San Fran – Wednesday 11th Dec ,2013

We had to get up early today, ate a bagel on the way, and walked down to Pier 33 to catch a ferry.   We went to see Alcatraz Island, well known as a scary prison type place.

 

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I found a super friendly park ranger, complete with hat!
I found a super friendly park ranger, complete with hat!
Alcatraz!  Red writing by the native americans who were protesting
Alcatraz! Red writing by the native americans who were protesting

We got to watch a video, wander around most of the island, and take the guided audio tour of the cell blocks.  They gave each of us a headset and remove that hung around our neck, and then you could play and stop it as you wished, but it talked you as it guided you to walk through the cellblock.

Tiny cells
Tiny cells
Cells
Cells

We got to look in the cells, see the ones they tried to escape out of, hear stories of people who were incarcerated there, and the tour was narrated by some of the previous wardens.   It was quite interesting.  The audio tour was neat, you could take it at your own pace, and it gave you heaps of information about the place, and talked a bit about life in the prison, and some of the escape attempts.

The last guard tower left.  They apparently had to do 8 hour shifts in the tower, freezing and boring.
The last guard tower left. They apparently had to do 8 hour shifts in the tower, freezing and boring.
The main cellblock and exercise yard
The main cellblock and exercise yard
Main cell block and pretty gardens - some of the inmates planted most of the island in gardens.
Main cell block and pretty gardens – some of the inmates planted most of the island in gardens, which I’m sure was much more fun than sitting in their cells.
Parade ground and Bay Bridge
Parade ground and Bay Bridge
Lighthouse
Lighthouse
San Francisco Skyline
San Francisco Skyline
Hummingbird.  Cute, tiny, and very fast when they want to be
Hummingbird. Cute, tiny, and very fast when they want to be
Escaping Alcatraz
Escaping Alcatraz

 

Was very cold though, out on the water.  After Alcatraz, we walked further along to Pier 39 again, where Dale had chowder in a sour dough bowl, and I had the special – half a sandwich and a soup in a sourdough bowl… Their whole sandwiches must have been huge though, coz I couldn’t finish half my lunch.

Clam chowder in Sour Dough bowls
Clam chowder in Sour Dough bowls
Yay chocolate!
Yay chocolate!

 

We stopped at the seals again, still being noisy, boisterous or lazy, then walked back to our backpackers for a restful afternoon, before heading out to the Valencia area in the evening.

Fighty sea lions
Fighty sea lions

I stopped at Safeway (supermarket), and spent ages wandering, just comparing the different things they have here.    Like the amazing amount of icecream flavours; the weird milks, what on earth is half and half?  Why not just have full cream milk???  and their cheeses are weird.  And their biscuits are weird, and nothing I recognised.  None of their chocolate seems to be as good as Whittakers (Boo), however they love cookie dough flavour things (yay).  Muesli is granola.  Fruit is the same, but weights are in pounds and stuff, who knows what that is ><

Dale’s friend Tobias took us walking around the Mission district, where we happened across the Mission San Francisco de Asís, which is the oldest surviving structure in San Francisco, built in around 1791.  It has since survived earthquakes, and many homeless people sleeping around it.

Mission Dolores Basilica by night. Apparently one of the oldest structures in San Fran
Mission Dolores Basilica by night. Apparently one of the oldest structures in San Fran

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Tobias then took us for dinner at a cute ramen place, somewhere along 16th street.   The food was delishuz, and Tobias gave us some tips for our travels.  We are getting good at the train, but haven’t attempted buses yet.

Other things:

People seem really nice here, especially in the main parts of town…If I’m walking with a map, and look even a little lost, someone usually stops to ask if they can help.  Has happened a few times now.  I must look like a tourist.

The money is a bit of an issue… not the notes, they are easy to figure out, even if they look like toy money. It’s the coins: they have a quarter, 25c, easy.  Then a 10c dime, 5c nickel, and 1c penny.  Why name them different things? And their $1 are notes.  So don’t bother looking through your wallet for dollar coins.

We have walked. A lot. All over San Fran.  Was totally worth buying the shoes we got on the first day, I think I have already go to my money’s worth of walking out of them.

There are fire hydrants everywhere, just sticking up.  And they have pipe outlets in the walls, for getting water up the tall buildings.

Crosswalks are weird, there is no noise to tell you to go, so if you’re me, and staring at everything else, you have a tendency to miss your crossings.  Also, the cars are going the wrong way.  I have to look both ways, multiple times.

So far it has been sunny.  And sunny.  Albeit a winter sun, but sun all day nonetheless.

