Following my marathon 2,438 mile train trip from Chicago, a short 2 night stay in Frisco was next. The train doesn’t actually go right into the city, but terminates in Emeryville, Oakland where an Amtrak coach transfers you over the impressive Bay Bridge to Downtown. On arrival, I was immediately struck by the vast number of homeless people living on the streets. The area around my hotel had literally dozens of people either sleeping on the sidewalk or pushing their life’s belongings in shopping carts or prams. The majority appeared to be in very poor physical and mental health. The problem seems to be worse in San Francisco than other cities as a result of a dearth of low cost housing due to very high rents; drug misuse; loss of employment opportunities for unskilled workers, and the gentrification of the city. It seems to be an increasing issue that successive Mayors have attempted unsuccessfully to deal with. Very sad to see so many folk destitute on the streets of this great city.
Got up early and took the classic cable car ride on the Powell-Hyde line before the queues started. My last memory of this was Campbell, normally cautious about crossing a road, hanging off the car fearlessly, and high-fiving passengers on oncoming cable cars as we trundled over the hills of the city. Next, I took the bus over the famed Golden Gate Bridge, its tall towers shrouded in mist, before visiting the pretty town of Sausalito in Marin County. Returned to the city by ferry, on a lovely cold but sunny morning, passing Alcatraz before arriving in the historic Ferry Building, now housing a thriving market.
I love the beautifully restored streetcars which have been repainted to honour the liveries previously used in various US cities. What a pity Glasgow abolished its tramcars when so many other cities are now appreciating them as eco-friendly modes of transport. Took the classic F streetcar to the Castro, the lively gay district, complete with numerous interesting shops, restaurants and coffee houses. The last time Campbell and I visited, we were so keen to see the classic interior of the Castro Theatre that we unwittingly ended up at a funeral celebration there!
I then decided to visit the Painted Ladies - no, it’s not what you think - these are a group of Victorian and Edwardian houses, many of which are painted in bright colours. Apparently these are among the most photographed sights of San Francisco and were lovely to see. This was followed by a walk round the expansive Civic Centre and a visit to the vast City Hall. The beautiful interior is the perfect setting for weddings, and at least 6 were taking place during my short visit. If I’d known, I could have brought my good suit and fountain pen and done a wee homer!
By this time I felt I was due afternoon tea, and decided to treat myself at the elegant Palace Hotel, rebuilt in all its glory following the great earthquake on 1906. I knew I should have booked in here! From there, a visit to the lively Pier 39 and a chance to see (as well as hear and smell) the colony of sea lions who have taken up residence there.
So many famous places to see including Chinatown - (sings ‘Grant Avenue, San Francisco, California, USA’ - name that musical!).
This evening I attended a performance of the longest running musical review ‘Beach Blanket Babylon’, which spoofs popular culture with gigantic hats and costumes. I ended up front row centre in the cosy theatre, alongside a birthday party of half a dozen San Franciscan queens, who insisted on buying me a drink when they heard I was from Scotland - ‘because I love Liverpool’ screamed the birthday boy with delight. I just kept my mouth shut and graciously accepted his hospitality. It was a fabulously camp show with the biggest hats I’ve ever seen, so I have a few ideas for June at That Looks Good for this year’s panto!Read more