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We flew from increasingly cold and rainy New York and landed in beautiful, sunny San Francisco. It felt like a different country with palm trees, a Pacific breeze and a brilliant blue sky.
San Francisco has to be one of the more unique places in the world. There is an alarmingly large and quite unwell homeless population living under advertisements for universities bragging about number of companies they're providing venture capital for. You see people wearing tee shirts that say things like "data is the new bacon" and "I see dead servers". I've never over heard so many casual conversations about identity-based topics - particularly gender. The place is queer as fuck but still fighting hard for gender and sexuality rights. It would seem everyone is stoned with the smell of weed permeating every corner of the city thanks to medical cannabis. People still skateboard and it doesn't look hipster; watching Optimus Prime long board down the road would have been more surreal if it wasn't Halloween. Radical bookshops still thrive. Record labels still have stores. And middle-aged women dance to buskers as though no one is watching.
Freak flags still fly high over this harbour town.
It's a highly politicised town and local elections were scheduled for the day we left so many many posters up about various proposition and denouncing or endorsing various candidates for Mayor and Sheriff. I've always wondered if making Sheriff an electable position is a good idea or not. And then an endless number of 'Propositions' - that peculiar US electoral trick where voters with a big enough petition can either force proposed laws to go to a referendum or put up their own legislation to be voted on by the people. Surely that leads to some horrible conflicts from time to time.
Prop F - the anti-AirBnB law was definitely front and centre for many. In fact AirBnB had the best funded campaign in the election. It turns out Prop F was defeated which is good for AirBnB and middle-class people with vacant houses... and possibly Ariane and I but we're on the side of affordable housing of course.
So what did we get up to you may well ask. The Exploratorium is definitely one answer. It's this amazing, very hands-on, science museum that has some really fantastic things it it. You get to experiment with magnets, light, electricity, optics, sound, psychology, the senses and much much more. We thought we'd be in there for an hour. We left three hours later having just skipped through the last two thirds of it. I bought the T-Shirt I loved it so much.
We took a ferry out to Sausalito for lunch. It's meant to be America's most 'European' town because of the way it's built into a hill but it was no Amalfi coast but charming in it's own American way. The ferry ride itself was well worth the price of admission with amazing views of the Golden Gate bridge and Alcatraz. It's easy to forget that SF is still a major port of the US and the size of the container ships coming in is almost as mesmerising as the bridge it self. There's something really majestic about a ship that large not missing the bottom of a massive bridge like the Golden Gate by much. The harbour area itself is also a lot of fun with a real summer holiday vibe that I didn't expect.
Speaking of Alcatraz, we did head over for a particularly fascinating afternoon being entertained by ingenious escape plans. Fun fact: after the prison was shut down, a group of American Indians occupied the island for a bit over a year in the name of all American Indians before they shut that shit down.
The occupation happened around the time of the Summer of Love in '67. We spent a bit of time walking around the corner of Haight and Ashbury where is is said to have all begun. There's still plenty of people living the dream but it ain't what it used to be.
On the way to Haight and Ashbury we walked through Alamo Square which is surrounded by some beautiful weatherboard mid-century houses known as the 'Painted Ladies' for their ornate paint jobs. From there we went down to the Golden Gate Gardens and the Japanese Tea house which is pretty spectacular - the gardens for it's sheer size and the tea house for it's ornate garden.
There were cable cars, trams, vintage arcade games, china town and more mixed in there as well.
We loved San Francisco and can't wait to come back and checkout the wider bay-area as well.
We're in LA now - but I'll fill you in on those adventures next time.