Save Me, San Francisco

I’ve been back from San Francisco for a few weeks now, and I’m definitely missing a couple things.

1) Being on vacation
2) Being in California
3) Blogging every day
4) The Pacific Ocean
5) Hanging out at coffee shops

I’m going to stop there… I have a feeling this list could go on and on. I can’t wait to plan my next trip! But while I am still thinking about this one, I wanted to write down a few things that I didn’t get to do in San Francisco that are still on my list. After my time there two years ago, I wrote this post. Going back and reading it now, I’m happy to find that I did many of the things I had picked out. Here it is, with my current comments in black.

Things I want to do when I go back:

Go on an Alcatraz tour (Done!)

Visit Lombard Street (the crookedest street in the world) (I was lucky enough to have Rich drive me right down the street this time)

Explore Golden Gate Park, including the Japanese Tea Garden, the California Academy of Sciences, and the Conservatory of Flowers (I drove through Golden Gate Park with Rich, but didn’t go into any more of these places. This will stay on my list for the future.)

Visit the Exploratorium (Not done yet, but they’ve just moved to a new location and I’m looking forward to visiting it sometime in the future)

Go to Sausalito – explore, go for a walk, have some lunch, and enjoy the sweet views of San Fran (Did not do this yet)

Go to a San Francisco Giants game… I hear the venue is incredible. (Did not do this yet, but toured the stadium – definitely beautiful. Going to a game here is certainly still on my list).

Things I would add to this list for my next San Francisco adventure:

Tour the TCHO chocolate factory.

Visit wine country!

Do a walking tour in Castro and Haight-Ashbury – if this is something you can do!

Look into We Players to see what kind of cool shows are happening.

Visit the Walt Disney Family Museum

And lastly, not something I haven’t done, but something I should do much more of – ride as many pedicabs as I can. They are the best! If you missed out on how much my friend KP and I love them, check her post about it out here.

I’m sure another San Franciscan adventure would result in even more new and exciting activities! I can’t wait to return.

Love KG

Alcatraz, Azkaban… same thing, right?

Do any of you ever have to think twice about whether you are wanting to say “Alcatraz” or “Azkaban” in a conversation? No? Ok, well then. You obviously need to spend more time in the magical world of Harry Potter.

KP recapped our full day on Monday in her post I think it tastes like pickles… A travel story, but I was lucky enough to get the task of writing about our trip to Alcatraz. It was my first time visiting the island that is home to the most famous prison in the world (except for Azkaban, of course) and it was definitely a very cool experience.

As KP mentioned in her post, we did a drive by of Alcatraz on our way to our first stop at Angel Island. Alcatraz is such an iconic place. Cruising by it on the boat made for some amazing views.

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For those of you that don’t know much about Alcatraz Island, it has a very colourful history as a military fort, as a disciplinary barracks, as a maximum security prison, and as a site for a Native American occupation. During the California gold rush in the 1850’s, Alcatraz was built up as a military fort in order to protect the San Francisco Bay Area. Between Fort Point, Lime Point, and Fort Alcatraz, this area was totally protected, though Alcatraz was never really tested. At this time, the first lighthouse on the West coast was built on the island as well. The island quickly evolved into a place of detention in the 1860’s. At this time, prisoners arrested for treason during the Civil War were housed there.

After the San Francisco earth quake of 1906, military prisoners on the island built a new prison, which became a disciplinary barracks for the US Army. It was this new building that eventually became known as “The Rock”. The island was used by the military until 1933, when it was acquired by the Federal Bureau of Prisons to build a maximum-security prison for housing the most difficult inmates from other prisons. This is the Alcatraz that has become famous today.

At Alcatraz, prisoners had rights to food, clothing, shelter, and medical attention. Anything else that they received was considered to be a privilege and not expected. Over the years, there were several escape attempts from Alcatraz, but it is not confirmed that any of them were successful. No man is known to have made it to land, but there are still 5 prisoners listed as “missing and presumed drowned”.

