Day 6. Visiting somewhere as famous as this is either a massive dissapointment or hugely fun and a bit surreal. I'm happy to report the later is true here. Despite the pervasive mist that has perma-shrouded our time here I found the city to be delightfully charming.
No trip here would be complete without a ride on one of the famous cable cars. Not fancying driving around downtown or paying huge amounts for parking we stuck to our British roots and took the Bart (Bay Area Rapid Transit) from Daly City into town. $6.50 each return plus $3 parking all day. I'm not 100% certain it was cheaper than driving but it was an experience. The trains are fast, large and comfortable but the whole experience woke up the nostrils - if you know what I mean.
We popped out of the Bart at Powell St, meters from the end of a cable car line and two blocks from Union Sq. We stopped here for a while so I could write yesterdays post. Whilst we did so panic struck as on the dot of 12 (we hadn't realised the precision of the timing) as the emergency broadcast sirens boomed across the City. Everyone stopped in their tracks, except for a few savvy locals. Absolutely terrifying! The message "this is only a test" is about 15 seconds into the whole thing. Imagine that!
Next, we hopped on the cable car from Union Sq. A tourist hack followed without us even realising (the best sort!). Apparently the line to board the cars two blocks down at the turntable on Powell / Market St was over 30 minutes. We waited at a stop with a handful of other tourists and were on the second car that came past! $7 each got us from one end of the line to the other taking us over Russian Hill an eyesight defyingly steep place to traverse!
These cars were great, a real highlight of the day. At one point the conductor shouted "hold on!" as we came to an almost stop halfway up one of the particularly steep bits. A split second later the front half of the car leapt into the air what felt like 10ft off the tracks and sent half of the occupants flying backwards and landing on whichever poor soul happened to be in the way. When the chap said hold on, he meant, hold on!
As luck would have it the cars deposited us only a block away from the bike hire place I'd identified on Reddit as being the best. "Basically Free Bike Rentals", sounds like a scam I though at first. But actually, it's kinda true! We chose to hire e-bikes given the hills around and my to satisfy my curiosity aiming to reduce the exasperation levels at being overtaken on my London cycle commute by people zooming along on them. Wow, they were great!
The Sun was just about poking through by this point and we headed to the beautiful Ferry building for lunch. The farmers market was on as it was a Tuesday and we partook of the fare on offer. We had some delicious organic, hormone-free, grass-fed, completely mollycoddled, sung to sleep at night BBQ beef with a side of a smug.
Time to put the e-bikes to good use! We cycled right around the bay frontage ending up at AT&T park, home of the SF Giants baseball. Then, we about turned and set our sights on reaching the Golden Gate bridge. Alcatraz caught a brief glimpse of sun too. We tried to book tickets in March but they'd already sold out.
En-route we stopped at the various piers and enjoyed the sights, sounds and smells including the (smelly!) Sealions at Pier 39. So cute!
We continued on towards the bridge stopping for the obligatory selfie on the SF side. Cycling over the bridge itself was exhilarating! Windy as f@%# up there though! We nearly got blown over a few times. We continued on toward Sausalito on the other side of the bridge before turning around and heading back.
The e-bikes were coming into their own as we cycled, almost effortlessly (though not entirely) up gradients I have profusely struggled with in the past at home. Really wonderful bits of kit.
We were just about out of view but a ship decided that was the moment to come through the bridge and I threw down my bike, ripped open my bag to get my camera out and took this picture. I like the ethereal quality the mist adds around the tops of the bridge towers, though sunshine would have been better than this endless soft light you can't have it all!
At the carpark viewpoint overlooking the bridge on the North side, a reminder that some people can't be trusted to use common sense when it comes to drones. The amount of air traffic (seaplans, helicopters, etc) would have told me not to fly a highly explosive lithium battery around the bridge but apparently, some people need telling explicitly.
On our way back across the bridge we saw the road zipper in action! I've read about this thing but in person it's very cool to see. Lots better videos on Youtube than I managed. Dynamic lane reconfiguration, what a genius idea that also improves safety.
Our bike hire included a voucher to value of the hire itself ($130 in our case) for a shop called Sports Basement. A bit like Go Outdoors but a bit more sporty and bit less camping'y. Hence the name "Basically Free Bike Rental". Catherine needed some new 'clompies', we call them, the walking shoes that aren't quite hiking boots anyway - so we obliged.
I wanted to see what the e-bikes could do and decided cycling up Russian Hill would be a good idea. The grades of the roads I picked ranged from 25-30%!! We flew up them at 7mph, working up a sweat as we did so but the bikes were absolutely incredible. Coming down again, hairy!
By now it was 7pm and we'd cycled 25 miles, so we returned the hire bikes and walked the 3 blocks to Lombard St. Jeez, even walking up these streets was a work out. This made the e-bikes all the more impressive to me. After watching the tourists on Lombard St for a while we took an Uber back across town to Union Sq grabbing one last image of the cable cars and a Hot Dog each before heading home.
San Francisco in a day - not enough time. That is what I learned today. We barely scratched the surface to what this wonderfully diverse and hilly city has to offer. We'll be back for sure, even if only to get that Alcatraz tour in!
I write to you today from a café in Silicon Valley where the weather is delighfully warm and sunny. Today we will go visit the tech giants and in the evening, we have a concert to attend by one of our favourite bands.