Sunday, March 6, 2011

I left my heart in San Francisco to be where little cable cars Climb halfway to the stars.....

As promised I am taking you on a tour of San Francisco: there is still so much to see, so hop along with me and lets go check out the cable cars...  San Francisco is an array of hills and valleys, and the cable car will take you up and down like a slow roller coaster ride. The views from the bay are fabulous and something you cannot miss. Ever wonder how the cable cars work, well here it is:
The cable runs underground. It’s a set of steel strands wrapped around a rope core. The cable moves at a speed of about 15km per hour. The car grabs onto the cable and is pulled along the track. When it reaches the end of the track, the car runs onto a turntable:
Now people have to turn it around by hand so that it can go in the other direction: The star of the show is the gripman. This is a highly skilled and physically superior being. The competition to become a gripman is strong and the training is harsh. Only 30 percent of trainees pass the course.

Behind the gripman you will see the impressive array of levers he has to manipulate. He is the man who makes the car grab or release the cable. He also has to judge the gaps across intersections, where the cable does not run. And he has to watch out for unaware motorists and pedestrians and other mere mortals who don’t know just how out-of-control a cable car can be.

How many times I have seen pictures of people hanging from cable cars like this in travel channels, well I did too!!

For a visitor to San Francisco,  cable cars are not a means of transportation but a destination, one of the things one has to 'see', and be 'seen' in, if they go to the City by the Bay, (like me : I am very much one of them).  Powell-Hyde: (blue on the map) : Goes from Market and Powell to Aquatic Park, past Union Square, the Cable Car Barn Museum, Nob Hill, Russian Hill, .Lombard Street, ends at the Ghirardelli Square. Look out for the brown signs on it.
In this picture, you can see the Golden Gate Bridge, and the scenery behind me is so breath takingly beautiful. 

This where you have to keep your cameras ready to get a shot of the Lombard Street from the Cable Car
While waiting for the Cable Car: you are never bored as street musicians keep entertaining you all the while. The waiting too is just 10 mins.
Don't ever make the mistake of sitting inside the cable car, for that is not fun, either you sit on the open sides or just stand near the entrance, also only 2/3 people are allowed to stand in the front near the entrance. You want to be in the front of the cable car and for Maximum Fun you want to be hanging onto a pole while standing on the running board.

Along the way you can exit the cable car at Lombard Street, if you aren't going there then get your camera ready because at the top of this hill (Hyde and Lombard) you are treated to an unobstructed view of San Francisco's Alcatraz Island. If you want to get down don't pull the rope (that is the bell-rope, exclusively for the grip person's use), just yell: "Next stop, please", about a block away before you want to get off. If you wait too long to ask, the grip person needs some time to bring the car to a halt, and he may have to take you the next stop instead. It is always better to know these things before itself, so that we don't encounter any problems.

some views taken from inside the cable car
The Famous Lombard Street: The street is famous for a small section near the top of Russian Hill, between Hyde and Leavenworth streets. Here the hill is so steep (27°) that it would be too dangerous for most vehicles, 
so between 1922 and 1923 this part of Lombard Street was transformed into a switchback with eight sharp turns. Cars can only drive downhill, east-bound towards Leavenworth Street. 

Winding down the road The sight of cars maneuvering down the winding road has become a popular tourist attraction. Some tourists even drive down the street themselves, braving the frequent traffic jams and bumper to bumper traffic. If this sounds like fun to you and you also want to feel how it's like driving down a switchback, make sure you approach Lombard street from Hyde street since this is a one-way street. In this picture you can get a clear view of the Coit Tower. 

The main attraction is watching people drive down the crooked, one block section, or driving down it yourself ( which is what we did ). On a busy day, a seemingly endless stream of automobiles, with passengers squealing in mock fear at every turn. You can also walk down or up the side walks and watch the show. I believe the best place to photograph Lombard street is from the bottom, looking up. Because we opted for driving down, we couldn't take proper pictures, as one cannot stop in the middle to take pictures, one has to keep moving on. The racket people create by shouting, squealing as if they are in some scary roller coaster is really very irritating. I wonder how people living there tolerate this nonsense whole year round. 