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Alcatraz shut down in 1963, and the island was essentially abandoned until 1969, when a group of Native Americans claimed it as “Indian Land”. They occupied the area for about 18 months, until they were removed by Federal Marshals. Though they were not able to keep Alcatraz, this did lead to the government returning some land to Native Americans across the country. In 1972, Alcatraz was included as part of the newly created Golden Gate National Recreation Area. Since then, it has become one of the most popular national parks in the USA. If you are interested in reading more about the history of Alcatraz, you can do so here.

Upon arriving on the island, we got a bit of an introduction by one of the park rangers, then we were turned loose. KP and I immediately walked up the hill to the cell block to do the audio tour included in any landing on Alcatraz Island. I have to say, the audio tour was amazingly well done. It included voices and stories from past Alcatraz inmates and guards, as well as all sorts of excellent background noises and ambiance. Not to mention, there were many displays with photos throughout the course of the tour. It was crazy to hear the voices of hardened criminals and be able to stare right into their faces as they were discussing their time at Alcatraz. It was also pretty surreal to be able to see the cells these men lived in, usually for years.

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The audio tour also detailed two different escape attempts, and we were able to look right into the cells where guards were killed, and right at the holes in the back of a couple cells, dug by inmates using spoons. We also got to see the tool that one man used to pry the bars apart during an attempt that became known as the Battle of Alcatraz. It was surreal to stand in the very place that all of these things happened.

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One of the most interesting things I learned during my time on Alcatraz was that the prison guards and their families actually lived right on the island. A woman who lived on Alcatraz as a child spoke on the audio tour and told the story of how she would take a boat to school on the mainland in the morning and return in the evening. She never even thought about the prisoners as they were locked away safely and didn’t make much noise.

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After the audio tour, we made our way down the hill toward the dock and found a lovely little hallway with a theatre and several exhibits off of it.

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Before long, we were ready to head back to the mainland to continue our day. Again, here is the post that details the rest of Monday, our last full day in San Francisco.

Love KG

We Made Hostel Friends!

Despite the fact that the attempt to bond with our first set of roommates was an epic fail, KP and I did end up coming out of the weekend with some hostel friends. Also, with some new information: Apparently getting drunk off a combination of wine and tequila does not, in fact, lead to a hangover – I know, I was shocked too.

While sitting around in the common area, drinking wine and blogging last night, we had a set of girls sit down to eat dinner at the rather large table we had taken over. Before long, a pair of guys came to sit with them, mentioning that they wanted to sit with their roommates. KP and I were overtaken with jealousy as we saw the relationship we had tried so hard to create for ourselves earlier in our adventures flourishing right before our eyes. It was a beautiful thing.

We started to join in the conversation with the group as they were just too infectiously hilarious and awesome not to. Before long, we felt the need to tell them about our previous roommate fail, and ask if they felt that we had maybe come on too strong. “Are you kidding? We would have dropped everything to come and meet you!” was the immediate response from one of the guys, followed closely by “Please continue to do this wherever you stay in the future – seriously! It would probably work 99% of the time”. And thus, the ice was broken.

We continued to hang out downstairs, drinking the magical “delicately bubbled” wine I blogged about the other day and the tequila the boys had provided, all the while laughing and learning about each of our different home countries and cultures. The girls were from Switzerland, the boys from Australia, and of course, KP and I are from Canada. It was quite the group and we had many topics to compare between each of our countries. This was exactly the type of experience I was looking forward to having during my first time staying at a hostel.

The rest of the night was spent getting to know each other and dancing the night away at a bar that was playing Motown music. It was the perfect way to end off my time in San Francisco.

This morning, we left our new friends this note:

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So, to Ivan, Kevin, Isabelle, and Marisa of room 311 – if you are reading this, thank you! You are all amazing people and KP & I are very glad you sat down at our table last night. Good luck in all your future adventures in San Francisco and elsewhere – let us know if you ever make your way to Alberta! We will definitely drop each of you a blog post (that’s right, no other form of communication is more appropriate) if we are ever in your area. Don’t expect any prior notice – it will only include our plans for the evening and a map of how to get there 🙂

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Love KG

The Beer Olympics

I’m picking up the story right now for yesterday evening. KP has posted our daytime activity post here, so be sure to check that out if you aren’t up to date. We decided that something as awesome and epic as The Beer Olympics (that’s right, the capital letters are absolutely necessary) deserves its very own post.

