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Saturday, August 28, 2010 : From Lake Tahoe to San Francisco

 

When we leave our hotel in Kings Beach, the sun is hardly up. We have had no breakfast, since the hotel did not offer one.

 

We join I-80 at Truckee and we drive up to Donner Pass, 7,200 ft high. Not bad, for an Interstate ! Just after the pass, we stop at Soda Springs for a well-deserved breakfast. The place mostly caters to loggers, so we are not surprised by the huge portions. We surely won't need a lunch !

 

Then we drive down to the Imperial Valley, separating the coastal ranges and the Sierras. We cross Stockton and Sacramento. Little by little, we are getting closer to San Francisco, the end of our trip.

 

The weather seems fair, but there are a few clouds far away, where the Golden Gate Bridge is supposed to be. Let's hope it is not in the fog, like on our second day !

 

The more we're nearing the Bay, the denser traffic gets, although the highway now has five lanes. And we're confronted to another choice : should we stay on I-80 and enter San Francisco thru Bay Bridge, or take a chance, leave the Interstate and enter San Francisco thru the Golden Gate ? Eventually, we leave I-80 at Vallejo, drive around the northern edge of the Bay and join US-101. Of all the ways I know to enter San Francisco, this one is my favorite.

 

Today is our lucky day, the Golden Gate Bridge is absolutely clear of any fog when we arrive. Of course, we immediately leave US-101 to enjoy the promontories on the hill.

 

San Francisco, the Pacific seen from the Golden Gate Upper Promontory

The Pacific Ocean, seen from the Upper Promontory above the Golden Gate Bridge

 

We take this picture of the Pacific Ocean, which I really enjoy, with its clear sky. We've really been inspired not to stay on I-80. It's gorgeous !

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San Francisco, the Golden Gate Bridge seen from the Upper Promontory

The Golden Gate Bridge, seen from the Upper Promontory

 

A few hundred feet below, we can finally take a picture of the whole Golden Gate Bridge. What a difference with August 8 ! I may have seen the landscape a few times, I'm not bored. How pure, how elegant is that bridge !

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San Francisco, Golden Gate Bridge, paint works

They repaint the bridge non-stop !

 

Then we drive down to the Lower Promontory, much more visited by tourists, perhaps because it has a large parking lot. We take this picture of paint works, which are permanent on this bridge. As soon as the workers complete a paint job at one end of the bridge, they begin the next one at the other end.

 

On the left, we can see Angel Island and, far away in the background, Alcatraz.

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San Francisco, Golden Gate Bridge, the whole family

Thanks to a French tourist, the whole family is on the picture, this time

 

Thanks to a French tourist, the whole family is on the picture. It is only the second time it happens, in this trip.

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San Francisco, crossing the Golden Gate Bridge

At last, we are on Golden Gate Bridge

 

Then we drive accross the bridge, slowly, like we want to enjoy it as long as possible.

 

This bridge has an interesting feature, for us French : it is a toll bridge only southbound. Northbound, it's free.

 

We have a time constraint that is not to be overlooked : we have to return our car to the Hertz O'Farrell office in downtown San Francisco. Tomorrow is Sunday, the office will be closed, and Monday morning, we are supposed to leave early, before the office opens. So we have no choice, we must return this car before 1pm.

 

I have kept a little surprise for my family : instead of turning right onto Van Ness, I stay on Lombard Street, which we drive down very slowly.

 

Then I drop my family and our luggage at the Nob Hill Hotel and I rush to the Hertz office, 10 minutes before closing time !

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San Francisco, Grant and Bush, gate into Chinatown

At Grant and Bush, gate into Chinatown

 

We have to make an ultimate choice : one of my good friends in Silicon Valley, a French expat, invites us to his country house in Pebble Beach, but the rest of the family wants to visit Alcatraz. So we put the question up to a very democratic vote, and Alcatraz wins. I am finally satisfied, since I had never visited the Rock in five trips to San Francisco.

 

In the afternoon, we go for a walk, beginning with Chinatown. We do some shopping, to satisfy those who are waiting for us back in Europe. I have some doubts about the authenticity of some products, but who cares ?

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San Francisco, cable car

The cable car, San Francisco's cult urban transit

 

Of course, we take a few pictures of the cable car, which has three remaining lines in San Francisco. It is less an urban tranport than a tourist attraction, if we consider its $5 ticket price, while for $2, you can cross the whole city by bus !

 

At night, we go to the Pacific shore. We are very quickly disappointed. At the end of the day, the fog has fallen down on the shore, there is a fiercely cold wind and we cannot see anything, certainly not a sunset. Deep-frozen, we give up and get back to the hotel.

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