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Day 4 : Tuesday 6th September 2005

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San Francisco

I awoke early at 6am and spent some time catching up on this diary. I then headed down to the Club Intercontinental for a delicious breakfast buffet, before heading out at about 9am.

My initial thought was to catch one of the Powell cable car lines down to Fisherman's Wharf. However even at this early hour, the cable car was packed and no room available (and there was a queue) at the corner of Powell and California. So I decided to walk down instead, seeing as the weather was very nice and it would be mostly downhill.

As I got nearer to it, I noticed Coit Tower and decided to head up Telegraph Hill (no mean feat!) and go up the tower for what are reputed to be some of the best views of San Francisco available. I was glad on getting to the tower that there was a lift, the climb up the hill really is something else! And the views from the top did not disappoint at all. Although unfortunately the top is all glassed in, which caused some reflections on some of the photos I took, due to the early morning sun.

After descending the tower, I headed down the steep steps to the Embarcadero, the long curved boulevard that runs along the waterfront from the Bay Bridge round to Fisherman's Wharf. I had a quick look at the goings-on at Pier 39, which is an area bedecked with shops and restaurants and then stoped and watched the sea lions for 10 mins or so.

After a further walk around Fisherman's Wharf, I bought a 3-day MUNI pass (public transport pass) at the Powell-Mason cable car turnaround. This would allow me to use all the cable cars, buses and trains for the next three days. And with this new pass, I decided to ride the F line back along the Embarcadero to the main Ferry terminal. The F line uses vintage trams gathered from all around the world and I rode on a 1948 Philadelphia tram in original colours apparently!

After a quick look round the Ferry Building and flirting with the idea of taking a trip across the bay, I decided to leave that for another day and concentrate on seeing the financial district and then heading down Market St to the Civic Centre. After a quick but nice lunch of Crepes, I got back on the F line and headed down to the Civic Centre where the City Hall is located.

I must say I was fairly taken aback by the area around the Civic Centre, not very nice at all. Many, many homeless panhandlers hanging around, and an overall threatening and not at all pleasant atmosphere. I took one quick photo of the City Hall, but otherwise kept my camera well hidden. I was very glad to get out of that area as quickly as possible and would warn anyone against going there in future .

Having walked back along Market St, I decided to head back to the hotel for a quick rest and what better way than to take the Powell-Mason cable car up the steep slopes of Nob Hill. Indeed I was one of the last to board at the turnaround on Market and therefore I was able to "ride the boards", one of the great experiences of San Francisco . This involves standing up on the outside of the streetcar and holding on to the pole as the car moves along the street. An exhilarating ride.

After a brief stop back at the hotel, I headed down a couple of blocks to the nearby Cable Car museum, which gives a fascinating look at how the streetcar system works. Very simply, there are cables running under the streets of the city and the cable cars have a grip under them, which grips the cable which then pulls the cable car along (the cable car has no power of its own, except a small battery for lighting etc.). The cables are all driven from the Cable Car museum by four huge engines (for the four lines). All fascinating stuff!

After that, I headed back to the hotel for a rest. I headed back to the Club for drinks and snacks, initially with the intention of heading out afterwards, but I didn't really feel that hungry after the snacks and just spent the rest of the evening reading and surfing the internet in my room.

Saints Peter and Paul Church (Washington Square)

Coit Tower and Telegraph Hill views

Pier 39

F Line streetcars

Ferry Building

City Hall

Powell-Mason Cable Car and Museum