Our second hotel was a pleasant boutique hotel with otherwise great staff (see yesterday) who recommended a breakfast location not too far away. However they weren’t serving breakfast any more so we took ourselves quite by chance to a San Francisco classic diner Sear’s Fine Food which was great. Lots of antique paraphernalia and photographs and a splendid old world atmosphere and great bacon, eggs and pancakes. When we left it we went back to the building where the car was garaged and noted a fabulous art deco exterior on 450 Sutter. The lobby was amazing all marble, gilt and mirrors. Don’t miss it if you’re ever in that area.
We wandered around Union Square taking in its historical significance as a place of meetings and protests, admired the Dewey Monument statue of the Goddess of Victory high above us and thought idly about taking a cable car ride – one of the musts in San Francisco which we had failed to do in our previous days here. We had seen the lengthy queues down by Pier 42 and in Market Street and thought we’d have to wait for ever.
But at the stop in Union Square we managed to board the second car that pulled in. It is quite an experience and one we’re glad we did. As transport it is comfortable enough and a historic reminder of the early days of the city. It gives you the clearest impression of the vertiginous nature of many San Francisco streets and the utter chaos that seems to await the cable car after cresting every hill. The guards are also characters determined to maintain the sense of fun in taking this iconic ride – cable cars are not included in our three day travel card.
By then it was time to make our way back to the hotel pick up our luggage and make for the airport. We had a rather slowly served lunch at the normally excellent Blue Mermaid and had to get a taxi back to Union Square. The driver told us he’d tried having a London taxi as a tourist attraction in The City but it couldn’t manage the hills and was knackered in two years.
I failed to take the correct exit on the way to the airport and SatNav again took us on a fine tour of the suburbs before delivering us to the car rental return area. San Francisco airport was great – the Air Train ride from the car rental centre to the international terminal was easy and the terminal had some very interesting displays on the history and development of San Francisco. We boarded quickly and easily with our “pre” status accorded by Virgin America in Boston and made the short trip to Las Vegas a destination included in our trip not because of any burning desire to visit Sin City but because it was convenient for the drive to the Grand Canyon, the next real item on the agenda.
We got a cab to the Hard Rock Hotel a recommendation from seasoned Vegas visitors as being a little bit off the strip and preferable to many. I’m no prude and have travelled extensively but I have to confess to a feeling of shock on walking in to the reception area of the hotel to find a pair of pole dancers strutting their scanty stuff at either side of the bar area that bordered reception. On a closer examination – well you have to don’t you – they were both so disinterested and disinclined to perform that the experience was neither erotic nor truly sleazy given their location. Impression number two wasn’t good either. Despite checking no-smoking on the booking form we were allocated a smoking room. To be fair it didn’t smell too obviously but there’s a principle at stake. We were asked if we could bear with it tonight and they’d fix it for us while we were away at the Grand Canyon. The basic room rates are so low as the resorts make their money in other ways that it was cheaper for us to pay for four nights rather than one and then two, and it meant we only had to take an overnight bag on our trip next day.
We wandered around the huge hotel/casino me resisting the temptation to purchase some really awful Beatles dolls – well Dee is a big fan! We then ate an acceptable dinner in one of the few eateries that remained open and retired to our not-too-smoky room.