Discovering a bike hire shop right next to your accommodation is a dream come true.
Staying in the hustle and bustle of San Francisco’s china town must have distracted our attention from the collection of bicycles hanging in the dusty windows? Our exciting cycle across the Golden Gate bridge the day before meant the Boyfriend and I were definitely up for another day in the saddle.
Above, the bright red lanterns of China town are swaying in the morning breeze, the market stalls are piled high with a colourful array of fresh fruit and vegetables as we squeeze our hire-bikes through the throngs of people buying the weekly goods… the greasy scent of soy sauce and cooking oil seeps from the small eateries. Tired eyed people hunch over the tables slurping bowls of hot soupy liquid.
China town is wide awake making it impossible to cycle through its cramped roads so we take a small side street and stumble into a tiny piece of history… the Vesuvio bar, where the once beat generation use to read poetry, write and drink until the wee small hours… Jack Kerouac and his artistic chums. It is full of dark nooks and crannies and has a warm glow to it.
We don’t stop for long and continue to cycle down the road towards the harbour front. Once again we come upon the outstanding ferry building, turn right, away from the Golden gate bridge. We pass sleeping yacht clubs and tired eateries.
Finally we slip away from the glistening harbour and begin to pedal up a very busy road full of traffic in the direction of Haight – Ashbury the colourful hippie district.
The road is flat and long to begin with, the cycling is fun with us trying to avoid oversized motorbikes, the grumbling trucks and the rumble of the antique trams and buses. Half way up the hectic road is a large paved area full of tented stalls.
It is a weekly farmers market and the locals have turned out to get their fix of fresh food. We stop to buy a few tasty treats and chat happily to the friendly stall holders. This is where we begin to use our faded city map as a guide looking for specific street signs to help us find our way.
An incline begins and we attempt to climb it with success. We swing our bicycles into quiet suburbia where the streets are lined with colourful Victorian homes. Standing smartly in rows these wooden beauties remind you of a time where pomp and grandeur once ruled.
Pedalling through this thoroughfare it is easy to imagine an era where folk in top hats, lace and frocks strolled these sweeping streets. The legs frantically push the pedals up the many slopes while the body welcomes the adrenaline rush of the wind on the downhills.
We cycle upon the park where the ‘Painted Ladies’ can be found sitting on its fringes overlooking the city. These are most photographed Victorian houses in San Francisco and from where we rest under the coolness of the trees some of the wooden ladies look as if a new coat of paint would certainly cheer them up. They look a bit tired however they still manage to capture my imagination posing proudly like models on the hillside.
Onwards to Haight – Ashbury and the opportunity for my imagination to work over time. This is where the main streets are lined with creativity. The many shops are alive with interesting frontage, soap bubbles float on the breeze…
We stop for lunch and enjoy the atmosphere of what was once the place where the hippy movement really did mean something.
On the return home we somehow get lost and end up in the massive expanse of the beautiful Golden Gate park.
Lush green areas that stretch on for ever with the added bonus of shadowy trees and grunting bison! The afternoon sky soon turns to evening and we manage to find many different cycle paths that eventually guide us all the way back to our accommodation which is hidden in the bustle of China town.
Our bike shop owner is patiently awaiting our arrival – ready to lock up and head out for a night of San Francisco fun. Still excited from our cycle ride we find we have to do exactly the same!