usa san francisco - backpacking around the world in 333 days
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around the world in 333 days

REPORT 25 - May 2001

USA - San Francisco

Sir Charles Darwin once made the controversial statement that nature was governed by the survival of the fittest. He who can adapt and change will live to tell the tale. In San Francisco, a chameleon of a city, Mr Darwin's theory has a textbook case. Built by gold rushers, it's now the dot-com's who are competing for their fortunes in a city where a colourful gay scene injects a vitality that is rarely matched. Hurrying businessmen, aspiring artists and the down right weird rub shoulders in the street, as the trams rattle past and the fog keeps rolling in.

With its undulating hills, walking around the relatively compact city is only an option for those with thighs of steel. For the weak and the weak of mind there are a whole host of methods by which to get from A to B but the most entertaining has to be the tram. There can be no doubt that they exist merely for the tourists benefit, they have more that seen their day, but as we boarded one at Union Square for the ride across town, we could see the attraction. The character filled rattling carriages were as quaint as quaint can be. Squeezed in with the camera and shorts brigade, we arrived at our destination in good speed. Only once did the driver have to slam on the breaks, the conductor remarking "nearly got yourself another Merc' then Sam".

We had headed out on the tram in the direction of the harbour, the boarding point for San Francisco's number one paying tourist attraction, Alcatraz. One and a half miles from the wharf lies the infamous island and previous home to some of the world's most notorious criminals including Al Capone, "Machine Gun" Kelly and Robert "The Bird Man" Stroud. We wandered the cells, reading and listen to the tales that the maxim security penitentiary has to tell. The island was actually very picturesque and as far as the view goes, we doubt any prisoner has had a more pleasing (or distressing) scene over which to spend his years looking out on. Some of the events that took place on the island are fairly gruesome and the remnants of an eerie atmosphere still manage to linger, but only just.

Back on the main land we were drawn to pier 39 by the noise. When the sun shines, large parts of the pier are high jacked by seals that like to do a spot of sunbathing and tourist watching. The seals watch the tourists and the tourists watch the seals. The whole air is filled with noise as the seals leap in and out of the water, screeching at one another. We left the mayhem behind and caught the bus out of the city centre to San Francisco's big gun; the Golden Gate bridge.

No matter how many times you have seen the Golden Gate Bridge in print, nothing quite compares with seeing the beast in person. At 746ft tall, it is a synonymous symbol of the city that it serves. Donning another layer of clothing, we set off to walk the 4200 ft that it spans. With the wind whistling past our ears on one side and the trucks zooming past on the other, we stomped our way from one side to the other. If we needed any reminder of just how lucky we are to be travelling the world, writing, photographing and filming what we find, the 360 degree panoramic views of San Francisco Bay and the mighty Pacific brought it all home. Reaching the other side of the bridge we scrambled to the top of the nearest hill for a photo opportunity - another world famous landmark in the bag.

Leaving the Golden gate bridge behind, we spent the remainder of our time exploring the city, tasting its diversity. We wandered the China town district, with its elegant rooflines and explosions of colour and visited the oddly twisting Lombard Street, designed so that coach and horses could navigate the steep gradient. San Francisco impressed; the golden gate bridge had lived up to its billing and the city's scenic views proved that big cities don't have to be concrete jungles. There was an optimism and brightness that was contagious, a feeling that in this breathtaking city anything is possible.

Jon & liz
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San Francisco Tram


Golden Gate Bridge


Alcatraz


Seal Colony - Fishermans Wharf

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REPORT ARCHIVE
The Beginning 14 - THAILAND Bangkok
01 - INDIA Delhi 15 - THAILAND Bridge Over the River Kwai
02 - INDIA Agra Taj Mahal 16 - THAILAND Chang Mai - The Long Necks
03 - INDIA Jaipur 17 - AUSTRALIA Kakadu National Park
04 - INDIA Camel Safari 18 - AUSTRALIA Ayers Rock
05 - INDIA Mount Abu 19 - AUSTRALIA Great barrier Reef
06 - INDIA Goa 20 - AUSTRALIA Fraser Island
07 - INDIA Mumbai (Bombay) 21 - AUSTRALIA Sydney
08 - HONG KONG 22 - NEW ZEALAND South Island
09 - PHILIPPINES Boracay & Panglao Island 23 - NEW ZEALAND North Island
10 - PHILIPPINES Bohol Chocolate Hills 24 - USA Hawaii Oahu Island
11 - PHILIPPINES Banaue Rice Terraces 25 - USA San Francisco
12 - MALAYSIA Kuala Lumpur 26 - USA Washington DC
13 - MALAYSIA Penang, Georgetown 27 - USA New York
  28 - UK - THE END
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Produced by John Bentham - Copyright 2000/01 Jonathan Enoch & Elizabeth Wigg / John Bentham

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China Town

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