Friday, July 04, 2008

National Cable Car Bell Ringing Contest

The trouble with staying in motels is that sometimes the previous room occupant is a right joker. The one who had stayed in ours was no exception as he had kindly set the alarm for a 5 am wake up call for us.

The trouble was the stupid thing refused to shut up. Bleary eyed both Martin and I pushed every button on it in every combination we could think off, but it refused to shut up. Eventually I had to pull the heavy set of drawers out from the wall and yank the plug on the thing - and it stayed like that for the 3 days we were there. In fact it was still unplugged when we left, I wonder if anyone has noticed yet?

In that wonderful AA guide I had read that Mel's dinner, just accross the road, was the place to go, so we walked over to have a coffee, and plan out our plan of attack on the city. Well Mel's might be the place to be but it was the most expensive coffee we had in USA and the service wasnt that wonderful. We vowed to find the Starbucks for next time.

All over the place we had seen muni tickets for sale, but couldnt work out what they actually allowed you to travel on. When we walked down to the wharf the previous evening we had seen the cable car turning point and muni tickets were on sale there, so obviously they included the cable car, but what else. There was only one way to find out. Peering at the window wasnt it,
asking inside was

and soon we had a 3 day pass to cable, street and underground transport all for $11 each (about £10 all told). People are wonderfully friendly in San Francisco, we were soon chatting to a couple from Arizona as we explored on the cable car, who suggested we started our tour at the cable car museum. Instead though we spotted signs on the car advertising the 46th annual cable car bell ringing contest, and guess what, it was on that day in about an hours time.

So we carried on up to Union Square, the main centre of San Fran. Desperate for the loos we ventured into Macy's where we were able to get the most fantastic view from the 6th floor and took these fab photos of the preparations going on in the square.

There was a very talanted 'Slot Blades' giving it their all with some '70's funk,
Carl the policeman doing glad handing and crowd control at the same time

the porter from the Shakespear hotel had turned out as a judge,

and the place was overrun with journalists, photographers and even a television crew.

This was obviously a big event and we looked forward with anticipation as we took ring side seats.

The main event was a bit of a while starting as we had to wait for the mayor, the sponsors and the head of the supported charity all to big it up with long speaches first, and explain the rules. These were pretty straight forward, basically anyone and everyone from professional bands to dancers could support the bell ringer.

We had managed to secure the bottom step to sit on, right at the edge of the square and very close to the action. We were going to have a terrific veiw of the goings on. Only ... remember all those journalists, camera men and television crews? All those extra dignatories and hangers ons? As soon as the first bell was rung, they were all there, right up tight against the cable car, in front of us. All the action was in the small space the other side of the cable car, hidden from most of the audience. We couldnt see much of anything at all except the backsides of the media. And those cable car bells are not that loud (see utube for examples, you can actually see on there what we couldnt).

Dissapointed we headed off to grab a coke and a subway sandwich.

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