Tales of the Golden Gate

I hate to say it, but I have fallen so behind in my blog that I am now going to have to snapshot a little bit. After leaving Monterey behind, including some excellent memories with some excellent people and a Houdini cat, I had one stop to make before picking up my friend Electra from San Francisco in the afternoon.  Santa Cruz, in particular, the Giant Dipper, a wooden rollercoaster constructed in 1924.  I think over 6 million people have ridden on it since then! 

Santa Cruz is a nice little town, has a lovely pier where you can photograph sea lions, a gorgeous beach where the brave people of Santa Cruz were playing volleyball in bikinis (I was wrapped up in my winter jacket as I am a bloody wuss), and the seaside fair to end all fairs.  There is another reason Santa Cruz is so special, and hold onto your hat film fans  - it’s where the Lost Boys was filmed!  If you haven’t heard of this movie you may be Gen Y, but you should immediately buy/download/rent it.  It starred Keifer Sutherland as the misunderstood teenage vampire leader (now in “24” or, possibly, jail), Corey Haim (died of an overdose recently), Corey Feldman (should be dead the amount of drugs and alcohol he’s consumed), Jami Gertz (more famous for her fabulous breasts in THAT Seinfeld episode), Jason Patric pre-hairloss, an awesomely cool husky, Dianne Weist who is just brilliant in anything, and is about vampires.  It has a rocking soundtrack and is a classic of the ‘80’s generation.  Watch it.

What can I say about the Giant Dipper?!  If you are into rollercoasters IN ANY WAY, and you find yourself passing through Santa Cruz, check it out.  It’s like a nooner quickly snatched in your lunchbreak:  short, fast, exhilarating, kinda over too quick, but it will make you scream and you won’t be able to walk straight for about 10 minutes afterwards and you may require some clothes adjustment after the ride.

Heard of Ibiza? If you’re English there’s a good chance you have, as it’s renowned for its full-on club scene, with every DJ worth his salt setting up residence here during the summer months.  It’s also an incredibly beautiful island, with a lot more natural beauty than the reputation of drunken English clubbers, DJ’s and beaches full of sunburned Brits lets on.  An example of Ibizan natural beauty is my friend Electra.  We met in Brisbane, she worked as a lawyer, I worked in precedents and had to do something to her computer.  Immediately I entered her office, the process of female bonding began.  I can’t describe it, but women reading this will be nodding their heads.  San Francisco is also where I stayed with my friend Peggy, who I met in Singapore in January.  Again, female bonding, with a little more liquor involved!  Peggy is one of those rare people who says:  hey, you are going to be in my neck of the woods, do you want somewhere to stay? – and means it.  The hospitality of her and her flatmates was nothing less than legendary.

I also caught up with my friend Jonathan, who writes for an automobile website, and has the pleasure of flying or driving round the country, and the world, test-driving cars, and visiting auto shows.  We’ve been friends for several years after meeting in Sydney where he worked in the café opposite my house, and we haven’t seen each other since 2003.  He came specifically to San Francisco for a brief but long-overdue reunion, and it was utterly splendiferous to see him.  He’ll be cringing if he reads this.

These are my highlights of San Francisco, apart from catching up with all these beautiful people:

- Fisherman’s Wharf: cheesy and touristy, but you just have to.  Also a great place to sea lion watch if you haven’t seen ‘em someplace else.  Pier 39 has some decent seafood restaurants, there’s a submarine you can visit, and Musée Mécanique, a warehouse full of antique (and decidedly creepy) arcade games.  You could lose yourself for hours in here, and all of the games actually work so bring some quarters.  

- Golden Gate Bridge:  it’s as awe-inspiring in real life as it is in the movies!  You can’t take your eyes off it.  Drive AND walk over it if you can.

- Trolley/tram/cable car ride – the quintessential San Franciscan experience.  Stand on the car, at the front if there is room, for the best photo ops.  The best route to take is Powell-Hyde, which takes you through Chinatown to Union Square.

- Lombard Street – known as the crazy street, this part of Lombard Street has 8 switchbacks on a quarter mile.  If you’ve walked up any of the hills in San Fran you’ll know why.  At the junction of Lombard and Hyde you also get some nice photo ops of the cable car coming up the hill from the waterfront, as well as cars making their way slowly down Lombard Street. 

- George Lucas Studios:  you can walk around the grounds here, breathe in the genius, and it has a Yoda Fountain.  Let me repeat:  there is a YODA FOUNTAIN.  ‘Nuff said.

- The Palace of Fine Arts:  you may be forgiven for thinking you are in some sort of Delphi Temple in ancient Rome or Greece, but the outside of this building is stunning, has a little lake full of ducks and geese outside, and is opposite the Presidio Park which contains George Lucas Studios which contains THE YODA FOUNTAIN. 

- Cliff House:  worth the drive out here along the coast, and go for brunch.  Extensive, reasonably priced menu, great views, and a very pretty drive.  Marvel at the autographed stills on the walls of celebs who have dined there, going back a-ways.

- 49-mile drive: this will take you through most of the places listed above, but beware of being stuck in traffic.  San Franciscan drivers are not forgiving, there are trams, pedestrians, buses and cars coming from every bloody direction and it’s frankly a freakin’ nightmare.  Park up and walk, except to go over the Golden Gate and to Cliff House.

- Look at Lombard Street for cheaper motels and deals, and fairly close to all the tourist attractions.

- Marina/Cow Hollow has some great bars and restaurants, the Matrix Fillmore being the personal favourite of both myself and Electra as a place to shake your booty.

- North Beach – this is a great area to explore at night.  Pop into Saloon to see some good ol’ boys propping up the bar and listen to live music – apparently it’s the oldest bar in SF.

I missed a ton of stuff here – 3 days wasn’t enough!  I didn’t see Alcatraz, I didn’t walk over the Golden Gate, or go to a comedy club.  You can really shape your time in San Fran to cater to your own personality, as there is so much to do. 

Next stop: Northern California, Oregon, Washington and Vancouver!