Thursday, September 13, 2007

Out and About in San Francisco

Hi, sorry for not posting anything for a while but we've been busy. The VMworld conference is in full swing and we're mingling with the 10,000 other attendees to discuss embedded virtualization technologies, server consolidation, and datacenter automation: requests on a postcard please if you would like to hear more about these fascinating topics.

We're staying at The Palace Hotel. Here's where I have breakfast.

We had a free day on Monday before the conference to acclimatise, so Kevin, BP and I thought we'd do some exploring around the city.

The Apple Store: first stop for any self-respecting gadget freaks.

Kevin couldn't resist playing with Photo Booth.

I always said he was a Big Head.

Next on the agenda was to catch the cable car from Union Square to Fisherman's Wharf. San Francisco is famous for its cable cars, which can climb the steep hills by gripping onto an underground cable moving at a constant speed. The driver stands in the middle of the car and accelerates, brakes and stops by dextrous use of two big levers: grip the cable to go, let go to coast, and the other lever to brake.

He's not messing about: he always looks like this.

The car stopped at a crossroads, so I quickly jumped off and took this pic then jumped back on again before it took off again. As you can see, when the seats fill up you have to stand on the side platform and cling on for dear life.

Pic courtesy of Kevin. Less than perfect composition, but when you're hanging out the side of a cable car (see Kev's other arm above my head) it's a case of point, shoot, and hope for the best.

Uh-oh! Another car coming towards us. Breathe in everybody!

One of SF's less pleasant claims to fame is that it has more homeless people per capita than any other U.S. city.

If you look closely you'll see a ginger cat sleeping on top of the pile. There's another one under the blue towel.

You see sights like this on every street.

We alighted at Fisherman's Wharf and walked along the parade of shops leading to the sea front.

We made the mistake of entering Kenny's camera shop. BP only went in for a filter and came out an hour later with a zoom lens (and a filter). Some salesman, Kenny.

Kenny just never gave up. He was very entertaining, telling us about when he lived in South Kensington years ago and maintaining that his photos of London (which he had in a wallet behind the counter) were better than BP's.

BP thought he'd negotiated a really good discount on the lens, but Kenny doesn't look too unhappy as he writes out the receipt.

Time to try out the new lens, so we walked to the end of the pier to get a close-(ish) look at Alcatraz.

The Rock.

The famous prison island has been decommissioned for many years and is now a tourist attraction. I went there the last time I was in SF and took the opportunity to be locked in one of the pitch black Solitary cells, but only for around 30 seconds. Not sure I could have handled a longer stretch.

A line of Pelicans flying across the bay.

We walked all up and down the various piers, and after Alcatraz we walked right down to Pier 39 almost a mile away to see the Sea Lions sunbathing.

I wish I'd taken a video here so you could hear the deafening noise of 200 Sea Lions all making Sea Lion noises at once.

After all that walking we needed some sustenance and a nice sit down so we had lunch at the Hard Rock Cafe at Pier 39. Then we hopped on a tram to travel across the city from the North end to Castro in the South West. Another SF claim to fame is its large LGBT population (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender), and as it turned out Castro is Gay Central. We kind of knew this in advance but didn't know what to expect.

Hmm.. I wonder where he's headed?

When we got there it was like we'd wandered onto the set of the Village People's latest pop video. I think the only one we didn't spot was the Red Indian.


We marched briskly and manfully past the gay book shops and erotic art boutiques on our way to our next stop: Haight Ashbury. Haight, according to my handy guide book complete with pop-out maps, compass, and built in pen with light, is the Mecca for hippies old and new. I knew from the pop-out map that Haight was a few blocks North of Castro, so I led the way with Kevin and BP following on. Kevin had his Bluetooth GPS receiver linked to Google Maps on his Blackberry (geek) and BP likes to follow his instincts, a system we like to call BPS. What could go wrong in such company?

We'd walked from the horizon to where I shot this picture before realising that we were actually going South, and had actually sweated up steep hills for the last 30 minutes in the wrong direction. Don't ever ask us for directions.

Having been given our correct bearings by a helpful local we waited, panting at a bus stop and then rode back the way we had come. After leaving the bus we had another half mile walk to find Haight St. Oh my poor feet!

Haight St. delivered on its promise: a line of decidedly groovy shops selling everything from Grateful Dead T-shirts to hubbly bubbly pipes. It's your one-stop place for outlandish apparel, piercings, and hard drugs.

We wisely decided against going in here.

I did find a really amazing music store. It was an Aladdin's Cave for any guitarist, with electric guitars new and vintage covering every wall. It was a good job I didn't have Elliot with me: I may never have gotten out again.

Jealous, Elliot?

With our throbbing feet refusing to go any further we decided to call it a day and caught the bus back to the hotel. My legs are aching now just thinking about it. Still, at least I got some exercise.

1 comment:

Izzie Mathis said...

Haha Well If Elliot Isn't Jealous (And I'm Sure He Would Be) I Certainly Am!
I Will Catch A Plane And Find That Shop... Right After I Come Over To The UK!