Of Golden Bridges, Longing Hearts, and Flowers in Thy Hair


San Francisco is steep. It has been well documented that the city has hilly terrain. The contours of the land tests the weakening knees and the thinning brake pads. The zigzagging descent from atop Lombard Street is the epitome of the environment. "Brakes don't fail me now." My only consolation when driving down the winding lane was, "I'm glad it's only a rental.” I dare any film producer to remake the film Bullitt and have Steve McQueen’s character push the pedal down Lombard.

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Take the walk up these inclines. Once you reach certain vantage points in the city, the views were breathtaking.. worth the pain of oxygen depleted lungs and the agony of lactic acid build-up in the glutes and vastus medialus. 

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San Francisco is steep. Room rates under $400 at a decent hotel are hard to come by. Especially at the time of our arrival on Fleet Week. Mid October wouldn't be so bad if it weren't for the draw of this annual event showcasing the aerial aerobatics and battleship technology of the Navy. Accommodation was fully booked. Our ten-day visit to this lovely city saw us switch between four hotels. From the high-end room north of Union Square, to the dated establishment in an area with street characters straight out of a seedy B-grade film: drug dealers, crack heads and pimps. We only lasted one night at the location near Mission Street. Caught unaware about the Tenderloin area of SF... I guarantee you, there was nothing juicy and desirable in this part of town!

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San Francisco is steeped in history and tradition. The gold rush, earthquakes, the hippie movement, wines, cable cars, just to mention a very few. I always wondered why they called the red spanning monument, the "Golden Gate Bridge". Turns out, it was built to commemorate the gold-rush era, and the strait forming the entrance to San Francisco was considered the Golden Gate. As for earthquakes, it was the city’s 25-year anniversary of the 1989 quake while we were there. A sober reminder for the locals and a not-so welcoming greet for us clueless tourists.

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Flower-power and the hippie movement was abound in the late sixties. A quick trip to San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury district is a legacy of the era. Small shops are selling everything from tie-dyed clothing, J-Hendrix and J-Joplin memorabilia, to apparatus that help cross borders of hallucinatory states. One step off the tour bus and I was offered “some grass". I told the man that I only have potted plants at home, and briskly walked away.

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Another mind-altering experience was the wine-tasting tour of Napa Valley and Sonoma. I don’t claim to be a connoisseur of the grape. Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, Merlot… Heck, they all tasted the same after the third glass! What set the standard for the wineries that we visited..? They were Estate Wineries, meaning that the grape growing, fermenting process and bottling were done on location. Whatever.., it was all good wine. It was all good experience in and around The City By The Bay. 

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October 2014

© Prakoso Sastrowardoyo 2012