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...
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.
the sightseeing begin...
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 .
China Town to sea lions...
a detour to China Town while on my way to Pier 39 and Fisherman's
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
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.
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?
streets and sore legs...
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.
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!
San Francisco tips...