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San Francisco!

So! San Francisco is amazing.

I did not have nearly enough time in San Francisco to appreciate the city proper - I got to see only a small fraction of the things I wanted to see. I'd made the somewhat inconveniently-timed jaunt to the opposite side of the country in order to attend the Game Developer's Conference, and the subsequently astronomical hotel prices meant I really couldn't stay much beyond that. I managed to only really squeeze in one day of proper sightseeing.

One of my first experiences in San Francisco was sitting down in the burger joint just a couple of doors down from the hotel, ravenous because I hadn't eaten for something like twenty hours because of travel and sleep. The food was truly awful in the special way the lower end of American fast food is, all fat and salt and grease, but I didn't care because it was cheap and convenient fuel. Somehow while eating, probably because I just chose the chair closest to the counter, wound up striking up a conversation with the security guard, some fifty-year old ex-military guy, talking travel and then Australian celebrities and then the war of 1812 which he was pretty proud to know a lot about, a bit of poorly-hidden American history perhaps? And got some tips on what the best tourist things to do in San Fran were, because I had some vague idea of 'Golden Gate Bridge' and Silicon Valley and not much else.

Armed with nothing more than these tips and Scott McKenzie's old song running in my head, I headed to the famous cable car. There was a big line of obvious tourists so it seemed like a champion idea.


The line was kind of ridiculous, but the weather was nice and I was getting away with only wearing a light jacket for the first time in what felt like forever so I didn't mind. Had a hilarious cable car driver, he cajoled me into going and hanging on the outside of the cable car - which seems ridiculously dangerous but it's apparently totally okay and I do have to say is the way to catch the cable car if you ever get the opportunity. So thanks awesome cable car driver!

He also let some of the passengers ring the bell at some stops, and we probably went waaaay too fast down the crazy steep section, it was like a rollercoaster! Only I was holding on with one hand like I was on the outside of a bus. Some of the cars were parked a little too close and you had to watch you didn't lose your bag (or grip) to them.


I don't even know what this is (aside from a cool view) but the cable car driver dude told us all to take a picture of it so I did.  Well, he told us to take pictures of a lot of stuff but this was one of the few I managed. My camera had started acting funny at this point and wouldn't always start up without a couple of tries.

San Francisco really is a super beautiful city, though. The rolling hills are a pain as a pedestrian but give the most eye-popping views.


My eventual destination after a most colourful ride on the cable car was the fabled Hyde St Pier!


And there I got my first glimpse... goddamn Mt Fuji syndrome - famous landmark covered in clouds! I mean, seriously. Really? The rest of the sky was a glorious blue!


Stymied by clouds, I decided to walk along the bay shore near the Marina. It was a really beautiful walk - San Francisco's architecture is this weird mix of Victorian and modern housing all painted beach resort ice-cream colours.


And winding curving roads following the hills and shore bound to get you hopelessly lost.


Eventually, more or less entirely by accident, I wound up at the Palace of Fine Arts. Apparently a pavilion created for an expo out of plaster but so awesome that once the expo was over they eventually remade it in concrete.

There's something weirdly off-putting about it in some ways, a sort of simulated history that makes it a tiny bit tacky I guess? But it's also very cool with the grand scale of the dome and arches, it really is a beautiful building.


Seemed to be the go-to place for wedding photos, too - I saw two different wedding parties and one set of prom-esque photos going on there just that afternoon. Lots of ducks and swans also!


Walked along the beach for a while in hopes of the clouds clearing up and offering a more impressive view of the Golden Gate Bridge. No joy! Lots of people out enjoying the beach though. (I remained terribly spoiled by Australian beaches so didn't really stop to properly appreciate it).


The road started curving to less interesting places after that so I turned back and eventually wound up at Lombard street - the crookedest street in the world!

Plenty of tourists checking it out too. Kind of neat I guess, looks fun to drive down, but I didn't really see the attraction. Looks like maybe there are flowerbeds when spring hits proper though? That would probably make a lovely sight.

After that I headed down to Fisherman's Wharf and Pier 39 to see the sea lions!


Bunch of sea lions, just chilling. Smelled kind of bad, but sea lions! Wild ones! So cool.


Pier 39 was an awesome area in general, giant tourist trap but wow the food. The clam chowder and all the seafood, so delicious. San Francisco blew a massive hole in my budget, otherwise I might have made the trip to come to Fisherman's Wharf and eat in a different restaurant every night.

