After a restful sleep, we woke and wandered over to the main house, over frosty ground. We ate a lovely breakfast of eggs, and then relaxed inside a bit. Jess’ parents let us borrow the car for the day, so we did a bit of exploring around San Juan, went to the whale museum, which is all about the wildlife in the area. There are three main pods of orca that hang out around here during summer, and you can usually see them from the shore, as they chase Salmon who are spawning from a river nearby. These orca are quite specific, they only like the best salmon, king salmon, which mostly come from the Fraser River nearby. To find this out, they analyse orca poo, and can determine that is pretty much what they eat. Fussy things.
They keep track of all the individual orca in the area, and identify them by their dorsal fin and markings.
After the museum we wandered around the dock, town, then headed out to English camp, where there was an English army base, which existed during the time before they decided if the island belonged to the Americans or English. Took them a while to figure out. There was a nice walk through some forest, and a view from the top of the hill, where you could see many of the bays around, and all the way over to Canada.
We then wandered along the water looking for seals and otters, but didn’t manage to find any. Found a couple of deer in the field, and then a couple of deer on the road on the way home. Silly deer.
It is now very chilly, the internet tells me about 1 degree c,with a slight chance of snow overnight, but we are snuggled inside, and dinner is cooking! It is lovely to be staying at a friends’ home, and dinner was delishuz, and included an experimental dessert of avocado mousse 🙂
10pm – headed off to get stuff to do teeth, but it has been snowing! Of course, then only thing to do is jump in the hot tub in the dark, surrounded by pines, and softly falling snow. Epic.
Tuesday we woke, went for a run along the Embacardero, checked out the sea lions for the last time (they were being naughty today, jumping up on the boat docks while the workers weren’t looking), and headed back to the hostel to get breakfast and pack our bags.
The weather had settled down apparently, while it was still sunny, the temperature was up to about 10-12 degrees, so very pleasant. We packed our stuff, and headed towards the airport, via the mission, where we stopped at El Toro Taqueria to get a burrito… so delishu! Full of all yummy things, and very huge. Enough food for a meal and a half.
We hopped on a plane (after security, who made us take off our shoes, and walk through a scanner thing) to Seattle, where it was definitely colder. We stayed at the Green Tortoise there, which was good.
In the evening we wandered down the waterfront, even though most things were closed, we rode the ferris wheel, where we had a pretty view of the city.
Wednesday morning they had pancake mix ready to go, so we ate pancakes. We wandered around the Seattle Pike Place Market for a while, which was very interesting. It was started around 1907, and has been operating since then.
It was the location of the first Starbucks, before it became on every street corner. Starbucks was named for a sailor in Moby dick. It is the location of the oldest existing Starbucks, and is only allowed in the market because it has been there since it started, and is a part of the history of the place. They are in the same location, and have kept the same logo, which is slightly different from the logo they use today.
The market is run as a trust, and they are careful about who they let in. They like people who make and sell their own crafts, and people just starting up. A section of the market is for crafters, and they turn up each morning, and decide on spots depending on who is there, and whoever has seniority gets pick of the best spots. It means the market is different every day. Pretty neat. You are only allowed a section in that part of the market if you are selling your own stuff you have made.
One of the funding things for the market was to sell tiles, and they would print your name (or any name you wrote down) on the tile, so when you walk through the market, many of the tiles have names on.
Then packed up all our things and traipsed up to the bus stop, where we caught a shuttle from Seattle up to Anacortes, and then jumped on a Ferry boat, and trundled over to Friday Harbour. It was very pretty, all calm waters dark islands and low cloud.
Arriving in Friday Harbour, we got picked up by Dale’s friend Jess; her family is letting us stay in their lovely home on San Juan Island. She drove us around the island a bit, saw a fox, an eagle, some deer, and a sunset through a cloudy looming sky. It is quite chilly, about 4 degrees C, but we have a lovely little cabin. The grass was frosted over as we went to bed.
We had to get up super early for our 1 day Yosemite tour. People had said the worst thing about the Yosemite tour was that it was too short, but we didn’t have time to do longer, so I figured one day was better than none.
