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San Francisco – Theme Parks, Trams, and a bag of chips..

13 Aug

It’s been an interesting time in San Francisco… in one sense, I haven’t done much, but in another sense, lots has happened.

I’ve enjoyed a lot of people watching – and on occasion been quite dismayed at the judgements I have made about people.  I’ve seen a lot of homelessness: and people who are simply down on their luck – a lot of people who are quite angry – a lot of wealth, and a lot of poverty, all in a few blocks…..

San Francisco is where old trams come to retire…. from all over the USA, it seems.  No two are different, and in a 20 minute period I managed to find these:

I also managed to find these in the coffee shop

Yep, extra thick and crunchy seems to sum me up…

The hostel here is huge – 6 floors, quite impersonal… and very pink (must have been on sale that day).  I think I managed to break the dryer this morning.  This shot is actually the inside of the building.  My room mate narrowly avoided being thrown over the balcony after coming in and turning the main light on at 1am this morning, rousing me from a well earned slumber…

A couple of days back I took a trip to Great America theme park – those who know me well will know that I have a fondness for thrill rides (my boys and I love them), and so I decided to take the day to go and have a little bit of fun (in fact, the whole question of ‘fun’ caused a whole new thread of thought for me – take a look at www.exploretheadventure.com if you’re interested!). It’s not as much fun on your own though…

One of the great things about Great America was that it was really quiet.  My last trip to Alton Towers in the UK had queues of up to an hour for most of the good rides.  Here, queuing for more than five minutes was rare…. And so I indulged myself by going for front row seats on all the rides.

I had a bit of a soft spot for Grizzly – as a wooden coaster it’s rickety and rattles, producing a feeling of being closer to the ride (and, I have to say, it feeling as if it’s about to fall apart at any moment).  Best in the park for me was Flight Deck, though – a fairly standard steel construction with loops and twists… but the proximity to the lake and the sheer speed of the thing made it far more fun than it would have been.  I think I rode that one five times.

Great America is only about 12 miles outside San Francisco – but it took a train ride, bus ride and tram ride to get there (not to mention quite a long walk!)  And somewhere in that trip my glasses and I became separated, bringing the total losses for the trip to

  • glasses case (one)
  • Buff bandannas (two)
  • folding hat (one)

I may be going to theme parks too often – but I am starting to recognise the rides.  Alton Towers has RipSaw to GA’s Firefall (less water, more volcanoes) – Thorpe Park has Tidal Wave, where GA has White Water Falls (much less water!) – but the up and over Pirate Ship/Endeavour was good fun…although someone will have to tell me the point of ‘Survivor – The Ride’.

Tomorrow I leave San Francisco for a tour of the Canyons and Coast – so I might be quiet for a couple of weeks.  Keep you updated if I get chance!

San Francisco – bookshops and banana pancakes

8 Aug

More signs I am in California

A sign in a garden in the middle of town saying “Coyotes have been spotted in this area” (no sign of Road Runner though (meep meep)

Chocolate bacon bars (apparently appeared in the UK a couple of years back, but I missed them completely.  Heston Blumenthal would be proud.  Chocolate dipped bacon is big over here…there are times when I am glad I’m a vegetarian, as at least I don’t feel the need to test it . . .

So, what have I been doing over here . . .

Well, a little bit of sightseeing, but more of my time has been spent in thought and working out what my life is all about.  I’ve had the first call in the Neale Donald Walsch mentorship series, and done my homework (feeling vaguely smug).  I’ve spent a lot of time in Borders, reading, thinking, and drinking coffee….

I did take a walk round town – was impressed by the Martin Luther King Memorial in Yuerba Buena park (and stopped for a bit of jazz and to relax by the waterfall.  (Engineering note – the construction of the waterfall demands that about 40′ of lake be perfectly flat so that all the mini falls on the side are the same.  They got pretty close – let’s hope a ‘quake doesn’t knock it out of alignment)

The inscriptions read: “No, No, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until ‘justice rolls down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream’.”    (Washington, D. C., 1963 and “I believe that a day will come when all God’s children from bass black to treble white will be significant on the constitution’s keyboard.”    (San Francisco, CA, 1956.)  I was quite moved by the memorial, I have to say… and I started to long for freedom for the world’s peoples – from oppression, from prejudice, from discrimination, from poverty, and from the mental prisons that each one of us have created for ourselves… until we realise that the bars are simply paper and melt in the sunlight of inspection.

I took a walk round the market… I really am not sure what I am going to do with the $1 bag of chilli peppers that I bought, but it would keep your average Mexican restaurant going for around a month.

Wish this had been on every day – it was just round the corner and they did fruit samples – breakfast was cheap that day!  And somehow, I managed to buy that bag of peppers and some bananas and come in in profit… one of the stall holders must have taken pity on me, I think.

I wandered up to the steepest street in the city (local joke – when you’re tired of walking round San Francisco, at least you can lean against it) – every now and again I felt vaguely dizzy with the hills.  The cable cars here work on a cable under the street – which means that the roadway emits a permanent rumbling sound.

I took a walk down the tat and glitz of pier 39 – stopped for a while to watch these jugglers… it took me a while to realise that the thing that was odd about them was their English accents (OK, I was watching, not listening, alright?).  And glanced across the bay to Alcatraz

It’s nice to see that someone has found a use for the Segway personal transportation – they do tours using them in SF… and they sneak up on you silently.

And I finally satisfied my banana pancake fixation by completely ignoring the instructions (add egg, add milk) and just went with theflow.  They may not look like much.. But they were damn fine pancakes.

I must be in San Francisco….

4 Aug

… someone just cruised past the line of cars at the stop light on a skateboard, two naked men just walked past in support of the local democratic candidate and the live music in the park is chilled and mellow…

A quick review of my travel gear reveals that

  1. I took an extra PC power supply by accident
  2. I already have a hole in my backpack (duck tape to the rescue)
  3. I will be very glad to get rid of the extra study books that I needed to bring
  4. I probably ought to sharpen the knife on my multipurpose tool
  5. I need to check I have a can opener available before I buy more cans
  6. I probably need to attach any future hats to me with string since I have managed to lose three so far
  7. All the study programmes I downloaded to my memory card are corrupted (except for Tony Robbins – I suspect he is incorruptible)
  8. I didn’t bring enough writing paper – either that or I need to stop being so creative..

I’m glad I am coming home in October so I can make the necessary adjustments….

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