My Trip to San Francisco Part 7 (and final!)

I walked along the piers, but could not see much in the dark. Certainly no sea lions, the biggest attraction in the area L. I walked past the entrance to the Alcatraz tours pier and wondered again who in their sane mind would want to visit a former prison as a tourist (especially after that great movie, “The Rock” – we have all seen how that ended, hadn’t we?!).Meanwhile, in the distance the Coit Tower was attracting my eye and I’ve decided to leave the piers and walk up to the tower.

After I’ve crossed the Bay Street, however, I realized that it was getting late and the tower was wa-a-y up there, I really needed to think about getting back to the hotel rather than wander about in the unknown quarters. Not to mention that I’d have to walk all the way up and the mere thought of going several blocks to the hotel was already getting a bit painful. On the way back I could not stand the temptation and spent some time in the Barnes and Noble bookstore and PETCO pet shop, which I stumbled upon on my way and was delighted to find that they were still opened at that hour. Life really seemed to be quite busy at 9pm, lots of people in the stores and in the restaurants – it looked like San Francisco lived up to its reputation as a kind of Paris of the West Coast – Paris is also very busy in the evening, even dinner time does not start until 8pm!  

 Walking up the San Francisco hills to Broadway Street turned out to be a bit easier than I thought, as the rise is a bit easier to take if you are walking first in parallel to the coast line on Bay street and then turn to Van Ness, which has a relatively moderate incline, so I’ve been back in the hotel within the next half hour. The reason I prefer to walk practically everywhere as opposed to using a public transportation or the taxi is that I believe one can only memorize the streets properly or get the real sense of direction in the city while walking. Going everywhere in the taxi or the car blurs the eye, -next time in town you would not know again how to go places, because you wheezed around in the car last time and learned nothing of the city itself!

In any case, that was my last evening in the City by the Bay and, though I did not get to dine in one of those fancy places in the Fisherman’s Wharf I was still content that I’ve seen many things during the day. Even the unplanned stop in Sausalito was very nice, I would not mind going back to that charming little town. Surely, just 2 days are not enough for a great city like San Francisco, I definitely hope to return and see more of it one day.

Next morning I was leaving town and decided to drop by the Exploratorium, the museum which I thought was the kind of a natural science museum. And it probably was in a way, but not like the Natural Science museums in New York and Washington, which are full of scientific exhibits, great collections of dinosaurs (or their skeletons anyway!) and even my favorite jewelry collection (in Washington, the one with the Blue Hope Diamond). It turned out to be rather much like the Museum of Science in Boston, full of “hands-on” stuff for kiddies, so I’ve decided to save time and take the route back through the downtown San Francisco instead of going to the museum.

Downtown San Francisco was not much different from other big cities in the US, so again I made a momentary decision not to stop there and went directly onto the Bay Bridge as I’ve decided to take another route back to L.A – Route # 5 this time. But first I had to take another highway, via Oakland, to join the Route # 5 just past Livermore.

The first 2 hours of the drive were hell, as a torrential rain started just after I’ve exited the bridge and all that time I had to drive with almost zero visibility! Have to say also that people in California do not seem to have a notion of driving more carefully under bad weather conditions – everyone on the road was making no less than 65 miles per hour and do I have to mention again that the visibility was almost nil?!

Fortunately for me I made it safely to the junction with Route 5 and at the same time the rain had stopped and the Sun came out. The Route 5 was really very beautiful in the sunlight. On my right there were the mountains with a mile or two of the groves of blooming trees in front of them and on the left there were again those endless groves of trees in bloom, like waves of white and pink color. It was surreal to see this landscape in the middle of February! My only sorrow is that I could not stop to make pictures as the stops are banned practically all the way along the Route 5. Another pity was when I saw a bit later a very unusual rainbow, which looked rather like a beam of colored lights shooting into the sky – no doubt the lower part of one end of the rainbow, but it must have been huge, because the other end was nowhere in sight! Alas, all I could do again is try to remember as well as possible, since I could not make a stop again.

By 5pm I’ve reached the mountain pass to Los Angeles, but the weather conspired against me one more time – the Passes were about to close due to snowfall and the traffic almost stopped. I barely made 5 miles in the first hour after reaching the stretch towards the Passes, but somehow managed to squeeze through to the other side – not a small feat given the altitude of the highest point was 4000 feet! It’s amazing how much warmer the air had almost instantly become on the other side. I was relieved, because I barely made it over to the other side by 8pm and my flight back to Philadelphia was leaving next morning at 10am. It would have been much less funny, though, if the Passes were indeed closed and I’d have to wait till the morning!

All in all I do believe that with a little bit of luck I was able to see quite a few interesting things in San Francisco and on my way there and back. It’s indeed a lovely city and I do intend to go there again and this time I will be able to plan ahead much better, now that I’ve been places and seen things. I don’t want to cite here the famous adage” I’ve left my heart in San Francisco”, because I’ve already left most of it in Paris a long time ago J, but I do hope the Fate will present me with the opportunity to visit San Francisco again sooner or later!