Tuesday, 17 May 2011

San Fran: the whole shebang - part 2

DAY 4:
We kept meaning to check out Haight Street properly and on Wednesday we got our chance. Super cool place. There are tons of great vintage shops. Loved To Death is a must-see. Especially if you're a fan of taxidermy momentos... No photos allowed in the shop - all the more reason to visit yourself.

From Haight we went west to Golden Gate Park, over 1,000 acres of urban green space. We missed Hippie Hill, unfortunately, because we drove in.

We went to the Conservatory Of Flowers next on the east side of the park. I'm as big a fan of plants as the next human being - they give us oxygen, they make your house look nice, etc etc. But there are only so many a person can look at before they all just look green.

Unless you're Adam, in which case you love plants because it's an excuse to get out your extension tube. See? Happy boy.

Hmm, carniverous plants. Yes, that's a bit more interesting...

Plants that can kill a man? That's more like it. And so we found the Wicked Plants exhibition, a collection of "botanical rogues and assassins". Who knew a cashew could be so toxic. Thrilling stuff. Seriously.

On the very west side of the park on the coast is a Dutch windmill. Just because (or more likely for a reason about which I didn't read). Nice bunting.

DAY 5:
It's Thursday, the sun is shining and what more breathtaking sight to behold than the Palace Of Fine Arts on the edge of the Presidio.

The Palace was built for the Panama-Pacific Exposition in 1915 - a key part of San Fran's rehabilitation from the earthquake of 1906. Very special. It's really near the Marina neighbourhood, so we wandered along the seafront and came across from fitness circuits. Allow Adam to demonstrate:

That, my friends, is a body curl. This is meant to be a bench leg-raise:


That's better.

The Marina is full of beautiful buildings - which would probably set you back a few million dollars.

Speaking of posh areas, I made Adam drive to Pacific Grove so I could take a picture of this house.

Fans of teen movies will recognise this from The Princess Diaries. Exciting, huh! I think it's the school building.

Next we drove back through the Presidio to walk the Golden Gate Bridge. We ended up in Sausalito by accident, which was a happy mistake as it looked lovely but we just drove through and up to the Marin Headleads as we were short of time. The view was worth the $6 we had to pay to get back over the bridge.

When we got back we parked at Fort Point (which was our very first stop in San Fran when we arrived) and battled the wind to walk two-thirds of the way across.

DAY 6:
On Friday, we drove down the 280 to Stanford University near Palo Alto where my friend Jo (Allie's sister) is studying. She is one lucky girl. This place is unbelievable. Unbelievable enough to make me want to go right back to uni right now. As long as it's at Stanford, though. Cardiff can't compete with this.

This church is on campus. You couldn't photograph the inside of the building but I can tell you that it was beautiful. It was really hard to retain the requested silence inside when you're in a building so amazing you want to shout about it.

Next, Jo took us up the Hoover Tower (interestingly, it's a conservative think-tank) for a bird's eye view of the university. Pretty much all Stanford's campus as far as the eye can see.

I could have stayed there all day. But we had a lunch date with the pie at the Peninsula Creamery in Palo Alto. And it was some pie. Apple, in case you're wondering, which was better than Adam's Cherry Crunch.

The guy behind me had french toast with fruit syrup. Normal enough (his choice of brunch, not my stalking his food). But he also had a separate plate of two fried eggs. Only in America?

Just up from the Creamery we found a book dealers that was full of cool second-hand books. Adam bought a book on English photography, as you do when you're in the States, and I got a Ringling Brothers programme from 1975, obsessed as I am with circus culture since reading Water For Elephants (incredible book).

From Palo Alto, we joined Highway 1 and drove up the coast back to SF through Half Moon Bay and Pacifico, where we stopped at Sea Bowl. It had an American flag at the foot of the lanes and everything. Authentic American bowling.

(According to the formatting of on-road instructions, and indeed doormats, it seems that Americans can only read the word nearest to them first.)

DAY 7:
Saturday and the day we were meant to be leaving (again). We didn't. Bay To Breakers was but half a day away and, by golly, were we glad we stuck around. This footrace-cum-fancy-dress-piss-up was WELL worth staying for. We spent Saturday afternoon constructing our costumes, made exclusively (mine and Sian's pretty much anyway) from the wares of Cliff's Variety in Castro, a magical place stocking anything you could ever need. Including a flower pot you can wear and a flamingo handbag.

You'll have to wait a day or two for the complete blog on this one, but it will be worth it.


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