The San Francisco Round-Up

After spending plenty of time exploring and experiencing Los Angeles, it was time for the next stop on my US tour. It was a 6-hour train ride north, to San Francisco. You might ask why I chose a train, well, call me old-fashioned, but when I’m out in the wild, Wild West, I felt it’s necessary I see the countryside via rail.

Eventually, I got to San Francisco and made my way to downtown Berkeley where my good old friend Nick was waiting for me, with a bright, lime green t-shirt that said “Berkeley” in Arabic. That tee proved to be quite the conversation starter later on during my trips to the city.

First, SF is more expensive than LA. Bus rides are for 2.10USD instead of 1.50USD and toll bridges charge 6USD per crossing. But, the extra money is very well spent, and the comprehensive public transport systems (BART and MUNI) puts the LA transit system to shame.

To top it all off, many of SF’s public transportation vehicles run on either hydrogen or electricity, and not just the iconic cable cars. Many taxi cabs are also hybrids, and I must admit, hybrid cars were indeed very numerous, but not just the ugly, zucchini-shaped Prius, but sexy Lexuses, Mercedeses and other luxury car brands with “hybrid” plastered on the side.

On our first night, we decided to go to Castro Street, the district famous for its thriving LGBT community. The area is filled with dozens of gay bars, clubs and restaurants that open till late and the streets there are always busy. It is perhaps then not a coincidence that of all the friends I made in SF, most were gay or lesbian. So, the city sorta lived up to expectations when it comes to being overly LGBT-friendly.

The next day, I walked through the UC Berkeley campus and attended a lecture or two to see what I was missing out on (yeah right). What I loved about Berkeley was their Biology department, which looked like the Baalbek Bachus Temple and was more of a museum than a university building. My favorite piece of natural history was the gigantic T-rex skeleton in the heart of the building. The staircase is sorta built around the massive skeleton, which I felt is pretty awesome: imagine studying some Ecology notes in the shadow of a Tyrannosaurus Rex…

After Berkeley, I headed to the city and walked along the shoreline, exploring the famous San Francisco piers. I did all 40+ of them in one go, and my favorite was of course the privatized Pier 39 with all the cool shops and restaurants. I also hopped on a cable car, went to Ghirardelli Square (supposedly good chocolate, but I was not really impressed) and visited the super-cool Science Exploratorium.

The next day, Nick reserved a Zip Car via his iPhone. Zip cars are located all over San Francisco and are a very convenient way to rent a car for a few hours. Gas and parking is included in the hourly rate, which is somewhere between 8 and 15USD. We took the car, and made every wrong turn possible while trying to get to the Golden Gate Bridge. We ended up exploring the whole city though, and I had to run down Lombard Street (the famous windy road you see in movies) because Nick couldn’t find a parking spot and I wanted to take a photo. Needless to say, I scared a lot of people, but felt James Bond-like while trying to chase a car through a famous city street, at night.

We passed on the Golden Gate and we took some brilliant photos of the legendary structure. After that, we headed back to Berkeley for Taco Tuesdays (which I didn’t touch) and then to a local pub where we sorta did good in a trivia competition where the prize was a cut-out of the guy from the meme “I don’t always X, but when I do, I Y”

The rest of my time in SF went into working on my next project with Nick, which I think all of you will be extremely interested in. So, look out for a poll this week which will explain more about what I’ve been doing in the US apart from having a blast =P

All in all, I really loved San Francisco. It is a very progressive, peaceful, healthy and environmentally conscious city. Statues of Gandhi, vegan restaurants and animal-friendly facilities are a recurring theme in this Northern California city.  I have Red Alert 2 to thank, for making me familiar with all the landmarks and geography of SF 11 years before I stepped foot in it and everything seemed familiar, including the back-breaking slopes and hills!