Thursday, October 23, 2014

Thu 23 Oct - San Francisco, CA

Big walking day today. We had booked ourselves into a "free" walking tour of the Castro and Mission districts of San Francisco from 11am so we decided to walk to the start of that tour, as we were ready for the day by 8am.

Walking phase 1 panned out as follows; we started in the upper right corner, our hostel, and finished at the bottom left, next to the walking tour's meeting place.

It doesn't take long walking southwest on Market Street before the dodgy characters and homeless people appear, so we turned into Mission Street and followed that for a while.
This is from Mission Street looking back towards town. Mission and surrounding streets also got a bit dodgy for a while but then gentrification starts.

One more of those weird and wonderful American business names, Belly Burger. Love it!

Last night at the hostel, we overheard a younger guest talking about San Francisco Chocolate Factory. Then we stumbled onto it on 12th Street off Howard Street. May be more than one of course, but this one did look like a factory.

Pretty amazing mural, first of many amazing murals we got to see today.

We saw the guy in the Smart Car below parking his vehicle in front of the black yank tank.

San Francisco, the new and the old, is very evident here.

Also on 12th Street is this amazing overhang as part of a large old tin warehouse. What on earth would that have been used for?

Looking south on South Van Ness Avenue from underneath the Central Freeway.
The hilltop is called Bernal Heights Park. This street scene is pretty typical of San Francisco.

We then headed uphill looking for Haight street.

Next to San Francisco Mint, there was a dedicated cycleway which made Hans happy. Maybe he can try it out after Di goes back to Australia, when Hans is on his own In San Francisco for a few more days.

This is dedication. This bloke was painting a "keep the sand in the sandbox" message lying face down in Duboce Park.

After heading up the hill to Buena Vista Park, and doing a loop there, we headed down the hill again to Castro Street, around the corner from where the walking tour departs at 11am. Coffee and a sit down was on our mind as the time now was just after 10am.

We stopped at this very gay cafe on Castro Street, called the Cove, and we understood later on from our walking tour that this stretch of Castro Street is where the open gay movement in the U.S. really got started.

Here is Hans inside the cafe, enjoying a coffee and a very delicious home made donut, which was one of their Thursday specials. $1 a bargain.

The place to meet for the walking tour could not be missed. The tour met at the corner of Castro St and Market St, right underneath the huge rainbow flag in Harvey Milk Plaza.

Let's see, where could that be?

It took a while to get going as our group was quite large and our tour leader from SF Wild Tours wanted to meet and greet everyone first and it was a large group.

The 3 hours of walking and hearing of / looking at things turned out as follows:

J.Jo. was the tour leader. A real character who also liked to perform songs thoughout the walking tour.

The one he was singing here was to remind us that the Rainbiw Flag is not just a Gay Pride flag but actually the symbol for all sexual preferences - summed up as LGBTQQIAAP which stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Questioning, Intersex, Asexual, Allies and Pansexual.

Or queer for short...

The Twin Peaks bar in the centre background was the first openly gay bar in the U.S. run by 2 lesbians.

Unlike previous gay bars the lesbians replaced the front walls with big pained windows so that it was obvious that gay people went there. It was also in a highly visible location being the corner of Market and Castro Streets.

Why did the San Francsico attract so many gay people?

Because from the start of its historic in gold rush times, the city grew to 25,000 people of which 300 were women. As a result the city took a fairly lenient view on alternative sexual releases and that attitude prevailed through the years.

The Castro has quite a history and largely dominated by the fight for Gay and Minority Rights led by Harvey Milk.

This old theatre is a famous landmark and still in use - we love that Halloween features 2 movies - 1 with Boris Karloff and 1 with Bella Lugosi. You choose which would be scarier.

A mural picturing Harvey Milk can be seen upstairs where he lived after he moved to San Franciso.

If you don't know who Harvey Milk is, his life was depicted in the film "Milk" featuring Sean Penn. A good movie about an interesting guy.

The camera shop Harvey owned is below the apartment and now a human rights movement office.

Also in the Castro, one guy has taken upon himself to have a doll representing all the different movements and characters, many of them make with big penises and interesting outfits and banners or flags. Just a private collection on public display.

One banner proclaims "nudity is not against the law" but it is. A change just last year limited public nudity when previously it had been ok.

More dolls including Rue Paul and a bearded nun. As you would expect...

We then moved from Castro into the Mission District to Delores Park, a local hang out.

Great view looking back from Delores Park towards downtown San Francisco.

We learned about the huge earthquake of 1906 which rocked San Francisco. A subsequent fire followed burning 80% of the town because all the water mains broke and the fire could not be stopped. Literally all you can see from here is from post 1906.

However that with the water hydrants was not totally true.

The Mission district behind us have much older houses predating 1906. If you look closely there is a gold painted fire hydrant in the bottom left corner.

J.Jo told us that this hydrant was commemorated as it was the only fire hydrant that remained working after the earthquake as the community gathered here and fought back the fire saving everything beyond Delores Park.

Moving down the hill we got into more artistic area of the Mission District with some great murals.

This painting of Delores Park on a Sunday is actually dot-impressionist. Aboriginal? Nah...

This very large mural on the 4 story Women's Centre Building was painted by women for women about 20 years ago. It looks absolutely fantastic up close - the details and colours are impressive.

The front of the same building where the mural continues.

Our walking tour finished up nearby at 2.30pm and we farewelled J.Jo and headed off home.

We realised that 11am is a strange time to start a 3+ hour tour right over lunch. Good thing we had a few bananas, water and peanuts with us.

We took the BART back to Powell St and went for a snack at the same Thai restaurant from yesterday. One serve of chicken satay and one serve of fish cakes were enough to fill a hole before we rested for an hour.

Back out again at 5pm to meet Ben McDonald, Hans' old work buddy for dinner. We had arranged to meet at his office at 5.30pm in the financial district, corner Market and California Streets.

A nice treat as we got to see the view from level 31 in the One California building where he works. Here we are looking out over Oakland Bay Bridge and Embarcadero.

The white roofed building in the foreground used to be, and may very well be, Hyatt Regency Hotel with its revolving restaurant Equinox at the top. That was back in 1997 when Hans was in San Francisco last time and had a birthday dinner there.

After 3 years of "retirement" Hans tried a stand up work desk out for size - good but not good enough to entice him back to work.

Ben then took us to an upmarket Peruvian restaurant in Embarcadero called La Mar for dinner.

Very nice space and a cool trendy feel to it.

We liked the decor and buzz.

The menu encourages sharing dishes so that's what we did. A mix of Cebiche (marinated raw fish), mixed grill, empanadas and a salmon in a fragrant slightly coconut sauce.

All delicious and washed down well with a nice Temperenillo wine. Plenty of chatting (much by Di... No surprises there...), good food and good company the time passed quickly.

After dinner we walked back along Market Street with Ben on the lookout for coffee.

We finally settled for a quick cuppa and more chatting at "The Coffee Bean" before we said goodbye to Ben at the Powell Street BART station as he was heading home to Walnut Creek and we walked back to our hostel.

San Francisco is an interesting town but not terribly photogenic downtown. Still these streetcars looked good in the evening light.

We are not late night party 9pm we were back in our room. It felt like a big day today. Good night.

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