photo from goldengatebridge.org
We left Canada by boat on the Clipper from Victoria to Seattle. In Seattle we did the Needle and wandered round Pike Place Market. We had a great meal in Cutters Crabhouse - the most amazing sushi I have ever eaten. The next day we took the Amtrack - Coastal Starlight Train to San Francisco (well Emeryville and then the bus). It's a 24 hour trip and what an experience - worthy of a blog in its own right. We watched the US slip past the train windows; going to sleep high in the mountains and waking up in the middle of a massive refinery in Sacramento. There's something about long train journeys that activates my inner Agatha Christie!
We arrived in San Francisco in bright sunshine at 10am. The town was buzzing - it was Memorial Day weekend and the 75th birthday of the Golden Gate Bridge. The streets were already heaving with people of every shape, colour and size and you could hear the sealions hooting away.
But, there they were, weaving in and out of the pedestrians and dawdlers - runners. Loads and loads of runners. Tall, short, old, young, fast, slow, lean and definitely not lean. San Francisco runs! Yippee! Cyclists too, from lycra clad cycling junkies to tentative first timers. San Francisco moves and it grooves.
I was even more delighted when we got to our delightful and rather special hotel on Fisherman's Wharf - The Argonaut. (Thank you Andy for finding us this!). There on the desk was an offer to join the weekly running session with the fabulous Fernando (read on) and a running map in my room! Yay! I had to run, it's mandatory here.
The next morning I was up early and ready to run San Francisco. I peeked out of the window - the streets were empty except for runners so off I went. It was cold and cloudy but I'm well used to that! I went one way along Fisherman's Wharf down towards Pier 39 where I said 'good morning' to the San Francisco sealions. At that time of day there were no crowds but those sea lions were still putting on quite a show!
Round Pier 39 with the smell of sourdough bread making my mouth water and then back up towards Golden Gate Bridge. At the end of the wharf you go past the open air swimming club and a small beach and then up a steep hill with glimpses of the Golden Gate Bridge in the distance. Friendly bunch too these SF runners. Not all said 'hi' but quite a few did and that was nice.
Golden Gate is a magical bridge and the longer we were there, the more I found myself wanting to look at it, to see it from every angle and in different lights. It's a bridge you really want to get to know, a bit like the Forth Rail Bridge, another iconic red/orange bridge that mesmerises you.
I ran round the park and down along the flat and then home for one of those wonderful US breakfasts. Today's treat was the Buena Vista Cafe - very probably the finest breakfast I have ever had - even without trying their famous Irish Coffee at 9am! Thank you Kathleen.
My second run in San Francisco was with Fernando from the Argonaut Hotel. Fernando's a runner who has done the San Francisco Marathon (yes it includes hills!) and takes guests out with him on his Tuesday night run. I thought it was a great idea and thoroughly enjoyed our run by the sea. I learnt so much about life in San Francisco, got some great visit and restaurant tips and I really enjoyed my time with Fernando. What a great idea for a hotel service, and one I've never come across before - more please!
We did the usual tourist stuff, Alcatraz, Nappa Valley, but the biggest thing in San Francisco really isn't the cable cars or the hills, or even Ghiradelli Chocolate, no the big thing about San Francisco is the Golden Gate Bridge - and we were there for her 75th Birthday bash - lucky or what!
We'd seen her from almost ever angle you can imagine, but this is clearly a Bridge that has to be crossed one way or another. The question was how?
My first thought was to run across it. It would mean a total run of about 12 miles from the hotel, not a ridiculous distance even without much practice. But how would my vertigo cope? What was the traffic going to be like? Would it be easy to find my way up to the bridge from the bay? I even looked to see if there were any local running clubs, there are but nothing was happening whilst we were there. You can pay to do a running tour - in a group or on your own. City Running Tours charge $75 for a run up to 6 miles and $25 per person for group 5k runs. (other options are available). I think I feel a change of career coming on!
The more I thought about it, the more certain I was that what mattered was going across the Bridge with Ali, didn't matter if I ran or walked. On our last full day, we hired bikes and cycled over the Golden Gate Bridge. It was cloudy, it was cold, we couldn't see very far, but wow, it was amazing to be on it.
As we entered a sunny and warm Marin County, we looked back on the bridge and I knew we'd made the right decision. We cycled on to Sausalito for lunch at The Bridgeway Cafe and the onto Tiberon - about 20 miles. We had a totally wonderful local, organic and well deserved ice cream at the The Grass Shack and a wander round Tiberon. A fascinating place with nooks and crannies and houses all the way up the steep hills round the bay. The Ferry ride back gave us final views of the Bridge from the sea.
San Francisco is definitely special, and Marin County an unexpected gem. Running in a place that's full of runners is just great and runner watching is just as much fun as any other type of people watching. Everyone runs their own way; some make it look easy, others make it look painful. I got lots of food for thought about running form and I think Ali is now an expert on it! People watching for runners!
And as for the Bridge, well I might run over it in future, but what I enjoyed much more was seeing it when I was running. It is a Bridge that is better looked at that walked on!
So there you have it, 6 holiday runs. I had a fab time and will definitely do holiday running again. It was a long journey home, cramped but we actually got back on time for once and the plane from London was the one that brought the Olympic Flame to the UK. It was yellow with some stunning photos inside. That was an unexpected treat.
One of the good things about North Berwick though is that it's a lovely place to live and to run. So it was with a big smile on my face that I set off for my first post holiday run - barefoot on the beach. As I splashed through the surf like I was 6 years old, I relished the cool fresh air, the lush greens and the red stone and the blue sky. Everything in balance, everything in its right place. Home Sweet Home!
Happy holidays, happy running!