Our first thoughts about going round the world would have had us arriving in San Francisco in January. This would have been a very bad idea. It was cold enough in April! But actually, once we had unpacked our cold weather gear it was not at all bad. The skies were blue and we did not get any fog.
The first thing you notice about the city is that it is extremely hilly. And the hills are big and steep.
And the reaction to all this steepness by the builders is to ignore it. On rare occasions a road will deviate because of the gradient but generally, if the hill gets steep, so does the road. San Franciscans answer to this began, and ended, in the nineteenth century with the cable car.
So for most people it is a matter of walking up the hills or practising their hand-brake starts.
Being new to the city we decided to do a few bus tours so we could work out the layout of the place. The first one was a city tour so the first stop was the Golden Gate Bridge. This joins the peninsula on which the city stands, to affluent Marin County across the opening of San Francisco Bay.
But the city is more than its iconic bridge. The houses of the city are well worth looking at.
The famous ones are the “Five Painted Ladies” of Alamo Square.
But you also find magnificent preserved buildings near the city centre.
A characteristic of San Francisco buildings is an obsession with external fire escapes. This is probably a result of the great fire which followed the 1906 earthquake and because many of the buildings are built of wood.
Obviously many have been added as an afterthought to meet new, stricter, fire regulations, but I have seen new concrete built buildings with external fire escapes. They seem to like them!
Another tour we took was across the Golden Gate to Marin County and the Muir Woods National Monument. This is one of the few places near San Francisco where old growth Coastal Redwoods survive. The others went to build, then rebuild, San Francisco after the earthquake and fire. The trees are huge. They grow along a creek and are in quite a deep valley so their size only becomes apparent when you are within the grove.
The park is very popular and gives a place of quiet close to the city.
They are, of course, named after John Muir who was a driving force in the establishment of the US National Parks system.
The trees are often found in “family groups”. As a tree gets older, young trees sprout from “burrs” round its base. Eventually the parent tree dies and you can see its remains surrounded by a circle of its offspring.
All in all a good place to visit.
There was a lot to see and do in SF and our time there was not enough. It is another place on our list of places to which we will be returning. Soon we hired a car and went off to another place to which we will have to return – Monterey. And that will be the subject of the next post.