Monday, October 27, 2014

Mon 27 Oct - San Francisco, CA

Hans is... All by himself... In San Francisco. So he better make the most of it...

No luck with the hostel's vending machine this morning. Hans tried to replace his tired water bottle with a fresh one. So in went a $1 bill but when he chose the only option for water, quickly flashed a "choose something else" light. Couldn't they tell you that upfront?

Fine, a bag of crisps will do instead, for later tonight. Now the problem was that the crisps moved but not enough and so the bag got stuck by the metal spiral.

A tiny bit of violence of the vending machine made no difference and than Hans recalled that a not insignificant number of Americans get killed each year from falling vending machines.

Hans just left in disgust...

A few more pics from the hostel first though... The kitchen...

...and the water saving toilet.

Apparently, some people don't get it and think that the water from the tap is wasted as it can continue after you finished washing your hands... Duh...

Out of the hostel by 8am, Hans tried to find the 2 different hotels where he stayed back in 1997 (3 days in one hotel, 4 days in another hotel later on that trip).

He couldn't even recall the street, could be Sutter Street, so he walked there for a few blocks but nothing looked even slightly familiar. Oh well, it was a long time ago.

Hans did find some liquor bottles on offer for the gun enthusiast... No, he didn't buy any of these.

The Chinatown / North Beach walking tour didn't start until 10am, meeting at Union Square literally around the corner from the hostel, so Hans made a visit to that other Traveller's Friend called Starbucks. Cheap and drinkable filter coffee, free wifi, seating and good piped music. Good enough.

This was a sign outside a cupcake shop nearby and yes, only women seemed to work there...

The Wild SF walking tour kicked off at Union Square at 10am and finished at Jackson Square around 1.30pm. The guide today was "Wild Wes" who brought his ukulele as opposed to J.Jo last Thursday bringing a guitar. The wild one will appear in pictures later on.

This is how the walk panned out, including some wild GPS coordinates as Hans was deep underground at that time. It will all be revealed later. Union Square at the bottom.

After a walk through of Westin St Francis hotel, including being told of and shown the site of an attempted assassination of President Gerald Ford in 1975 there, we wandered down through Maiden Lane.

The lane seemed to be named a bit tongue in cheek as we learnt that it used to be the red light district of San Francisco prior to that great earthquake of 1906, after which the lane was rebuilt but now with shops and restaurants... It was also renamed to Maiden Lane at that time... The ladies of the night had just moved around the corner...

Back in the gold rush days, those ladies would stand on a balcony overlooking the lane and let you have a look at one boob for 5 cents and both boobs for 10 cents. A whole dollar would gain you inside entry...

This current building on Maiden Lane, Xanadu Gallery, was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright...

...and his signature can be found in a plaque to the left of the entrance.

We quickly moved into Chinatown, up the little hill on Grant Avenue with all its cheesy tourist souvenir shops.

Wild Wes told us that Chinatown of today, built up after the great earthquake, was actually sold to the city as a tourist attraction so it would be built at all. In the early 1900s, anti Chinese sentiment was high and that was the only way a Chinatown could be accepted at that time. The wild one called it a "Chinese Disneyland".

Grant Avenue looking north...

Wild Wes and some of the punters waiting to cross a street.

This is the oldest building in Chinatown, built in the 1910s. Not very authentic Chinese, is it?

We spent most of the tour in Chinatown off Grant Avenue and in the little lanes where the real Chinese life is taking place.

Fortune cookies, that quintessential Chinese food item, was apparently invented here in San Francisco's Chinatown, by a Japanese man...

This shop still produces fortune cookies by hand...

Two ladies churn out fortune cookies all day... Lots and lots of them...

...and when they are working, they are fast.

These are fortune cookies that didn't pass the quality control, not visually good enough or the ladies didn't get to complete them before they turned solid. So, us punters could get a free sample and yes, they were still warm.

Outside the fortune cookie store, Wild Wes got into a jam with the barber next door to the fortune cookie bakery. The barber "strangles cats" when there are no customers for him to cut their hair.

The two of them churned out classical Chinese songs like "My darling Clementine" and some German children's song, that sounded German to Hans but a song he was not familiar with.

The Chinese barber apparently had cut Clint Eastwood's and Paul McCartney's hair among others.

And this is his workplace. A little whole in the wall barber shop behind where he was sitting above. Let's safely assume that the Chinese barber knows what he is doing.

Then it was goodbye to Chinatown and hello to North Beach. Of course, there was a long time since there was a beach here with all that land filling that had been going on.