My story begins on the stairs next to the bar that was hosting The Beer Olympics. After finding our way there, we realized we were much too early for registration, so KP and I decided to sit on the sidewalk made of stairs on the next street over. Anyone who knows KP’s travelling style knows that sitting on any kind of stairs is one of her favourite pastimes – I couldn’t deny her the opportunity! We climbed up the stairs high enough to get a view and settled in to wait anxiously with the hope that our unknown roommates would arrive. You can read more about our invitation to them here, if you have not been keeping up.

We had almost an hour to kill sitting on the stairs, and during that time we made friends with a skateboarder named Nate. He was taking a nap on the stairs on the other side of the street when we sat down. After awhile, he used the icebreaker of asking for a cigarette (which neither of us could provide) and ended up coming over to chat with us. He told us a bit about himself – he is in his early 20’s and lives in San Francisco. He was pretty intoxicated, and he used a lot of typical surfer lingo, which makes sense since he apparently grew up on the beach. He was fascinated by the fact that we were from Canada and shared a bunch of tips for great local spots to hit up while in San Francisco. We shared the story of our roommate invitation with Nate and he thought it was pretty much the greatest thing he had ever heard, so I guess we weren’t too over the top, at least to his tastes. We bid Nate goodbye when it was time to go inside and register for The Beer Olympics, but chatting with him was an enjoyable way to pass some time.

While in line in front of the bar, KP and I met a couple fellows. One of them, Greg, ended up on our team for The Beer Olympics. I never did catch the name of the other guy, but he was from Toronto, so I guess that’s as good a game to give him as anything. After registration, we moved in to the competition room and hung out with these boys for awhile.

Greg was from Houston, and after talking to him for a fair amount of time and doing some prodding for information, he told KP and I that he works for NASA! We refused to believe him and asked for proof. He pulled out a few impressive looking photos and I asked how we could possibly know that these weren’t just photos from some awesome science center that makes people look cool. After talking to him much more over the course of the night, I think that I actually do believe him – I mean, a line like that is just too unbelievable to actually lie about, and he seemed so sincere with all of his answers. So basically, we may or may not have made a friend who works for NASA – Cool, right?

Conversation about NASA lead to discussion about one of Canada’s national heroes, Commander Hadfield and his Twitter feed. KP and Greg got into a huge discussion about him, with Greg refusing to believe how much Canadians love him, so he turned to Toronto, who was lost in another conversation, and just said two words – “Commander Hadfield?” – to which Toronto immediately replied “That guy is like a rock star in Canada!”. So there, point proven. This line of conversation eventually lead to probably my favourite moment of the night, when Toronto got all of our attention and asked, so seriously:

“I only have one question – how does he tweet from space?”

It was as though a lightbulb came on in all of our heads right at that moment as we all tried to figure out how that was even possible. Greg cleared it up for us by explaining a bit about the availability of internet on space ships, which is apparently quite limited but it is there nonetheless.

Not long after this conversation, we all started gathering at our team meeting points. As I mentioned previously, Greg ended up on our team for the event, and KP and I met two adorable little blonde British girls that were placed on our team as well. Becca and Natalie were on their first stop of 3 months of travelling North America and Australia – I am beyond jealous. Here is a team photo!

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Before starting the event, KP and I made the acquaintance of a couple more young men – Joe and Tanner. They both lived in San Francisco and for some reason thought KP and I being from Canada was just the most entertaining thing they had ever heard. Their immediate association with someone being from Canada and participating in the Olympics (as in, the Beer Olympics) was apparently curling, so we got into a long and confusing discussion trying to explain the rules of the game and the roles of the different team members. Before we knew it, it was time to get started with the first round of competition, so Joe and Tanner headed off to join their team, but promised to come back to talk to us later.

