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Travel Not Tour - by Liv Hambrett

Sorbet Houses & Homeless People

March 25th 2008 12:36
And so San Fran was a swirl of sorbet coloured houses, steep hills, Starbucks and China Town. Our flight was, as the trend seems to be thus far, delayed due to the fog that often settles over the city, and so we took off a couple of hours later than planned. The morning was spent in the flea pit, moonlighting as a hotel (Tradewinds, House of Lice). Arriving in San Fran, we were picked up by our hotel's shuttle, driven by the crankiest old man imaginable (he accelerated towards old ladies on the road ... not really, I'm just trying to paint as vivid a picture as I can) and driven through the outskirts of the city, to downtown where we were staying. En route, was Tenderloin. The best way I can think to describe this district is the love child of Lakemba and Redfern, with more crack, a higher homeless population and the all inclusive lax USA weapons laws. Dee turned to me, pale, as we watched on as a homeless man held up a woman in an Audi, begging for a dollar (his weapon of choice was a urine stench) and said 'if we're staying anywhere near here, I'll die.' Moments later, Dee would witness a man brandish a knife at an ATM ... granted no one was actually at the ATM, because you'd have to be blind, deaf, dumb, mute or actually money-less and miming withdrawing money to volunteer to access an ATM in tenderloin. Three blocks out of tenderloin, in downtown San Fran our mini van pulled up outside an alley and we were ceremoniously dumped curb side with our luggage. Dee went weak at the knees and started making feverish threats involving cancelling our accommodation and putting a hotel room 'no matter the cost' on her credit card. As it transpired, we were in the hotel section of the hostel, about half a block up, in the thinnest building known to mankind, called The Dakota. It was opposite a crepe house and 2 blocks from Union Square and had a functioning TV, and so Dee was momentarily assuaged (if I spelt that wrong Mum, I'm sorry).

San Fran was freezing cold one minute, blowing a gale the next, and piping hot every moment in between. It also is the best leg work out short of cosmetic surgery, and I am proud to say Dee and I walked from Fisherman's Wharf through Nob Hill and down to our hotel ... which is literally about 1000km and most of it is up hill. This was the day, however, that we consumed the most vile amount of Bad Food That Tastes Good and so completely warranted. Fisherman's Wharf, home of such treats, is absolutely beautiful. We chose a randomly sunny day and, by chance (because the cable cars are terrifying and involve hanging off bars at various angles unbecoming to wearing anything short of an all in one jumpsuit) we walked the whole way there from Union Square (the shopping hub). If you ever get there, go to a fruit shop, which is tucked in amongst the merry go round and endless ice cream parlours, and buy a box of strawberries. Then buy a large tub of chocolate dipping sauce. Photos of us with chocolate sauce smeared all over our American-rounded faces can be viewed on the online album. Once the strawberries (all 16 of them, and they're gigantic, none of this naturally small strawberry business from home ... these are artificially enhanced mommas) have been digested, visit the chocolate emporium (begins with a G, the name eludes me) then In N Out burger, for the best burger in the world. I am talking fresh, made on the spot, with junk food-esque prices. Exclusive to California, In N Out has our Stamp of Approval. And seeing as I am probably on my 40th burger of the trip, that means something people, it really does.

San Fran has felt the most like home thus far, of the cities we've visited. Because of this, we were actually pretty lax with our touristy-ness. We instead chose to eat at as many locations as possible (try the Crepe House opposite Dakota Hotel) shop (Banana Republic needs to come to Australia) and avoid homeless people who had strayed from Tenderloin. We also felt the need to reenact The Sweetest Thing scenes, sans Cameron's legs, and wedge in as many Full House quotes into daily dialogue as possible. When in Rome guys, when in Rome.

We left San Fran in a bizarre physical limbo - fattened by endless eating and yet slimmed by endless walking - and caught our flight to Seattle, a cab to downtown Seattle, and then a clipper from Seattle to Canada. The clipper ride is beautiful, and probably the best way to get to Canada (unless you want to fly, in which case, strap yourself into a tin can and hold on for dear life) however choppy seas were encountered, and so we spent 60% of the trip sitting very still, avoiding any movement lest it prompt any of the waves of nausea to come to a very nasty fruition.

And it is here I must leave you, for my time is nearly up. When I return, it shall be to fill you in on Canada, which was superb. It involves a narrowly averted bar brawl, the worst Footwear Decision in History, the penthouse suite of a hotel and the most proactive breed of homeless person I have ever encountered.

See you all in Canada.

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