San Francisco, California, U.S.A.

26 03 2011

24th March 2011


After experiencing some very rough seas, we came into San Francisco Bay early on 24th March.  The storm was so severe that the airport was closed for a time that morning.  It was also 52 degrees F   – a bit of a shock!            Pool 2

In 1769 Don Gaspar de Portola searching for Monterey arrived at the tip of the peninsular were San Francisco now stands and in 1776 a Christian Mission was established. In 1806 the Russians tried unsuccessfully to claim the territory and in 1846 the US declared war on Mexico; two years later the area was claimed for the US by Captain. Montgomery of the US Navy.

Today the city is home to 750,000, but over 6 million live in the surrounding metropolitan area. 

We set off prepared for the bad weather, passing through China Town on the way to our first stop, the Cable Car Museum, passing city workers losing battles with their umbrellas.  Finding that the museum did not open until 10 am, we continued walking and exploring in the rain, passed the fine buildings in Nob Hill; and came to Grace Cathedral, built in the 19th century, with wonderful pane-glass windows. filling every side of this magnificent building.  A lot of the hilly streets are still occupied by attractive wooden buildings built in the 19th century, and now highly treasured and cared for.  We managed get a feel of this attractive city. 

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Back at the Cable Car Museum we discovered that the cable cars use an endless cable hidden in a slot below the surface of the street. A central power plant ensures this cable moves at a constant  nine and a half miles per hour, the car movement being determined by the Gripman applying or releasing grip to the cable. The inventor of the cable car was Andrew Hallidie,who came from England in 1852,operating his first car in 1873. Prior to this date the uphill transport was the horse. Problems here were lack of grip on wet days, health hazards (urine and droppings),cost of maintaining the horses and their short life expectancy of just four years. Hallidie himself witnessed a horse drawn streetcar sliding back on a steep gradient,dragging the fallen horses to their deaths. 

Back outside in the rain we watched as the conductor and gripman worked together controlling their vehicle; at times they would alight and actually push it round the corner.  Going down hill the gripman would  work very hard on his grip mechanism.  The job appears to be highly skilled .

During the mid 19th century gold was discovered, with the increase in population came crime and the Vigilance Committee. Below is a notice displayed in the museum

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Following our visit to this lovely little museum we unfortunately had to wait for 15 minutes in the torrential rain for our ride in the cable car to Fishermens Wharf.  This is still used by the fishing fleet and is full of stalls selling seafood.  It was also very commercialised but not very busy on this wet day.  Our next “port of call” was Pier 39 a wooden built complex home to  a  marina, restaurants, shops and with apparently spectacular views of Alcatraz, the Golden Gate Bridge and the Bay Bridge – not this day!

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Returning to Aurora at Pier 35 we had a change of clothes, grabbed a bite to eat and then joined the P&O tour to the Sequoia Woods a few miles outside the city.  Before the boom years and the building of thousands of wooden houses, Sequoia trees covered the area, but this little valley was saved as it was too difficult to fell and remove the trees.  The coach took us on a little tour of the city before we made our way over the Golden Gate Bridge through attractive hilly countryside and little towns to Muir Woods.  Again as it was still tipping it down we could not take photos.

At the woods we had about an hour to explore this beautiful area.  The woods were quite empty and therefore quite magical and we managed to cover the main routes identified on the map  In 1905 John Muir a Scottish naturalist and explorer realised the importance of this wonderful area and the need to protect it against the then new logging techniques.  So with the co-operation of President Roosevelt the woods became a National Monument and later part of the National Parks of the States.   The woods are one of the last areas of old growth redwood forest on Earth.  The sequoia (redwoods)  thrive in the fog washed coastal area valley which is drained by a nearby creek.   The trees are up to 252 feet tall, 14 feet across and up to 3,000 years old.  On display was the trunk of a fallen tree with major world events marked, shame the picture is not good enough to show you!!

The third picture below is called the cathedral, from the roots of a fallen tree hundreds of years ago, new trees grew in a circle round the fallen trunk.

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To complete the tour we then drove to the seaside town of Sausalito, once a fishing village, but now full of art galleries, smart shops and waterside bars and restaurants overlooking the bay to San Francisco.  However, it was largely deserted, but Chris did manage to find one or two purchases!  Would have been delightful on a sunny day!

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Returning to the boat, Sailaway was at 6pm, the rain stopped and the skies cleared although it was still cold.  It was very exciting watching Aurora just managing to get under the famous bridge.

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We are now looking forward to going south for a couple of days towards Acapulco and warmer weather



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