The last two days of my time in San Francisco were taken slightly easier than the previous ones, though I still managed to pack a fair amount in.
This started with a ride on one of the city’s iconic cable cars, and I’m very glad I set out earlier in the morning than I usually do as the queue was already a good 45 minutes long as I joined it at the bottom of Powell Street to ride the cable car all the way to the far end of Hyde down by Fisherman’s Wharf.
The cable car itself, one of three lines still running in the city and more a tourist attraction than genuine commuter device, is quite an experience.
Crammed with people, including up to 10 hanging off the sides at the front, the ride is an eventful feeling one even when going smoothly as the car is pulled up hill by a subterranean cable from sea level to the top of the city affording a view down the world-famous Lombard Street and across the city and the bay beyond and, while obvious, is still a great novelty for anyone visiting the city.
Having once again found myself at Fisherman’s Wharf I had a quick look around a few of the souvenir stores but soon headed back up into North Beach and Columbus Avenue where I found a little art exhibition in Washington Square Park before moving onto The Beat Museum on Broadway.
The museum, as the name suggests, celebrates the works or the Beat Movement which found a home in the city as the forerunner to the major counter-culture movements that have continued to add to the city’s varied cultural life since.
Tracing things from their jazz and literature origins through to the controversy surround the publication of Howl and beyond the museum is a great primer for those, like me, with an interest in the movement hoping to expand their knowledge through artefacts from the era that tell a compelling story.
Rather than the standard gift shop you’d expect to find in most museums, The Beat Museum features a store selling some of the works covered in the exhibitions but also a range of second-hand books and records and general paraphernalia related to the movement and was staffed, on my visit, by a friendly young chap who was keen on having a chat and made the place one of the friendliest places I visited in a city already high on friendliness.
The museum’s location all but across the street from the City Lights Bookstore is also ideal as if your literary interest is piqued you need only pop in there to find a huge range of less mainstream books and magazines.
My fourth day rounded off meeting back up with Ashley and heading out to Caffe Sport in the Italian area of North Beach.
Having been strongly recommended by Ash herself I was eager to taste the seafood and was certainly not disappointed, though I wasn’t able to eat as much as I may have liked to and ordering one main meal and a side between the two of us seemed like enough to feed a small army on salad, mussels, clams, crab, squid, octopus and any other forms of seafood you care to name all doused in a fantastic tomato sauce.
My final day in the bay area was another relaxing one with only one major excursion, a walk out to Japantown.
Centred between Geary, Post and Fillmore Street to the west of the Tenderloin the main square features a pagoda like structure that, like Chinatown, feels culturally very different from the other areas of the city. The main shopping centre features a good mix of the genuine and the westernised with, for me, the main attractions being the manga and anime on offer, both in the original Japanese and the English translations, as well as the fascinating produce on offer in the town’s supermarket – squid jerky anyone?
The walk to and from Japantown took us through San Francisco’s Tenderloin district. Famed for being one of the cities less salubrious areas it seems to have become slightly more gentrified since my last visit and, while still certainly not a high rent neighbourhood, seems to feature more hipsters moving into the cheaper accommodation available giving the feeling that this could be the next neighbourhood in the city to become the place to be in years to come.
Following a dinner of sushi, once again at Mikaku on Grant, and saying goodbye to Ashley at the Powell Street BART station, my time in San Francisco was rounded off by the treat of a busking drummer just outside the station who played one of the best extended drum solos I have ever heard and certainly helped the end of my time in the city lose its melancholy air.