An earlier start on my second day in San Francisco. But even by 8:50am the sun was up and warming me nicely.
I enjoyed the long ride into the city as time to read and gaze out of the window as well as people watch. This route is the commuter route. The trains are double decker and always pretty full. Upstairs the train is like a mobile office, with single seats on either side full of people working on various electronic devices.
I decided to prioritise another trip to Golden Gate Park on this day so I didn’t end up having to rush back to the station at the end of the day again. I particularly wanted to revisit the Japanese Tea Garden and spend longer there. On the way, I heard the dulcet tones of a classical guitar floating across the park. The guy was so good I stopped to listen for quite a while. And then went over to talk to him.
It’s so nice to be on holiday and have the time to stop and have a chat with random people. This is Leo who was effortlessly making his guitar sound like a Baroque lute in Golden Gate Park. Google him at “T. Leo King”.
As soon as he heard me speak, Leo asked if I was from Manchester, which I thought was either a very lucky guess or pretty impressive as I live only about an hour from there. He asked whether I knew the play Pygmalion, or whether I’d seen My Fair Lady. Since watching it, he’d realised that everyone would guess he was a black American from Chicago just by looking at him and listening to him speak. So he decided to try and guess which town everyone he met was from, even if they were from different countries like Russia or Yugoslavia or wherever.
He said his favourite quote from My Fair Lady though is when Eliza Doolittle really finds her own voice and says, “The difference between a lady and a flower girl is not how she behaves but how she is treated”. A good lesson from a black American classical guitarist from Chicago via an American film version of an English play set in London!
I left Leo figuring out (successfully of course) how to play Greensleeves as a kind of English folk music tribute, and wandered on to the Japanese Tea Garden where I spent a very relaxing hour or two.
Haiku for a Tea Garden
Finally! I’m here,
drinking tea unhurriedly
while water burbles.
Gently rippling roof
and pool. Sweet jasmine warms me,
stills and heals my soul.
It took years for me
to get here. Why so long to
Miso soup and sweet jasmine tea
From the Japanese Tea Garden I found a bus to take me back downtown, where I finally managed to hop on one of San Francisco’s famous cable cars. I’ve never managed this before due to constraints of time. You have to think of the cable car ride as a thing in itself rather than a means of transport, really, as it takes quite a while. But it’s very enjoyable to take one down to Fisherman’s Wharf which is what I did.
At Fisherman’s Wharf, I eschewed the usual touristy food, shopping and sailing options and went instead for this. I spent the princely sum of $4 and a very happy hour here! Fascinating historically, culturally and also just good fun.
Having had my fill of slot machines, I had a quick refreshing look at the bay and then made my way on foot back through the city passing Coit Tower and the City Lights Bookstore of Jack Kerouac fame.
By the time I’d got this far I realised I needed to vamoose again to get back to the Caltrain terminus, but the quickest and most direct way seemed to be to go through Chinatown, which I had quite wanted to see anyway. I pelted through Chinatown on foot so quickly I think a few passers by were a bit concerned for me! I didn’t want to miss my train again…
I managed to miss my train by about 3 minutes!! Again! I was so gutted I could’ve cried. I did express my dismay (“Nooooo! Not again?!!”) so the guard told me I could get on the next train which was faster and about to leave and which would overtake the one I’d hoped to get, so I could skip off the faster one and jump onto the slower one further down the line. The slower one would stop where I needed to go. And they waved me through without needing me to show my travel pass oh the relief! 😌
Generally speaking there seems much kindness around in San Francisco regarding this sort of thing. The previous day I’d noticed a really elderly guy obviously not well, getting on the bus, and no one expected him to have to pay or show a ticket. It was all he could do to get on and find a seat. I like that that is enough here. Although I had a Muni day passport I hardly ever showed it on the buses (it took me most of day one to work out that the ticket readers don’t scan mobile tickets so you just have to show it to the driver) and no one batted an eyelid. Kindness. And knowledge about the railways. I do declare they are Very Good Things.