And now we’re up to the moment you’ve all been waiting for: DUH DUH DUH…. THE BEER OLYMPICS!! I have to say, whether you are from San Francisco, or just visiting, I highly recommend this event that happens every Friday night. It was just such a blast.

We played four different games – Flip Cup, Beer Bingo, Beer Paper Scissors, and Beer Pong. The rules of each game were relatively simple, but I’ve outlined them below for you.

Flip Cup
Each player starts with a cup, filled about an inch full of beer. Each team is lined up on opposite sides of the table, facing each other. The teams decide which end to start at, and the lead member for each team chugs their beer, then sets the cup on the table and proceeds to flip it from right side up to upside down with a flick. Once they do that, the next person in line can drink their beer and follow the same process. The first team to go through their whole line up wins. We went to best out of 5 games.

Beer Bingo
Each team fills 16 cups with about an inch of beer each and arranges them in a 4×4 square. Teams take turns attempting to shoot a ping pong ball into a cup, rotating their shooter each time. If you hit a cup, your opponent needs to drink that cup and flip it upside down. The first team to get 4 cups in a row flipped over – vertical, horizontal, or diagonal – wins. This game was best of 1.

Beer Paper Scissors
This was probably the dumbest game we played. The table was set up like in beer bingo and one member of each team played Rock Paper Scissors against each other. The winner stayed to face the next opponent, and the loser had to drink a beer and rotate with a teammate. The team that drank all their beer first lost. This was also best of 1 game.

Beer Pong
This was a very dumbed-down version of 6 cup beer pong. 6 cups were filled partway with beer and set up in a triangle on each side of the table. Teams took turns attempting to shoot a ping pong ball into one of the cups, rotating their shooter on each turn. There was no defence, no bouncing, no rollbacks, and a reform every time the cup was hit (for those of you who are beer pong aficionados). The first team to hit all of their opponent’s cups was the winner. This game was also best of 1.

At the end of the 4 rounds, the teams that were undefeated entered into playoffs for the championship. This, sadly, was not us. We held our own with a respectable 2-2 record, winning at Beer Pong and Beer Bingo, and suffering tough losses at Flip Cup and Beer Paper Scissors. For a team with 4 times more females than any of the others, two of which had never played Beer Pong before, I think we did alright. And it was actually a ton of fun, so that is really what mattered.

After the official competition was over, Joe and Tanner came back to chat, and KP, Greg, and I ended up playing some additional games of beer pong – Canadian Rules – with Joe. At some point during this game, KP got into a discussion that resulted in her besting all the Americans with her knowledge of state capitals. That’s my nerdy roommate! Everyone at the table was definitely impressed.

The bar closed down at around 12:30 AM – so early! Joe and Tanner wanted to head to this salsa and cigar bar nearby, so the rest of us just went with the flow, though none of us knew how to salsa and smoking cigars is not something KP and I enjoy doing. During the walk, KP got a proposition from a bunch of strippers to join their ranks and become one of them – not sure how I totally missed seeing this happen. Luckily, she turned down their offer to teach her all they knew.

We had a great time having a few drinks at this random place at which Joe just seemed to know everyone. The most eventful thing to happen there was that KP and I found out that hi-balls don’t exist here. Apparently in the USA, a hi-ball is a certain type of glass. Joe had the bartender pull one out, and it certainly is not the glass any of our hi-balls would be served in. Who knew!

Now, as many of you may have noticed, I have not made any mention of the roommates we were hoping to welcome and bond with. They sadly did not show up. HOW COULD THEY NOT, I ASK YOU? KP and I were both a little heartbroken over this, but I’m glad we had a good night regardless. At the salsa bar, we told all our new friends the story about our botched roommate welcome, and they were pretty impressed with our whole blog post. I have to say, despite the fact that it didn’t work this time, I will do it again the next time I’m hosteling somewhere.

