We've just this minute got back from San Francisco. I loved it, and so did Brendan. We could definitely live there. It's very glamorous. I can imagine being a San Francisco girl - living on one of the hills in a tiny turn of the century apartment, wearing very high wedge heels and a tiny skirt and walking my tiny glamorous dog. I guess it's a city made for small, elegant people.
I loved pretty much everything about it. The teeny, tiny boxy apartment houses, clustered so tightly, each one with ornate security gate and windows and other decorations. (An architecture student's wet dream.) The incredible views from most hills we drove up or down. The funny little cable cars - so old and clunky - decorated with Victorian advertisements for chocolate (1800's) and filled with tourists clinging on tightly and swinging from the back as they ground up steep hills. The bustle of Chinese New Year in Chinatown, with constant firecrackers - the first day of the New Year. (There are 15 days.) The sense of overwhelming scale as we drove in on the freeway/ motorway - I felt like there was too much to take in at once. How the shops in the financial district sold clothes which screamed, "Bankers!" The clothing... mmm.
Yes, I would love to live in San Francisco. I just don't know if we could afford the rents. US$1.25million for a studio apartment! It reminded us heaps of wellington - a dirtier, bigger, more vibrant Wellington.
One of the first things we saw when we arrived on Mission Street was a homeless man walking through the centre of the waiting cars on the street with a sign - "please give money for coffee". I thought you only found that in Wellington....
We also drove down Lombard Street - the world's (or is it just the US?) most crooked street. It was full of tourists taking pictures, and cars waiting all along a steep hill to drive down. A cable car stopped at the top so the tourists crammed into it (most barely hanging on with one hand) could use the other hand to take pictures. Driving down Lombard was quite odd - I felt as if we were a toy car being pushed back and forth by a toddler.
Our friend's mum drove us, which was great. Our friend lives with Stefan - she told us he wears special toe socks with one big toe shaped into them, so he can wear them with jandals. As much as I think this is a fashion crime and should be outlawed, I am informed by some people in New Zealand that this is considered acceptable. Ew. Reminds me of high school - roman sandals and knee-high socks were de rigeur at my college/high school for so long.
Anyway, our friend bought some bright green fluorescent ones to wear with her jandals/sandals, to tease Stefan with. People stared at her feet a LOT. It was funny to watch. She looked like Shrek. Proving it IS a heinous fashion crime. (You know who you are...)
Before we could grab lunch, we had to park! The joke is that you know you're a true Californian when finding a parking space brings tears to your eyes. This was true. We went around Chinatown for a long time trying to find a park so we could have lunch. Eventually we went to Fisherman's Wharf and parked there instead, and had lunch at Fisherman's. It was very touristy, and the smell of fish filled the air. Crabs sat packed on top of each other in a big glass aquarium next to where we ate, motionlessly awaiting their fates. I felt bad for them.
We wandered around the Piers for a while as well, feeling touristy (and buying socks). We also walked past the wax museum! I need to go! You can see the wax models of Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt right there as you walk past.
Just as the sun was starting to set, we went and drove over the Golden Gate bridge - the sunset was amazing, looking over at the city - it was alight. I felt bad because our friend told a woman standing next to us taking pictures to move so we could have a photo with no-one else in it! The Golden Gate was very impressive, and the area was gorgeous. Alcatraz - the impenetrable fortress - we could have reached out and touched. It must have been so heart-wrenching for people imprisoned there - the city, and freedom, looks so close.
Lastly we wandered around Chinatown and found dinner. Firecrackers went off all the time - kids ran around stamping on little ones. It had a disturbingly high number of strip clubs in that area. Including a place called "Showgirls".
We really need to go back. There are so many things to do, you need to make many trips.