The lead up to leaving:
We spent a day or so cleaning the house and packing the car. It was a mission. The house looked amazingly clean when we left. We drove up to Rotorua with Panda, and spent a week there with my parents.
Dad drove us up to Auckland, where we stayed with Alana and Martin in Meremere, and Alana drove us to the airport on Monday afternoon. Mariana met us at the airport, and once we had checked in and dumped our bags, we hung out with her in the food section. After saying goodbye, we queued, went though security, and boarded our plane. It was very full and we were near the back.
Took off pretty much on time, Left New Zealand, directly away from the sun, and soon it was dark. There was a lovely sunset, and the sky to the west was a brilliant red for ages. Dinner, a movie, then an uncomfortable 6 hours sleep in a leaning position. I don’t recommend it. I was excited, as it was my first long flight, but after the first couple of hours, I didn’t enjoy it that much. Sleeping in a chair is not my idea of fun.
Was woken up by the attendants bringing us breakfast, which was cooked, then gently lifting the window shade to see the bright, bright sun outside.
It was clear and sunny landing in San Francisco, although the air temperature was about 8-9degrees C, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. A gentle landing, a rush to get off, then an hour or so wait in the customs line. Once through that, grabbed our bag, through the next gate, then we were free. It was quite thoroughly painless, apart from the waiting, even though I had heard many stories of how horrible it can be. They didn’t even care about our itinerary or whether or not we had an exit ticket booked. I was totally expecting more… security and crazy things like searches and taking your shoes off.
Once we escaped customs, we found ourselves in the main part of the airport, where we sat down and had a Starbucks (don’t judge, we were thirsty/tired/it was the only thing around), where the smallest size was about the size of a large in NZ. They do have delishuz christmas flavours, like salted caramel mocha and chocolate chai latte.
Then it was a matter of finding our way to the train, and getting all our gear on that. It was our first time dealing with US money, and I was confused by the train ticket things, as they were different. It was a half hour train ride from the airport to our stop, at Montgomery St.
We almost missed our stop, as we were underground – !! undergroiund subway trains! – and had to suddenly jump up and drag our bags back off. Exiting the subway was exciting, suddenly we were in downtown San Fran, with people bustling everywhere, and a pale winter sun, not quite reaching the footpath between the tall buildings.
We walked up to our backpackers, which was quite a few blocks, but it seems to be lovely, it is called the Green Tortoise, they want to feed us and give us free wifi, so theres that.
After finding our room, we set off for some food. A wee wander down some side streets of China Town found us some cheap as steamed buns, for 80c usd. Delishuz. It was in Blossom Cafe, and was filled with old Chinese men speaking Chinese. Means it has to be a good/cheap place, if all the locals are eating there. Probably couldn’t find it again,
After that we wandered down Market Road, looking for a supermarket and a shoe shop. We found Union Square Park instead, which had a skating rink, and a massive Christmas Tree. Macy’s is all decorated, with wreaths and stuff in the windows.
While at the square, we found our shoe shop, and managed to get some cheap shoes (half the price of NZ). Dale promptly put his on, then threw his old pair out, as they were rather holey.
It was dark coming out of the shoe shop, but still hordes of people around. We walked most of the way up Market Steet, mavelling at all things American: Fire hydrants on the road, water pipes on the buildings, Cops swaggering around, tiny little three wheeled security cars, Traffic people directing traffic, cars on the wrong side….I always look the wrong way!
We managed to come across the Parrot flock of SF, who were roositng in some trees in Sue Bierman Park. We noticed them as they were super noisy, squawking away for ages before they settled. We also found some little chipmunks playing in the bushes, but they kept hiding. There seem to be lots of little parks/squares everywhere, and most have xmas decorations.
We found a Safeway supermarket, and managed to escape with only a few cookies, and not vast amounts of candy. Then headed back to Backpackers, where they provided a free dinner, of mexican design, with tortillas, rice, beans, guacamole and salads. It was delishuz!