Saturday, 27 August 2016

A day on the bay.

The late night had, of course, resulted in a late start but I was up and out by 10ish so it could've been worse. My first priority was to drop my dirty clothes off at the laundromat. It felt more awkward having to use the word 'underpants', so as not to be confused with pants/trousers, than it did asking a small Korean lady to wash them for me.

Brunch in Lori's diner was an absolute treat. The decor alone was captivating enough and just the right side of kitsch. It was buzzing with customers and they served 'green eggs and ham' which was something I thought Dr Seuss had made up.

I took a Big Cheese sandwich and a cup of tea. So English. I can do coffee occasionally but I don't share the American thirst for it. I craved tea. Ideally with milk but guess you can't have everything. Though I probably should have at least asked!

Bruce Springsteen's Hungry Heart came on just as my friend Alex texted me to say she felt all emotional after reading Trish's lovely comments on my wedding day blog. This combination of events nearly set the tears in motion yet again.

I walked down and around Union Square. the skyscrapers, palm trees, and trolley cars providing the sort of quintessential American experience that can't fail to impress.

Frank Lloyd Wright's Xanadu building was a precursor to his Guggenheim in NYC and as a fan of FLW a must see for me.

I wandered up through Chinatown. Shops sold tourist tat amongst the wrought iron stairwells and brick monsters mingled with faux oriental whimsy on the architectural front. Descending California St to the Ferry Building produced further gems.

Not least the building itself. Is this what they call Beaux-Arts? I'm a relative novice as regards American architecture but, like many other bigmouths, I know what I like when I see it.

Inside the terminal there are grocery stores, bars, and eateries. Queues testified to their popularity. There were great views of the Bay Bridge too. I watched the boats come in. I watched the boats go out.

The downside was I was desperate for a pooh and, just like in the UK, public 'rest rooms' are not easy to find when you're a stranger in town.

Eventually I took solace in the Hyatt Regency where I hoped it'd be assumed I was a delegate at their mysterious sounding 'Treatment goals in GERD - is it time for a paradigm shift?' conference. Something got shifted in their toilets and it wasn't a paradigm.

Lighter of load I hooked up with Simon, who'd been sleeping off three long days at the wheel, and we strolled up the Embarcadero to Fisherman's Wharf.

Tourists bars and grills make up the piers of this area. Unusual birds ate the discarded scraps of sourdough bread bowls but we opted to sit down in the Wipe Out Grill. A pizza heavily loaded with jalapenos and a small bucket of Cherry Coke complemented the views of pleasure boats and cargo ships gliding serenely past Alcatraz.

It was a long steep walk up Leavenworth back to the Clift but each junction greeted us with ever more impressive panoramas whilst brutal tower blocks cooled by Art Deco trim pointed skywards.

European style homes lined the streets but they weren't like any homes I actually know in Europe. A very American idea of a European home yet all the more charming for it. Some of them were vast. The mind boggles at the cost in this, already, expensive city. People, I read, have been leaving for LA in droves because they just can't afford the rent.

Second only to the Golden Gate Bridge in my youthful list of SF's iconic sights was always Lombard Street on Russian Hill. It's the zig-zaggy one that usually has a line of cars descending it slowly - and, of course, a crowd of eager photographers waiting to snap this legendary thoroughfare. Ticked that one off the list.

Freshened up I took an Anchor Steam in the hotel bar before a wander round town saw us end up in the Edinburgh Castle. It was a British pub in the same way that the houses are in European style. Nominally, loosely, and, in many ways, better.

The unpretentious clientele were there to have fun, drink, and dance - and that they certainly did. The DJ served up banger after banger. Four Seasons, Hip Drop, Tainted Love (not the Soft Cell version) as freaky dancing broke out amongst the horse brasses and tankards.

We chatted briefly to Cindy who, when told we came from London, asked if we knew Frank's in Peckham. I certainly did. It's about a mile from my door and it's great. It's weird, but good, to know Peckham has been acclaimed as far away as California. I can only hope we're being equally dependable ambassadors for London, the UK, and Europe.

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