The Coit Tower visible from the top of Lombard street

I wonder how people living there tolerate this nonsense everyday. They have to pay exorbitant money to own a property there. Even though Lombard Street is billed as the crookedest street in the world, it is not even the most crooked or steepest street in San Francisco. The steepest street is Filbert street with a 31.5° slope while Vermont Avenue at 20th Street claims to be the most crooked. And Snake Alley in Burlington, Iowa, has even sharper turns. But all this doesn't matter for Lombard Street: it is the most photogenic of them all, especially in the spring and summer when the many chrysanthemums in the well tended flowerbeds are in full bloom.When we were there the whole of San Francisco was in full bloom in pretty colors. I really loved it .
 People who live here not only have to pay lot of money just to stay here, but also have to spend money on keeping this places beautifully landscaped and well maintained all year round. 


The end of the Lombard Street

San Francisco is well known for its support of alternative lifestyles which routinely sees families and frat boys pounding the pavement next to nudists and artists. Once synonymous with hippies and the counter-culture, today the corner of Haight and Ashbury Street is a confluence of modern, trendy shops and piercing salons and alternative bookstores.

Rising in pale tiers from shining San Francisco Bay, this extraordinary city issues a siren's call to visitors, inviting them to sample its charms, marvel at its architecture, scale its steep streets, explore its familiar and hidden places, and absorb its one-of-a-kind character. It's a city rich with possibility, abounding in diversity, and irresistibly beautiful. It claims a fascinating history, landmark sights and a welcoming atmosphere.
 San Francisco has  many more attractions to visit, which can only be covered in my next blog. Till then I leave you with my favorite song by Tony Bennett:

Did you enjoy hopping along with me?


  1. Beautiful post. SF is indeed very pretty. I really like your sentence...CABLE CARS are the transportation but Destination..

  2. Never been there so loved this post it is on my list of places to visit in USA

  3. beautiful virtual journey,
    If you ever want to make a Youtube video using all these trip photos, just mail me or keep a comment
    i will do it happily.

  4. Hello! Cable cars...All these are beautiful ...

  5. Are you in SF now? How do you remember so much details? You amaze me. Loved the pics and write up.

  6. Excellent post. I remember when my husband drove me down Lombard Street. I loved the Pier 39 crab bisque, and I still have the fleece jacket I bought almost 11 years ago. I still use it :). My favorite is the Golden Gate Bridge. What amazed me in SFO was that the traffic lights caused you to stop almost at the top of a steep road and one would feel a real danger of being dragged backwards. I love that city!

  7. Great post very very interesting and some amazing clicks

  8. Beautiful post...Thank You very much for sharing...In Azerbaijan language the "bag" is a garden...

  9. Ah well I have only seen the AIRPORT :( .. would love to go there one day .. beautiful pictures and the descriptions you have given awesome ..
    you had funnn :)
    Lovely blog you got


  10. Thank you Bikramjit. Welcome to my blog.
    Yes we always manage to have fun, for one has get full paisa vasool.

  11. Thanks everybody for stopping by my blog.

  12. The cable cars somehow reminds me of the Trams we had in Bombay (now Mumbai) a post I had written long back (
    But the mechanism of running both are different as descibed by you. I can imagine the responsibility of the Grip man.

  13. Thank You very much for Your beautiful comments in my blog!

  14. There is the mosque on the rocks in Siyezen photos...

  15. Sincere thanks for the greetings on the occasion of Lithuania's Independence Day.

  16. Lovely post...Felt like a trip to SF:) Cable so mad abt them, i love to just go on and on, except my darling husband who had a heart attack on seeing them:P

  17. Welcome cloud nine, to my blog, in my case I wanted to go and see as many places as possible before I got an heart attack.

  18. Rama, well, I did enjoy my ride in the cable car,but not aware of so much of info about them, thanks for letting me know... it is one of the most fun experiences I had in my last visit to the place.. hope you will see my painting on the crooked street and enjoy my perception:-)

  19. descriptive post! could serve as a travel guide to anybody travelling to SF.

  20. I hopped with you! I left my heart in SF too even if I didn't drove on Lombard St. I missed the fun...I spent one week in SF on 1996 and I enjoyed every minute there. Of course, the cable cars represent one of the main attractions. Everybody knows them from the movies.

    I wrote about the city too on my blog, on September 2010.

  21. I spent six months in San Francisco as a study aboard student. I loved every minute and I miss it every day. I know one day soon I will be coming back home.

  22. Lovely tour....SF is one of my favorite places to visit. Loved going thru your pictures....

  23. Anyone who owns their very own car, whether that's brand new or perhaps one of the used cars San Francisco has to offer, would be able to enjoy these lovely views.