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...