13th May 2023
We are in the city ahead of a Spring ski trip to Palisades Tahoe and Mammoth Mountain. We reckon any ski trip to this part of California deserves some time in one of the greatest cities in the USA. NEW
I have had a few fabulous rides on a cable cars in the mountains in my time.
I’m thinking the vertical experience of the Aiguille du Midi in Chamonix, or perhaps to the Kleine Matterhorn in Zermatt.
But cable car rides in San Francisco are right up there.
“Hey, you guys hanging on the left. Breathe in and don’t hang out your arms or they’ll be removed. There’s another cable car coming close,” advised the driver.
“Look out for the wing mirrors on the lorry you good people on the right,” he advised a moment later.
I’m on the streets of San Francisco where the trams are called cable cars.
Rather oddly up in the US mountains the cable cars are called trams – I’m thinking of the trams of Snowbird in Utah and Jackson Hole in Wyoming.
That’s the US for you.
It’s a strange place, that is best accepted for what it is rather than questioned.
I’m in San Francisco ahead of a spring ski trip to the snow-laden slopes of California.
See here for a preview article as we arrived with details of the huge amounts of snow that have fallen in the US Rockies this winter and what skiing in May is all about.
PlanetSKI is (obviously) a ski web site rather than a city review web site – but we reckon any skier heading to the California ski resorts via San Francisco should stop off for a few days.
More about the cable cars later, but we used them and the other public transport options to access the tourist hot spots.
The seals at Pier 39.
The streets of China town.
The twists in Lombard street.
And the port itself.
Brunch is a must in San Francisco, and not just at any old place.
Sears has been serving the most fabulous brunches since 1938 and is a PlanetSKI favourite.
Now I am not one to criticise (much), but coffee in the USA is generally utterly appalling.
And that is putting it mildly.
It is usually lukewarm water with a slight coffee taste if you are lucky.
I have a tried and trusted method to get a decent coffee in the USA and it works every time.
Head to the Italian quarter.
In San Francisco Café Trieste is highly recommended.
Not only for its coffee but it’s history and atmosphere.
This is where a certain Francis Ford Coppola sat as he laboured over the first drafts of the screenplay for The Godfather.
The coffee set us up for nearby Coit Tower.
The 210 ft monument was built in 1933 by Lilly Hitchcock Coit and has been designated an Historic Landmark.
It’s a hike up to its base and then it’s up 240 steps, with fabulous murals on the way.
The walk up was a good warm up for the skiing to come.
At the top the views of San Francisco are simply stunning.
San Francisco is more like a European city with a real centre unlike its Californian cousin – Los Angles.
Now we mentioned there’d be a few more details of the cable car system.
- It is the only cable car system currently in operation in the world.
- The first line was built in 1873 and at its height there were 23 lines.
- Now there are just three – two heading from Union Square to Fisherman’s Wharf and one running along part of California Street from the port.
- 40 cars run on the lines, and they stop at 62 stations along the way.
- Around 15,000 people use them daily – that equates to 6m riders a year.
- They have a top speed on 9.5mph.
A cable runs continually under the road and the cars simply hook on to the cable to move and release the grip to slow down or stop.
This how they turn around at the end of the line between Union Square and Fisherman’s Wharf.
Shortly we’ll be heading to ski at Palisades Tahoe and Mammoth Mountain.
After receiving record-breaking amounts of snow this winter, over 18m, some slopes will be open into summer.
The short break in San Francisco has set us up nicely for the skiing – we’re over jet lag, acclimatised to the American way of doing things and in the mood for the mountains.
But what about the two most famous tourist attraction of San Francisco?
- The Golden Gate Bridge
Well, we like the city so much we’re also spending a few days here on the way back and will be paying a visit to both.
But first it’s time to go skiing.
Bring it on…