Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Welcome to California. First stop... San Francisco

An early morning flight from Washington DC, saw Cara and I arrive in San Francisco just before lunch time. The sun was shining, so we quickly decided to walk down to the docks and have lunch around the  San Francisco Bay area.  This small but still densely populated city is one of the most visited tourist destinations in America. It’s known for it’s artistic culture and freedom of expression.  Aside from many musicians and artists residing in San Francisco, it also well known for it’s cultural diversity as it’s become home to many immigrants. Japan town, China town, Little Italy, Korea Town all provide much variety when exploring San Francisco. 

Cara and I made our way from our hotel, through the cities bustling financial district and toward the water front, and specifically the famous Pier 39. If you ever get the chance to go San Francisco, Pier 39 is a must see place to visit. It’s a popular tourist destination full of restaurants, souvenir shops, cafe’s and bars. Pier 39 opened in 1978, and what makes it so popular for tourists (aside from the vast amount of food and drink available), is it’s prime location. It has some of the best views of the San Francisco bay area. The Golden Gate bridge is in view on one side as is the famous ‘Alcatraz’ island on the other side. As Cara and I sat down to have lunch, it was time for me to once again broaden my research on local American beers. I ordered an “Anchor Steam Beer”. A local beer which first began brewing in San Francisco in 1849. Once again like many American beers, it was created by German brewer, Gottleib Brekle and his family. The Brekle family produced their unique blend of beer until 1896 when they sold the company to another German brewer, Ernest Baruth and his son-in-law, Otto Schinkel. The beer company stopped production during the prohibition years in the 1920’s and early 1930’s, but as soon as prohibition ended, Brewer, Joe Kraus bought the brewery and started producing the distinctive german style beer, which had gained so much popularity during it’s early years of production.  In 1959, the Anchor Brewing Company, began to increase into mass production and under took and heavily marketing campaign, which has made it one of the most popular and traditional American made beers to date.  I’ve always loved a bold and full flavoured beer. Many Australian beers such as James Squire, Little Creatures and Coopers all have these qualities, which makes them all so popular.  The Anchor Steam, has a deep rich amber colour, with a soft creamy head. When smelling the beer, you can pick up a strong hop flavours with a hint of caramel. When tasted, It’s not as heavily and strong as it looks. It is light and refreshing with a dry, slightly bitter after taste.  All in all, The Anchor Steam Beer is a well rounded nice refreshing beer. If you love your German style beers, this is definitely worth a try. 

After lunch, Cara and I continued to explore Pier 39 and as the afternoon got later, we slowly made our way back to our hotel, trying to see as much of the city along the way.  The next day we set off early to visit by far one of the most popular tourist attractions in San Francisco, Alcatraz Island.  The well known island is situated almost 2.5km from the San Francisco docks and was originally built for the US Army in 1847. But it’s most famous for being a federal penitentiary for prisoners from 1933 until 1963. During this time it was home to some of America’s worst criminals, arguably the most famous being Al Capone. It was also said that no prisoner could ever possibly escape from Alcatraz and history shows that this is true, despite 14 attempts, all prisoners were caught, except for 3 who were presumed drowned during the swim back to San Francisco, although no bodies were ever found, this still remains a mystery of Alcatraz.  Cara and I spent a couple of hours on the Island, learning about how life was as a prisoner and a worker on the “The Rock”. We jumped back on the ferry and enjoyed the short trip back to the mainland taking many pictures of Alcatraz and also the Golden Gate Bridge along the way.

Approaching “Alcatraz Island"

We spent the next day walking the streets and exploring the different cultural neighbourhoods. Of course our love for all things Italian couldn’t be ignored as we found a nice restaurant in the heart of Little Italy to have lunch. We continued walking though the 'hilly’ landscape of the city, only stopping to witness people hanging off the side of San Francisco’s well known Cable-Cars.  As we kept on moving we found ourselves in the middle of the Fillmore Jazz District, home to many jazz and blues bars and clubs in San Francisco.  The cities popular jazz scene is also what attracts many tourists every year. So we decided to head back to our hotel, freshen up and head out later that night, to listen to one of the local jazz bands play. Cara and I ended up making some new friends with the band and we sat down with them after their gig, and over a few drinks, asked them about life in San Francisco. They told us about the relaxed and laid back vide of the city and how it doesn’t matter who you are or what you do, people don’t judge each other in San Francisco.  After a great night out and an amazing few days, Cara and I headed back to the hotel for some much needed sleep. The next leg of our journey was sure to be an interesting one. Our plans were to hire a car and tackle the American roads on an 8 hour drive through the desert to Las Vegas.  

San Francisco’s Famous Cable Cars

Looking back towards the city from Alcatraz Island

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