This was to be my final full day in the USA, it would be the
long trip home tomorrow and a tearful goodbye to all the
places and customs I had grown used to, some that I even
liked. We made the most of our proximity to the city and
hopped on the cable car for some Bullet-like street action!
As the cable car trundled up and down the hills of San
Francisco we saw many sights including Lombard street - the
most crooked street in the world, and in the distance the
tower blocks of the city. We alighted at China Town and what
a sight that was! There were many wierd and wonderful little
shops, chinese people, more curious little shops, and action
too! Two fire engines blared past us on their way somewhere,
they then pulled into a side road in front of us. I never
realised until now that the long ones with the ladder can
actually slide by turning the wheels... and I thought it was
just skillful driving!
From China town we walked on to the Italian district, an
area full of Italian restaurants, fashion shops and of
course the Italian flag!
We sat outside and had a drink, it was so pleasant in the
sunshine here. Just around the corner from this we found the
more sleezy side of town, there were a few suspicious
looking closed doors with bouncers outside, a few second
hand shops, and more prominantly several sex shops! Egged on
by my friend we ventured inside and learned a thing or two.
Swiftly moving on we went up to the highest point at Coit
Tower, a round tower erected on Telegraph Hill with funds
left by Lillian Hitchcock Coit, an eccentric lady who loved
the fire service so much she would chase the fire engines
around town! Inside the tower were many fascinating murials
on the walls, but it was slightly too expensive to go up the
Presently we found our way back to China Town and located
the China Town gate... we were a little disappointed in what we saw, but read
later that the original gate had been much grander and was
destroyed in a recent large earth quake.
Taking the bus we got off at Haight street, this was the
hippy and gay side of town with many interesting looking
shops and bars. It was getting dark by this time and most of
the shops were shutting; this looked like the sort of place
you didn't want to be in after dark so we took the bus
towards Golden Gate Park, it looked fairly tame on the map
but we forgot about the scale difference - there was a
little note which said that this part of the map was to a
smaller scale than the rest. When we arrived at the park it
was dark, we couldn't see much at all. Expecting to see
water gardens and quaint little garden paths, instead we
found park roads and dark gloomy trees
overshadowing the corners of an open area of grass, with a sports
arena of some kind in the centre. Oh well, that was that.
Not wanting to wander through the park and find ourselves on
the front page of the mornings newspaper as missing tourists
we headed back to the bus stop, the bus we got soon filled
up with commuters and once again I had to stand among them;
there was a curious little girl on the bus too, she'd
probably never seen English people before and was asking all
sorts of questions like "Do they have clouds in England?",
it was quite amusing for us. We also saw an oriental girl
wearing a backless top, her back was covered in fine jet black
Back on the cable car we had a young driver who was out for
adventure, excitement and really wild things. Although he
didn't do anything too foolish he did give us all a good
ride down the steep hills, pulling the break lever at the
last moment for bends. We got off at the last stop of the route, near
Pier 39, and went back to the hostel via a Barnes and Nobel
book store. That evening my friend cooked us both some
fantastic grub and we both retired for the evening, it was
past 9pm when we arrived back in the hostel and I had to be
up and ready to leave in the morning.
The big day, and I was ready for the off. At the front desk
something caught my eye, a man with a broken leg was
spending a lot of time talking to the people at the front
desk - it was him! The guy from Santa Cruz!! I thought I had
given him the slip, but here he was. I met my friend in the
cafe for breakfast. She was talking with a girl who had just
arrived from Scotland, I told them about the guy with the
broken leg as he also turned up for breakfast.
I arranged for a seat on the airport shuttle bus with the
people at the front desk. Sitting waiting for my time to
leave, I was joined by my friend who was telling me of her
plans for the rest of her stay; she too was planning to go
and find work at the ski resort in Lake Tahoe, after
spending a few days in San Francisco. I noticed another
familiar face at the front desk... it was the lady who had
been talking to the guy with the broken leg in Santa Cruz,
and who I had met in San Luis Obispo! This was uncanny...
She came close by and I stopped her to say hello, she was
all smiles until I told her about the guy with the broken
leg. She told me how she was planning to do a shuttle
service for people just like me between hostels in
California, a service I would certainly have been able to
make use of.
I said my goodbyes, but before leaving I
tried one last time to call my friends; I found that their
telephone number was no longer in service, and there was no
reply on their mobile. Well that was that then. I
boarded my shuttle bus and found the whole city shrouded in
fog. The bus picked up from several hotels in the city and
eventually left for the airport where I checked in and
waited for my flight home.
I had four complete weeks in California, here's a break down
of where I stayed and when:
- Saturday 5th January 2002: 6 hours coach ride to Heathrow,
12 hours in flight to San Francisco, -8 hours to my timezone: HI Santa Cruz.
- Sunday: HI Santa Cruz.
- Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday: McGivern Way, Santa Cruz.
- Saturday, Sunday: HI Santa Cruz.
- Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday: HI Monterey.
- Thursday, Friday: HI San Luis Obispo.
- Saturday: HI Hollywood.
- Sunday, Monday: HI Santa Monica.
- Tuesday, Wednesday: HI San Pedro.
- Thursday: HI San Luis Obispo.
- Friday: HI Merced.
- Saturday, Sunday, Monday: HI Midpines (Yosemite Bug Hostel).
- Tuesday: HI Merced.
- Wednesday, Thursday, Friday: HI Fort Mason, San Francisco.
- Saturday 2nd February 2002: 12 hours in flight to Heathrow, +8 hours to my
timezone, 6 hours coach ride to Leeds, and then home.