Saturday 14th August 2010:

We were up relatively early on the Saturday, as we had places to be, people to see and things to do!
After stuffing ourselves with the free bagel breakfast, Emily, Kim and I headed back to Pier 39 to pick up our Alcatraz tickets for later that day. We were super excited.

However, having time to kill, Emily and I headed for the Haight-Ashbury and Castro districts of SF, the queer heart of the queerest city on earth. Boy was I excited!

Oh and it was amazing, the shopping was spectacular (I spent too much), the people were so trendy and the vibe was unbelievably cool: you can be anyone in Haight-Ashbury and the Castro, there is no prejudice. This was definately my kind of city.

We wandered through Haight-Ashbury first, down a sweet-deal little street of quirky little shops and crazy-coloured houses, and I saw my first rainbow flag. It was about bloody time, I was surprised I hadn’t seen any earlier: this was SF afterall. I managed to resist several headbands, mostly because they would be CRUSHED in my suitcase, but decided then and there I would be back… You can’t keep me and a hair accessory apart forever!

From there, the Castro was just over yet another SF hill (these people don’t do anything straight), and was a flurry of rainbow flags and outrageously trendy people. We got stopped by a girl petitioning for equal marriage rights, who wanted donations. Being a bit of a scab, but feeling for the cause, I handed over a few dollars. She noticed I had more in my wallet, but my nifty quick skillz had me handing it over to Emily claiming I “owed her money”, which Emily, with equally-nifty quick skillz, took from me, playing along perfectly. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to donate more, it was really that at the end of the day I was a student tourist: I am on a super budget, and it’s something I’d rather support at home, as I have more of a voice there.

Oh I didn’t want to leave the Castro, I bought a million inappropriate cards and a super queer feather headpiece, and only wished I’d had more money and more space in my suitcase! I wanted to LIVE in the amazingness of all that was the Castro (please note friends: pack your bags, save your 5 cent pieces, we are moving!), especially after seeing the super cool monuments dedicated to Harvey Milk (first openly-gay elected official in the USA) and the super happy atmosphere surrounding the area. It was so unreal.

(On a side note: Emily and I also had our first giant slices of pizza that day. I am totally pro-giant slices of pizza, they are magical in all their pizza-y goodness.)

But we were on a strict time-schedule and had to leave to be at the docks for the boat to Alcatraz by 3:30! So we jumped on a train and headed back to the water.

We were actually a little earlier than expected, and spent time at the markets we stumbled upon after disembarking the train. We both spent more money. πŸ˜› It was sweet deal.

We then realised we had probably killed a little too much time, and the pier was further down than expected, so we hastily made our way down the busy pier-strip towards the boat.

On our way, we were momentarily distracted by three men, wearing nothing but hats and shoes, and holding signs that absolutely no one was paying attention to for the fact that not only were these men totally naked, they were also 100% hairless. Not a single, tiny, little, itsy hair in sight. Sorry nudies, your protest signs were not very attention-grabbing, but your nudity sure was!

Turns out it is actually totally legal to walk around in SF naked, as long as you act completely normal and just go about your business like it’s not big deal. SF once again proved how magical it really is.

So after what seemed like forever, we finally made it to the pier, and found Kim who thought maybe we had ditched her. Not us! Never.

We jumped on the boat and made the journey to Alcatraz, which we were incredibly excited about.

Alcatraz is a small former-prison island sitting just off the coast of San Francisco. You’d think the escape would be easy – just jmp in the water and swim, it’s not that far! But the freezing conditions of the bay area, coupled with the rough water currents and many rocks made successful escape almost impossible, unless you had a death wish.

The audio tour was fascinating, it was lead by three former prison guards and three former inmates, who between them could recall most of the major events that occurred during the prisons’ operation: from rebellions to sneaky escapes to the fire-bombing of the old prison guard housing unit. Often the sound-effects from the audioguide were so realistic, I’d spin around, confused as to what was coming from where. I wasn’t alone in this either: I saw Kim and Emily, as well as other tourists, react similarly as they hit those moments on the tour.

I caught the second-last boat back to the mainland, in order to drop off some of the purchases I’d made which were finally taking their toll on my shoulders – before heading back to Pier 39 to meet Emily and Kim for dinner. (They caught the last boat back.)

We ate at a restaurant called Wipeout, where Emily got a serving of calamari so large that even though she ate herself stupid, it didn’t actually look like she’d made a dent in the pile at all. Kim’s dinner was also super-sized, although oddly mine was the only one that came in what could be considered a reasonable-sized portion. That meant I could finish it. πŸ˜›

We retreated back to the hostel, where a few drinks were downed before Emily and I left Kim (who went off with some others) to explore the surrounding clubs and pubs. Needless to say, it was a highly entertaining night. We started at the Saloon, which was full of very old people dancing to very cool blues music. The geriatric crowd actually managed to be incredibly trendy as well as really old-fashioned at the same time.

From there we hit up a gangsta-club, which was a little unnerving at first, as we wondered if maybe we’d stumbled in on some secret gang HQ, being the only white females in there. However, Emily quickly found someone to dance with and we were having fun until I had a super creepy man point to his crotch and tell me to ‘get in there’ – which was my cue to drag Emily away from her dancing partner and get the fuck out of there.

The Tiki-inspired bar a few doors up was our third and final stop, where everyone was sitting around having a drink. Not Emily and I! No, we decided we wanted to dance, and stood in the open-area towards the front and proceeded to dance our little hearts out. In fact, our obviously infectious dancing got other people up out of their seats for a bit of a boogie. Emily and Georgia: trendsetters.

After final call at the bar, we headed back up to the hostel, where two lovely Irish girls helped me get one very sleepy, slightly-sickly Emily up to bed. We were exhausted.

Sunday 15th August:

Having all had a big night, the three little girls slept late, and decided to spend the day shopping in Union Square (different to Union St), where we discovered a million-story tall Macy’s and the longest-strip of amazing shopping I’d seen since Oxford Circus in London.

Needless to say, we all went a bit credit-card crazy, and picked up some pretty sweet-deal new outfits. Hooray us!

Emily and I had a quick late lunch at a little cafe that was so slow and so rude we didn’t leave a tip. That’s whatchu get for messing with us! πŸ˜›

After we had exhausted both our credit cards and our feet, we headed back to the hostel for a pretty quiet night in with pineapple buns from China Town. Delicious.