We got picked up by our tour guide, Mark, at the lovely hour of 6.20am. Heading over the rbidge, and out of the city, most people seemed to nap until we stopped a couple of hours later for breakfast.
We arrived into Yosemite about 10.30ish, and started with the view straight up the valley. It was snowy on the ground, sunny skies, and the view was quite magnificent. The main thing you could see was El Capitan, a massive bluff that is about a kilometer high, and probably a couple of kilometers square; I’m not sure if it is the largest granite rockface on earth, but it is pretty big. People apparently love to climb it in summer, and on our way back out of the valley today, we saw some people climing it. Crazy people, who are trying to get frostbite. It would have been pretty amazing hanging from the cliff, but I don’t think I would do it 😉
After the viewpoint, we headed down into the valley, where we stopped at a couple of viewpoints, then were allowed to wander as we wanted, so we visited the falls, and had a wander through the trees and snow. We saw a deer – apparently not afraid of people, as it just wandered by near us, as are protected in the park, a fluffy grey squirrel, and a tiny cute chipmunk. And a lot of crows.
After all that, we piled back into the car to check out El Capitan from the base, still pretty huge, and thats when we saw the clmbers, barely able to make them our from where we were standing.
Then, a nice drive out of the canyon, and across the plains back into the city. A stop at treasure island, for a look across to San Fran skyline, which was pretty, and we saw a family of raccoon going around raiding the rubbish bins.
The views were amazing, the sheer rock faces, and crazy waterfalls, the snow and wildlife. the whole day was tiring, but definitely worth it. If we had the time, a couple of days there would be ideal, but I think if we went back, we would want to do the walks around the park, you can walk to the top of the bluff, and then along it, and that would be great.
The tour was with Extranomical, and cost a bit, but it was the full day, and the tour guide, Mark, was incredibly knowledgeable about the history of the whole area, he talked for most of the drive (4 hours each way), and it was all pretty interesting.
After a cruisey get up time and a late breakfast (we had to do laundry!), we headed off to Dylan’s Tours again, as with the Famous Tour, you get a free day hire of a bicycle! We rocked up about 11am and picked up our cycles. They come with helmets, and little satchels on the front, that have a bike lock in them, and place to put your bits. They were weird at first, as they are cheap road bikes, no suspension, and you sit quite upright on them, which I wasn’t used to. The gears were also a little temperamental sometimes, and you had to be gentle changing them. The worst bit was my bell didn’t work properly. Priorities!
We headed off North, up to Fishermans Wharf, then headed west, along the waterfront. There is a nice little bike/walking track, that runs along the coast for ages, and is away from most of the cars. Tons of people along them, walking themselves, walking their dogs, and lots of tourists like us, biking. A lot of serious bikers too, all in their skintight gear, and zooming around. We also saw a couple of kiters out on the bay, zooming around on their foil boards.
It was exceptionally pleasant to bike along the waterfront, the sun was shining (again), with clear blue skies. We didn’t see the turn off, and ended up right under the bridge, where we found a fort, a big concrete thing, where they used to defend the edge of the harbour with cannons. It was about four stories high, with super thick brick and concrete walls, and you could peer over the top to see the tide rushing past below. We watched a video on the making of the Golden Gate Bridge, and it was quite informative. Quite a feat. Took the guy who designed it 3 years just to come up with a plan. At the top of the Fort, you could look up to the underneath workings of the bridge, massive steel girders, and what looked like thousands of rivets (I think there were something like 600,000 rivets in each tower, so who knows how many they used all up. A lot).
After leaving the Fort, we made our way up a short hill to the bridge, and then crossing below the road, got onto the west platform, which was reserved for bikers today. There were tons of people, both walking across and biking across, and as it was a weekend, they made the bikers and walkers go separate. Probably a good thing, considering how many bikers there were, and how fast some of them went.
We stopped at the first tower to have a look around without biking into a wall It made me a bit nervous looking over the edge, as it was quite high above the water, and the tide was rushing past. Apparently lots of unhappy people like to jump off the bridge, and most don’t survive, mostly because the very strong currents around the bridge get them. There was also a phone with a sign saying, ’emergency or distress helpline, please call us’.
