BY TRAIN, PLANE, COACH, BIKE AND CAR
We check in.The hotel is good, clean, comfortable. Four star, maybe five. We get to our room, which is big and comfortable and has everything we need - well, not everything, there is no coffee making facilities and I cannot get onto the internet. I struggle with it for a while - the hotel promised wi-fi - and fail to get anywhere. Cyril is also unable. I call the desk and ask for assistance and within a few minutes a couple from the 'engineering department' turn up. They are a friendly, especially so John, who notices my name as he fiddles with my laptop. "Hey, Gerald, meet Gerald," he says pointing to his partner, a tall good looking black man. I compliment Gerald on the good taste of his parents in picking his name and we all laugh. They spend an hour trying to get us on the the internet and fail. But they point out a pub to us, which they recommend, just across the street from the hotel, and we decide to check it out.
But later, after the 'engineers' have finally given up and left, and we have sorted ourselves out in the room, we decide to have a walk around the area before having a drink. We are in the centre of the city, the Union Square area. It is a warm evening, the area is crowded, it is Saturday, everyone out for a good time. We walk up to the Square. There is a band playing, people standing watching, listening, some dancing to the beat, others clapping, others shouting: "Yeah!" And pointing up to the dark sky.
We drift through the crowds, taking in the enjoyment, the pleasant atmosphere. We end up at the pub that John had pointed out to us from our 10th floor room. 'O'Connell's'? The place has several 'areas' and has a high ceiling, it is noisy, a band is playing somewhere. We squeeze in to a couple of seats at the bar. Almost immediately a barman is saying: "Yes sir, what can I get you?" And two glasses of lager arrive within seconds.
But it's been a long day...
SUNDAY 13TH SEPTEMBER 2015
Another warm and pleasant morning. Breakfast at the hotel is too expensive, we decide, and leave the hotel looking for somewhere more reasonable. We find just the place. "Best breakfast in San Francisco" it proclaims, and we walk in. It probably is the the best breakfast in the city, certainly must be the best value, the portions so large. No wonder the Americans are overweight.
After breakfast we decide to walk to the Pier 39 area and hire bikes, they seem to have a 'Boris Bike' system here.
It's a long walk, up Nob Hill, each block getting steeper, and tougher; it seems to be getting warmer with each aching stride. I make more and more stops to catch my breath, Cyril, I am thankful and selfish enough to see, is almost the same. We reach the top and rest for a while, then start the descent. The strides downwards almost as painful as those upwards. The sun is out, it is getting warmer. We watch the Cable Cars pass us, tourists hanging on to the outside, waving, enjoying. We should have caught one of them.
We pass the 'Cable Car Museum' and go in. It is actually the central workings of the Cable Car's whole system. A fascinating place and certainly worth a visit if you are ever in San Francisco. It is free and you can learn the history of the system: How it was nearly closed down in the eighties (what a shame that would have been!} see old film and photographs. See and learn about how the cars are pulled up and down the hills, how the breaking system works, and how they are able manoeuvre around corners.
An hour is spent at the museum before we continue our walk down to the Pier 39 area. This is, without doubt, the tourist area of the city. It is also where you catch various ferries to cross the bay and to Alcatraz.
After walking around the Pier 39 area, which is too touristy for me, and expensive, and finding the 'Boris Bike' system is too complicated to get into, we hire a couple of bikes from a commercial outlet and ride along the pathway that runs by the side of the bay. It leads us to the foot of the Golden Gate Bridge, but, like last time we were here, the bridge is shrouded in fog and can hardly be seen. It was a pleasant ride though, except the temperature dropped considerably as we rode closer to the bridge and the fog.
Back at the Pier 39 area the queues for the cable car to Union Square were long and the cars seemed infrequent, and as both of us were feeling tired, we hailed a taxi.
After a rest back at the hotel we are out again and jump on to a Cable Car, just for the ride, really, and take a brief walk around China Town, one of the largest Chinese communities in the States, I believe. And then we return to 'O'connell's Bar' near to the hotel for a couple of beers.
If anything, the place is more crowded than it was last night and we have difficulty getting seats at the bar, but we manage it and get talking to a couple sitting next to us. They are having a very animated conversation but after a couple of minutes the girl picks up a packet of cigarettes she has on the bar and says to me, "Save my seat will you? I'll be back. Talk to John here, he's a brilliant conversationalist."
The man, round faced, in his late fifties I guess, smiles and asks where we're from. "England." I tell him.
"Really?" He says. "What part?" I tell him.
"I lived in Italy for three years." He tells me. And then: "Who is your favourite English author?"
A few names spin through my head and I say, "Graham Greene." He looks slightly puzzled and I wonder if he knows him, but then he says, "Ah, yes. He's good."
We continue talking. Cyril joins in. The girl comes back after having her cigarette, the smell of nicotine clinging to her. She is attractive, 30 years old she tells us, very lively, exuberant, talkative. "I'm a lesbian," she suddenly informs us. I wonder if she is hooked on anything other than cigarettes. But she is very friendly, is in San Francisco with some kind of show, I couldn't work out exactly what, the pub is so noisy and good conversation is difficult, something to do with software, she explains. She comes from one of the eastern States, can't remember which. She bounces off again, this time to dance in front of the band at the other end of the pub.
John smiles at me with a "Can you believe her?' look. "She enjoys life!" I laugh. He agrees and we start talking again. "I live with my mother." He tells me and I'm beginning to wonder if he too has a different sexual preference to the norm. This idea is soon scotched though, when he tells me he has been married twice. "You're are not good at relationships?" I suggest.
He smiles, sadly. "Maybe not." he says.
It's been another long day, my feet and legs are aching, too much walking, too much enjoying.