28 August 2002

San Francisco Part 2

We arrived at Logan Airport in plenty of time. Given that it was about 35 celcius, I felt it was justified to hire a cab rather than lug suitcases on the T. I did my usual thing and tried to remove all metal from my person and put it in a pocket of my carry-on bag, in a vain attempt to evade the metal detector. Unfortunately, something set off the doorframe detector, and I was given a severe wanding. As mentioned earlier, the security guy even asked me to unbutton my jeans—the buttons at the front set off his metal detector wand, so I think he suspected I might have shoved sharp knives into the front of my underpants. Hey, the terrorists are mad zealots…

The flight was as pleasant as any six hour plane flight can be. They fed us, they remembered that I’d asked for vegetarian food, and there was coffee. So that’s three points for United, zero for American.

We got a shared van ride to the hotel. We were taken on a delightful tour of south San Francisco. It turns out to bear a startling resemblance to Liberty City in Grand Theft Auto 3… in fact, SF in general reminded me of Liberty City, right down to the hilly Italian district, the maze of tunnels and bridges, the subway, and the look of Chinatown. Our hotel even had dubious looking clubs nearby offering “adult” entertainment. (San Francisco Tourist Office may use the above endorsements in advertising.)

Yes, as you can guess, some corners had been cut in the hotel department. We were at a Holiday Inn on the edge of the theater district, which is one of the seedier parts of town. Also, I’m told, one closest to some of the best restaurants. If the bums had been aggressive, like their East coast counterparts, it would have been unpleasant. Fortunately San Francisco’s homeless seem to be a mellow Californian type, and pretty much leave you alone. Anyway, point is, it was the only place near all forms of public transit and less than $100 a night, so I wasn’t complaining.

Public transit in SF is pretty good. There are abundant buses, which run until 01:30 or so, followed by “night owl” services. There are also trams, which are mostly authentic old streetcars that have been repaired and put into service as a tourist attraction as well as a form of transport. Below ground is a network of more trams; and of course, there are the famous cable cars, which climb some of the more picturesque hills. A $15 pass got us unlimited travel on all of the preceding. To go further afield involved the subway, BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit). Aimed at commuters, it heads out to Berkeley and Oakland and the delights of Contra Costa County.

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