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  • Day14

    San Francisco

    September 12, 2019 in the United States ⋅ ☀️ 24 °C

    It is not far from the Napa Valley to San Francisco, but it could be a different universe. On a good day it might only take you just over an hour, traffic being the deciding factor. It was a two hour drive today and we were scarcely out of the Napa Valley before the clear blue of the vast tracts of ocean that make up the Bay area came into view. This is a city in an extraordinary setting. Three lanes of traffic became five and six, vast petrochemical plants lined the waterfront at one point and signs indicated names that belong in fiction, newsreels and on the movies: Berkeley, Oakland, San Jose, Haight-Ashbury (of flower power and hippie fame) Stanford and Sausilito. This is the home of Levi’s, Twitter, the genesis of the United Nations and Silicon Valley, a little to the south. The city itself is only 47 square miles, but the suburban sprawl extends all around the Bay Area. Tantalising glimpses of the famous Golden Gate Bridge glittered in the distance reminding me of the explosion of the population from 1848 onwards with the beginning of the California Gold Rush. Within a year fifty thousand pioneers arrived (the 49ers) and transformed a muddy village to a thriving supply and transit boomtown. As most of you will know a massive earthquake wiped out three quarters of the city in 1906 and the city has risen like a Phoenix from the ashes, bigger and better than before.
    We are staying in the Fisherman’s Wharf Area, which we walked round this afternoon. A good lunch was taken at Boudains, founded by Isadore Boudin, a master baker who arrived here from Burgundy in 1849, hoping to make it rich off Gold Rush miners. He perfected the modern Sourdough loaf and the original starter yeast-bacteria culture developed during the Gold Rush is still being used. We had been warned that the Bay Area would be cool in comparison to the Napa Valley. It was eighty in the shade and thronged with people. We retreated back to the cool of the hotel and an iced drink. This evening we ventured out in search of supper. This a fish and seafood lovers paradise and restaurants line the wharfs. We were spoilt for choice and chose one almost on the eeny meeny miney mo method. It didn’t look that encouraging from the outside, although the menu looked promising (in particular the truffled halibut). We were directed upstairs in the elevator and stepping out was a surprise. Here was a well set out room with panoramic views over the marina and the Golden Gate Bridge. As we ate a flaming sun set behind the bridge, turning the sky crimson with the bridge silhouetted against it. It was quite a first night and the halibut was delicious!
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