San Francisco is such a beautiful city. It's also a city that doesn't seem much like a city somehow. Since we've been here, IB and I have been amazed by the laid-back, friendly and courteous manner of most of the people we've met. Just one example is the way pedestrians have right of way over cars. To start with, the two of us were hesitating at street corners, unable to believe that the oncoming traffic was giving way to us. Now we've just about got the hang of it. I hope we remember to return to UK rules on our return! My friend Deborah keeps reminding us, "But you're in Northern California now!" every time we express amazement at the laid-back way of life.
We have been exploring different areas of the city: the Mission district, the Castro, Noe Valley, Haight-Ashbury, Fisherman's Wharf and the Embarcadero. Each is quite distinct, giving a kind of village-y atmosphere in many cases.
On Saturday, we attended The Rubinoos' 40th Anniversary concert at The Great American Music Hall, an amazing ornate venue that in times past was a brothel! The concert was one of our main reasons for coming to San Francisco - I have been a huge Rubinoos fan for over 30 years and did not want to miss this landmark event! The concert began with a great spoof 'This Is Your Life' featuring amazing video footage covering the past 40 years and some fantastic 'special guests', including former band members and friends of the band. The second half of the evening was the concert itself which covered a great selection of songs old and new, and carried on until midnight (with two encores). A fabulous night which I wouldn't have missed for the world! We also got a mention from the stage for having come the furthest, although people had travelled from all corners of the US to be there - proof of the loyalty of the band's fan base.
One reason for this loyalty may be that they are all very down to earth and approachable. IB and I had got friendly with the band's bass player, Al Chan, on line, and he and his wife had very kindly offered to take us out sightseeing the day after the show. Despite torrential rain, they took us to Haight-Ashbury (birthplace of the hippy movement) for the day, including a trip to the gargantuan record store, Amoeba Records. IB was in heaven and only budgetary constraints prevented him from emptying the shop!
Unfortunately the weather eventually defeated us - we were all four quite literally soaked to the skin - and we finished our day out drip-drying in a classic 50's-style diner over hamburgers and fries.
On Monday we got the hang of the city's BART (tube train) system and did the real tourist-thing on Fisherman's Wharf. My favourite thing there was the colony of wild sea-lions which congregate on floating platforms just by Pier 39. They are noisy and spend a lot of time sparring with each other but they are fascinating. They gather there quite naturally, as they are not fed. Only the floating platforms are placed there for their convenience, and they don't seem to mind being gawped at by tourists one bit.
Yesterday (Tuesday) Al once again took us for a day out - quite above and beyond the call of duty, I think! This time the weather was absolutely perfect, warm and sunny with barely a cloud in the sky. We drove across the Golden Gate Bridge to Muir Woods, a beautiful and peaceful area of redwood forest within easy striking distance of the city. The giant trees make one feel quite dwarfed, and the cool, damp, eucalyptus-scented air and dappled shade beneath them seems timeless.
Later we stopped at an overlook by the Golden Gate Bridge - a perfect opportunity for lots of photos - and then got yet another perspective by walking part of the way across the bridge and back. It is so much bigger than it looks in photos! And the Bay area must be one of the most photogenic in the world. I am itching to share my photos with you, but unfortunately won't be able to do so until I get home.
We are having the most wonderful time here! If I get the chance I will write about more of our adventures before we leave, and once I get back I will post lots of photos... you have been warned!