Today feels like it might be a bit of a transitional day - something we’ve not had many (if any) of this trip. Our aim is really to just arrive in San Francisco and get established in time to head out for dinner in the evening - I’ve booked Flour + Water, a restaurant that specialises in handmade pastas and has been getting good reviews from San Fran’s foodie press.
Anyway, we set out from the hotel and head west. The landscape seems to be shades of green grass, mottled with yellowing patches - kind of like a English lawn that’s been neglected over the summer. We drive through fields and hills, with occasional patches of water making an appearance - it’s hard to tell exactly where we are making identifying these bodies of water difficult. They could be rivers, they could be lakes, they could be the sea… Who knows? Eventually humanity starts to reassert itself and the level of development ekes upwards. Soon we’re in Cupertino, on the western edge of San Jose and just at the beginning of the peninsula that will take us to San Francisco.
Now some of you might recognise Cupertino and, if you do, then I’d be able to hazard a pretty confident guess at why. Maybe a clue is in order - I’m editing this blog on my MacBook Pro, having written text and taken photos on my iPad Air 2 after the loss of my iPhone 6. Yep, Cupertino is the home of Apple, of iPhone and Mac fame - Nick and I are both long-term admirers of the Apple design philosophy so a short stop at their spiritual home seems appropriate, given we’re passing by.
To be honest, the Apple campus is pretty uninspiring. The office buildings themselves are just bog standard, modern-ish blocks separated by roads and parking lots, with nothing special to comment on. There are lots of Apple-lanyard wearing people walking about, but even 1 Infinite Loop - Apple’s headquarters building - is unremarkable. We did stop at the on site Apple Store though, which sells exclusive Apple-branded merchandise not available at any other location (outside the street markets or Taiwan, China, Korea etc.). I think Nick was sorely tempted by the ‘fist bump emoji’ t-shirt, an actual Apple product you can buy, but eventually thought better of it.
We stopped at a little deli across the road from 1 Infinite Loop and had a rather excellent sandwich - it wasn’t excellent in any particular way, just really being meat in a bread roll, but the lashings of fresh vegetables and salad leaves was weirdly refreshing after a three week diet that has largely precluded that sort of food. It makes me excited for San Francisco, a place that’s renowned for its Californian, slightly-more-healthy-than-two-slabs-of-beef-and-cheese diet. After lunch we head just down the road to see Foster + Partners’ Apple Campus 2 - the huge new, entirely circular Apple headquarters campus that’s currently under construction. Our brief peak into the work site doesn’t really reveal much, other than that the building is enormous but quite low to the ground - I can’t wait to go back when it’s finished.
We carry on towards San Fran and encounter something we haven’t really seen this entire trip. Traffic. Almost as soon as we reach the outskirts of the city, the brake lights intensify in the rain (another thing we’ve seen very little of) and the flow of cars grinds to a halt. It takes us a couple of hours to reach what looks to be recognisably San Franciscan architecture and, strangely, as soon as we’re in the city proper the traffic starts freeing up - it’s like everybody just wants to stay on the edges before diving into town at very specific locations, leaving most of the inner roads pretty easy going.
We head to my hotel and I get dropped off in the pouring rain for another first - this is the first night since we started in America that we won’t be sharing a room. Nick has a friend here who he’s staying with, Lydia, so I’ve decided to get my own base from which to explore the city. I’m staying in the Carriage Inn, a really nice (and amazingly cost effective) boutique style hotel, where each room is named, rather than numbered, after a famous San Franciscan.
I get Sister Boom Boom, which sounds like an auspicious occasion until I realise that the Sister is actually the drag nun alter-ego of astrologer Jack Fertig - hopefully this room wasn’t selected for me via any sort of personality assessment. I read a little about the naming - Fertig used the Sister to run for a variety of governmental offices in San Francisco, and actually met with enough success to require a law passing to require candidates to only use their real names on ballots, the so-called ‘Sister Boom Boom Law’.
I drop the bags off, have a quick shower and head back out onto the streets - I’ve actually been looking forward to re-encountering a ‘real’ city environment, using my feet to get everywhere rather than an enormous truck. I walk up to Market Street, the Oxford Street of San Fran, and have a look around. I keep moving, as there’s really only shopping to be done on Market Street, and head up through the Tenderloin (not a euphemism) and onto California Street - one of the classic SF streets, packed with trams and cars, all rising up a road that must be at an almost 45˚ gradient. It’s insane.
After returning to the hotel, I get a taxi to meet Nick, Lydia and Lydia’s friend Jenni at a local bar in the Mission District, which is kind of like my current home of Shoreditch, only a little more spread out. After we’ve all said hello and had a quick drink we head off for our 9.30PM reservation at Flour + Water - Jenni, kindly drives us as the Mission is a little more spread out than I initially estimated. We have a really fun meal - both Jenni and Lydia are psychotherapists, which is like catnip to Nick and I - the food is good (we decided to all go for the seven course tasting menu) and the wine is plentiful so we end up being the last four people in the restaurant, doing our best to ignore the polite (if meaningful) glances from the waiting staff (never has a name been more appropriate).
Eventually, and to the delight of the staff, we stagger out (except for Jenni, who appears to have an iron stomach) and head out to the nearby Cat Club - they’re doing a David Bowie retrospective, which turns out to include approximately three (obscure) Bowie songs but a whole lot of 80s tracks and we spend a good few hours dancing away. Eventually, enough is enough and I somehow manage to stagger back to my hotel room. So thanks to Lydia, Jenni and Nick for another excellent night - this bodes well for our time in San Fran.
I have a very specific mission I’d like to embark upon tomorrow, one that requires an early start, but seeing as it’s 4AM already I’m not sure how that’s all going to go. Peace.