Saturday, 9 October 2010

Be sure to wear a flower in your hair

Well, here we are again. Greetings from the gayest place on Earth, other than Disneyland or Living TV. We're now in San Francisco, where the weather is glorious, the flags are rainbow and the vistas are hilly.

Our last day in New York was spent retracing our steps and visiting the last few places we'd missed, lugging our ridiculously heavy carry-on bags with us. In just five days we'd managed to tick off everything on Beth's alarmingly comprehensive itinerary. Our every movement was planned with military precision and we left no stone unturned in uncovering everything that the city had to offer.

For a special treat on our final night, Beth took us to Bobby Flay's Bar Americain for the most insanely tasty steak we've ever had. Everything about the dinner was perfect, from the blue cheese dip served with homemade potato chips, to the buttered spinach and goat's cheese cauliflower that we ordered, if only to remind our bodies what vegetables are. And the waitress was so effortlessly attentive and psychically attuned to our needs, I started to suspect the involvement of dark forces.

Our final moments in New York were spent hammering our credit cards on Fifth Avenue. Not so much retail therapy, as retail rehabilitation followed by a 12-step programme. We spent a particularly long time in Abercrombie & Fitch, thanks in part to the prevalence of semi-naked male models standing around the store with pouts you could rest a coffee cup on.

For a clothing store, there's very little emphasis on buying or selling clothes. There may be five floors in the flagship store, but they only had about eight different items to choose from. Everywhere you turn it's the same red lumberjack shirt, on the staff, on the mannequins and on every display table. A&F has also taken its lead from the supermarkets that pipe the fresh bread smell into their air-con system. Only here, its the overpowering Abercrombie cologne which gradually works its way into your system until you're incapable of breathing without it.

Still, it was with heavy hearts and even heavier suitcases that we took a cab to JFK for the second half of our trip. I was originally dismayed to learn that we would be travelling with American Airlines, since my last experience on-board an AA flight was like being stuck in an airborne rest-home where the daily activity involved getting the residents to serve lukewarm coffee with a sneer.

Maybe it was something in the air (perhaps even those A&F pheremones still seeping out of my epidermis) but everyone on board was in such a good mood. The staff we're falling over themselves to help (not literally, thank goodness) and the passengers were all so friendly and courteous to one another, offering to swap seats, help each other with bags. Even the in-flight movie seemed to have been re-edited for content to make it more upbeat.

Six hours later, and we were settling into our little B&B in the heart of the Castro. That's San Francisco's famous gay district, where even the bins have rainbow stickers on them, and every store has a comprehensive range of porn to suit every taste - irrespective of their main product offering.

Drinking is a pretty expensive business here - where a small glass of wine will set you back about eight dollars. So we were glad to find a bar that offered potent $5 cocktails and appeared to be playing Lady Gaga videos on a loop. It was also only a short stagger back to our accommodation, which was handy.

Today was an opportunity to get our bearings, so that meant more walking. My legs are now three inches shorter than they were at the start of this trip. We visited the port, the TransAmerica pyramid, Grace Cathedral, Nob Hill (that was a disappointment) and a little place called Macondray Lane in Russian Hill.

That's where you'll find a rickety set of wooden steps that played a fundamental role in Channel 4 and PBS's seminal mini-series 'Tales of the City', based on the books by Armistead Maupin. It was incredible to finally see the steps for real, although I'm not entirely sure that Doug shared my enthusiasm for this tiny piece of pop-culture history. Especially not after trudging across half of San Francisco's most unforgiving hills to get there. *Message to the creators of Dorling Kindersley's otherwise excellent travel guides - "Your maps are beautifully drawn and annotated, but please include topographical details next time."

Attempting to shave a few hundred metres off our return journey, I navigated us towards the beautiful sounding, and historically significant 'Tenderloin' part of town. Turns out, it's the kind of place where even Amy Winehouse would be looking over her shoulder nervously. Crack addicts, homeless people and anyone who enjoys standing in piss-soaked trousers yelling at street-signs call the Tenderloin home. Thankfully, so too did a friendly passing bear. Concerned for our innocence, and our highly attractive photographic equipment, he swept to the rescue and guided us back towards civilisation, cameras still intact.

Who know what adventures tomorrow holds. In a city like San Francisco, you never can tell...

1 comment:

  1. Loving the updates on what you're up to can't wait for the next installment Liz