It still seems a tiny bit unreal, but I am here. In the United States. Or rather, we are here since this is very much a joint adventure with Andrew. We got on a plane in Sydney and 13 somewhat uncomfortable hours later got off at a foggy, freeway-encircled airport called San Francisco.
This is the first in our Ten State Strategy and we’ve been mostly charmed by what we’ve seen so far. (By way of explanation, since 2012 is an election year the presidential candidates will be preparing their 50 state strategies on how to win the damn thing in November. We had initially hoped to pursue our own 50 state strategy but it’s been downgraded over time. But we’re pretty sure we’ll win our ten target states! And every good 21st century trip needs some kind of hashtag.)
The fog cleared away after our late breakfast this morning, but it still hung round the bay. Feeling rather toursisty, we went on a walking tour route out of the guide book that took us around the northern part of the city (around Russian Hill, Telegraph Hill and down to the City Lights bookshop). The cable cars seems very rickety but they get you places in style, if you can manage to work out how to get the driver to stop.
I wasn’t that impressed with the hills to start with – especially just having come from a brief sojourn in Coogee. But then we made our way to the self-proclaimed “crookedest street” section of Lombard Street (pictured). Apparently there are several sections of road in SF that have to zigzag because the slope is too steep, but this is the inly one that’s turned itself into a tourist destination. I can only imagine what it must be like to live here – not only were there hordes of tourists congregating at the top and bottom taking pictures, there was also a queue of traffic waiting to drive it. And the houses along the street had their driveways and garages coming off the turns.
But the plantings were gorgeous with lots of hydrangeas and roses inside the angles of the zigzags. One of the houses had what looked like a bougainvillea covering half of it, in full bloom with the bright pink magnificent against the pale blue building. I do the like architecture here; all the bay windows on the Victorian-style houses look like they’d make comfy reading nooks.
In the city there are a few building projects going on but not heaps. A man working in a Mexican cafe where we stopped said SF and California are faring better than some other areas of the country because of the money flowing form Silicon Valley. But he personally had had a rough three or four years, saying most employers wanted young, university-educated people and there wasn’t much around for older workers. There are quite a lot of homeless people around. We’ve only seen a few beggars, but there are people going through the bins a lot, mostly extracting drink containers which I guess must be able to be swapped for money.
We unexpectedly ate breakfast in a genuine (bit of a tourist trap) 50s diner. It had a 2m Betty Boop at the front door and a tribute to 70-year-old Barbra Streisand, including a dress she once wore that one of the diner’s staff bought in a charity auction she held. We also visited the Beat Museum which turned out to be a peculiar collection of artefacts about the beat generation. One that took my eye was a photo of a jazz club with the caption that the two white men at the front could as well be Kerouac and Cassady since they often went to such clubs. But they did have genuine things belonging to the men as well.