Got up at the ungodly hour of 3am to catch a 7am flight. I occasionally don't even go to bed before 3am, so the only solution I figured would work was to sample the local tequila to get a buzz going and feel sleepy quickly.
It worked, I got some sleep, and Rouzeh was so kind as to wake me up by calling me from South Africa at 10 minutes to three.
The streets were empty and, for a change, signage was manageable. It seems Hertz honored the 300USD deal they offered me for the rental of the car more than two weeks earlier and, some smooth minutes later, I was the first person to check in for my flight to San Francisco. Indeed, I could have stayed in bed one hour longer.
San Francisco is relatively small, with only some 750.000 inhabitants and the inner city only some 10 square kilometers. Most of the sights are walkable. And it's pretty, with something of an old world feel. But where Mexico City felt decidedly European, I couldn't but help escape the feeling that San Francisco had a South African feeling. Several of the neighborhoods, with the city only being some 160 years old, are quite similar to neighborhoods in Cape Town, both with something of a faux old English set up.
Also, where in Cape Town retail employees are predominantly colored, here they seem to be predominantly immigrant, Asian and Hispanic. Then, also because streets in this tourist season are seriously overrun with tourists, it actually adds to the feeling of being in South Africa.
The one tourist attraction which disappointed on my first day in town was The Coit Tower. Built on Telegraph hill, from where incoming ships were contacted and identified, and financed by a rather eccentric lady, the views from the tower are nice, but the line with tourists was long and slow, both to get up and to get down.
With a bit of running around, I also managed to get a ticket for a tour to Alcatraz, three days later. If I would have wanted two tickets, I would have had to wait an extra three days.
Indeed, visiting Alcatraz is a popular pastime.
The only building in San Francisco by Frank Lloyd Wright (and he has designed a lot) of the New York Guggenheim, is the V. C. Morris Gift Shop, where nice but, to my eyes not unique, Asian art sells for up to 100.000 dollars.
In the Metreon, a Sony sponsored mall pushing Sony products and decently priced food, I found a large gaming hall with several DDR machines (yessss). Two guys dressed up as Star Wars jedis where playing a Star Wars video game. Clone Wars is premiering today.
I had planned on visiting a real Apple store while in The City and, after the Metreon, I accidentally bumped into a huge one. I drooled and zombied around, before the store closed at 9pm. A 32GB iPod touch at 500 dollars? That's not even 350 euros!
Meanwhile, memory card readers, which sell for around 2 euros in Thailand, change hands in Chinatown for 20 to 30 dollars.
The hostel, one of the Hosteling International family, is crowded. I managed to get three nights, but the ten days following are completely booked, as are several of the other hostels in the area.
Debating whether I should head out to LA on a long bus or car ride, I decided to stay in this city overly crowded with tourists. Though the city is very nice, I can't really enjoy the tourists too much, but two 10 hour bus rides also don't appeal to me. I managed to get a proper hotel room, though with shared facilities, at around 45 euros per night. As compared to the HI dorm room price of 36 dollars per night (32 for the bed and 4 for a locker), around 24 euros total. A slightly cheaper hotel was available, but at the airport. The hotel I booked, like the hostel, is smack in the middle of town.
At the hostel, internet access is free, however. In the lounge, on a Friday evening, some 25 tourists, surprisingly most of east Asian origin, type happily and silently away on their own laptops. So much for meeting new people.
On my second night, several of thee east Asians had brought in some food. Every single one of them was eating with his mouth open, making disgusting noises as they were chomping down their food.