We stopped to take pictures, and admire the lovely orange-red, and the height of tower, and width of the cables. I probably couldn’t have wrapped my arms around the top cables, I think they said the amount of wire used, if laid end to end, would go around the earth 3 times. Instead, they cabled and wrapped it into massive cables to hold the bridge up. It looks pretty sturdy.
It took quite a while to go over the bridge, and it was really quite noisy, with cars constantly going past, and having to keep right, and look out for oncoming cyclists. We reached the other side, had a photo, then started back. Back seemed much easier, a bit like going downhill, but I don’t think it actually is. We did have a tail wind.
Once we were done with the bridge, we had a sad hour or so, while we biked around, absolutely starving, trying to find somewhere to eat. It was about 2pm by this time, and it was a sad state of affairs until we found some food, in a little cafe, somewhere between the Presidio and the Golden Gate Bridge. Much restored after lunch, we felt we could go on, and headed down to the Golden Gate Park. Apparently is is a park built from scratch, as the land there was just kind of sandy dunes, and they decided to have a park. It is quite lovely, with paths throughout, and heaps of things to do. We spent a while looking at a big black bird, that kept cawing at me, trying to decide if it was a raven or a crow. Still don’t really know, but I didn’t know if we would find Ravens in town. Anyway, we biked through the eastern part of the park, and it was quite lovely, if getting a little cold, as the sun was starting to go down. Didn’t see any squirrels though, which is sad.
Biked past the Painted Ladies, the houses that are pretty much the same, apart from the colours. We then decided it would be great to bike down the crookedest street, Lombard street, on our way back. A great idea, but did mean climbing to the top of the street first, which, I have to say, was quite steep. Totally worth the hike though, it was a very crooked street, and very steep, but pretty, and very fun to bike down.
The brakes on my bike decided that was the last straw, and started making metal grating noises by the bottom of the hill, luckily it wasn’t far on to the bike shop to return our bikes. It was close to 6, and pretty much full dark by the time we gave them back.
To finish some of the last things I wanted to do, we walked back to the end of Fishermans Wharf, and got in line to catch the Cable Car. A big line. Was there for over half an hour. But we managed to get on one eventually, the number 13, christmas decorated one, which was pleasing. It was much more fun to ride the hills by cable car, than bike, and we rode it all the way down to Union Square. Once there, we found a restaurant and bakery called the Cheesecake Factory, which was really quite popular, judging by the people all clustered around waiting for a table. Probably expensive. We just bought a piece of cheesecake to share, and sat in Union Square to eat it. It was a super duper oreo cheesecake, was ridiculously rich, we ate half sitting in teh square, and then could barely finish the other half, later on after dinner.
We walked back up Chinatown, and found a deishuz vegetarian restaurant to eat in. After sitting down and having jasmine tea delivered, we realised we only had about 14$ in cash, so might not be able to do dinner. The waitress saved us though, and we had a lovely meal of tofu and mushrooms in a spicy sauce, with rice. Eftpos is not a big thing in the states, so many places do cash only/mostly.
As we hadn’t walked the requisite hundreds of kilometers for the day, we walked even further to Safeway, to get food for the next day, as we are doing the Yosemite Tour! Excited!
My phone power button decided at that moment to die, so we will have to get that fixed before we leave SF, as otherwise the phone is fine, and super annoying not to have a working button.
Tonight might be our first night without roomies, which will be great, as they have a tendency to come and go at ridiculous hours, and do things like sleep on teh floor, and hold very long whispered conversations at 3am. Who knows why.
We awoke bright and early, to a guy asleep on the bunk above, and a guy sleeping under a blanket on the floor, right in front of my pack, with his head pillowed on my shoes. Awkward. By the time we had breakfasted (on bagels, again), and showered, he had moved off my shoes, so luckily I didn’t have to wake him to get them out.
