Good afternoon, San Francisco

Locals call it "the foggy city", and after being here a fortnight I understand why. The clouds sometimes linger until mid-morning, lazily making their way across the skies as the experienced locals finish brunch (we now understand why early breakfasts are a rarity here too), and roll back in late afternoon, making those jumpers I seemingly crazily put in the buggy earlier suddenly a very good idea. Now there are some days when the blue skies permeate all day (and those are truly glorious), but generally we've learned not to take too many photos in the mornings as we almost always end up retaking the same shots in the afternoons! Here are a few from our first week walking about the interesting (and often VERY hilly!) streets - interesting because of the architecture, but also the juxtaposition of stylish houses next to concrete apartment blocks next to pretty churches.

san-francisco

san-francisco

san-francisco

golden-gate-bridge


san-francisco

san-francisco


On one particularly cloudy day we took a walk into the city centre and financial district and took just a few photos there. Poor Grace Cathedral doesn't look her best on a cloudy day but after pushing the double buggy (the best part of 50kg) up three very steep blocks we weren't about to return in a hurry just to snap her in the sunshine!

san-francisco

san-francisco

The cloudy morning start to San Francisco wasn't just meteorological; for me it was metaphorical too. Let me explain: very early on in our stay here we had to visit the rental car offices, and I decided to leave Mr H to sort the car out while I took the opportunity to walk a couple of blocks to where the internet told me the nearest US post office could be found. Now, rental car premises are not usually in a city's most salubrious area, and before I knew it I was smack bang in the middle of Homeless Street, with several unfortunates milling around the street corners while I nervously stood with the buggy (I thought the kiddies would like the walk), quietly willing the green man to appear. I checked the map on my phone apprehensively, flitting between wondering if taking out a smartphone was perhaps the worst idea ever (after attempting to find the elusive post office), or if my attitude was where the real problem lay, and these people were just semi-quietly minding their own business, and who was I to project stereotypes on to them and assume they might do us any harm? But then I looked down at my two charges, and decided that being over-cautious and morally divided was better than self-righteous and potentially one smartphone lighter (at best), and I quickly calculated a compromise: I continued the way I was going, but I crossed the street unnecessarily (I even jaywalked, I'll admit) and walked amidst some construction workers until I got to the next block, which with its big busy hotel lobbies was much less intimidating. Eventually I found the "post office": an old, closed, FedEx shop. I scuttled back to the rental offices errand incomplete, nerves on edge, and with an inner fury about social imbalance in the world.

So that was my own personal San Franciscan cloud. I know that every city has its dodgy areas and I usually simply avoid them, so I tried hard to put it into perspective - one negative experience that will pale into insignificance over time. Nothing even happened! I guess I didn't really appreciate until that day quite how long it can take the emotions to dissipate when we find ourselves intimidated, even slightly.

Anyway, I'm pleased to say it's been the only metaphorical cloud so far (and even the physical ones are lessening day by day - Mr H reckons I do the city a discredit by mentioning them so much). Having sorted out a lot of important life admin - some US sim cards, the best way to take out US dollars, where the closest banana shop is and which park has the best slide - we thought it was high time we were did some proper touristy things. First stop: the fabulous San Francisco Zoo!

san-francisco-zoo

san-francisco-zoo

san-francisco-zoo

Okay, so the elephants weren't exactly real, but at $20 per adult (little kids are free) and the ability to get great views up close to some really majestic animals, not to mention a miniature train in the zoo grounds too, this really is a super place to visit.

Next stop, we visited Pier 39 and saw the scores of sea lions, as well as had a ride on the carousel and generally tried to prevent two toddlers from running into tourists. Now you'll understand why I have no photos of this day!

Then came a trip to the very famous Berkeley campus. I even got on board with the school colours and got some bright sunnies from the campus shop (if you look closely you might just be able to spot the change part-way through the photos):

berkeley

berkeley

berkeley

berkeley


berkeley

berkeley

Amazingly, we were able to walk right on to the sports field (I think it must have been my sunnies and Mr H's cap that made us look the part) where the boys played catch, little Miss battered a punchbag and I took photos:

berkeley

berkeley

berkeley

berkeley


And so from a cloudy start, rest assured I am now seeing San Francisco in its full Californian sunshine.

Coming up... we get out into nature again with a hike and a trip to the beach (or two).



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Cheerio, Chicago