Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Around San Francisco in a day? Sure, why not!

So it was two weekends ago. My school-friend S had come visiting from Texas. We were supposed to go to Yosemite to do the famed Half Dome hike over the Memorial Day weekend. Unfortunately, the trail was closed due to unseasonal flooding - I guess this is the first time I have actually seen flooding happen in anticipation of a rare event happening. In any case, ditching Yosemite plans resulted in 3 days of time to go around other places in California.

On Friday, as I slogged at office, S kept up a constant stream of emails with suggestions on what to do on Saturday. Many suggestions came forth but it was obvious that her heart was set on going to the Samba Carnival in SF. Well, being the nice athiti satkar-kind of person, I agreed even though I have been to SF's Pier 39 enuff times to start waving acknowledgement to the store owners there. Well, as S pointed out, we were going to see the "real" SF and not just pier 39.

So we set off on Saturday around 1.00p - watching the first day last show of bunty aur babli the previous night ensured that we did not get up at any decent hour in the morning. We had decided to make it a total "adventure" tour of SF and hence parked and left the car once we got to the Caltrain station.

The first of the adventures started there - no matter what combinations, coaxing or kicking we tried, the ticket vending machine refused to vend any tickets. However, the nice conductor on Caltrain let us ride for free :-). We arrived at Millbrae a good hour later. There we jumped off the train to get the BART connection to SF.

I dont know if you have had the chance to buy tickets from the BART vending machine - it has about the most confusing interface I have ever seen for purchasing tickets - especially for hapless first-timers. After plenty of 'go back to beginning's, cancellings and oopzzz (much to the irritation of the people behind us in queue), we managed to get our tickets and sprinted to the train and hopped in just minutes before it left the station. The sprint pretty much set the pace for the rest of the day.

BART is rapid, true, but boy, does it make some noise!! The whistling screech it gives as it rushes through tunnels makes you feel like its going to get launched like a rocket and take off into space at any moment! Pretty much for the whole BART journey, we kept our mouths open and jiggled our ears periodically to offset the pressure changes. 20 minutes later, we arrived at 16th and Mission - from where Harrison St., the carnival destination, was a half-mile walk.

Being first timers, we were disoriented about directions. But, enterprising as we are, we set off smartly after consulting an area map on a nearby post. And walked, and Walked, and WALKED. No sign of Harrison St. All that was to be seen was the sun shining merrily in spite of dire morning weather forecasts of windy and cold conditions, plenty of restaurants and throngs of people. Finally, thirst and hunger pangs made us stop and ask somebody if we were indeed heading in the right direction. And of course, Murphy's law had prevailed - we were in the opposite direction of that towards which Harrison st lay. And to add further injury, we were now a mile away from Harrison St - aaaaaargh!

To overcome this setback something strong was needed. Chai! We rushed into the next coffee-shop we came across. It was a quaint little shop with rickety furniture, antique decor, chipped crockery etc. We ordered chai (mine was sweet, S chose spicy) and to assuage our stomachs till we could be fed at the carnival, ordered toast and eggs. Chai arrived. In a mug which seemed like a pot with a handle! I think 3 Starbucks Tall drinks would have comfortably fit into one of those mugs! And then the toast arrived - a pretty big serving of that too. Cheap and nice for the 2 bucks apiece that they cost!! Anyways by the time this chai-break was done, we were extremely full and a lot more energetic. Refresehed, we set off on our quest again.

After plodding another 3/4ths of a mile, we finally began seeing signs of the carnival.
To be continued...

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