Anyhow, I decided that in for a penny, in for a pound, so forked out for one of those tourist boats to do a passby of the Golden Gate in a boat! I was going to defeat those clouds, dammit!


Totally worth it.


It's actually almost impossible to get a good shot of the Golden Gate Bridge in one photo, so all of my best pics were really only one half. But it's a hell of a thing, seeing an iconic landmark in the flesh. Something you've seen destroyed in a hundred movies standing tall.

Made me want to watch Rise of the Planet of the Apes again, of all movies.


Also, Alcatraz. I wish I'd forked out the extra to do one of the tours of it but it was pretty cool even just going around.


Plus you got an even better view of the sea lions out of it!

By this point I had somehow managed to get sunburned, probably because it was the first time in months that any skin at all had been exposed to the air. To add insult to injury the gloriously pleasant weather decided to disappear as the sun sank into the horizon, bringing a miserably chilly wind with it, so I retreated back into town on the cable car again. I'd broken my budget horribly so for dinner it was fruit salad from Walgreens and then a brief walk through some of the department stores near Union Square. One of them had a curving escalator. That was kind of neat.

That's pretty much it for San Francisco after that! GDC started on Monday, and the next five days were booked solid with talks, video games, parties, and meeting up with old industry peeps. I don't think I managed more than four hours of sleep per night. By the time Saturday rolled around I was a wreck. No regrets though, I wish I'd gone years ago.

It was a little odd the first day wandering in and seeing a girl dressed up in Sailor Jupiter cosplay. Wrong type of convention! Didn't see her after that so I assume she went and changed.

I could honestly write pages and pages on GDC but the stuff I found most exciting is boring to most other people and a lot of the social side of it would be a little weird to put on LJ. The cliff's notes version would be that it was very large and very impressive and I spoke to enough different people that my voice was hoarse by the end of each day and I ran into my old boss and wow was that awkward and yeah by the end of it your brain is swimming in new ideas and things you'd learned and people you'd spoken to and you pretty much just collapsed back at your hotel and slept for twelve hours.

Didn't have that luxury, though, since I had a flight out of San Francisco the next day, because hotel prices in San Fran stung something fierce. Somehow, still not entirely sure how, I successfully completed the black ritual to acquire a ticket to the airport from their arcane vending system. It was a hell of a scenic ride itself and just made me sadder that I hadn't somehow negotiated more time in San Francisco.

This was San Francisco's final farewell to me.

2014-03-22 12.54.00

Loved you San Fran, I'm definitely coming back one day!


( 7 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 3rd, 2014 04:51 pm (UTC)
YAY luck improving for the Golden Gate Bridge! A+ shot, tbh. :3

Also SEA LIONS. I didn't think they lived in the wild so close to humans, but apparently I was wrong. :o

And pretty architecture as usual. Makes me wish I'd had the patience for an architecture degree lol. xD
May. 5th, 2014 01:42 am (UTC)
I was surprised about the sea lions too! Pretty neat, I guess it's actually a pretty good set-up for them, and none of their natural predators are likely to come that far into the bay?

Architecture always impressed the heck out of me, because after working in a larger company, it blows my mind that such beautiful or large buildings get made without collapsing in on themselves.
May. 4th, 2014 10:30 pm (UTC)
San Fran! Looks like you managed a lot in just one day of sight seeing. The last time I was there, it was also only for a short while and we did the street car thing and Alcatraz. I would definitely recommend doing that the next time you visit, and try to go at night because some other sections may open up at that time (like the hospital ward).
May. 5th, 2014 01:44 am (UTC)
It was a pretty jam-packed day. I would have liked to check out their Chinatown a bit more though, and Silicon Valley too.

Thanks for the tip! I will definitely do that next time I go back there, sounds awesome.
May. 5th, 2014 04:28 am (UTC)
these photos were gorgeous wow. that windy street looks amazing. thanks as always for letting me visit other places living vicariously though you <3
May. 6th, 2014 11:59 am (UTC)
Thanks! It was difficult to take a bad photo in San Fran.
May. 8th, 2014 03:14 pm (UTC)
ahhahah yeah it seems like that sort of place :D
( 7 comments — Leave a comment )