Even though I wrote the last post, I’m going to write the San Fran edition as Alex has been there before and wants to get my view of the place!

Our accommodation for this leg is an Airbnb apartment in Berkeley just beside San Francisco for 7 days. It’s a nice change from our camping time in Yosemite and good to be able to cook for ourselves again. Even though restaurant food can be great, it’s really nice to cook some normal food for yourself when travelling. The local supermarket, the Berkeley Bowl, has organic food with a big push towards vegetarian and customers including a Native American with a ponytail who was refilling his glass bottles with filtered water instore give you an idea of the former hippy Mecca that San Francisco and Berkeley were in the past.

We booked accommodation in Berkeley because it’s cheaper than downtown San Francisco where prices have become very expensive over the last 10 years and because Alex was born here and wanted to revisited places his parents have told him about and ones he visited on his last trip here. Of course Berkeley has been in the news lately because of the tragedy of 6 J1 students dying in a balcony collapse. When we mention to locals that we are from Ireland they are very sympathetic and sorry that it happened.

While waiting in a local cafe (Roxy’s Deli) to check into our apartment, we got chatting to the owner who spotted by our accents that we were Irish. He was a 75 year old Palestinian who had come to the US in the 50’s and had raised his kids here, with some of his grandkids now going to UC Berkeley. He thanked us for Ireland’s support of the Palestinian cause and said we were one of the only European countries to do so. He had loads of opinions on the Middle East, US politics and tax which we nodded away to for the next hour or two!

Berkeley is famous for its world class University and there were loads of tasty and cheap restaurants in Downtown Berkely (including local favourite Cafe Strada coffee shop). There did seem to be a lack of bars which may be because of America’s strict licensing laws. We were asked for ID in every shop we were buying beer in and even in the local burrito restaurant so I’d say the students find it hard to get a drink! It’s ridiculous that you can drive, get married and buy a gun before you can buy a bud light legally.

The BART got us to San Fran city centre in 20 mins so we got the best of both sides of the bay. I wasn’t mad about San Fran when I arrived as there is loads of homeless people on the streets and its such a contrast seeing people asleep on the pavement beside others walking by with massive smart phones. I’ve read up a bit on why there is so many homeless and answers include war veterans who came back from war and stayed in San Fran, the cost of living and the hot weather as reasons. In Dublin, it’s just not as visable even though it’s bad. San Francisco is the kind of place that’s a bit mental anyway so I think you just have to embrace the crazy!!!

We did some great day trips including a visit to Alcatraz and a walk over the Golden Gate Bridge. Alcatraz was an amazing experience. We got the ferry from fishermans warf (where there are loads of sea lions relaxing on the dock) and because of the famous Bay Area fog Alcatraz appeared from the mist, very spooky! There is an audio tour of the island which gives you details on all the inmates like Al Capone and escapees who may or may not have swam to safety after digging a tunnel out of their cells with a spoon. Another thing I didn’t know was that after the prison was decommissioned in the 60’s, Native American Indians occupied the island for two years as a protest against their treatment by the US government. It was amazing coming back into San Fran at sunset and imaging what the prisoners on the island must have felt when hearing and seeing all the life of the city.

The Golden Gate Bridge is an icon of SF and we decided to rent bikes and go across. Unfortunately when we went to the rental place us not carrying ID or credit cards was an issue (again!) when they wanted a guarantee for the bikes. Instead we decided to just walk the bridge! The views were spectacular and even though the walk was longer than expected (15km) we were able to get a ferry back and see the pretty town of Sausalito that is across the bridge.

Areas like Mission and Castro were great fun. There was a street party on Saturday in Mission, the traditionally Latino part of the city, where musicians played Spanish guitars and locals danced the Salsa on the street. There was also a dance off going on under a canopy where I was tempted to crack out The Robot but I didn’t wanna show anyone up!

Sunday was spent in Doloras park which seems to be the place to go at the weekend with bands jamming, hippies with hula hoops & juggling gear and everyone enjoying the sun with wine and beer. The weather was about 25 degrees so we were able to sit out and have a few cans and take in the atmosphere. As the sun was going down we went on to the Castro District, the traditional gay area of the city where people from all over the world flocked to in the 60’s and 70’s and where Harvey Milk lived and became the first openly gay elected city official in the US. We visited a few bars like Badlands and Twin Peaks,┬áthat is well known because it didn’t blacken out its windows like other bars of the time. There are historical buildings and plaques all over the area, the Castro is a place of real character.

After the week in San Francisco it was time to hit the road! We rented a car and started the drive down the Pacific Coast Highway to Big Sur, San Diego and Los Angeles!

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This entry was posted in North America

One thought on “San Francisco

  • chrishickey39@eircom.net'
    Chris October 27, 2015 at 9:21 am Reply

    Nice writing John, great pictures

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