Haight Ashbury was the epicentre of the Summer of Love in the early 60s and is now our neighbouring suburb.
Staying in the inner-city of many cities has given us a keen interest in the cycles of boom and bust which seem to characterise such areas. Haight Ashbury is a classic example: built as an upper middle-class area it managed to survive the 1906 earthquake, which preserved its lovely wooden houses, but got rocked by the Depression when anyone with money moved out to make space for the more desperate people forced into the cities to look for work.
World War 2 saw a housing shortage which, in turn, saw the large houses sub-divided into apartments and rabbit-warren rooming houses. And then in the late 1950s a projected freeway sent what remained of the housing market plummeting. It was into this environment that the hippies of the Summer of Love arrived in droves and temporarily made the area extremely, well, hip.
Now the wheel has turned again. Haight Ashbury, Alamo (where we are staying) and the surrounding suburbs are up-coming areas with the lovely wooden houses being renovated and reclaiming their former glory as the painted ladies of San Francisco. The painted ladies are huge tall houses with lovely detailed woodwork and turrets. They provide an undeniable charm and character to even the more run-down streets. Re-painted and repaired they are just beautiful – there’s something about a turret which makes a house special.
We walked through Haight today, down the Panhandle Park to the Golden Gate Park and the California Academy of Sciences. This is one of San Francisco’s two science museums, and has a natural history focus. Within its huge building is an enormous three-storey dome containing a rainforest and aquarium. Another dome houses a large planetarium. Both were worth seeing; but the highlight for us was a couple of talks we attended about snakes. We all learnt a great deal about our slithery friends and Declan gained great credibility by being able to recount our encounter with a fer de lance in the Amazonian night. Jennifer has reviewed it here.
And here’s something we learnt today… males snakes have vestigial hips…