02 July 2012

Conquering the San Francisco hills with Isabel

Today was a really cool day. After our big win at pool tables the other day with Mitch and Sergio, Isabel and I spent the following day at our usual hang out, Starbucks, enjoying their sandwiches and free Wi-Fi (and I guess I applied for a job or two). During our chats the topic of Lombard Street came up. Lombard Street you will most likely be aware of but simply do not know the name, it is the iconic, extremey steep and bended street in San Francisco.

Alas our plan for the following day was set, sweet.

We woke up early, met up, and set off down the extremely hilly and long trek, taking countless photos along the way on a day with the clearest of skies, laughing and chatting the whole way as one does when in great company. Thus began the beginning of a really epic day.

I will let my photos do most of the talking, and I am sure you will agree that they have much to say.

The streets of San Francisco are fantastic

The hills...
Spirits were high

Bay Bridge (not the Golden Gate Bridge)
That's Alcatraz Island over there

Every single city block had a new photo opportunity even more amazing than the last, I would easily rank this place as one of my favourite places in the world in all my travels thus far. Although don't think this was just a nice relaxing walk through the streets of San Francisco on a perfect weather day... the hills were brutal. It had taken us nearly an hour to go only like 2km due to a mixture of wanting to stop every 100m for a photo, and the near vertical hills at every corner.

Isabel wondering if the hills ever end
Finally we made it to our originally intended destination... Lombard Street! Was it worth it? Not really! But we couldn't leave the city without seeing it at least once I guess. Turns out every other tourist in the whole of San Francisco couldn't leave without seeing it at least once either, the place was crazy packed. My photos below are the best ones that don't have crowds of people in the way, nor crazy Chinese tourists literally bumping me with their shoulders to move me out the way so they can get the shot they wanted, ha!

Lombard Street, San Francisco

Although it did make for some amazing photos and views from the top.

A small corner of San Francisco spread out below as far as the eye can see
With the excitement of a steep and bendy street out the way (oh man, my heart was racing from the awe it inspired...), it was time for lunch. Yay... another 1km stretch of downhill road to follow. Travel is tough guys!

After some shaky legs and sore feet, lunch had arrived!

Clam chowder in bread for lunch. It was really nice.
Lunch I'd have to say was one of my favourite parts of the day. Isabel has quickly become one of my best friends on the entire trip, we get along extremely well and she seriously just brightens my day. Since her arrival a few days ago we have already had a blast, having an epic night out at the pub crawl the other day, then hanging out at Starbucks for just about everyday since (while I search for jobs), the very cool Jazz night a few days ago at Phil's house, and of course our legendary come-from-behind win at pool tables the night before. All being amazingly fun times with her.

When traveling with people, even if you spend a while together (which in travel terms, anything longer then 3 days is considered a while) you still know pretty much nothing about the people you are spending time with. Sore from the ridiculously tough hills of San Francisco we were in no rush to leave the comfort of the tables while eating lunch, so it was great to spend time to discover more about her life back home (she is from Portugal, but lives in Spain), what she hopes to do upon returning home now that she has been on this amazing America adventure, not to mention what she wants to do with her life now also. There was also a lot of talk about our pasts, something I am always interested in listening about, people always have such fascinating stories.

But anyway, enough about that I guess.

After lunch we went down to an art gallery showing nature photography of an artist named Rodney Lough Jr which was amazing. For an hour Isabel and I drifted through this amazing collection, utterly engulfed in another world separate from reality. It was so surreal to again walk back outside, and feeling that we had just walked out of another dimension. Wow.

With the aim to avoid the tousist areas (as they were far too busy), we let our feet and the wind take us along to a place called Fisherman's Wharf, simply exploring and enjoying the day.

A closer view of Alcatraz Island. Pretty awesome!
Oh yeah! Well I know how everyone loves when I write about the history of places (right? Of course. Like that time I wrote about the history of Golden Gate Park! This blog is both entertaining and educational!), so I have some way cool facts about Alcatraz Prison that I have picked up from talking to people of late (I have yet to visit Alcatraz... I can't quite justify the $28 or so price for entry).

Anyways, so obviously Alcatraz used to be a prison until... 1980 or something (I made that number up), and it has been reported that there has only ever been one successful escape, although it is unknown if the escapee survived or drowned because a body was never found. While the island itself isn't too far from mainland (I'd guess no more than 1km), the waters are ice cold and can be quite treacherous, but I would say it is still possible for someone to traverse.

Now what the prison managers used to do to prevent the chance of an escape was two things (probably others but this is what I remember). Firstly, they would feed the prisoners a high sugar, low protein diet, preventing them from building muscle, yikes. Muscle that could be used to help them swim away of course. That is terrifying! But genius at the same time. The second prevention tactic was providing only hot water for their showers, so as to not let the prisoners get used to cold water (such as the ice cold waters surrounding the island). Insane! It is extremely clever, but so cold and heartless, to manipulate people in such a way. Morality aside I still thought it was still some really interesting facts (and now you do too!).

Anyways, returning back to our day, it was time to explore the rest of the wharfs.

Random shot Isabel surprised me with

Isabel with Alcatraz Island and the bay in the background
Me with Alcatraz Island and the bay in the background
It was absolutely freezing by that stage, then by chance we found what I would say was the one warm spot on the whole wharf. The sun was shining in the one spot and the buildings shielded us from the wind, win! We sat down for ages listening to music, Isabel almost literally falling asleep ha.
Travel Buddy enjoying our warm spot, looking as grumpy as ever
Ah, yes. Travel Buddy had been with us the whole day, yet despite the many photos I took of him throughout the day... they sucked. Although that is of no fault of my own, I have noticed of late that Travel Buddy is always grumpy... look at that face, he just doesn't seem to be happy to spend the day out in the sun! How can I take good photos when he is in a state such as that? I might have to change his name to Grumpy Buddy or something. I think if he just smiled a bit more to be honest, you guys could see a lot more of him!

Although if he doesn't change his mood soon and start participating in this adventure, he'll soon be known as Floating In The San Francisco Bay Buddy! =P

San Francisco bay
And that my friends, was our day.

I think we left just before midday, and the sun was starting to fall by this stage. Hanging out with Isabel is one of my favourite things to do of late, and it just funny how random it is for us to have become such great friends, yet here we are. I think this day is definitely one for the Highlights list, I cannot express enough how nice of a day it was.

Alas it was time to walk the crazy hills back the way we had come...


Tania said...

Alcatraz is actually really cool. It's creepy and empty but wow.

Azz said...

I couldn't quite justify the price for it so I skipped it. Although I am sure it was very awesome and indeed probably worth the price.

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