Around 1:30 AM, this bar closed down too, so we started our walk home. People went their separate ways along the way, but Tanner walked us right to the door of our hostel – I think he was a little concerned about two clueless Canadian girls alone in the city at night! We would have been fine as the route was quiet, but it was definitely nice to have the company.

Along the way, KP and I got into an argument with Tanner about a ferry that he was claiming to have ridden in Canada while he lived in Montana. We were sure there was no reason he would have ridden a ferry around Nelson, BC, but it turns out we were totally wrong. There is such a thing. We sure looked like some oblivious Canadians!

When we finally got inside and went to our room, the roommates we had wanted to meet so badly were in bed already. So not impressed. Regardless, we had a good night without them and The Beer Olympics were definitely a great choice. We made a couple friends and had a lot of fun (and spent very very little money). The evening was an all around win. We had a great time with the group we ended up hanging out with, but didn’t even exchange contact information with the majority of them. I find it so interesting that we all really enjoyed each other’s company but that we will likely never cross paths again. That’s travelling, I suppose!

Love KG

Trains, a Crab, and the Buena Vista

Yesterday was a busy day – and a long one – which is why this post is happening today instead.

I began the day bright and early so that KP could drop me off at the San Carlos Caltrain station on the way to her course. I arrived at the station without any information about the schedule or stops and a minimal idea of the rates to ride. I can’t say that I wasn’t worried – I’m not exactly a seasoned transit user. I never rode the city bus in Whitehorse growing up, and Edmonton can only boast a light rail transit system with one line… No transfers required. That being said, I figured out how to buy a ticket and managed to find my way onto a train relatively easily. I had been given the recommendation of changing to the BART train at the Millbrae station so that I could get to where I wanted to go in the city, and I even managed to do that without any major issues.

I eventually arrived at Powell station near Union Square in San Francisco. It was still relatively early in the morning and there was hardly a soul to be found in the station, but for the many homeless stretched out along the walls for a good night’s sleep. It was an odd thing for me to see so many people without anywhere to go all in one place, though clearly it was warm and dry there.

After emerging from underground, I realized it was too early for stores to be open yet – and shopping was my plan for the day – so I promptly found a Starbucks store to hang out in and surf the internet/people watch, which are two of my favourite things to do.

Once it was a more reasonable hour of the day, I went off to do some shopping. I wandered through the streets around Union Square, and through the stores around Westfield Mall for most of the morning and early afternoon. I stopped at a noodle house called The King of Thai for lunch, which was totally delicious and totally affordable. Later in the afternoon I stumbled upon the San Francisco Visitor Centre nestled under the ground near Market Street, and stopped for a coffee at the cute place just outside.

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Once I had had my fill of shopping and wandering, I decided to catch the train back to San Carlos. KP had the evening off, and though we were planning to head into the city, I thought it would be more fun if we could travel together. Plus, I needed to have some down time, to drop my shopping bags, and to change into some of my new clothes!

Sadly, this train trip did not prove to be as smooth as my first. I got off a stop too early, which resulted in hanging out for the longest 12 minutes of my life alone in the station with a man that did not appear to be entirely stable. In my haste to escape, I accidentally got onto a train that was detouring to a different stop and ending there. I rode that train up one stop and back, then finally got on a train that wasn’t stopping in San Carlos, which meant I needed to get off a few stops early and switch trains. I did make it back to my home station eventually, and at one point I even had a girl ask me for help, so I must not have looked too conspicuously clueless.

Anyhow, KP picked me up at the station since she was home from her course by this time and we headed back to the hotel for a quick stop. Luckily I had lots of downtime while riding trains in circles, so I wasn’t feeling as tired as I did earlier in the day. We decided to head into the city and try to make our way towards Fisherman’s Wharf for some dinner and a walk along the water. Between my newfound knowledge of the train system, and our mutual fear of driving the absolute madness that is San Francisco, KP and I decided that the train would be the easiest way to make the trip in. I really am going to be an expert on the Caltrain system!

Our trek into San Francisco was fairly uneventful besides a tight timeline for making the train off the start. Before long, we were disembarking, hopping onto the light rail for a couple stops, and emerging just a few blocks from the Ferry Building.

