The saying “I left my heart in San Francisco” rings true for two young travelers. The Bay Area, which encompasses the city county of San Francisco, San Jose and Oakland is the second most densely populated city in the United States after New York but certainly doesn’t feel crowded. The cultural and economic centre of Northern California attracts enthusiasts of the culinary arts, adventure hikers, artists and musicians and is home to a broad range of uber chic hippies etching out a living in a variety of unique occupations. One such example is the heavily tourist filled area of the wharf district and Fisherman’s Grotto; the scenic bay looks over the Golden Gate Bridge ad Alcatraz Island, however the on-land sights compete equally for your attention. Market stalls line the wharf where one can find all kinds of authentic works of art, clothing and jewellery. Musicians perform openly; a diverse range including a 10 foot tall one man band operated by a punk rocker, located just metres away from an elderly oriental man playing his ‘erhu’ or chinese two stringed fiddle. Jugglers, break dancers, magicians and street artists perform their craft before the onlookers while their entourage encrouage spectators to make a contribution. If you somehow forget you are in a wharf, the aroma as you approach The Fisherman’s Grotto will quickly remind you of your surroundings; a hundred stalls line a small alley that is overflowing with people gratefully eating all kinds of rich and colorful seafood delicacies. The tourist attractions are an unrelenting assault on the senses, with every corner revealing either a historic or outlandish monument worthy of spending a whole afternoon in; tour a functional vintage WWII submarine, visit San Fran’s largest bakery or be awed by the antique coin operated arcade museum which features century old operational arcade machines.
Upon inserting a quater, this antique will put on a show for the audience.
A view of the Bay Bridge from the South Wharf; the reconstruction of this bridge is currently in hot debate.
The San Francisco CBD continues the menagerie of exciting sights with beautifully designed buildings and public spaces where once again musicians and artists assemble in pocket communities. The city has a welcoming atmosphere where a visitor can wander from block to block and experience a different culture each one. The downtown area starts at Chinatown; thousands flock to the fresh produce markets and restaurants, street pedlers sell portable radios that people carry in their pocket playing oriental tunes, as they move through the masses their music intersects and clashes with others. Within a block of Chinatown all the restaurants quickly become Mexican, selling tacos, burritos and quesadillas, another two blocks and Little Italy is upon you, the smell of freshly cooked pizza follows you every street and baristas can be seen pedantically checking their brew.
An example of the diverse architecture.
Your safety is the top priority of the pedestrian crossings in San Francisco.
A smelly fish emporium in Chinatown.
Good looking food being cooked in the window.
Lombard Street, also known as the windiest street in the world is a tourist attraction to people from all across the globe. San Francisco was built on top of some very steep hills, most roads simply cut straight up, but Lombard Street is so steep that the road has so many cut backs that it has become a San Fran icon. From a distance the street doesn’t appear to be anything unusual, as you get closer there is a noticeable increase in the amount of people in the area, the road begins to take shape and you can see some cars driving down it very slowly. Closer still you come over the crest of the hill beneath the cut backs and there are suddenly people everywhere, as an approximation 500-800 people line the street at any given time. The street winds back and forth, the road is beautifuly paved and lined with delicate flower gardens. Resident’s garages are positioned on each corner, however owning a house on Lombard Street would not be enjoyable; there are so many people walking up and down the street, stopping to take photos and standing in the middle of the road that it is neccessary to have traffic wardens at both the top and bottom of the street. They control the cars going down and across Lombard, drip feeding them in at a snail’s pace and attempting to clear tourists off the street. Car horns are most prominent on the corners of Lombard street than anywhere else in San Francisco. All this commotion becomes bearable for the breathtaking view of the city as seen from the top of the street, from there you can see all across downtown San Fran, the whole way to the bay.
Looking up Lombard.
Looking down Lombard.
To the north of Lombard Street and the San Francisco bay is The Golden Gate Bridge; built 1937 to span the Golden Gate strait and connect the northen tip of the San Francisco peninsula to Marin County – a national forest area and major coastal route. The bridge is one of the most commonly known icons in the United States and is considered one of the wonders of the modern world. The bridge is built to withstand strong seismic activity, constructed in several sections that can moves from side to side. In strong winds the bridge can move up to a massive eight meters in either direction as traffic commutes across it.
Continuing north over the Golden Gate Bridge and up the US route 101, the small town of Sausalito attracts many visitors. The main street of this waterside settlement is lined with cliff faces upon which sit multi-story luxurious houses. The houses then give way to many specialty shops and ritzy restaurants. Discretely hidden behind the yacht clubs and crab houses is the harbour village that makes Sausalito worthy of notice; the town is home to an artist residency community that sees artists living on custom built house boats of an inspiring level of creativity and uniqueness. 50 floating dwellings are connected by a rickety wharf; yachts, fishing boats, military vessels and any other floating hull that can be converted into a house, create a village where children run happily from boat to boat and dogs and cats greet you as you walk by. Each house has a unique history, how it came to be, who designed and built it and how it ended up in Sausalito can be found on a plaque outside each house. The collection combines both kitch and modern design, clutter and minimalism with no common theme between the boats. The owners of these boats are fantastic characters, some have purchased their home and sailed to Sausalito, while others have built or converted their own; the only commonality is that each owner have in some way added their peronality to their home. As a stranger walking through the ‘streets’ of Harbor Village you are made to feel welcome and at ease, the residents have created a beautiful and peronal community that is rare to find.
Entry to Harbor Village.
This vessel is a converted WWII landing craft that would carry soldiers onto foreign shores, often under gunfire. After the war the vessel was decommishoned and purchased in the 50’s by someone who would go on to covert it into a home.
Once a fishing boat, this home was converted and painted colourfully.
Designed by university students as a PhD thesis, this vessel was purchased by the current owner and sailed to Sausalito.
To wrap up our time in San Francisco we managed to sneak into a few Bay Area Derby practices whose Allstar team is currently ranked 2nd in the WFTDA. The coaches there definitely had a thing or two to show us, they worked us hard and we got a lot out of their training!
Training at BAD home venue.
Also, this happened… RV life isn’t always comfortable!
Especially when there is stinky derby gear meters from your bed!