Day Seven – San Fran and Florida

Right, were on day six or seven now, and there have been many things, all true, that have happened over the last week. All of these things have happened whilst we’ve been in America…and I love America.

Today’s gem from Nikki, was as we were on the ferry pulling out of Pier 39 on our way to Alcatraz. As you pull away from the pier, both Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge come into view, but first you’re faced with the bay bridge…a mile long multi tiered bridge that is pretty much in the centre of San Francisco (whereas Golden Gate is a few miles outside). “Is that the Golden Gate Bridge, cuz if it is they’ve painted it a different colour”. No Nikki, it’s not….

It’s flocking freezing on the boat, and the sea is soooo choppy with a strong wind coming in off the ocean into this massive bay. Container ships pass under the Golden Gate, which is even bigger in real life, and make their way to the docks. Whale watching boats make their way into the bay to, well, watch whales, and seals hoot and holler at the boats as they pass. All things you see in the films. What they don’t show you in the films is…..well, we’ll get onto that later.

Alcatraz is an island 12 minutes ride from the Pier, and is in the middle of the bay. It’s an old prison and Indian reservation that’s now a bit of a national treasure. There’s money being made somehow, telling you where Al Capone stayed (even though his records were destroyed and no one actually knows which cell he was in), which room was The Birdman’s cell (even though he had birds in his cell in Levenworth Prison, and not actually on Alcatraz), and that escape from this top security prison was impossible (even though 13 prisoners are still unaccounted for). Even so, 200 visitors every hour make a pilgrimage to this deserted prison, sit in a cell and have their photo taken. Mad. Yes I know. Of course I did it, and enjoyed it. It’s a must! You can’t come all the way to San Fran and not do it, can you…. Oh and before I forget, Nikki bought another sweatshirt to put over the two she bought yesterday, as she was “nippy”.

Now. San Francisco. Mmmmmmm. I’ve only been here for 48 hours, but to be brutally honest, I’m city’d out. I’ve worked out through my walking tracker, that in the last week I’ve walked the same distance as it would be to walk from my house to Manchester and back. Vegas was full of everything, and San Fran is probably suffering in my review because of it. I just want to sit by a pool in Florida, have a beer and relax. You can’t do that here. You can’t do that in Vegas. If you don’t move the crowd will move you and shove you until you move. And they don’t give a shiny shite either. Phone in hand, face down, 100 mph, straight at you. And that’s if you make it to the pavement when you cross the road….cars, busses, trams, bikes, scooters, them trolley things you see in films set in San Fran, and skateboarders.

What I will say in this place is that everything is tolerated and accepted. You can do what you want, when you want, and if you don’t then it’s simply, “That’s ok, just chill man, the sun is out”. (Unless it’s at night of course, then it’s the same but without the sun bit). Beggars will ask you for a dollar, and when you refuse, or kick them (which is legal here) they simply say “hey, no problem, want some of my money?”. And going back to the earlier comment about what you don’t see in the films, you don’t see that the entire population is Chinese. I knew there was a Chinatown, but it’s like there is a San Fran within Chinatown. Every shop assistant, waiter, receptionist, and taxi driver is Chinese. Apparently, that’s the fault of the gold rush. Now, I’ve spent a lot of time in Hong Kong, and have seen some Chinese customs that we wouldn’t necessarily accept as OK, even in Stoke. Clearing your throat and then spitting the contents on the pavement. Not holding doors open for you, and if you return the favour, don’t expect a thank you. You are forbidden to say please, or show any gratitude at all, oh, and you must talk loudly on your phone on public transport, in mandarin, with the speaker on. Their last custom confused me the most….they must root through bins and remove anything that looks plastic or metal, and the person doing this must be at least 100 ( or at least look 100). I’m not against the Chinese- I’ve eaten a lot of their food, I just don’t get it anymore. I’m looking forward to watching the soccer in the morning…..fuck! They’ve got me saying soccer!

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