Route 33: the Gaybourhood and the Hippies

First glimpse of the bridge uncles and personal; I suppose it was worth it in the end.

First glimpse of the bridge up close and personal; I suppose it was worth it in the end.

I’m struggling a bit with the public transport here in San Fransisco.   I have been relying on Google, who have a habit of getting me somewhere to change buses, but then the second bus doesn’t exist, has changed route or changed number or something.

This happened the other day when I was trying to get to Golden Gate Bridge. I asked the driver whether he went there and got the reply:

“lady, I’m not giving out information here; I’m just driving the bus”.

I got on the bus anyway, but it turned out he wasn’t going there and I ended up with a long walk and blisters all over my feet. Lesson learned: don’t ask bus drivers where they are going. Even though I wanted to suggest to him that a simple ‘no’ was equally rude, quicker to say and would have saved me a lot of aggravation.

Never mind, I would have missed out on nice views like this if I had found the right bus

Never mind, I would have missed out on nice views like this if I had found the right bus

Anyway, next day I thought I’d save my blistered feet from any more potential trouble, and spend the day riding the number 33, because it leaves from right outside my door, I know exactly where it goes and it meant I got to take in both Castro and Haight-Ashbury neighbourhoods without needing to venture far from the bus route.

The Castro

The Castro.  See the bakery ‘Hot Cookie?’ You can buy biscuits shaped like male genitalia there. Why would you want that? I have no idea

The Castro was a one time largely working-class area known as Eureka Valley and now it is San Fransisco’s main gaybourhood.

Awr look, a rainbow crosswalk

Awr look, a rainbow crosswalk

Twin Peaks was the first glass-fronted gay bar, apparently.

Twin Peaks was the first glass-fronted gay bar, apparently.  I had a beer there; it was very nice.

During the 1940s many servicemen were given dishonourable discharges from the services, due to their sexuality. Often these men didn’t want to go back home to families who may disown them or places where they had nothing waiting for them, so instead they settled in San Fransisco.

Then when the hippie/anti war movement started in neighbouring Haight, Castro residents started to organise themselves politically and the San Fransisco gay rights movement emerged out of that.

Meanwhile, a lot of the working-class Americans who had previously lived in the Castro chose to move out to suburbia, living the American dream with their little patch of land and white picket fence, thus helping to shape the Castro into the gaybourhood it is today.

A store window in the Castro. Nudity is NOT legal here, despite attempts at passing a by-laaw

A store window in the Castro. Nudity is NOT legal here, despite attempts at passing a by-law

A bulletin board.  In the 1980s this served as an AIDS information board, before we had the internet to keep up with the latest developments.

A bulletin board. In the 1980s this served as an AIDS information board, before we had the internet to keep up with the latest developments.

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Harvey Milk (depicted here looking out of his window) opened a camera shop in The Castro.  I can’t help feeling he would be proud if he were here today looking out over The Castro.

After having a late lunch in the Castro, I headed on to Haight Ashbury, centre of the hippies and the ‘summer of love’ in 1967.

It has to be done... the ubiquitous Haight-Ashbury sign

It has to be done… the infamous Haight-Ashbury sign

It is quite touristy now, and really an hour or so is enough for it, but good to see all the same. The place does still have a hippie vibe about it, full of small boutiques selling tie-die, incense and similar, plenty of Asian-influenced stores, and a few buskers.

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In another life, one where I was born 20 years earlier (and in America) I could see myself living here in the 60s.

2 replies »

  1. Hi Sarah

    Castro! I love the rainbow crossing and I know of many people who would be happy to receive a penis shaped cookie lol. It looks wonderful there. It is on my list but thank you for sharing your journey with me. It looks amazing and yes I think Harvey Milk would be very content. This blog is very much me. Thank you for sharing and I hope your feet have recovered. I did giggle at the bus driver’s comments. It’s good to know that they are the same either side of the pond.

    Safe travels my friend x

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