San Francisco – hopping over hills and bridges

Leisurely wake up and breakfast, but then it’s time for a spot of work: we have to prepare our presentations for the meetings we have set up on Monday – we go through a few revisions and a final honing which take us to early afternoon and then we’re ready to grab the car and go sightseeing. We want a panoramic tour, so first we head towards Lombard Street at Hyde, reputedly the steepest in San Francisco and featuring a series of hairpin bends. Yes, another tourist’s delight and the cars line up on top of the hill to negotiate the bends, but hey, it’s fun! We try to bounce up and down the SF hills as in a film car chase, but tone this down after we discover our Magnum has a low wheel base and risk tearing the exhaust off…

Boss, Beer and BurritoHaight-Ashbury is next: a district of Victorian houses and pretty gardens much beloved by 1960s flower children. The area still holds a certain feel of that age: shops selling clothing in psychedelic colours, smoke stores, bookshops, many bars and street cafés. We stop by a Mexican taqueria – El Balazo – and enjoy a beer and a burrito with chicken, salsa, rice, beans and guacamole which must be about the best I’ve had this side of Tijuana!

We then drive up yet more hills up to the highest of them all: Twin Peaks. From here the view on this glorious autumn afternoon is sweeping: the neat rows of houses on the SF hills; the straight line of Market Street pointing to the gleaming downtown skyscrapers; the fog starting to roll in from the Pacific Ocean towards the Golden Gate; the blue waters of the Bay stretching round to Oakland and beyond. Cameras click and videos whirr, and I happily join the lenspointers to take a couple of panoramas.

Twin Peaks Panorama - click to enlarge

The afternoon draws on and we want to see the ocean! We drive down from Twin Peaks through the appropriately named Sunset District to the Great Pacific Highway. Alas, there is no sunset to admire as a grey mist begins to envelop us, but still it’s an experience to walk onto the broad sandy beach, dip a finger into the cold waters of the Pacific and think: next stop – Japan! There are only a few surfers around us, paddling out towards the crashing waves, ignoring the warnings of strong currents and severe undertow!

Golden Gate Bridge in the fog

Time to head for the Golden Gate Bridge! This icon of 1930s engineering is probably the most photographed bridge in the world. I have made my little contribution to this record! Not much chance to admire the scenery on the drive over to the North side, as traffic is heavy: apparently over 100.000 cars a day cross the bridge, despite the $ 5 toll! More photo-ops on the North Plaza of the view across the Bay to San Francisco in the fading light.

We drive along the shore to Sausalito, and are pleasantly surprised by this beautiful little town reminiscent of a Mediterranean resort. The main street is lined with cafés, restaurants and upmarket stores and nearby a large marina attracts my colleague’s eye. He is a keen sailor and as we hop from one pier to another, he explains the finer points of each boat. Not that I understand much – they all look large and expensive to my untrained eye!

Well, at this point the sun has long set and we are getting tired, so it’s over the Golden Gate Bridge and back to the Omni hotel.

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