Monday, April 14, 2008

One sunny day....

This past weekend it has actually been sunny and warm in San Francisco - who would have guessed?! On Saturday and Sunday it hit 30*C/ 86*F, which is apparently some kind of record for this time of year, or maybe just San Francisco in general. Today it's back to the usual freezing cold.

On Sunday we managed to combine days off for the first time in a while, and decided to explore San Francisco a little more. We decided to head off to Baker Beach, just south of the Golden Gate bridge. (Click here to see what people think of this beach on Yelp. Warning: slight "adult themes".) Suffice to say, the north end of Baker Beach is clothing-optional, so naturally we planned to avoid that part of the beach.

So, Google map in hand, we set off. Except our car broke, and kept turning to neutral instead of 3rd gear or above. We only discovered this in earnest when we were trying to drive on the freeway. I had to drive at 25-30 mph in 2nd gear on a stretch of freeway marked at 50! So with a hint of desperation, we turned off at a random exit and found ourselves somewhat lost.

To be clear, we knew we were on 19th Avenue in the Presidio, the main road that heads towards Golden Gate, but not how to get to the beach from there. So, we turned right and started driving. And driving. And driving, until we arrived at something which was a lot of old macrocarpa pines and the hint of rocks and the sea down the hill. And so we arrived at Sutro and the Cliffhouse. But we didn't have the faintest idea where we were at the time.

Brendan ponders - where are we?

Signs on the trail beside us warned to watch out for coyotes. In the middle of a city! The Presidio area is part of Golden Gate National Park, situated on the northeast corner of the city. San Franciscans are remarkably lucky to have so many green spaces in such a small and crowded city - the Presidio is easily twice or three times the size of Golden Gate Park, and just over the bridge the Marin headlands, Muir Woods and beyond are also part of the National Park. All easily accessible and close.

So we wandered down the trail and explored the area. The Cliffhouse restaurant was on the left of us, overlooking the ocean. It has a long and interesting history which I won't go into here. On the hillside, volunteers had planted thousands of (wild) flowers to help restore the area.

Here is the Cliffhouse restaurant and the remains of Sutro Baths. Built by the mayor of the time, Adolph Sutro, the baths were once the pride of San Francisco, and had seven amazing swimming pools! They could be filled using high tide in 1 hour's time! Unfortunately they were destroyed by a fire, like the various incarnations of the Cliffhouse over the years. The one pictured is the third one to exist on the site.

The baths from the other side.

The view down the hillside. Very California-beach-looking. (This is actually a cliff, with sharp black rocks below.)

On the hilltop, there was also an old Army battery, built I think for WWII. It was pretty interesting to walk around.

Brendan decided to walk down onto the ledge below. Here's an overall picture to give some perspective. A foghorn kept blowing at rhythmic intervals.

See, told you it was all sharp black rocks!

Brendan and I explored the gun battery area and Sutro Baths for a bit. The gun battery area was a very wide, large, flat semicircle. Here's Golden Gate Bridge in the background....

(Can you spot where I am compared to the previous photo?)

Finally we decided it was time for lunch, then set off rather misguidedly to find Baker Beach. It appears that half of San Francisco also wanted to be at Baker Beach, so we discovered it somewhat by accident by following all the other cars.

Note the multi-million dollar houses above the beach.

We braved the burning sand over to the water, which was freezing! No-one swims here, even if it wasn't the breeding ground for Great White sharks. It's just too cold.

See the pained expression on my part!


You can see how high the tide gets here - this is low tide. The little dog behind me was earlier being held in the water by the woman, its expression being somewhat, as Brendan put it in LOLCAT-speak (another similar internet joke and explanation - read the excellent explanation), "DO NOT WANT!!!!!!!!!!" It kept trying to run out of the water and the lady kept pulling it back in, poor thing. It must be hard to be a little dog - everything is so much bigger than you!

So, yesterday was a gorgeous day. Today I am cold again.

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