Thursday, 21 June 2012

San Francisco

With the club heading off to another park I chose to sightsee the city of San Francisco. I did have an ulterior motive in that I wanted to check out pieces of art by Banksy following his visit here in 2010. In the same way visiting theme parks allows me to see non-touristy parts of countries, searching for graffiti gets me into bits of cities that most tourists wouldn't hit.

This page is in 3 sections, a small selection taken late in the day following our return from Discovery Kingdom, a section from my walking tour and Banksy hunting, and some photos taken from the open top tour buses.

Alcatraz Island, which the club did visit in 2010 and which I'd previously visited back in 1998 and 2002. Definitely worth seeing if you have the time and inclination. Top tip, none of the ferries in and around Pier 39 will take you to the island, only around it. You need to head over to the east for the official Ferry building.

Pier 39 has the official seal of approval for being somewhere too touristy.

The Golden Gate bridge taken from a small viewing area close to the southern end of the bridge.

There are a selection of boat tours available from the piers area (well it wouldn't be possible from the middle of the city). In 2002 we did an excellent tour but it got really really cold as the sun dipped. Something to bear in mind.

The cannery building used to house a Del Monte factory but when they moved out ("the man from Del Monte, he say 'no' ") it became a little entertainment and shopping district. For those interested in the conversion of old factories, and I know of at least one person, this is definitely worth a visit.

The cable car station is a short walk from the piers, and not too easy to find to be honest. Having almost given up we asked a local who pointed across the street to a parked tram and rolled his eyes as if to say "dumb tourist".

Day 2, and this is our hotel which was located on the edge of the Tenderloin district. It has a reputation for being the one part of SF that you don't want to visit.

In researching the area, this is what Google Streetview has less than one block away, one of the longest queues for a soup kitchen I think I've ever seen, and I've watched Oliver Twist. Our travel guide also said not to venture into it. Still, that aside the hotel was OK. The city is extremely liberal and tolerant of homeless.

Head a few blocks west and you enter this complete opposite environment with the city's Capitol building and a really nice farmers market, where I bought loads of nice fresh fruit to eat through the day. Part of the city's character is that it can change between polar opposites in no time at all. 

Some sort of art display was taking place in the city, I think this one had some asian connection.

The cable car (that is what it is) the only national historic landmark in the US that moves. It's also fun to hang on to as it makes it's way around the city; just don't fall out.

There are other ways of getting around the city including trams like this. All quite cool but the cable car is the best by far.

Just around the corner from the hotel the wonderful band Crocodiles were playing. (never heard of them but deserve better billing than the date, which had a bigger font). Temper Trap are of course well known for their wailing Australian warblings such as SweeeeeeeeeeEEEEEEEeeeeet Diiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiispooooooooosition.

My walk took me initially north towards Chinatown, and this is the main entrance into that bit of town. I must have been up and out very early as I was walking around before they'd even opened up. 

Shaky's secret is out. There wasn't just an old piano and a playing pipe behind the green door.

In the south of the city (this is the abridged report) the Hispanic communities can be found. I loved these cinco-de-mayo gratings.

This is the San Francisco Armory building, which looks more like a prison. Supposedly this whole complex was bought by a porn company and became a studio for their shoots. You wouldn't want to have a cleaning job there. 

Over to the west and into the more expensive properties. Lovely design of buildings around this part that get more expensive the higher up the hill you go.

Haight and Ashbury is the birthplace of the hippy scene in the 60s and now a popular area for those who still want to live like one. The best smoothies can be found in the Ben and Jerry's emporium located around here.

Bootie is a bootleg clubnight that has been to the UK before. As a fan of mashup music I'd have loved to have gone to one of their nights here but the diaries weren't aligned :(

Some of the buildings around here are a little too subtle for my liking. It's quite similar to being in Camden in London. 

Some of the stores looked a little dubious.

The end of the walk brought me back to the Capitol building, which is an easy landmark to find from the hills that surround the city. After a brief stop at the hotel it was time to then do the open top bus.

That's the Transamerica Pyramid, which was the Shard before The Shard was built. The tallest building in the city and rather cool.

Vesuvio is on Jack Kerouac Alley, a street named in honour of the writer who hung out here.
"Live, travel, adventure, bless, and don't be sorry". A perfect quote for my trip.

The Stinking Rose is a famous restaurant in which garlic features heavily in the menu. If you suspect a partner of being a vampire then bringing them here might be a good idea. 

That's the Coit Tower, which was donated to the city by Lillie Hitchcock Coit, a woman who had a thing for firemen and became a bit of an icon to them. Perhaps that's why the tower looks like a hose.

This rather cool poster is made from real t-shirts. 

Union Square is one of the public squares in the city and on this nice day looked to be the place where local office workers come to hang out for lunch. The statue in the centre is of Alma de Bretteville a woman who married a much older man who ran a sugar company, coining the phrase "sugar daddy".

This tower near the Ferry Port used to have a bell but it broke and rather than replace it they spent money on a speaker system and a recording of the Big Ben bells from London. Genius!

Some of "So I Married an Axe Murderer" was filmed in this nice little diner.

This fire station is the busiest in the city, dealing with approximately 1 million forest fires and 2 cats stuck up trees every hour.

The St Peter and St Paul church on the northern edge of Washington Square is a stunning looking building. Rather amusingly it's address is 666 Filbert Street.

Back to Pier 39 and it's here where you'll find such delightful cuisine as Hard Rock Cafe and other tourist friendly establishments. The seals can be found around the back of the pier complex, if you like the sound of lions and the smell of fish.

At the Western end of the promenade is this really nice Italian restaurant. I do recommend their special which is a seafood stew. They'll even provide you with an apron to protect you from spillage. How grown up!

Subliminal seafood advertising.

I chose to do the red top tourist bus to get around the city, but there are other means such as this weird bike.

Or these Segways.

So, how did I get on with the Banksy hunting. Well it was a mixed success. There were around 10 to find, and some had gone.

This one is in chinatown and I like the fact future artists painted around it.

This one is atop a building across the road from the Kerouac alley.

There used to be a rat with sunglasses here in an alley slap bang in the middle of the tenderloin district. Yes, I ventured into it and had no issue at all.

Down in the Hispanic area, a rat had been painted over with green :(

This one in a carpark under the 101 freeway was still perfectly in tact, and I liked the fact local artists painted around it rather than over it.

Gone, painted over.

So despite some having been removed it was still a worthwhile walk, but then I'm biased :)

Along the way I found plenty more pieces of graffiti than I thought I'd put together in one place. Not much commentary from here on.

It wasn't me, honest!


How did I spot this? Graffiti eagle eyes working to the max.

In the centre of the tenderloin. Hard to believe something so stunning is in such a crap area.

A local art project where they covered the alley in spraycan art.

I'm sure there must be more of these around the city. One I found in the Tenderloin and the other in Haight and Ashbury


OK, so not art but a nice typo. (it's a fancy dress shop)

There were loads of these around the southern side of the city. Simple but nice!

This blew me away, and I spent a good while taking in the detail.

I loved San Francisco and had no regrets dropping a park to check the city out. It's seriously something I'd consider doing in the future. We had to leave our hotel at 3am in order to make the flight to Salt Lake City, and whilst boarding the coach the sound of gunshots could be heard. That's just another night in the Tenderloin.

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