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She Left her Heart in San Francisco...

 

Evelyn Hannon

As soon as British Journeywoman Katherine Bebo graduated from University she immediately set off on an eight-month world adventure. She has since returned, moved to the big smoke (London, England) and now works in an advertising agency. One of Katherine's stops was San Francisco. She loved it! This is her story...

San Francisco is small enough to be friendly but big enough to be surprising. Compare it to New York and they are a world apart. Although I have a crush on New York, it is nothing compared to what I feel for San Francisco. My trip to New York was tainted by Hollywood. While I was there, I saw nothing new. The yellow cabs, Central Park, the Empire State Building, even the pretzel stands I had seen all before in films or on television. Although it provided familiarity, it didn't excite me like San Francisco. When visiting San Francisco, I was entering the glorious unknown.

Let the sightseeing begin...

San Francisco is home to the Golden Gate Bridge. I couldn't help but be captivated by the crimson beauty peeping out through the fog like a shy child, hiding behind its mother's legs. I only had two days to explore and wanted to absorb as much as possible, so I got my walking shoes on.

My first port of call was the Coit Tower, a 63m cylindrical tower that sits proudly on top of Telegraph Hill. It is so named because it was funded by Lillie Hitchcock Coit, who left a third of her wealth to San Francisco to doll it up.Ascending to the top cost me a mere $2.50 (approx. £1.40) and I was given a delightful view of the city .

From China Town to sea lions...

I made a detour to China Town while on my way to Pier 39 and Fisherman's Wharf. This area is wonderful to wander around, gliding in and out of colourful shops, weaving around the market stalls; all the while getting delicious wafts of mouth watering delicacies. I finally reached Pier 39 which is clearly catered entirely for tourists. It is pseudo quaint with its craft shops and street performers which are in place to 'gift-wrap' the main attraction at the end of the pier -- the sea lions -- roaring, clapping, splashing, snoozing, fat sea lions. Over a hundred of these wild creatures bobbing on wooden platforms, completely unaware of how much entertainment they provide for the wide-eyed tourists.

I loved Alcatraz...

From the cutesy world of animals in the (semi) wild I headed off to explore a place where very different kinds of captives were enclosed -- the famous Alcatraz Prison otherwise known as The Rock. This jail was built in 1934 on a rocky islet in San Francisco Bay (I took a ferry to get there) and it became a dreaded high-security prison. Escape was next to impossible. Alcatraz closed in 1963 but is now open for visitors to explore.

I opted for the audio tour of the derelict jail and its grounds. Throughout the whole tour the hairs on my neck stood on end. The tape included old inmates voices as well as the guards that allegedly mistreated them to the point of insanity. From the second I stepped from the boat to the time I left the island I was entirely enthralled by Alcatraz. The audio tour was amazing, and not at all cheesy, which is always a danger. Throughout the day, park rangers gave talks on different aspects of Alcatraz's varied history. The talk on prison escape attempts was brilliant. Being such a popular tourist attraction, tickets to Alcatraz Island get booked up quickly. It is worth booking at least three days in advance to ensure a place on the boat. Trust me, you will be very disappointed if you miss out.

Haight for Hippies...

The next morning I made an early start with a planned itinerary in mind. However, this all went awry when I reached Haight Street ­ where the hippy movement of the Sixties originated. My 'Rough Guide' suggested that 'the eastern end of Haight Street (Lower Haight), around the crossing with Fillmore Street, is the funkiest corner of the district.' I felt compelled to explore the funky shops which were littered with weird and wonderful drug taking paraphernalia. My experience with drugs is limited to say the least; so I was fascinated and mystified by how much apparatus can be used to get high. My plan from the morning had, quite literally, gone 'to pot'. Haight Street does actually have more to offer than this however. The obligatory record shops owned by Bob Marley wannabees are, of course present. But bongs and beats aside, lovely boutique-style shops selling unusual attire are scattered about and they are great fun to explore. Who knows what you'll find?


Crooked streets and sore legs...

After spending a good chunk of the day, not to mention my funds, on Haight Street, I headed for Lombard Street, the most crooked street in the world. San Francisco's steep hills are enough to give even the fittest of people a raised heart rate, not to mention sore legs -- you will have calves of steel after a couple of days here. Breathlessly wheezing my way to the top of Lombard I was pleased that I persevered ­- the view was dazzling and almost stole my last few breaths.


Try the cable cars...

I felt that my trip would not be complete until I took a ride in a tram, more commonly known as a cable car. These are enchanting as they clatter up and down the hills. They are a great way to travel, but San Francisco is a wonderful place to simply wander by foot and soak up the atmosphere. As I did so, I found myself jealously gazing at the people stepping from their beautiful wooden Victorian houses, wishing that I could trade lives with them ­ if only for a while. I just hope that they realise how lucky they are to have landed here, in this city with such character and charm that it is impossible not to fall head over heels for it. I loved San Francisco!      


For more San Francisco tips...

 

 

 

 

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