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We went inside and wandered through the building, but most things were closed. I think we will have to make another visit here during the day sometime. Outside, there was a farmer’s market happening. We considered checking it out, but it looked as though the bulk of the booths were serving liquor, and there weren’t too many with food. We were both starving, so decided that probably would not make for the best choice. Instead, we started our walk along the water, past the TCHO chocolate factory, which we hope to visit on the weekend, and the America’s Cup grounds, among much more.

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Eventually we arrived at Pier 39 and decided we wanted seafood for dinner. After looking at a few different places, we ended up at The Crab House. It had a nice atmosphere – classy without feeling too fancy to eat crab at (and create the mess that always comes along with it).

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We had a crab. Literally that was all that came with our meal – one crab, which we split. We were full focused on getting every scrap of crab meat out of that shell for the next 45 minutes or so. The meal was delicious. It had been far too long since I last had crab, but I find it difficult to convince myself to eat much seafood while I am in landlocked Alberta, so this was a nice treat.

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After dinner we went for a walk out on one of the piers and we could hear the noisy sound of sea lions calling to one another. Their shapes could be made out vaguely on the water, and one seemed to be mingling with all the boats docked there. They were so loud they drowned out the rest of the evening bustle along the waterfront. We continued walking down through Fisherman’s Wharf, taking in the sights and sounds as we went.

Rich had recommended the Buena Vista Cafe as the best place to get an Irish coffee, and I was fancying one of those for dessert, so that was our next destination. During dinner, we realized that the Buena Vista is, in fact, the place that introduced Irish coffee to North America, which made it even more worth visiting. I have to say, they really have that recipe figured out. Sadly, KP had a hot chocolate since coffee can give her migraines – and it was late at night besides – but I let her have a sip of mine to get a taste. Here I am enjoying it!

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After this, we decided to head back to San Carlos and hopped in a cab to take us to the Caltrain station. The walk back would have been nice but it also would have meant a MUCH later arrival back at the hotel and we were both exhausted. By the time we returned, we were both ready to fall into bed. I’m glad I got to sleep in this morning, but I am also really glad KP and I made good use of her night off.

Love KG

It’s Always Foggy in San Francisco

Today I am writing from San Francisco! Well, San Carlos, actually. I am a lucky girl. My roommate, whose name is also Kristin (and who I shall refer to as “KP” from now on), has apparently become important enough at work that they want to send her away to courses at places as cool as (just outside) San Francisco. I tagged along, and I’m adventuring without her all week, but we are moving to stay in a hostel actually in San Francisco when she is done her course Friday and will do some exploring together then. You can check her blog out here – I’m sure she will be doing a couple posts throughout the week as well.

We got in to our hotel in San Carlos early yesterday evening, and had just enough time to get settled and go for a walk to the grocery store and to find dinner before we both crashed. It was most definitely a travel day. I was eager to get the lay of the land, but there doesn’t seem to be much right around the hotel. Usually I am such a hardcore planner when it comes to travel, but KP and I had both been so busy recently that neither of us had time to plan much of anything – and I have much more time to fill than she does, since her course is her priority for the next few days.

As soon as I decided that I was coming to San Francisco, I dropped a line to a business contact of my mom’s who lives in the area. I met Rich a couple months ago when he and my mom were both in Edmonton for business, and he had said to let him know if I was ever down in his neck of the woods. Once he heard I was coming, he immediately offered to spend a day showing me around. That day ended up being today! Here’s the only picture I have of Rich and I, just so you know who I’m talking about (we’re at the America’s Cup grounds here, but we will get to that later).

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Rich picked me up bright and early this morning. The best part of the day was that I had no idea what we were going to do; I was just along for the ride. It was awesome to have a local guide who could recommend some less touristy things to see and do during the rest of my time here.