The light switches are the wrong way!  How confusing.

 

Golden Gate Bridge in background
Golden Gate Bridge in background
Cannonballs
Cannonballs

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Pretty buildings
Pretty buildings

 

San Fran Day 2 – Tuesday 10th Dec

It took us a very long time to wake up on Tuesday.  I think it was the jet lag kicking in: we were still both on NZ time, so trying to wake up at 8am in San Fran was actually like trying to wake up at 5am.  I don’t like to do that.  It took us over an hour of snoozing the alarm before we managed to drag ourselves out of bed, and mostly because we didn’t want to miss out on free breakfast.  Free breakfast was delishus, with bagels, jam and cream cheese, fresh fruit, or porridge or eggs.

After breakfast we kitted up and headed out down Broadway, towards the water.  Once we hit the Embarcadero, we walked along the waterfront, past all the piers.

Tiny three wheeled police car
Tiny three wheeled police traffic car
San Fran has some weird seats
San Fran has some weird seats
Coit Tower
Coit Tower
Signs
Signs
Massive cruise ship, and a whole bunch of seagulls
Massive cruise ship, and a whole bunch of seagulls
Old Tram Buses
Old Tram Buses

small (2)

 

We stopped at Pier 39 to look at all the touristy stuff:  Chocolate shop, Bubba Gumps Shrimp place, pretzel stalls, past the aquarium, the kite shop.. so many things to see!

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What a huge tree
What a huge tree
Totes gonna open the presents
Totes gonna open the presents
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No thongs please…
Bubba Gump Shrimp
Bubba Gump Shrimp
Millions of icecream
Millions of icecream
ALL THE JELLYBEANS
ALL THE JELLYBEANS

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We also stopped at the sea lions, which were pretty damn noisy, barking at everyone and everything  They have a set of rafts in the harbour, where they relax in the sun, and have play fights, pushing each other off into the water.  Apparently they came to shore on the wharf soon after the last major earthquake, decided they liked it, and some have been there ever since.  To get them off the wharf and away from everyone, they set up rafts for them to use, with a  viewing platform nearby for people.  They are amazingly noisy, later in the day, when we climbed Telegraph Hill, we could hear them faintly from the top.  Still barking.

Soon after the last major earthquake, the seals decided they wanted to lie there, and have been ever since
Many sea lions!

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We wandered further along to the Fishermans Wharf, and then stopped in a tiny cafe in the middle of nowhere for lunch.   We stopped at the library for a while then, and man, it was nice to sit down.

Millions of kites
Millions of kites

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Old?  Railway loading bridge
Old? Railway loading bridge
Why hullo thar..
Why hullo thar..

 

Selfie with a bird
Made a friend

 

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There's totally a bridge in the background
There’s totally a bridge in the background

 

There are a lot of homeless people, it is sad to see, but I’m not sure what to do about it.  You want to be helpful, but if you tried to help every one that you saw, you would end up with nothing pretty quick.  They seem to manage themselves well, for having no home.   many have trolleys and blankets they carry around with them, and we even saw a couple with pet dogs.

At least he is honest??
At least he is honest??

 

Later on we made our way back towards home, with a brief detour to climb Telegraph Hill.  The Coit Tower is unfortunately closed, but we happened to be on the hill at sunset, so got to see some lovely colours over San Fran and Bay.

Cute street
Cute street
Coit Tower
Coit Tower
Arthas?
Arthas?

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Sunset from Telegraph Hill
Sunset from Telegraph Hill
San Francisco at dusk
San Francisco at dusk
House and light
House and light

After that, was a quick walk back down the hill to our Hostel.
Dinner was at a greek/Italian restaurant around the corner, for a lovely cheap price, and we chatted to someone from New York, and from Argentina.

 

ALL THE DELISHUZ FLAVOURS
ALL THE DELISHUZ FLAVOURS

 

San Francisco. Monday 9th December aka longest Monday Ever

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.

 

With Mazy
Hanging With Mariana
Ready to go!
Ready to go!

 

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.

Leaving New Zealand
Leaving New Zealand
Fly through darkness
Fly through darkness

 

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.

First view of San Fran
First view of San Fran

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.

Small size coffee
Small size coffee

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.

On a BART Train
On a BART Train

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.

San Francisco street
San Francisco street

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,

Chinatown
Chinatown. Imagine delishuz Steamed buns, and dragons on the streetlamps
Street Art
Street Art

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.

Union SquaRE
Union SquaRE

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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!

Snowflake lights
Snowflake lights

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.

Giant Xmas decorations
Giant Xmas decorations
Balls
Balls

 

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!