Big ship! - The Lyorn's Den
Sun Feb. 4th, 2007
11:53 pm - Big ship!
Saturday I didn't manage to get out of bed before noon (again), so I went for the traditional pastime of hanging out in bookstores. No coffee this time, though, because there was a long line in front of the coffee counter, and no free table.
I was a little angry about my overall laziness, and refraind from making plans for Sunday.
Which was probably the reason why I jumped out of bed on Sunday not early, but bright-eyed, chirpy and ready for adventure. The local newspaper had announced that on February 4th the Queen Mary 2, largest ocean liner in the world (there are larger cruise ships, because cruise ships need not be built to withstand everything that might happen in the North Atlantic: Giant waves, icebergs, sea monsters, you name it) would dock in San Francisco. However, I had thrown away the newspaper without taking note of the time this was supposed to happen, so I just packed some things, including Tiassa's camera (as you might remember, I had some trouble with it three weeks ago, but the film, I discovered, had rewound alright, if missing a few pictures), a reserve film, and something to read, and got myself on the next BART train into the city.
This time I got off at the Embarcadero, a street that has the city on its western side and the piers on the eastern. The first thing you see when you get on street level is the ferry building with its white clock tower, and the Bay Bridge behind it painted against the sky. In front of it yellow and green and dark red historical streetcars pass. To your left are hotels of such a proud grey ugliness that it can nearly pass for style, and right in the middle where Market Street ends is a plaza with a street market where you can get knickknacks: hand-made jewellery, tie-dyed T-shirts, stickers -- the things you want to bring home and show off. I bought a sweatshirt with a print on it, which I hadn't intended to, but I'd been looking for more than a year now for a thick, comfortable sweatshirt that didn't have some embarrassing brand name printed all over it, so it was an opportunity to get something both pretty and needed. (And expensive.)
Then I walked north, towards Pier 39, stopping here and there to read the info signs about the history of the place, gawk at the occasional strange thing, and take pictures. This is most of what's left of the San Francisco harbour. The business is in Oakland these days, and the Embarcadero used to be nothing more than the freeway that led up to the Bay Bridge, but after the earthquake in 1989 the street was re-built as a boulevard, with palm trees and streetcars and lots of space for pedestrians. There are still loads of cars, though. Although I took my time, I reached Pier 39 about half an hour later -- in the time I spent on my visit in October waiting for the Streetcar That Didn't Come, I could have comfortably walked the distance. One learns.
Somewhere on the way I discovered an announcement that the QM 2 was expected to pass under the Golden Gate Bridge at half past three, which didn't leave me with enough time to walk farther for a better spot, but enough to buy fudge and postcards on Pier 39, and find a good spot on the boardwalk running along the outside of it, exactly the spot where you have the best view of the sea lions, too.
The ship was about 45 minutes late, but the day was sunny and warm, if a little hazy, there were sea lions to watch, and I had a broad banister to lean on if my feet got tired. When she ship first appeared under the bridge, it was just a big shape in the haze, and it didn't quite seem to fit under the bridge (which is about 67 metres above the water). It did fit though, and hooted triumphantly (some sea lions felt that they had to answer). Every small boat in the bay seemed to be out to watch the QM 2 come in: the opposite shore was white with sails. (Of course, everyone wanted to see the ship against the silhouette of the city.) The ship seemed to approach very slowly, only when it was near enough, so you saw it more from the side than from the front you noticed that it went quite fast. Big ship. Pretty. Looks like you imagine a ship to look, not like some box or bowl that someone accidentally dumped in the water. The decks were crowded with waving people, a fire-fighter ship was blowing water in all directions and making rainbows... it was quite a party. It passed Pier 39 and, I discovered later, waited out in the bay for the tide, so it could dock at Pier 27 at eight in the evening.
I was surprised to discover how many pictures I had taken (I hope some are good -- the light was tricky, and the haze might have washed out the colours), and how hungry I was. Of the numerous sea food restaurants along the pier I chose the one that smelled second-best (the best one had the TV blearing), and had something like a paella, only with a spicy tomato sauce instead of saffron. Again, service was so fast that I felt they wanted to get rid of me. I'm getting used to that.
As I was walking back, night was falling. From next to pier 27 you could see the ship, all lighted and shiny on the dark Bay. I wondered if it was as nice from the inside as from the outside, but you can't find that out for less than a high four-figure sum. So I got onto the BART train, which rattled its way under the Bay and through the Hills, made it back to my hotel a little before eight, and diminished my stock of brownie muffins, because with the evening cold there had come a craving for sugar.
Here is the newspaper article I took much of the background info from. They have pictures, which I won't until April.