Saturday, 22 September 2012

Day 24 - In Search of Nuclear Wessels

We started today with breakfast in the hotel, which turned out to be a huge mistake. Breakfast is included in our rate (it's a ludicrously high rate too - about six times what we paid on the road), and it's supposed to be available until 10am. Not only did they start clearing away at 9.50am, they actually kicked us out of the room at 10am sharp. I wasn't even allowed to finish my cup of tea. I'm not sure they actually understood the implications of kicking out an Englishwoman halfway through a cuppa; I'm far too British to actually complain, of course, but I frowned a bit and will passive-aggressively give them a one-star Tripadvisor review when I get home.

Today was our final full day in San Francisco, so we took a full day's chauffeur-driven tour of the city, picked up from right on the hotel doorstep. A truly excellent service, but unfortunately not one available to every San Francisco tourist as it was provided by a friend who happens to live nearby, who took the day off to show us around. Caren's a fellow Trekkie, so obviously the agenda included searching out filming locations from Star Trek IV. She and Fi wouldn't let me stand on a street corner asking people for directions to nuclear wessels, though. Spoilsports.

Instead, we started off by driving down Lombard Street, the twistiest turniest street in San Francisco. Apparently the hairpins were added because so many horses were falling down, and they were just left that way after cars came along. I half believe it was really just installed for tourists; every car I've seen driving down this section has had someone hanging a camera out the window so I don't believe anyone who lives here actually uses this as a road. Either way, driving down it is a Thing one must do while in San Francisco, and Caren managed it admirably (in a manual car too, which is quite unusual for the US).

Slartibartfast obviously got tired of fjords and decided to try designing a street in San Francisco

Next, she took us to Coit Tower, a monument in the Telegraph Hill area with some pretty stunning views of the city from the top.

Great big phallic thing on a hill
The view looking away from it is better

Incidentally, only one bridge in this city gets any love, but its sibling in that picture is far cooler in my extremely-uninformed-about-bridges opinion. The Bay Bridge is older than the Golden Gate (by a few months), it's longer at nearly four and a half miles, it's a double decker - which is incredibly cool - and its name doesn't lie about its colour.

The underappreciated big brother of San Francisco bridges

We did, however, give in to the tourist impulse to go and get a better look at the over-hyped, not-golden-at-all Golden Gate Bridge, and... okay, I'll concede that's a pretty neat piece of engineering too. It might be a liar, but red's a pretty colour and Red Gate Bridge doesn't quite have the same ring to it.

Best of all, we got to walk along the same path Kirk and Spock trod - sorry, I mean will tread - in STIV!

We may have to fight over which one of us gets to be Spock

After that tantalising view, we obviously had to drive over the thing. That view didn't entirely suck either.

Oh this? This is just my view over the Golden Gate Bridge to San Francisco. No biggie.

That trip over the bridge, of course, is the same one Kirk and Spock took on a bus. Only we didn't get to deliver a nerve pinch to an annoying kid with a boombox, which was disappointing. And also the Sausalito Cetacean Institute is obviously fictional, but that's okay because actual humpback whales in captivity would have made me sad (the scenes were filmed just down the road in the Monterey Bay Aquarium, which was one of our intended stops on the way up on Wednesday, but we ran out of time. I'll have to dive into a fishtank wearing a bathrobe some other time).

With no whales to see, we went for lunch in Sausalito instead, and I finally got to try Dungeness crab. It was very, very good, but at $21 for a sandwich I'd kind of hoped it would be gold plated. In fairness, the plain old crab sans gold plating probably tasted better.

After lunch, we headed back over the Red Gate Bridge (see, that'll never catch on) to visit Golden Gate Park. This was another Star Trek location; it doubled as the Genesis Planet in The Wrath of Khan for the landing site of Spock's torpedo tube. Not, alas, as the landing site of the Klingon Bird of Prey in STIV, which was in a fake Golden Gate Park.

Since there are no cloaked Klingon vessels hanging around, we headed instead for the Japanese Tea Garden to ogle the garden and drink some tea.

We figured we came this far we may as well tack Japan on to the end of our trip. Sort of.

Neither of us can resist climbing on stuff

For our final evening in San Francisco - indeed, in the US - we went out to the Castro District, with mixed results. We first went to the Twin Peaks for cocktails, which is a very cute bar with very pleasant patrons but an extremely hostile barman who clearly did not want women in his bar (we weren't the only women there, but not far off). We then walked around a bit, and what struck me most about the place was that it had all the vibrance of Soho in London but felt a whole lot safer. Tourist goggles maybe, but that was my first impression. We finished off the evening just around the corner at an Italian restaurant ("I love Italian...and so do you") and then sadly had to part ways with our most excellent and geeky guide.

Today was an awesome day. I'd happily spend another few weeks here (although it would be nice if they could give me access to the city's thermostat) but sadly we're now settling in for our final night in an American hotel room. Unless anyone would like to send us a shedload more cash so we can get our car back and make our way slowly back to Chicago...?

Ah, there's that tumbleweed we've been looking for this whole trip...

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