San Francisco

Now that the MySQL Conference is finished I have spent the last two days in San Francisco. It’s a really great town and the weather has been fantastic but, man, those hills!

Yesterday I wandered through China Town and up Telegraph Hill where I rode the elevator to the top of Coit Tower. Telegraph Hill used to be where lookouts would notify the town of any incoming ships but in 1933 Lillie Hitchcock Coit bequeathed one-third of her estate to the City of San Francisco “to be expended in an appropriate manner for the purpose of adding to the beauty of the city which I have always loved.” They built a tower for some reason.

Lillie was a bit strange. Rescued from a fire when she was eight, the smoke must have done something to her because she took to wearing a fireman’s uniform, smoking cigars and chasing the fire engines wherever they went. However, the view from the top of the tower is worth the $5. There are some nice murals in the bottom of the tower as well.

I took the lovely Filbert Steps down to the Embarcadero and headed up to Fisherman’s Wharf. Fisherman’s Wharf is pretty touristy but it’s a fun place and the views of the Golden Gate bridge at sunset were amazing. The sea lions at Pier 39 were also unexpected.

I started to climb Hyde Street before realising it was a stupid idea and hopped on the cable car at the Hyde Street turnaround. The cable cars are amazing. In 1869 Andrew Smith Hallidie saw five horses dragged to their deaths when one of the then horse-drawn streetcars slid backwards down the wet cobblestones. Hallidie was a wire-rope manufacturer and he used his wire rope making skills to build a cable-car railway system for the city.

They are operated by two men. One, the “grip man”, controls two huge levers that operate the brakes and the grip, and a conductor who tries to keep all the stupid tourists from falling out of the car. The conductor also jams on a separate brake thing when going down hill. These guys are really skilled and they are also very friendly.

There is a really good little cable car museum on Mason Street where the cable car lines cross. It is actually located in the powerhouse that drives the four lines and you can see the huge spinning wheels known as “sheaves” that pull the cables. Downstairs is a viewing area where you can see the cables disappear down the street.

Today I hired a bike and cycled across the Golden Gate Bridge. It takes about fourty-five minutes easy riding (well, there are a couple of hills) to get to the bridge. On the other side of the bridge in Marin County there is a good view back toward the city. It seems a bit redundant to say it but the Golden Gate Bridge is a really amazing sight.

So after an intense four-day conference then walking the hills of San Francisco for two days (and cycling 10 miles) I’m ready to head home. I really liked San Francisco, though, and I’m already looking forward to coming back with Kathryn later in the year.

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