So the next leg of my US tour began with an 8 hour flight to America’s west coast. We stopped briefly in Kansas City for a Dorothy moment before carrying on to San Francisco.
The music, the architecture, the people, these were all things I had heard people mention when talking about San Francisco. I on the other hand, was just so excited about seeing where the Princess Diaries had been filmed. I wanted to see the cool trams that Mia uses in the film, where she lives in the funky loft with her mum and most importantly that big triangular building in the background of every shot. This was as cultured as I was at 18. Unfortunately, I never found Princess Mia’s haunts but I did get to ride a tram and see the triangular building better known as the Transamerica Pyramid, the tallest skyscraper in the city.
Having only two days in San Fran, myself and other “poms,” embarked on a whistle stop tour dragging our jet-lagged booties across town. We had only been out of camp for a few days and most of those consisted of partying in NYC. The exhaustion was hitting us, tummy problems from adjusting to the decent food was taking us down one by one and a ban from dropping the D-bomb (depressed) was imposed. Definite pick-me-ups were needed and San Francisco did the job.
Day one we began by wandering the city to get our bearings and met some of the locals along the way. Approached by numerous homeless folk and ladies of the night, our day was filled with giggles and surprises at what San Fran and its residents had to offer.
Sophie, my fellow traveler and a human geography student, had learnt all about the city’s suburbs and was keen to visit the quirky parks and kooky restaurants she said lay just outside the centre. After 4 hours on a local bus, not a tour bus, the driver eventually turned to ask us where on earth we were going. Sophie had to admit she had no idea where we were and indeed had us lost. We sat on the bus until we arrived back where we had started. Now this wasted four hours was not all in vain, we did get to see many a homeless shelter and run down building, but nothing resembling Soph’s studies.
Day two. This day started at 3am, yes you heard right. Traveling isn’t all glamourous hotels and luxurious lie ins, no no you have to make sacrifices if you want to see all there is to see.
Reaching the docks by 4 am we queued for 5 hours to make sure we could get on the boat to Alcatraz. The queue for the world’s most famous prison seem infinite and if you are not there early enough you won’t get a ticket. Here’s where I offer some advice, if you want to see Alcatraz book online way in advance or you’ll be forced to bear the early morning wind and a sore behind after sitting on a hard pavement for hours. You'll also save $5 off the $43 ticket price.
The waiting game paid off for us though and we finally got shipped off to prison. Alcatraz is steep in american history and even if you are not a history buff the cells, where the likes of Al Capone stayed, are well worth a visit.
The other essential landmark to visit in San Fran is the Golden Gate Bridge. Now this is where you do as I say, not as I do. If you wish to cycle across the bridge and pretend you’re in a Hollywood rom-com the obvious, although apparently not to me, place to get the rented bikes is down in the city centre. That way you can cycle up to and across the bridge. Arriving by taxi as we did means you merely get to take a few photo snaps and walk a few steps on the iconic bridge.
Even on a cold, wet and horrible day, the views were spectacular but the bridge isn’t one for the faint hearted. The sea below is a long way down and even an adrenaline junkie like me got a few shivers. Nevertheless, the beautiful bridge that marks the opening of the San Francisco bay into the Pacific Ocean is a significant landmark to cross off the list.