Today we were doing the Dylan’s Famous tour – a bus tour of the city in a minivan. It was pretty amazing, we got to see all the main sights of San Francisco, and the guy had an amazing amount of knowledge about the city, and he talked throughout most of the driving bits of the trip. We started at Union Square, then headed straight into the Tenderloin, probably one of the lesser parts of the city, and the only part he advised us to be careful in. It has a lot of homeless, soup kitchens etc. Drove past the town hall area.
Next we went to the Mission district, that has undergone a lot of changes. It has a large Latino population, and in many of the shops are both english and spanish translations. The mission district used to be quite run down, but more recently has become a place of the hip and cool, and there are a lot of good food places, we saw a line of maybe 10-15 people waiting to get in to a corner cafe. We stopped in an alleyway, where people had done a lot of graffiti art, and there was a whole history behind it – something along the lines of a run down part of town, artists move in, practice on the walls, make it pretty, more ‘well-off’ people start moving in, voila! Gentrification of an area. The street art was pretty amazing and detailed, and much of it has a deeper message, or reflects on society and particular views.
Dolores Park, which overlooks the city, and is often full to the brim in spring and summer good days.
Twin Peaks, the top of a hill overlooking the San Fran skyline. You can look straight up Market Street, and all around, out to the Golden Gate Bridge and furthur.
Castro district, home to gay pride. Lots of guys, rainbow flags, people walking their dogs.
Haight and Ashbury, home to the hippies in the 60s and 70s. Lots of famous names like Janice Joplyn, The Grateful Dead, Jimi Hendrix. We got icecream from a Ben and Jerrys on the corner, with riduculous flavours, while a homeless* guy on the corner gave an empassioned speech while dancing over the road. (*probably homeless, probably on some sort of drugs/weed, who knows!). The Hells Angels also used to live in the area, and often went around with the Grateful Dead, acting as bodyguards.
Pacific Heights, and the millionaires/billionaires row, a range of massive houses on top of a hill, with commanding views of the bay. One of the residents was setting up for a party and had closed the road. Crazy decorations and setting up going on.
The painted ladies, a group of houses pretty much exactly the same, that survived the 1906 earthquake. A lot of that type of housing was destroyed, the old Victorian type houses.
We drove through the Presidio, a lovely park/suburb area, that is being held in trust in case the army ever want it back. You can rent properties and live there, but you can’t buy properties or land.
Over the Golden Gate Bridge, to Muir Woods, a national monument, a valley of massive and really old redwoods. We saw a squirrel and an owl. It was pretty cool, the trees were massive and old, but there seemed to be a lot of people there, even though Dylan told us it was pretty quiet in terms of people. I wouldn’t want to go on a busy day.
Back to the bridge via saulsilito, and the headlands to the north of the bridge for some amazing photos, then back down to town. Apparently the Marina District is built mostly on reclaimed land, filed in with, among other things, abandoned boats from the 49ers, the people who arrived en masse to pan for gold.
Overall it was a great trip, and I would definitely recommend it for anyone interested in a snapshot of SanFran.
A quick walk back to the hostel, amidst a large amount of santa clauses, apparently it is SantaCon today, and everyone likes to dress as Santa, and then do a pub crawl. Some had started at 11am this morning, we saw some way back in Dolores Park, just before lunch. Walking home tonight, they were just everywhere, and a little bit startling.
When we went out for dinner it was a bit of a struggle, on two accounts.
First, as we had spent quite a lot on dinner the night before, we wanted to take it easy. Pizza slices were ideal, but finding vegetarian was a pain in the butt. Only at the takeaway places, restaurants and cafes are usually great.
Second, there were santas, EVERYWHERE. It was ridiculous and a wee bit scary. Some restaurants had a ‘no santas’ policy. I would have liked to go to one of those, but they were the expensive ones.
It was weird, one night we spent $70 on nice meals and drinks, and the next we spent $12 on pizza slices. Nowhere near as good, or as good for you, but quite a difference.
