Our time in San Francisco did not really go as planned. We were pretty excited to be there, Ali had never been, but I'd had a good visit previously and it's an Iconic city, what could go wrong?
Well, our unbelievably expensive hotel was a spruced up dump, our area rough around the edges (just south of Market Street), the whole city stank of urine and faeces caused by the huge number of homeless, but the nail in the coffin was our afternoon stroll through the Tenderloin area (just North of Market Street) which felt like walking through an episode of The Wire.
In the morning we set out down market street, we'd read a blog suggesting a lunch itinerary so we thought we'd follow it and see. South of Market is a bit rough, but appears to be a really up and coming area, we walked past some big name internet company offices and associated evidence of gentrification. Even so we started noticing that by european standards there were a LOT of homeless people around, and that any side street smelt of an open sewer.
As we wandered down towards the old ferry terminal we passed some pretty cool architecture...
...we then picked up lunch at the old ferry terminal indoor market (photo below) which was great.
The blog suggested sitting outside looking at the boats arrive. We looked around but unfortunately every bench was taken up by homeless people. We looked on the map for a nearby park, then the next park, then the next park, until after about an hour we got to a park where the homeless had not entirely taken over.
I read a line somewhere; the homeless are not the problem, they are the result of the problems.
I agree, and by that calculation the financial crash in 2008 caused a BIG problem in the US. With little safety net to support them, the unlucky have ended up on the streets. San Francisco is a very laissez faire city, with a generally mild climate so is an obvious destination. We also heard of other cities in the US giving their homeless population one way tickets to SF.
Either way, they are everywhere and the city is filthy.
After lunch we walked up one of the many hills up to Chinatown...
...and up to the top of the hill where there was a nice playground for the kids.
Soon after this photo was taken, things went decidedly weird. Looking at the map, if we headed due South we would hit our hotel, we headed off, not knowing our route would take us through Tenderloin probably the roughest neighbourhood in SF.
We walked along, and things started looking less and less pleasant. Thinking back I have a series of snapshots ....people lying prone on the floor ... two ladies having a huge slanging match in the middle of the street, stopping only to smile at us as we passed ... Ali handing me her jewellery to hide ... gang of youths on street corners ... man swaying back and forth pissing on a dumpster in the middle of the street before turning around and waving his dick at us ... another man staggering forwards, before crashing to the floor and staying there ... people shouting inane random shit... others babbling to themselves .... It was surreal.
We made it out the other side and decided we'd seen enough, Ali booked us a hotel out of town and the next day we were gone.
The best view of San Francisco we thought (through the rear view mirror)
We made our way up to Muir woods which was much nicer.
Lots of enormous trees.
Also lots of people, some of the trees were noticeably bigger than the ones we saw on Vancouver Island but everything felt a bit too manicured, perhaps due to the much larger numbers of people visiting.
After a night near Muir woods, we spent a night in Sanoma in the heart of the wine country and it was lovely.
The town was an old Spanish mission (it still has the original barracks) with the heart of it built around a park square with shops and restaurants all around. After much indecision we decided to splash out on dinner at the Sonoma Hotel - it was fantastic. Great food (the kids cheese toasty was unbelievable), better wine and we made friends with people on the neighbouring table as well, all in all a perfect evening. Considering we weren't going to stop there until we curtailed our SF stay we were very pleased.
Heading out of Sonoma towards Napa, there were lots of vines
And then more vines
and guns apparently.
We spent the next night in Lodi and did some wine tasting which was really cool.
After Lodi it's up into the mountains we go, heading for Yosemite.