Monday, July 14, 2008

I left my train in San Francisco

San Francisco has a certain sensation that I think may be entirely unique to San Francisco and I was really looking forward to a revisit. I was only a little girl on my last visit so I could just remember a montage of incredibly steep sloped streets, cable cars, shops that only sold one thing i.e. rainbows, an all-year-round Christmas shop, me getting my cardigan stuck in the workings of some revolving restaurant and causing it to judder rather mysteriously before being embarrassingly retrieved and just a feeling of a happy, sunny city.

We weren’t having much time to explore by ourselves but we were going to tick off all the main sights without the aggravation of climbing any hills, dine in Sausalito for lunch and revisit Pier 39, which is where I found my beloved rainbow shop.

We started our San Franciscan experience not too auspiciously in Oakland. I’m not sure if my prejudice for this part of the USA is based on exploring the murky world of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, which purports to be set around San Francisco, Los Angeles and Las Vegas – even though the names were changed to protect the innocent! The concrete clad station at which we disembarked adorned with vibrant and quite colourful graffiti, in every sense of the word possibly didn’t fill us with the warmest regards for the ‘hood.

We were rather late getting off our train, not that we weren’t all ready it’s just that Amtrak seemed to resent out fancy-smancy train and took very opportunity to hinder our elegant progress through the Western states. We’d been told on the first day wear ‘our flexibility pants’ and it turned out that perhaps we should be wearing our entire ‘flexibility suit’ which matching flexibility hat and bag! Being a passenger on the European Orient Express, the British Pullman and the Northern Belle I wasn’t used to this concept of the inferiority complex on behalf of the rail operators and their endless insistence that every fright train on the entire network should take precedence over our slower but more beautifully formed train. So when we climbed down the steps of our train when we’d finally permitted to disgorge the passengers we were an hour or so behind schedule but little did we know it would be a while before we saw our train again.

Our guide for the day had been rather anxious if we were ever to see her and we headed straight for the obligatory Golden Gate Bridge shot but it had been one of those typically San Franciscan foggy daybreaks and it hadn’t all cleared so we couldn’t see it all in its true glory.

And sadly the weather was not very kind to us all morning; we explored around Nob Hill and visited the infamous painted ladies.

Once a cheaper area to live and some of the houses as colourful as their occupants now much sought after and highly desirable these Victorian and Edwardian painted in those pastel colours reminiscent of smart seaside houses with their imposing fronts.

For some reason I can hear David Walliam’s intoning ‘I’m a lay-deee’ as we regard these sugar coated embellished houses.

Our next port of call is Sausalito so we leave the steep hilly streets behind and head for the water and lunch.

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