Thursday, 5 November 2015

San Francisco

Now, this is a city!
I knew I'm going to like San Francisco from the moment I left the train station. First of all - really good, cheap and fast transfer from the airport. BART train takes you to the city center in half an hour, for under $9. And how awesome is that that SF's rapid transport is called Bart? :)

My hostel is in the city center, on the 6th street, about 5 minutes walk from Market street. The first thing you notice when you get here, is that there are even more homeless people than in LA. According to Wikipedia, there are about 13500 homeless people in San Francisco, with about 6500 of them living on the streets. It's the highest per capita ratio of all major US cities. Nevertheless, it's not as depressing as in LA.  When walking through the city, you're passing groups of them on almost every corner. They're talking, joking, listening to the music. You can also smell a lot of weed, which is legal for medical purposes in California. LA already smelled a lot with it, but San Francisco is on another level.

I decided to give my leg some rest, so I didn't run at all until Wednesday, when I did about 9 km at easy pace. It was much better, although I can still feel my knee. I'll give it two more days of rest before Saturday's cross country race back at home.

I wasn't running, so I was walking. And walking is very enjoyable activity in San Francisco. In the city center there are many interesting areas, every one with a different vibe, yet they're melting into each other nicely.
So, there is posh shopping area around Union Square. The Square itself is nice, not very crowded. In the evening you can meet a guy playing very nice jazz trumpet there.
Next to the Union Square, to the north, lies Chinatown. Dragon Gate marks the entrance to this neighborhood. I think the coolest Chinatown I've visited so far (I know London and New York ones). Plenty of shops and restaurants. Groups of people playing GO and cards (especially in the parks). Some interesting buildings. Unlike in London, here most of the signs are in Chinese.

South-west from Chinatown is one of more interesting areas - and apparently, the most dangerous. It's Tenderloin, and contrary to what it's name would suggest, that wasn't a meat packers district. It used to be really dangerous in the past, and police officers who were serving there, were being paid extra to compensate for additional danger. So they could afford better cuts of meat - hence the name. Currently, according to Wikipedia (again), 25% of murders and 70% of all violent crime happens there.

Going north you can get to quite different area - Marina, probably the most posh part of the city, with it's amazing Palace of Fine Arts.

And west from it - Golden Gate Bridge and Presidio, in my opinion the coolest part of the city. At least in terms of running.
So speaking of running - it seems like a pretty good place for runners.
First of all, most of the city is super hilly, so no problem in finding places for hill training. You can find streets of any incline and length. And many of them are reasonably quiet. Then there is the Embarcadero - a long, flat street next to the bay, in the eastern part of the city. Quite popular with runners, and for a reason - views are great, there is nice, wide pavement, and as I mentioned before - it's flat.
But the best parts are in the western part of San Francisco. There is Golden Gate park - about 4 km long, 1 km wide green area. All sorts of surface, some hills, a bit of forest. Seems like a really cool place for runners. North of it is Presidio, which is even more hilly, with absolutely amazing views on the Ocean and the Bay. And Golden Gate Bridge at the end of it. I didn't go on the bridge - I think it deserves to be run on, but I couldn't due to my injury.
Seems I'll be coming back to San Francisco one day, we have some unfinished business here.

More photos here:

ps. pictures with the prison bars are taken in Alcatraz. Quite interesting place...

Sunday, 1 November 2015

The City of Fallen Angels

I woke up on Saturday around 9 am. Never felt so fresh after the race in my life!
Maybe that's the way - sign up for a race, but don't run it. It saves a lot of effort, and you're still allowed to do carbs loading the day before!
Anyway, I decided that Long Beach won't get rid of me that easily. You don't want me to run? Screw you, I'm still coming to defile the Ocean with my feet.
Los Angeles has great weather. It's the last day of October, and it's way over 20 degrees (in Celsius scale). Sunshine, blue sky, summer time at it's best.
Citymapper app wasn't wrong - it does take almost 3 hours to get to the Long Beach from where I was staying. Partially because I first I need to walk for about 40 minutes to the underground station. Bus service is not the best here, to say the least. And not very popular as well. On some routes you've got a bus once per hour, and yet it's empty.
Underground is not that popular as well. Everyone is driving here, so trains are not very frequent, and also not too crowded. Which actually is a nice change after London.
The Underground is not that underground to be fair. The blue line, which goes from Downtown to Long Beach, isn't really underground at all. It's so not-underground, that the trains are stopping on the traffic lights. So it takes time to get anywhere on the train.

