The beautiful weather is continuing in San Francisco, and on Tuesday I joined a segway tour in Golden Gate Park. I actually had a nice ride on a city bus for once: #28 which passes through the Presidio (and its iconic Palace of Fine Arts building) and the Golden Gate Bridge viewpoint before crossing Golden Gate Park. Not surprisingly, half the people onboard were tourists, with their nose glued to a street map. 🙂

Golden Gate Park

Golden Gate Park (on the western side of the city) is larger than Central Park in New York City: 4.1 square kilometres (1017 acres) to be exact. I figured that exploring by segway would let me see more of it than just walking. It was also an opportunity to learn a new skill. I had seen people tour around the Distillery District in Toronto on segways for many years, but had never tried it myself.

I have to say that our ride was a lot more challenging than I expected. Did you know that segways can go off-road, as well as up and down hills? Well, I didn’t know that either until last Tuesday! I also didn’t realize that you “ride” segways by shifting your weight forward and backward, as well as slightly leaning on the handles to turn. They react to very slight movements and feel almost “alive” under you, sort of like a horse. I was tempted to give mine a name!

Our segway group

Our segway group (I’m third from the right)

I also didn’t realize that you can quite easily wipe out on these things if you’re not careful (mostly by running into things or other people). We had to sign waivers, and were equipped with a helmet, a vest, and a radio with earbud through which we could hear Chandra, our guide as we moved in a single file around the park. We also watched a video and had over half-an-hour of instruction and practice before we set off.

Learning to ride a segway

Learning to ride a segway

For safety reasons, you’re not allowed to take photos while you ride, so I can’t show you those uneven dirt trails and mulch-covered ground that Chandra made us ride on. In fact, this tour was more about experiencing riding a segway over all kinds of terrain than it was about seeing the sights. Although we did cover most of the eastern side of the park, and saw more than the central attractions of Japanese Tea Garden, California Academy of Science and DeYoung Museum. Of course we didn’t get to enter any of those. Chandra pointed them out as we rode and also told us about the history of the park, beginning with its creation in 1870. Before then, there was nothing here but shifting sand dunes overlooking the ocean.

We passed by many statues and flower beds, through an “Australian forest” (beautiful – I could have spent an hour here), in front of the Conservatory of Flowers, and around a Carousel built in 1912. We saw a Pioneer log cabin, a rose garden, even a waterfall. We took a break by Stow Lake where people relaxed in pedal and row boats. We rode in circles on dead leaves and mulch trough a patch of redwood trees.

Carousel from 1912, Golden Gate Park

Indoor carousel from 1912, Golden Gate Park

I won’t lie: a few people did wipe out, and even our guide was almost mauled by his own machine, but I’m proud to report that I remained upright the whole time! 🙂 And it was actually quite fun. You just had to pay attention.

Japanese Tea Garden, Golden Gate Park

Japanese Tea Garden, Golden Gate Park

Many of the photos here were actually taken before or after the tour. Most attractions have entry fees but are free at certain times. The Japanese Tea Garden for example costs $8 ($6 for residents) but is free between 9 and 10 am on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. The California Academy of Science costs a whopping $34.95 but has free admission on the third Wednesday of the month. The Rose Garden is free, but unfortunately the flowers are not at their peak this time of year.

California Academy of Science

California Academy of Science

Overall if was a pleasant two hours and gave a good idea of what the park is about.

Union Square

If downtown San Francisco has a “centre”, then it ought to be Union Square. Surrounded by Post Street and Geary Street with their upscale department stores (think Saks Fifth Avenue and Macy’s), Powell Street with one of the most popular cable car lines, and Stockton Street, this is as central as it gets.

Union Square, San Francisco

Union Square, San Francisco

I headed that way on Wednesday afternoon, to see if it would bring back any memories. Back in the late 90’s, I lived in the southern Bay Area for six months with my techie boyfriend. Our occasional trips to the city always included Union Square, and a sushi restaurant with sushi moving along a conveyor belt. Alas, the restaurant seemed to have gone, and nothing looked really familiar, until I saw a sign for the Cheesecake Factory! I had forgotten about that. 🙂

While walking around the square and browsing the art stalls, I came across a sign advertising a Happy Hour with $6 glasses of wine from 4 to 7 pm. A quick look at my phone revealed that is was now 4:01pm. Why not? I had a glass of Californian chardonnay and watched tourists hanging out of cable cars on Powell street.

Cable car on Powell street

Cable car on Powell street

My other reason for going downtown was to do a bit of shopping, more specifically to look for a new pair of jeans to take with me on my trip to Europe in October. So after I finished my wine, I made my way to the Old Navy store on Market Street.

Californian chardonnay

Now many of you may know how much I hate shopping, but the wine really made the experience a lot less painful. So maybe that’s the trick: have a drink before I go shopping. Being relaxed and not stressed out about not finding what I was looking for made all the difference. Why didn’t I think of this before? 🙂

In fact, the very first pair of jeans I tried on fit me best, and that’s the one I ended up buying. I also bought some socks. The tag on the jeans said $29.50 which I thought was pretty good, but at the cash register I realized that they were on sale for only $19. Ha!

And so, swinging my Old Navy paper shopping bag, I headed back to Union Square on my way to dinner. There was a Latin Music band playing on a stage and a few couples dancing a cha-cha. I felt pretty good.

Union Square, San Francisco

Union Square with latin band

Dinner was at a small “hole in the wall” Thai restaurant called Chabaa on Geary Street. I got there around 6:00 pm which was a good idea because the few tables filled up very quickly. For $13 (including tax) I got a large serving of prawn red curry with a big pile of jasmine rice. Darkness was falling as I returned home to feed the cats their dinner (some kind of boring fish stew). Yes, the cats and I are in a competition to see who gets the best food.

Shrimp red curry at Chabaa

Shrimp red curry at Chabaa

Addendum: My new jeans feel stiff and uncomfortable when I sit down for a while. So perhaps shopping after drinking is not such a good idea. 🙁

Viator sponsored my segway tour in Golden Gate Park. However all opinions are my own.

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