We began our day with a drive around the west side of San Francisco. Rich was hoping I’d get a bunch of amazing views on this part of the trip, but, as luck would have it, it was quite foggy early in the morning, so I couldn’t see much. We did stop at a beach early on, and though I could barely see the water off in the distance, the fresh ocean air was undeniable. It had been far too long since I was last near the ocean.

Next we spent some time driving through Golden Gate Park. I didn’t take any pictures, but just soaked up the beautiful trees and plants, and enjoyed the views. I can’t believe how big that park is to be just in the middle of a major city!

We stopped for breakfast at Cliff House, which is a beautiful and somewhat famous place. It is a large building on the edge of the ocean – the views are amazing – and the walls are lined with head shots of celebrities dating back many decades, most of which are autographed and addressed to Cliff House.

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Next to it is a site where a real indoor salt water bath house used to stand, which was fed directly by the ocean.

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The food was delicious and the coffee strong and flavourful, just the way I like it. I had the Joe’s Special, which is a San Francisco dish dating back to the 1920’s. It is eggs with ground beef, spinach, mushrooms, onions, parmesan cheese, and who knows what else! Interesting combination, but yummy all the same.

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Our next stop was at the famed Golden Gate Bridge. I don’t think I need to write too much here as I won’t be saying anything new or exciting, but here are some photos to enjoy. It was still a little foggy at this point, but I think that makes the bridge look almost a little mysterious.

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I love this view of the city and the bay from the bridge.

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Below Golden Gate Bridge, there is a civil war era brick fort called Fort Point. I have to say, visiting this site was one of the highlights of my day. Rich explained to me that Fort Point was built to guard the bay, and it used to be stocked with so many cannons and so much fire power that it made San Francisco virtually impenetrable. Rich also explained that back when he was young, this was one of his favourite places to come to play tag with his buddies. Apparently the surfaces and rooms have been better restored since then, but the structure is still the same.

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The best thing about Fort Point is that next week, there is a group running performances of Macbeth inside the fort. Apparently, while watching, you have to follow the actors throughout the building. I’m a little upset that this is not happening while KP and I are still around, but in case any of you happen to be interested in the details, you can find them here. How much fun would it be to spend an evening running around an old building like this watching a Shakespearean play unfold? I can’t think of many better things to do.

After Fort Point, we drove for awhile, and before I even knew what was happening, we were driving down the winding section of Lombard Street! It literally came out of nowhere. I don’t know who decided to build this road, but it was fun to drive down.

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Our next stop of the day was at Coit Tower. This tower was built with money left behind by Lillian Coit upon her death – you can read her story and more about Coit Tower here. Basically, going up this tower led to an amazing panoramic view of San Francisco.

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Our last stop of the day before Rich brought me back to my hotel and rushed off to catch a plane to Spokane was at the America’s Cup grounds. I’ve never been much into sailing, but I’m definitely not one to pass up a chance to experience a part of any live sporting event. Unfortunately there weren’t any races going on today, but it was a nice day to spend on the grounds regardless. There were some pretty fancy yachts docked at the pier, and we got to see all the exhibitions that were set up for the event.

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Rich dropped me back at my hotel by about 4:15 PM and I was pretty darn exhausted. The day was so busy that I was happy to spend the evening doing nothing more strenuous than walking to Starbucks. I did walk a little further than that and discovered a residential park bordering on the water, so I spent some time there, but other than that it has been a mellow evening.

It was discovered for me that there is a train station close to the hotel that goes right into San Francisco, so it looks like I will be adventuring into the city solo tomorrow – we’ll see how that goes. Wish me luck!

Love KG

How to be a Sugar Daddy

Our first stop of the day was in Santa Barbara.  This is a nice little town on the beach.  We explored a few shops, then went down to the pier for dinner.  Our stop here was nice, but we didn’t let it last too long.  Before we knew it, we were back in the van.

 

Apparently the homeless people are getting creative here…

After a little bit more driving, we decided to stop for dessert at the Madonna Inn.  We entered the Madonna Inn restaurant and bakery, and were accosted with adorable but almost overly sweet decor.  I, of course, LOVED it.  Apparently the hotel rooms are decked out just as all the main areas are – I wish we had been able to stay the night!  We ordered and enjoyed our desserts, then spent a bit of time exploring the building.  It felt just like a maze!  I was able to get a few photos, but I don’t know if they really capture the feel of this entire building.

