After spending so many nights sleeping in the car, we treated ourselves to a night at an actual hotel. Sophie was still feeling very tender from the accident and needed some rest, so she didn’t get out much that first day.

My first impression of San Francisco was not a great one. I was sent on a mission to get our now very smelly laundry done. That took me into what must have been a very dodgy area of the city, as there seemed to be bums and hobos everywhere! These are not your third world type homeless people who sit on the street meekly shaking a tin of coins at you. These were the first world, mad/druggie, big, standing types, who stare at you with crazy eyes, randomly shouting incoherent sentences at you. In most cities you can at least walk across to the other side of the road, but here there was no good side of the road, there where a few on every corner. Never have I felt so uneasy in a city. However, I tried to look as tough and menacing as I could and managed to successfully complete my mission. We did not return to that particular area.

The next day Soph was feeling a bit better and we were able to get out and about, visiting some more touristy areas of the city. Our walk took us through Chinatown, which had endless shops filled with all kinds of interesting Chinese baubles. Even better were all the dodgy Chinese restaurants, my favourite type. We then took a very short ride on a San Fran Cable car. It was short because the conductor was nice enough to warn us that the fare was 5 bucks each and we’d only be travelling a couple of blocks, “you could get lunch with that!”.

That took us to Fishermans Wharf, a place bustling with busy stalls selling fresh seafood that made us wish we hadn’t stuffed ourselves with Chinese steam buns. Nonetheless, we managed to stuff down a sourdough bowl full of clam chowder, the local specialty. It was yum. Nearby was an arcade full of hundreds of ancient coin operated games and things that was really interesting.

That night we got another rental car and set off to see the Big Sur, which I’ve covered in a different post. When we returned, we had half a day with the car to explore a bit more. We arrived back in the early morning and set up our camping stove on a bench in the middle of the Golden Gate park, a vast rectangle of the city. We were amongst trees and by a big dam with ducks and swans, you just wouldn’t know you’re in a huge city. However, we got a couple of odd looks from joggers as we cooked up our morning porridge.

The rest of our time took us round the edge of the city along the coast where there are more nice parks including views of the famous Golden Gate Bridge and some seriously fancy neighbourhoods. We ended up in Castro, where we were meeting a couch surfer to pick up some film that I’d had developed. Castro is possibly the most gay suburb in the world, with rainbow banners on every streetlamp. Of course it had some nice cafes and restaurants.

From there it was a stressful drive to the airport to return our car in time. Of course the last moment we were diverted onto the wrong offramp and had to spend 20 minutes getting back to the airport but we managed to get there in the end. I got another great American farewell when the computer flagged my passport again, getting a personal escort through security after which I got a full luggage search and a good frisking. Bye bye America. Next stop Auckland.