Travel · usa

USA Sept 2010 – Golden Gate Park, Alcatraz and Meeting Bush Man…

A good night’s sleep does little to soothe our aching feet, but with so much of the city still to see, we are up and out at 9am after a quick coffee, juice and pastries for breakfast. It is another hot day; we leave some of our layers behind after being fooled yesterday. We never ended up getting a Muni Pass, so we check that we have enough dollar bills for today’s bus journeys, and head towards the No 22 bus stop at Lombard & Fillmore (after standing at the wrong Lombard & Fillmore corner for a short while…the right one is outside KFC…).

We board the bus – an interesting journey, but at least we feel like one of the locals and not a couple of tourists sticking out like a sore thumb – and alight at Grove Street. It’s a short walk to Alamo Square, and that famous picture postcard view of the Painted Ladies.

Painted Ladies at Alamo Square
Painted Ladies at Alamo Square

From there, as the temperature soars, we walk to Haight St (I keep telling Mr Fletche “it’s just round the corner… only another six blocks to go…or maybe eight…”).

We finally reach Haight St – which is definitely further from Alamo Square than it looked on the map. If it wasn’t so hot, and we weren’t so exhausted, we would have spent a lot longer in this area, as we were fascinated by its history and the vintage shops and colourful murals immediately evoked images of a different era. Another thing to go on the mental “When I come back to San Francisco I will…” list…

Haight Street 2
Amoeba Music, Haight Street
Haight Street
Haight Street
Haight-Ashbury
Haight-Ashbury

Straight down Haight and Golden Gate Park is ahead of us. After having my photo taken with two very nice SF policeman (not my idea, Mr Fletche made me so I could send the picture to folks back home and pretend I’d been arrested…), we entered the Park. And almost found ourselves in one of the longest queues I have ever seen. Turns out there was some sort of concert or festival going on at Sharon Meadow; thousands of people appeared to be queuing…(Aha, thanks to a bit of research once I get home, it appears to be the Now & Zen Festival).

We bypass the cooler-carrying crowds and head deeper into the park. We walk, and walk, and walk… only to find that we’re pretty much walking in a loop and have barely covered any of the park.

Golden Gate Park
Golden Gate Park

By the time the Conservatory of Flowers is in sight, we’ve had enough. Not of the park but of walking. I had been pinning my hopes on the Golden Gate Shuttle still operating, but this had shut down for the winter. FOR THE WINTER??? It’s a scorchingly hot summer’s day here!!

Mr Fletche is feeling a little bit out of sorts, so we decide that we’ll stop walking, head towards Fulton and catch the bus to La Playa for lunch at Beach Chalet. Beach Chalet had definitely been on my “must-eat” list, and maybe I should have anticipated that on a Sunday lunchtime… it was going to be packed. We decided that as long as the wait was no more than half an hour, we’d wait for a table. Luckily most of the people registering their names ahead of us were in larger groups (up to an hour’s wait…) and we were given a buzzer and told 30 minutes.

30 minutes later, and we’re seated in a prime central window seat overlooking the beach and the ocean. This was DEFINITELY worth the wait. And then, the hostess approaches, looking a little sheepish.

“I’m afraid I’ve seated you in a reserved seat… would you possibly mind moving?” We’re reasonable people, we’ve had this magnificent view for – ooh, at least two minutes – so we’re happy to move. The hostess couldn’t apologise enough and we expect to be seated somewhere in the back; maybe in the kitchen? A broom cupboard maybe? The restrooms?

Instead we are seated at a corner window seat with an equally magnificent view. The hostess is STILL apologising profusely for the inconvenience, and thanking us for our co-operation…

Luckily, the food matched the view, and was definitely worth both the wait and the “great inconvenience” of having to move tables. I had Carolina Style BBQ Pork Sandwich; Mr Fletche had the Clam Chowder, with a side order of fries to share.

When we receive the check, the server has comped our drinks “as an apology”. An apology for what? For providing fantastic food, and for moving us from a window seat to an equally good window seat?

We catch the No 5 Bus back to Park Presidio and then use our transfer to catch the No 28 back to Webster & Lombard. Assuming the bus driver rips off the ticket at the time your “90 minute” transfer runs out, we appear to have about 4 hours left on our transfer….

We relax at the hotel for a couple of hours before we’re due at Pier 33 for Alcatraz. We’re all walked/bussed out so the hotel clerk at reception very kindly calls us a cab at 5:30pm.

The driver is slightly insane but we figure you probably need to be to negotiate the San Francisco streets all day every day… Costs us $9. We collect our tickets at 5:45pm…still a bit of hanging around until we board for the 6:45 trip.

Alcatraz is definitely a highlight of our trip; it’s such an iconic place, and going on the evening trip made the whole experience so atmospheric. There is a lot of walking involved, so maybe leaving it til our last evening when we had walked the length and breadth of San Francisco wasn’t such a great idea. But aside from the history and the fantastic audio commentary, there are also some stunning views of the San Francisco skyline, and of the sunset if you’re lucky to travel over at the right time.

A San Francisco sunset
A San Francisco sunset from the Alcatraz Ferry
Alcatraz from the Ferry
Alcatraz
Inside Alcatraz
Inside Alcatraz

We purchase the first souvenirs of our trip from the gift shop – a couple of “Alcatraz Regulations” mugs to remind us of our trip whenever we have a mug of coffee or tea back home!

We return on the 9:25 ferry, along with all the Alcatraz staff. The temperature has turned considerably cooler, and I’m glad I took plenty of layers with me!

We stop at one of those tacky gift shops that I loved at Fisherman’s Wharf to purchase gifts for the family back home (San Francisco fridge magnets. And San Francisco key rings. And San Francisco snow globes) and, wanting fast food as fast as possible, ate at In n Out Burger – our first of the trip! And despite extensive research, I couldn’t remember anything from the Secret Menu so it was just plain ol’ cheeseburger and fries.

And the funniest sight of the whole trip? Mr Fletche being spooked by The Bush Man waving his branches. Mr Fletche screamed like a girl, and I could hardly walk for laughing…

We head back to our hotel for the final time. After walking for almost two days solid, we hope to flag down a passing taxi, but by the time we see a solitary cab with its “available” light, we’re practically home anyway. We hit the sack at 11:30pm; we’re all packed and almost ready to leave this wonderful big city behind.

san-francisco-day-1-part-3

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3 thoughts on “USA Sept 2010 – Golden Gate Park, Alcatraz and Meeting Bush Man…

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