopped for a hot chocolate and a chocolate brownie each in the Ghirardelli Café, before taking a bus back to Richmond (via Safeway, of course), for more wonderful hospitality from Heidi and Martin.
Today we’re off to the Golden Gate Park and the Castro (SF’s gay village) – but first a visit to the American Cyclery bicycle shop that we didn’t quite make it to yesterday.