San Francisco – we fly into the airport in blinding sun, at a time when my body is telling me that it’s the middle of the night. It’s been a disrupted journey from the start – my flight was delayed for a day, meaning we missed out on the chance to go to Skywalker Ranch – so we didn’t get off to a great start. Our hotel room was a little bit odd – tiny little room without a single window – which actually helped us to deal with the jet lag. And then we ventured out to explore San Francisco. I always reckon that the best way to explore a city is on foot – walking the streets, visiting the shops, meeting the people. It’s more personal than being part of the tourist trap, although I’m not averse to that at times.
Homeless people. Pushing trolleys. Sleeping on benches and in subway stairs. Begging for coins on street corners. We later found out we walked straight into the Tenderloin, a part of San Francisco notorious for its crime, but at the time, our first impressions of the West Coast were not great. Following on from that, we caught up with a colleague of mine who I had never met in person – he took us to an Ethiopian restaurant where we drank Ethiopian beer, and ate – family style – an awesome dish of bread and meat and vegetables.
The jet lag caught up with us, but by this stage – two Ethiopian lagers inside me – I was a little more rosy about San Francisco – it reminded me like a whole city similar to Newtown. Sure, there were the grungy bits – the bits that looked shabby around the edges, but there was colour, vibrancy and something in the air that dragged people to the city, almost without them realising it.
The following day, we did the touristy things – Golden Gate bridge, Haight Ashbury, Fisherman’s Wharf and Chinatown. Highlight was eating Dim Sum in Chinatown – not as good as Australia, but not too shabby nevertheless. Crowds. Crowds everywhere. We’d actually landed on the 4th of July, and it seemed like half of California had joined us in San Francisco, which meant that Fisherman’s Wharf felt like a cattle market.