Parts of North Beach is Little Italy and it is also where the Beatnix generation started, Jack Kerouac "On the road" etc, an artistic and still somewhat bohemian part of San Francisco.

These are "streetlights" in form of books...

Also here in the corner of Broadway Street and Columbus Avenue, a couple of storeys up and on the side of an adjacent building is the only known art piece by Banksy in San Francisco.

This flatiron building in the corner of Kearny Street and Broadway Avenue is owned by Francis Ford Coppola.

It did withstand the fire that followed the great earthquake and was for a while the tallest building in San Francisco... By the very fact that it was one of not very many buildings still standing.

Of course, there is a great urban myth that Chinatown is criss crossed by tunnels underneath... Except that it didn't appear to be a myth.

Inside a shop selling art supplies, down in its basement is the opening to a small part of an underground tunnel...

...and if you walk in there, this is what you see.

Of course, the other urban myth not just here in San Francisco but in other port cities around the world is that people got drugged In bars only to wake up at sea and forced to work as more or less slave labour on a boat.

Shanghaied! Hence, the pirate at the wall.

Hotaling Street is just a short stump of a street, but it was significant because... also survived the fires after the great earthquake. And it contained the town's whisky supply at the time. As the churches fell and burnt up. As the plaque says, there is a message there somewhere...

Transamerica Pyramid. Built in the 70s on reclaimed land using redwood trees to solidify the ground. As you do. The building has survived that dismal architectural era quite well enough though.

The "wings" apparently had to be built to support the lifts as they couldn't travel in too much of an angle.

The walking tour finished here, at the building that housed the humble beginnings of Bank of America, or Bank of Italy and started as a loan facility for low income earners, as it once was named before it was renamed.

Today, this building houses Church of Scientology. Free personality test anyone?

After the tour, Hans went back into Chinatown to grab some lunch and yet again to Dim Sum House for a plate of 8 dumplings for $6. As tasty as ever.

There appears to be no Columbus Park a la New York City in San Francisco where the Chinese people go, but this was close.

Portsmouth Square looked reasonably busy with Chinese faces chatting, smoking and playing board games.

Hans then took the BART to Mission yet again, to follow the mural walk on a map provided by J.Jo after our Castro and Mission walking tour last Thursday. This is how Hans wandered through the Mission district.

Some of the mural were very impressive, like this whole laneway.

And this wall outside Mission pool and playground on 19th Street. We did pass here on our organised walk last Thursday as well.

Hans liked this mural a lot. It is in an alleyway between 21st and 22nd Street. Very well done.

But unfortunately, quite a few of the murals were actually very ordinary. Perhaps Hans needs to see the really good stuff to be impressed. After all, we saw a lot of really excellent murals and street art last year while traveling, particularly in Berlin, Germany.

And this is just weird. They painted over the mural, but only about three quarters of it. Why?

Of course, Mission has some great buildings and this old dericlict theatre is one of them. It just looked fantastic in its sorry state.

Now, Hans just had to do it. Track down and see the house being built for Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook fame. We had heard that he had bought 2 adjacent blocks in Mission for a total of $14M and is now building something enormous there.

This is the amalgamated site on 3452 21st Street. A minor army of workers drilling and sledgehammering and building and looking very busy indeed. The house was well covered up as he / they probably don't want nosy punters like Hans around to ogle.

The construction site from another angle...

And with the next door neighbours house in the foreground.

Now, is the sign with "psychopath" and arrow pointing to the right, towards Mr Zuckerberg's house, a bit of Halloween fun or is there another message there?

Back in the real world down on 22nd And Guerrero Street, this lovely building caught Hans' eye for what is offered there. This guy is a "Cut Rate Druggist" according to the signage. Really?

The mural map also listed this adjacent place as a place for food and drink and fun, Radio Habana Social Club. It also looked brilliantly rundown and interesting, but it was closed when Hans was there. Too early?

Underneath the dark awning is Revolution Cafe...

...where Hans just had to stop for a coffee as he passed by it.

Great karma, a black dude playing piano very well, the guy with the white hat making sketches and just a very bohemian atmosphere.

Hans ordered a strong caffe latte as the lady behind the counter was a kiwi and the coffee wasn't too bad. Great spot.

Time approached 4pm and Hans started to feel all that pounding of the pavement so he wandered off to the BART station at Mission and 24th Street and took the train back to the hostel for a break and blogging. And a couple more of the Ballast Point IPA. Nice...

Hans then had a lazy night and didn't venture out again. Too comfortable.


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