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America – San Francisco: Palace of Fine Arts, Golden Gate Bridge

America – San Francisco: Palace of Fine Arts, Golden Gate Bridge

A few days ago we left Wellington and arrived in San Francisco. We were treated to an amazing sunset sandwiched between layers of cloud on the way out:

Beautiful sunset above the clouds - Wellington waterfront below

Beautiful sunset above the clouds – Wellington waterfront below

We were transferring flights in Auckland. Kate was freaking out about the speed of our transfer, but we were through in five minutes. Arriving in San Francisco was another story, with an hour and a half in a slow-moving customs queue. What a welcome! After our fingerprints we moved on to the declarations area for another queue ride, then off on the rail to get our rental car.

Exhausted, this was my first experience driving on the right, and I promptly almost backed in to someone leaving the carpark. But drivers over here seem pretty chilled (it’s probably all the marijuana). Pretty much straight on to the highway, we had a small panic with the sat-nav, as we’d brought our own and I’d loaded some opensource USA maps on it rather than fork out $150 for the official ones. Eventually it kicked in and has been a life-saver, the only problem being we went off an off-ramp by accident. This routed us through central San Francisco at rush-hour, which was pretty awful. Surrounded by enormous Dodge Chargers you can’t see anything from a wee Toyota Yaris.

Blindly following the satnav, we saw an on-ramp for the Oakland bridge. ‘Carpool lane’ it says – so we go for it. Then, as we crawl past waiting highway patrol men, we see the sign says ‘Carpool – 3+ people’ – oh shit! However no tickets were received (yet) and we made it to our AirBnB in Oakland. The area is chokka with old Victorian villas, any one of which would be a house of note in Wellington. There’s little pride in the area though – the sidewalk is littered with old furniture and there’s rubbish all over the street. So I did a bit of googling and it turns out Oakland is one of the ten most dangerous cities in the USA – neat! Check out these crime stats for the last week! So that’s made our late-night returns from the BART station rather more interesting, but our hosts have been the loveliest people you could imagine. Each morning we’d arise to a hot pot of coffee and breakfast – it doesn’t get better!

As for Oakland, we had no problems wandering through, and we got a delicious burrito before calling it a night on day one:

Obligatory Spencer woman eating photo

Obligatory Spencer woman eating photo

In the morning, after our delicious coffee and breakfast, we headed the 15 min in to Oakland to get the BART (man) to San Francisco and found it all very straightforward. The rail gauge is so huge over here, the train is smooth as – and I can stand up straight on them!

At Embarcadero station we disembarcaderoed (WE’RE SO WITTY AND ORIGINAL) and wandered along the piers. And wandered along the piers.

Chap fishing from Pier 7

Chap fishing from Pier 7

Hideous 60's buildings dominate the middle of San Fran from Pier 7

Hideous 60’s buildings dominate the middle of San Fran from Pier 7

Cute hydrant

Cute hydrant

This picture cost us $20USD:

Though Kate took much better ones!

Though Kate took much better ones!

In short, I’m a sucker. As we took some pics here, some dick said ‘I’m going to have to write you up for that’, which worried us. Then he gave us some dicky ‘I heart SF’ stickers, and talked to us about homeless soup kitchens. He pushed a page at us, which I took to be a ‘we support doing something about it’ thing, then realised it was a ‘donation sheet’. SO ANNOYED now – anyway we didn’t have any small money with us, and I didn’t want Kate to think I was a heartless arsehole so I gave him $20 to feed homeless people soup. Pretty sure he was some spectacular piece of human garbage now but nevermind. I am trying to see it as an experience rather than getting extremely angry with myself and humanity in general.

That awful green one really rubs it in. Idiot.

That awful green one really rubs it in. Idiot.

Suffice to say after being ripped off we weren’t that enamoured with San Francisco at this point. As we plodded on, slowly realising the city isn’t walkable, we cheered each other up once we stopped pretending we were having an awesome time.

We chanced upon the Musee Mechanique – a working museum of sorts with old arcade machines in it. The craftsmanship was great on some of the old stuff, and the fortune-teller things terrifying – but we were without quarters, and I was still sore as hell over the aforementioned scumbag – it didn’t rescue my mood.

Automatic music player at the Musee Mechanique

Automatic music player at the Musee Mechanique

We wandered on:

A boat

A ship

Wacky architecture on the unpleasantly unwalkable Marine Parade

Wacky architecture on the unpleasantly unwalkable Marine Parade

Eventually we made it to the Palace of Fine Arts, which was cool. A bit like Crystal Palace in London, the place was put together to last 6 months for the 1915 worlds fair – such wasteful grand artifice! However folks really liked it, and in the 60’s they rebuilt it a little more sturdily.

Blossom columns in the Palace of Fine Arts

Blossom columns in the Palace of Fine Arts

Classic dude-on-cellphone scuplture

Classic dude-on-cellphone sculpture

Inside the dome

Inside the dome

Chinese couple having wedding photos. Kate tells me Chinese people take wedding photos before the wedding like this

Chinese couple taking wedding photos. Kate tells me Chinese people take wedding photos before the wedding like this

We put our feet up a while in the ‘Innovation exhibition’ which appeared to be being half-heartedly dismantled while we were there – it wasn’t clear. Anyway, there was some fun art in there. These portraits were made with garbage, look closer at the dude – pretty fun:

Repurposed

Re-purposed

The other fun bit was rescuing some teens who took a emergency exit into a foyer at one end, only to find it on lock-down and with no way to get back in.

Outside there was a Chinese group who started swaying and singing something which was odd, and some birds and turtles and a cranky pigeon which kept us entertained.

The Palace of Fine Arts

The Palace of Fine Arts

Folks singing in front

Folks singing in front

Heron?

Heron?

So cute!!

So cute!!

Shell be right

Shell be right

Onward we wandered, toward the Golden Gate Bridge. It took a while and our feet were tired, but the view of the thing was great as we got closer. Upon arriving, the completionist in me said YOU MUST WALK OVER IT. So we did. It’s a busy bridge, the traffic noise is loud – and it is pretty long! But we got nice views of the city and harbour.

The Golden Gate

The Golden Gate

It's more red than anything

The red was supposed to be a primer but the people loved it

The most beautiful steel bridge

The most beautiful steel bridge

The fog came and went

The fog came and went

It's pretty big

It’s really impressive!

Cool.

Cool.

I quite liked the wee truck thing which moves the barrier to match rush-hour:

Custom vehicle!

Custom vehicle!

After crossing, we fell upon a young woman who helped us get back to the central city by bus. We had a sad burger at Carls Jr (complete with in-restaurant security guard), rode home and hit the hay.

This was our first day in the city – our opinion has improved since then! But I’ve run out of time.

Larry's a 30-something chap interested in travel, being a dork and changing the world via less boring training.

2 Comments

  1. Chris Beggs · June 16, 2015 Reply

    Looks awesome guys!!
    I got scammed once in San Francisco too, at Fisherman’s Wharf. I was stupider so I won’t go into details!
    Go to In n Out burger, it’s better than Carls Jr.

    • Larry · June 18, 2015 Reply

      Thanks Beggs, that eases my pain! Yes we have great plans for In and Out Burger. We’ve knocked off heaps of places but there’re so many chains!

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