Sunday, October 04, 2009

Notes from my Travels: San Francisco Part 1

San Francisco from the Coit Tower

So far, all the cities I have stayed in on this trip I know very well but last night I arrived in San Francisco, a city I had never visited before. I arrived from Vancouver quite late last night so after I had checked into my flea pit hotel I went straight to bed.

A nice understated little lobby

In fact my hotel, The Fairmont, used to stand in for the fictional St Gregory hotel in one of my favourite eighties trash TV series, Arthur Hailey's Hotel. This hasn't been on DVD until now but I noticed from an advertisement in the bar menu that it has now, at last, come out on DVD. You can buy it from room service! Excellent!

Cue brilliant Henry Mancini theme music! I have it on my iPod!

They have also devised a cocktail to celebrate the release of the series but I haven't tried it yet! In fact so far I have confined myself to the local Anchor Steam Beer; a very fine fruity but hoppy ale which is a very superior product indeed.

Healthy, healthy!

I had breakfast down the road at the Omni hotel where my friend was staying as she couldn't get a room at the Fairmont as it was fully booked. I had a very good breakfast there including the best sausages and the best tea I have had so far in North America. Have to see what the Fairmont can come up with tomorrow.

The Coit Tower. Getting up the tower is easy in the lift. Getting up the hill to the tower is something else!

Anyway, we set off for what turned out to be an epic walk down to Fisherman's Wharf and back. Took a boat trip and climbed up the Coit Tower for some great views of the city. Of course I knew, intellectually, that San Francisco is a hilly city; I've seen Bullitt. I hadn't quite appreciated how steep some of the gradients were! No wonder they use cable cars!

USS Pampanito

They have a number of historic ships on display down at Fisherman's Wharf but I was delighted to find two WW2 relics there.

Firstly, the submarine USS Pampanito (it's a sort of fish) which was launched in July 1943 and undertook six combat cruises before the war ended. She is displaying the broom on her conning tower that indicates a "clean sweep": a completely successful mission of sweeping the enemy from the seas.

The forward torpedo room. The tubes are 21" in diameter which gives you an idea of how cramped the space is

I have been on submarines before but only modern ones. This one felt tiny. The beam is 26 feet but that includes the saddle tanks. I would guess the internal width was no more than 10 or 12 feet.

Some of the bunks. Two on one side of the corridor one on the other side. Cozy!

There were only about eight of us on board but I was starting to feel claustrophobic after five minutes. During the war this sub had a complement of 10 officers and 70 men. It doesn't bear thinking about. Interestingly, there were a couple of current US Navy submarine trainee officers on board and whilst they said that the modern boats were much bigger they reckoned that the Pamponito had far more headroom. Gulp! They were both pretty short; about 5'8" I'd guess.

311 feet long

My friend gives some idea of how narrow the boat is

The hatch openings are about three feet high

Of all the things you can do in the armed services the most terryifying has got to be submarine crew member. All credit to those who served (and serve) in these dreadful machines!


  1. I have been on the RN submarines at Gosport and Chatham in the museums cramped, claustrophobic metal tubes...the film 'das Boot' is one of my favourite war movies ....but I would never want to go to war in way! Submariners deserve 100X over the extra pay! ps. enjoying review of of world beers!!

  2. I too am enjoying your gastronomic tour of North America. The family and I have stayed at the Fairmont a number of times - try their "Chocolate Bag" Milk Shake. It's worth the calories.

    Hopefully your travels will take you to New Orleans, where the food is the best in the nation (no offense intended to any other cities) and the local Abita Brewing company produces some fine ales.

    I await your next travel segment.

  3. Excellent post, beer, fried food and military objects.... that's (almost) all the bases covered!

    Anchor is fine beer and I sometimes seek it out by choice in the foreign beers section of my local Tesco's.. in fact I'll get a bottle next time I go!