Our last day before the enjoyment of a 12 hour flight home…
We decided after the excesses of popular culture yesterday that we’d try something a little more cerebral. So, we set out on the big bus to the de Young art gallery and walked in the doors. There we were verbally accosted from numerous angles. ‘Closed on Mondays’. So much for our cultural diet.
Instead we wandered in the park for a while. It’s early spring so there are plenty of flowers around, particularly rhododendrons and magnolias.
We found ourselves in the National AIDS Memorial glade. San Francisco was the city that first started to notice symptoms in gay men, which eventually was identified as HIV/AIDS. I remember reading a fascinating account of the discovery by Dominique Lapierre many years ago.
The garden is a quiet leafy glade with sitting areas and rocks with memorials carved into them. There’s a stream through the middle and the occasional arum lily.
As the art gallery was closed we went to visit the Palace of Fine Arts, or at least it’s amazing building (it is Monday!). It was built for an exhibition in 1915 and wasn’t intended to survive. It nearly didn’t and has been restored and rebuilt numerous times over the last century.
It is a beautiful setting and is the San Franciscan favourite wedding-photo-spot. We admired it’s splendour and watched some of the creatures living in the lake. Turtles and herons.
Back in the city we had one last attempt at art. The Contemporary Jewish Museum does allow you in on a Monday! The building is a former power station with huge modern additions.
We weren’t quite sure what to expect but it was predominantly a modern art display, plus an exhibition of early Jewish tattoo artists.
I’m not sure I understood the art much more than the Madame Tussaud’s displays although there was a key message about diversity, which is poignant after the Christchurch shootings.
What I did enjoy was wandering the streets, admiring the architecture and just watching the world go by.
Our last stop was Union Square, just by our hotel. We had some time watching people, listening to the trams rattle by and soaking up the last of the holiday sun.
Tony Bennett painted one of the hearts around here and he has a statue up on the top of Nob Hill. It’s a pretty impressive view from up there.
We’ve had an entertaining few days here and memorable nights. The first night, after a 12 hour flight I fell asleep early. Four hours later I didn’t hear the fire alarm or anything else until some insistent banging on the door.
We had to race down the stairs, thankfully not the fire escape ladder from the window.
Outside were two huge fire trucks with their crews coming and going into the building. It wasn’t really clear what was going on, but they gave us the all-clear about half an hour later…
There’d reportedly been a fire in a headboard on the 7th floor. Our floor. Getting back to sleep wasn’t that easy…
Subsequent nights haven’t been quite that exciting thankfully.
The next night a saxophonist set himself up on the corner of the street below us playing his four bits of tunes. He performed multiple renditions of Careless Whisper, often sliding into it from his other tunes. I’m not sure he played any complete tunes.
I joked that at least he wasn’t a drummer.
When he’d finished playing at around midnight, guess what happened? Yup, an hour or so of a guy drumming on plastic buckets… I was tempted to go down and kick one.
Each night since has just been the sax. Union Square must be his practice room. I wish he’d start before 11 or 12pm and knew a few more songs…
Overall San Francisco strikes me as a pleasant and genteel city with wide streets, parks and lots of well-kept painted houses. It does appear to have it’s fair share of homeless people (as you see everywhere these days) and a significant number clearly hallucinating or living in an alternative universe. However, it does generally feel pretty safe to walk around. People are also really friendly and helpful, often stopping to give directions if you look a bit lost. One helpful guy gave us a souvenir golf ball before he headed off to get his plane…
Even after 5 days of tripping around I feel that there’s much more to see and do. Apparently you could eat 3 meals a day out and still not go to the same place twice for over 3 years…
We tried a few places. The distinctive American diner appears to have made a huge comeback. We had a few coffees and meals feeling like we were extras in Happy Days or Grease.
Now though it’s back to Swansea and real life can resume…including work!!
It’s been a varied and entertaining 6 weeks… Now it may be time to plan another adventure!