My dessert… the specialty, Pink Champagne Cake

After some exploring and souvenir shopping, we all hopped back into the van and got on the road.  From here, we felt we just had to power through the rest of the drive, so nothing too exciting happened.  We dropped Stacy at Leilani in San Jose.  Leilani was confused as to why I wasn’t coming on the plane with them as she knows I am going to visit her in Hawaii, but I explained that I will be coming next week.  After dropping those two, we continued on to San Francisco.  Mom and I dropped Nicola and Olivia at their house, and then continued on to yet another new hotel – the Marriott Marquis.  By the time we made it to the room, it was late and we were exhausted… needless to say, we didn’t have a very exciting evening.

Mom and I woke up early the next morning to get on an early bus for yet another Hop-On, Hop-Off tour… this time of San Francisco.  This tour took us all over town to see all the important sights.  This tour was very different from the one we did in LA in that we actually had a live guide who was also the bus driver.  This guy was awesome.  I can’t remember his name now, but he told us all sorts of cool stories between telling corny jokes and even singing to us.  While driving through Chinatown, he spent at least a full minute singing and whistling “Kung Fu Fighting” to us.

Our guide was also a very informative guy, and the history of San Francisco really is fascinating.  Much of the history we learned was centered around the Great Earthquake of 1906, which I have previously mentioned in my post about the Fairmont San Francisco.  In fact, much of the history of the city of San Francisco is based around this disaster.

San Francisco was the site of the first Chinatown in North America.  Today, it is also the largest Chinese community outside of Asia.  In 1906, the Great Earthquake demolished San Francisco’s Chinatown, and the Chinese population of the city did not have enough money to rebuild this area.  They ended up appealing to the City of San Francisco, and promised if they were helped to rebuild their Chinese center, they would also build a tourist attraction to help garner funds for the city itself.  This went ahead, and this is why there is now a large tourist district in today’s Chinatown, with souvenir shops and Chinese restaurants.

The gates to Chinatown. As we were driving through here (which these buses apparently shouldn’t be doing anyways), our guide told us the writing translated to “Break and you will buy”. This of course is not true… but it is the only translation I now remember!

The Great Earthquake wreaked havoc on the entire city.  In the aftermath of the quake itself, San Francisco was overrun with fires, to the point that they actually ended up blowing up an entire street to create a division between the fires and the still-safe part of town.  Most of San Francisco today is from the post-earthquake years, but there is still a section of town that survived from before this devastation occurred.

San Francisco is full of some beautiful old buildings, and the city has such a historic feel.  My favourite story of the day was that of Alma Spreckels.  Alma was born Alma de Bretteville, and this statue that stands in the middle of Union Square is modelled after her.

While Alma was modelling for this statue, she caught the eye of a man many years her senior by the name of Adolph Spreckels and they began a five-year courtship before being married.  Adolph was the head of the Spreckels Sugar Company, so Alma often referred to him as her “Sugar Daddy” – coining the term that is still used today.

What tour of San Francisco would be complete without a visit to the Golden Gate Bridge?  We chose not to get off the bus here as it was FREEZING, but we were able to snap a few photos.  The fog was so thick we couldn’t even see the top of the bridge!

View of the Golden Gate Bridge – check out the fog!

We saw many beautiful houses along this tour… here are just a few photos.

And here are a few famous ones.  The yellow house in this picture is the one that Jimmy Hendrix used to live in, and he also had a recording studio in this house.  Interestingly, apparently Janis Joplin used to live around the corner.

The yellow one once belonged to Jimmy Hendrix.

You may recognize these houses from the old classic Full House.  The yellow house is the one they used for the show.  There is a park across the street called Alamo Square, where the cast can be seen in the introduction of Full House.

Who doesn’t recognize this shot? The “Full House” house with the city of San Francisco in the background.