Finally, I'm at Long Beach. It's midday on Saturday, the weather is great, and the place is empty...
Not that I mind that, I'm just a bit surprised. Anyway, the place is really nice, the Ocean is warm and calm, the sand is plenty, the birds are loud and polite enough to not to defecate on my humble self.
Ok, here are a few pictures. I think that good weather distribution in the world is quite unfair. Although there are other things much more unfairly distributed, so I think I shouldn't complain...

I've spent there about 4 hours, walking up and down the beach, chatting with anglers (the majority of the beach population at the time of my visit), and being shown a shark. The shark wasn't very impressive to be honest, about the size of a shoe box, and probably as deadly.

I stopped in the Downtown on my way back. It's a really nice area, although not too big. But seems nice and sane, for a change. Did I tell you that this city feels a bit insane? No? So I'm telling you now.
This city feels a bit insane.
I can't really explain it, it's just my impression. But there are many really broken people here. Plenty of homeless people, and a lot of them seems to be drug addicts. Quite seriously broken drug addicts. Not like happy, high guys, laughing at the bricks or trees or coffee cups, but deeply unhappy people. Crying, screaming. Really sad.

Finally, evening (it's Halloween!) at the Hollywood Boulevard. Seems it's The Place to be on a Halloween night. It's a very touristy place normally, full of people, street performers, street musicians, live statues, Marylin Monroes, Michael Jacksons, and so on (but not Elvises - all of them are in Las Vegas. If you believe that Elvis is alive, go to Vegas, and you can find countless proofs that you are right. Proofs of all ages, shapes, sizes and drunkness levels).
But on the Halloween night this place is simply mental. It's not crowded - it's four levels further. Imagine Victoria Station in London during rush hours. At the tube gates. It's more less like that, but on the both sides of the pavement (quite wide), and along 2-miles long stretch.
And everyone is dressed up for Halloween.

I've spent there a couple of hours and moved back. It was really hard to get to any bar, everything was so packed. Plus shitty music playing from them didn't really encouraged me. I went to a local pub in my area, the place called "Village Idiot". I felt in I was in the right place, finally.

Almost forgot this is a running blog. So here you are - after no-racing Saturday (I didn't run at all, my leg still hurts), I went for a run on Sunday morning. The first few km felt good, and then my knee reminded me of itself. Then left calf felt neglected and became vocal as well. So not really enjoyable experience. What is a shame, as I run in a really nice area. I decided to go towards Beverly Hills. And now I know why super rich people live there. Green, quiet area, full of big houses in big gardens, behind big walls. Didn't meet anyone famous though, probably they ignored my newsletter that I was coming and will be offering selfies.

After that I went to Santa Monica. Hell yeah, let's start November at the beach!
Plus, to be honest, I didn't know where else to go. Los Angeles is not very non-driver friendly city. It is vast, and the nice areas are separated. It's quite unlike other cities.
Most of the cities are continuous. You can walk from an area to an area, and even though they can be dramatically different from each other, the whole city has some logical vibe and continuity. Los Angeles is different.
There are very cool areas, with interesting things going on, but they are like islands in the sea of white noise. You've got an area, and another one is, say, 5 miles away. So there is 5 miles of the city in between, but there is nothing to it. Maybe I'm wrong, maybe I just don't understand this place (I've spend only 3 day here), but it just seems incoherent to me.

But back to Santa Monica.
It's a very nice, tidy town, beautiful beach, plenty of people. Funny thing, at some point a cloud came to the beach. But it was literally at the sea level. Some pictures below:

It was still very warm, you just couldn't see any further than a short sprint away.
And here are some pictures of the Sun setting over the Pacific Ocean:

That's all folks, tomorrow off to San Francisco!