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7th September 2010

My Last Full Day in San Francisco, Covering Old Ground, via Cable Cars

    My last complete day in San Francisco, and in the US for that matter. As if in sympathy, the season had had its last day too. Today was a true autumnal day: skies heavy with clouds, a cold blustery wind blowing, white horses out on the bay, and everyone wrapped up in layers of clothing.
    It was going to be a wind down, relaxing, chill out day for me, taking in one last tour of the top part of the peninsula, but letting public transport do most of the leg work for me.
Hyde Street Incline
View Up Hyde Street
View Down Hyde Street
    Having missed out on a meal last night, I felt a decent breakfast was the order of the day, so I visited the local Chinese cafe as oft times before. This morning, the family had prepared a couple of dozen hot meals in containers, and stacked them on the counter. I learned that they were for pupils of the local Chinese school, who must have been taking their lunchtime break at mid-morning. I left before the troops arrived.
Heading Down Powell
    The Hyde Street cable car terminal was my first port of call, where I bought a one-day pass. This would entitle me to take as many cable and street car journeys throughout the day as I cared to. Without delay I took the first available cable car across to Powell. The view back down the hill and across the bay during the climb up to the top of Lombard was spectacular. It was a light-hearted experience; the driver constantly exchanging banter with the conductor, or heckling tourists who were dithering and dawdling as they mounted the car.
Heirloom Tomatoes
Assorted Mushrooms
    Once at Powell, I walked back a couple of blocks to avoid queuing, and caught a cable car across to the Mason Street terminus, another 'mountainous' journey.
View of the City from Pier 7
View Down California
View Up California
    Having completed two out of the three cable car routes, I now needed to get around to the start of the third route at the junction of California and Market. No problem, I took a street car around to the Ferry Building, where I took some time out to peruse the fruit and vegetable stalls outside, the shops inside the building, and walk out onto one of the piers to watch the old Chinese men fishing. I remembered doing the same just short of four months ago.
Bunting in Chinatown
    A short walk took me to the cable car terminus I sought, where I was greeted with the spectacle of the cable car gripper jaws being replaced. These were very heavy units, and the job had to be
Chinese Board Game
done by hand using block and tackle. The replacement set of jaws was just dropped into place, and it appeared that only gravity held them in place. And soon we departed, a linear trek up hill and down dale, with cars zipping by on either side of us. The destination was the junction with Van Ness. The only reason for getting off here would be to transfer to a different mode of transport, or to experience a cold windy summit. I simply stayed on for the journey back.
    I alighted at Chinatown and briefly walked around the busy streets, stopping to watch some old Chinamen playing a game that seemed a hybrid of draughts and chess, but was a complete mystery to me. The men exchanged banter on strategies or witticisms. They were oblivious to an outsider peering over their shoulders; they were probably used to it.
    I couldn't help but wonder how many of these old men were descendents of the Chinese who had come over to make their fortunes in the gold rush, or build railroads, or scrape the borax off the flats in Death Valley at the Harmony Borax Works.
Columbus Street View
Transamerica Pyramid
High Rise Statues
    A leisurely stroll back through the financial district followed, ending up with a coffee and pastry in Union Square. The degradation in weather had not deterred the tourists in any way, and the square was crowded. There was even a little sunshine now.
    Still in a chilled out state, I caught a cable car to the top of Lombard, where I climbed off and walked down the long, steep hill to my hotel to initiate the packing sequence; basically work out what I was going to leave behind.
    I didn't get any sorting done! Being something of a romantic, nostalgic old fool, I decided to have my final US evening meal at the same place where I had my first one on this trip about four months ago - the Pier Market at Pier 39. It was also quite fitting to finish off with a seafood meal on my last night in San Francisco.
    My tastes had changed somewhat, tonight I chose crab cakes instead of clam chowder, and a glass of Monterey Chardonnay instead of Anchor Steam beer. I also chose salmon as my main course; four months ago I was too whacked from the flight to tackle a main course.
    Considering the desolation in the streets outside due to the autumnal weather, the restaurant had plenty of folk enjoying their food in a brightly lit, cosy environment. The food was lovely, and so was the second glass of Chardonnay.
    I had a chat with the waiter who guessed I was from Ireland; made a change from Australia and Scotland. His father came from Twickenham, so he knew about the famous rugby ground.
    I rounded off the night at Lou's Blues Club, always a sucker for some good music. It turned out to be the same band that was playing at the Saloon a few nights back.
    I enjoyed my last full day in the US. I would be sorry to leave, but also glad to be back with my family again.
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Uploaded from Francisco Bay Inn, 1501 Lombard Street, San Francisco CA on 07/09/10 at 23:55

Last updated 8.9.2010