USA 2015: San Francisco

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Everyone has always told me that I would LOVE San Francisco. However, upon arriving into Oakland Airport I wasn’t so sure that this city would live up to the high expectations set by those who had raved to me about this place. While waiting for a cab at the airport a cold chill found it’s way deep down to my bones. This came as quite a shock after spending the past week on the hot sands of Waikiki beach.

After arriving at our Hotel we ventured out into the darkness of downtown San Francisco to find a late night snack. Outside the streets were lined with people sleeping next to trolleys filled with everything they owned. Now usually I’m not intimidated by the homeless and will always do everything I can to help them out. However, the homeless in San Fran are a different breed, this is probably due to the saturated homeless market and the aggression required to get the spare change over the other thousand people sleeping on the streets. Whilst waiting in line in subway I was asked for spare change twice. This seemed to be no surprise to the sandwich artist behind the counter who just ignored the fact there was a hysterical, toothless women with her head in the soda fountain. The three of us could do nothing but laugh nervously as we made our hasty escape, risking a hefty fine by jay walking across the street back to the safety of our hotel.

I drew the curtains the next morning to see a completely different San Franciso. Fashionable yuppies with heavy feet stormed the pavements with mobile phones firmly stuck to their ears. All probably off to their glamorous jobs in the head office of some huge online cooperation armed with an over sized American, Venti, Cappuccino (which has nothing on the standard of New Zealand coffee). Although there was a chill in the air the sun was out which made for perfect weather to visit the cities most popular attraction, Alcatraz. I knew very little about this famous prison but on the ferry ride out to ‘The Rock’ could see exactly why people from all over the world had travelled to visit. Situated just miles from the coast of San Francisco, the prison island provided an incredible view of the cities skyline. This sight of the cities beautiful buildings took a while to take in which must have been a painful reminder of freedom for the prisoners who had been bad enough to end up in this place. The Audio tour gave a lot of information, almost too much to take in over its one-hour duration. What I learnt is that like every other prison in the world, Alcatraz was a place that you would not like to end up in…
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Before arriving to San Fran one thing I was desperate to see was the iconic Golden Gate Bridge. So four of us brave Kiwi’s on tour decided to hire bikes to cycle our way through the city streets and out to the mighty red bridge. Surprisingly cycling on the other side of the road was not as tough as I had imagined. Unsurprisingly the hills were steep and proved to be a bit of a challenge for my rather unfit self. As we drew closer and closer to the entrance of the Golden Gate, she become enormous and many stops were made (probably due to my lack of fitness) to take in her sheer beauty. The theme song from the 90’s sitcom ‘Fullhouse’ was on repeat in my head as I made my way between the huge red pillars of the beast, so huge in fact that at least one more break was needed before I could make it all the way to the other side. Riding over the bridge was great, but the real surprise of the day came when we found what was at the other side. Sausalito the small, wealthy, beach town was a real pot of gold at the end of a tiring day. The streets were filled with quaint delis and soccer mums with oversized sunglasses (oversized seems to be a trend here in the USA).
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After just three days in the city I already felt much more comfortable strolling past the beggars who only seemed to only come out at night time. I actually felt like I could be a local as I reached into my wallet to hand a homeless gentlemen a dollar bill on my last night in the city. However, I rethought that relocation to San Fran idea when I saw the size of the knife he was holding as he reached out the snatch the dollar bill from my hand.

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