**Disclaimer: There may be many squirrel pictures in this post**
Today we woke up bright and early. Dale went off to do his thing, and I passed the morning watching movies and reading. In the afternoon I went for a walk around near the water. There was a golf course and a wetlands. Didn’t see much wetlands wildlife, but did finally find some squirrels. I couldn’t figure out at first if they were squirrels or chipmunks, as they kept zipping into underground burrows, but a quick google search turned up that they were likely Californian Ground Squirrels, as I thought they were larger and less stripey than chipmunks. They had heaps of burrows, and they would all zip into them if you came too close. they also had little hollows in the ground, that they would run to and press themselves in if they were too far from the burrow.
They all move very quickly but suddenly; they will stay really still for a bit, then dart to the next place, and pause, motionless, then zip around again. After the ground squirrels, I found a few black squirrels, and one grey fluffy squirrel.
It was wonderful, they are all so cute and fluffy and I just want to pat them. However, they don’t like that. The tree squirrels do the same pause then darty movements, but they do it up the tree. They dart onto the tree trunk, then pause, then dart a bit farthur up. They also don’t seem to mind if they are facing up, down, or sideways when they do this. Also, if you try and follow them to take pictures, they go up the tree in a circular way, so you end up walking around and around the tree to see them, and eventually have to look down so you don’t fall over, then they disappear.
After my squirrel hunting, I heard what sounded like an eagle, but it might have just been a hawk. I saw quite a few geese, probably Canadian Geese? They were noisy. And a whole mass of black waterbirds, in a similar shape to a Pukeko, but with shorter legs, and a bit smaller, which I think are Coots.
I also found a bit of history, in the form of an old house, built in 1867, by a settler who had a lot of influence in the area.
Meeting back with Dale, we headed back out onto the freeway towards the coast, but traffic was a pain, so we took a random way to the Golden Gate Bridge, which we drove over, and stopped on the other side. We took a couple of photos, but they ddn’t really come out. The view of the bridge and the city was very pretty, all sparkly.
On the way back to drop off the rental care, we stopped for petrol, had a minor issue with which one to use, and how to work the pump, but got there in the end.
Decided to go to the Stinking Rose for dinner, just down the road. It is a garlic themed restaurant, and they claim that they serve food with their garlic. We can attest to that, there was so much garlic in the bread spread that it made your tongue tingly. But the food otherwise was delishuz, and definitely worth going. There was a bit of a wait, and they have a ton of tables, but I think we only waited about 15mins for a table. They had a waiting list that was quite long.
After dinner, it was bed, and being woken up a lot by our silly room-mates, who liked to come and go at all hours of the night, and make the room stink like smoke.
Today I got to sleep in late. Even so, still massively tired. Checked out of our room, sorted our luggage for the day, then headed off into town. We walked down via a Starbucks (there are about 10 of them within a 5 or so block radius near Market Street) then continued all the way down through Chinatown, to check out the gate.
We then picked up our rental car and proceeded to drive through town, and get on the freeway! One of the freeways. There are a few of them. There are not many large bridge freeways through the middle of town, due to earthquakes (most of the people that died in the last earthquake, were on collapsed freeways), but they are still big and 4-6 lanes and tons of cars. A bit scary, but Dale drove and I navigated, and we managed well. The freeway was huge and went for ages. Also, they all drive on the wrong side of the road. Part of my navigation, was advising to turn into the right hand side of the road, and stay to the right.
We are staying in Sunnyvale the night, near Mountain View. There didn’t seem to be much distinction between each city though, buildings and cars are just everywhere, just constant from San Fran to Mountain View and furthur.
We checked in to our hotel, then wandered down the road to find some food. Much wider out here, definitely not a place for walking. Everything is so spread out, and the roads are long and straight, and so much traffic. There was a jobless guy at the intersection, one side if his sign was imploring for a job, the other side read ” my name is …. Yes i am single.
We ate at Panda Express, a lovely typical fast food restaurant, where the drink sizes were huge, as were the portions. Neither of us finished our dinners, but I did manage to find a whole pile of veges. The smallest drink size looks to be a cup of approx 750ml.
We went for a brief run around the ‘burbs, which was interesting in being quite dark, but many houses had christmas lights, which was cool. Then had dinner at Wendys, definitely an American fast food day.