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About me

We arrived in San Francisco in February 1998, as part of a two centre holiday to include Maui also.  We had intended to fly straight out again and spend the first weekend in Honolulu, but we were on standby and the flights were full, so we had two weekends in San Francisco instead. This was well worth it, one weekend would not have been enough. Our luggage, however did go to Honolulu, at that time ‘internal’ flights did not cross check to ensure that all suitcases had passengers to go with them. They did send them straight back, so the first day we simply stayed near the hotel , so that we could check in regularly to the hotel to see if our bags had arrived. You can walk safely around San Francisco, simply taking the normal precautions you would in any town, anywhere. Nearby was Lombard Street, part of which is the crookedest street in town, but actually is a steep hill, with a zig zag road inserted into the normal street. It has attractive houses and flower beds, so worth a visit. Another interesting place is the Palace of Fine Arts, which houses the 'Exploratorium' a museum of science and music among other things. The buildings were created for an international exposition in 1915, after the style of a Roman ruin, and are a pleasant place to visit even if you don't enter the museum.
Our second day we took a guided bus tour of the city, which is very useful to get your bearings and an idea of what’s where. The tour had an optional extra of a visit to Alcatraz, which we did. Whilst having no particular sympathy for the inmates,  this is an interesting place to visit, and the tour is very well done. You can use personal tape players with headphones, and you take the tour at your own pace, and wind the tape on in time with your progress.

Fisherman's Wharf has an atmosphere all of it's own.

We also went down to the terminal and made a journey on a cable car, taking the route that went to the Cable Car Museum. Here they have many ‘retired’ cars, but also is where the cable motors are, continually turning. The cables run under the tracks, and the cars have a lever which fits down through the opening and grabs the cable, simply being dragged along by the running cable. There was a long queue for the cable car ride, but it is an unmissable San Francisco experience. They don’t travel very fast, about 14 miles and hour, but as you toil slowly up hills, and feel as if you night run away down the hills, it's as good as any roller coaster. As one of my travelling companions says on the film, as we are about to start down a steep hill ‘you feel as if you are about to fall off the edge of the world’.

We took and afternoon tour to Muir Woods, the home of coastal redwoods, which grow in a 450 mile long, 30 mile wide strip of California coastline, where they enjoy the climate of coastal fogs. These trees are taller but thinner than the  more famous sequoias, and usually live from 500 to 800 years. It is a lovely place to visit, the towering trees giving an aura of peace and tranquility. The trip also took in a visit to the town of  Sausalito a little way down the coast.

The final day we took a full day tour out to the Sonoma Valley, taking in a small independent  winery, and two belonging to members of the large companies whose wine you see on our supermarket shelves. The tour also took in the town of Sonoma itself, which has many historical buildings as a reminder of it’s own colourful history. The Mexicans governed northern, or Alta, California from Sonoma, and it was here that on 14th June 1846  a few Americans stormed the Fort, and Mission. The man in charge, ‘General’ Valleja,  seeing the writing on the wall, surrendered, and the rebels raised the Bear Flag and declared California a republic. California’s independence was shortlived, on 9th July 1846 the Stars and Stripes were raised, and on 9th September 1850 California joined the Union, and became the 31st State. The Bear flag became the State flag. General Valleja,  after a short imprisonment, returned to his property in the area, forsaking his home country for a new life, and later was one of the first Senators for the new State. For an interesting perspective on his life, click here.

2004 Gillian Gatland

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