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San Francisco In Transit

29th November 2011

A Day Visiting Old Maritime Haunts and a Magical View from Coit Tower

Live Chickens for the Restaurants
    I had no fixed plan for today, the only stipulation that I put on myself was that I needed to walk everywhere at speed to get my fitness levels back up; I had an easy life and eaten too much the last few days. I decided to visit old haunts, and headed down past Union Square and walked the full length of Chinatown. As always, this was teeming with Chinese who never seemed to speak a word of English. Today must have been bossy Chinese Women's Day, the place abounded with little, old Chinese ladies barking commands at their daughters and granddaughters who instantly kowtowed into action ferrying this and that from business premises to business premises. Perhaps this explained why all the menfolk retired to huddles in the odd squares. I deduced that the food served up in the restaurants here was certainly fresh, as I watched a truck load of clucking, caged chickens being unloaded and wheeled into one of the many buildings.
USS Pampanito and SS Jeremiah O'Brien
    I made my way down to an almost deserted Pier 39, and I stood at the end staring into a wall of fog. The shortfall in visual stimulation seemed to enhance my other senses; as well as breathing in the very detectable salty air, I could almost taste it. A deep throaty foghorn periodically reminded the bay that there was another world out there in the grey void.
    I weaved my way across to Pier 45 to visit the World War II submarine USS Pampanito, and the SS Jeremiah O'Brien. This was one of hundreds of Liberty supply ships mass-produced during World War II to supply "beans, bullets and black oil" to American troops throughout the world. I just couldn't resist visiting these old vessels for a third time; I'm a sucker for these old sea-going ships.
Chinese Talking Shop
    I was also magnetically drawn to Hyde Street Pier, part of San Francisco's Maritime National Historic Park. Here I cast my eyes over paddle tug Eppleton Hall, tugboat Hercules, ferryboat Eureka (once part of Route 101) and the three-masted ship Balclutha. The sun was by now feebly trying to pierce the dense fog, which writhed into the very fabric of the pier. Several foghorns were sounding off, as well as the horns of ocean going vessels as they prodded the way in or out of the bay.
    I continued along the promenade towards Fort Mason, retracing the same steps I made on my previous final day in San Francisco. The waterfront would always be one of my abiding memories of this great city.
    Time was marching on, so I set off on my route march across the city, climbing up Telegraph Hill in the process to reach the top of Coit Tower. I knew the bay was cloaked in fog, but perhaps the view might afford some interest in this state. It was indeed magical, the sea was carpeted in a thick writhing grey blanket, with only the tips of the Golden Gate Bridge, Treasure Island and the Bay Bridge poking through the top. When I looked out from this high vantage point last year, it had been a clear day, but not as moody as today.
    Once I had soaked up enough of the wondrous site, I descended and skirted around the south side of Chinatown, passing a square full of old men playing board games and having incomprehensible chin-wags (obviously avoiding the bossy Chinese Women's Day). Their wizened faces gave the impression they had come over during the original Gold Rush.
Panoramic View from Coit Tower      (please use scroll bar)

    All too soon I was on a shuttle bus speeding its way to the airport. There was only one other passenger, an American lady who hailed from Santa Barbara. She initially had difficulty understanding my accent, however once I told her I originated from the north of England, she soon tuned in. "Where abouts?" she asked. "The Lake District". "Where in the Lake District?". "Whitehaven, on the coast," I responded. She knew the Lakes well. At one time she lived in Birmingham, but returned to her homeland about 40 years ago. Her endearing memories of the Midlands were of a constant yellow/brown haze from the surrounding industrial belt. "You won't find much industry there now," I advised. We discussed the state of each other's country's industrial health, and the downward plights of our nations; doom and gloom everywhere I'm afraid. She had been visiting friends in San Francisco for Thanksgiving Day. I commented on the sheer mayhem in the city during Black Friday. She laughed and said Black Friday had only invented itself a couple of years back. Now there was also a Cyber Day, geared up for techno freaks by the sounds of it. She couldn't understand the need for all this hype, and dismissed the idea of special prices for special days; everybody wanted something for nothing nowadays. She worked as a volunteer in a thrift shop, and when folks tried to knock the price down there, she overbearingly told them that there were no cut down prices in her shop. A formidable lady! By the time we reached the airport, we, or perhaps she, had put the world to rights.
    No check-in kiosk for the flight to New Zealand today, just good old fashioned queuing. After the formalities, and Maori greetings by the cabin crew, I was soon cruising on the 19:00 flight at 11km above the Pacific. The view for the 13 hour flight - just blackness. The young woman sitting next to me was from Nevada, and was heading out to spend 2.5 weeks with friends. We exchanged views on travel. Like most young travellers, she wanted to travel all the time, but had neither the time nor the money. She had dreams.
    I tried to sleep, but I found it difficult. I must try harder.

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San Francisco In Transit

Uploaded from Quadrant Hotel, Auckland on 1st December at 14:30

Last updated 1.12.2011