01.04.2013 - 05.04.2013 16 °C
Welcome to San Francisco! We checked in no worries and the four of us decided to take a look around the Fisherman's Wharf area. We saw a whole colony of sea lions that have laid claim to a couple of old floating rafts near Pier 39 (which is the main tourist pier, coincidentally). We had a quick look around and headed into the first good looking restaurant we could find, which was fortunately one that we had a discount for courtesy of the hotel . We all tried a bowl of their chowder which is based on the Boston chowda. We tried the crab cakes, which unfortunately were not as good as good as the 'chunky crab meat' ones in Lake Placid as it was all mashed up. Michelle had the salmon stuffed with crab meat which was a lot nicer.
After lunch we had a look through a few of the shops and then dropped into Musee Mechanique for a look around. This place is full of old arcade games and (clean) peepshow machines that were either a quarter or 50c each. We all had a bit of a muck around on the old pinball, a hockey game and a boxing game. Michelle beat me in the boxing as I couldn't bear to hit a woman .
We were getting quite thirsty after this much excitement when we walked past Jack's Bar at the old Cannery. Theer was 80 beers on tap, a 400 year old bar and live music (for the first 15minutes we were there...) so we were happy! Nathan and I tried 4 or 5 pints of various local area brews. Contrary to popular belief, beer from the USA is excellent! Some of the main stream exported beers taste like dishwater but the craft beers are excellent. I'd say there was only really one I didn't really like (out of 10 over a couple of days) but I'd still drink it over Fosters!
Nathan had been talking about chewing tobacco so we bought some on the way back to the Hotel. Even though we specifically requested "not menthol" the silly bugger gave us menthol. It was quite rank, not something I'll be taking up anytime soon.
Michelle and I had left organising tickets to Alcatraz to the last minute. Unfortunately, by the time we tried to book (4 days before) there were none available. We had read that they released a few day tickets in the morning so we woke up early and walked to Pier 33 (where the Alcatraz cruises leave from) to join the queue for tickets to Alcatraz at 7.30am. There were about 50 people in front of us but they still seemed to have quite a few tickets left when we bought ours. We picked the next cruise as we were already up and keen to make something of our early morning start. It had been pretty foggy since we arrived but we were lucky enough to have a relatively clear day. We had some beautiful views of the Bay bridge, the Golden gate bridge and Alcatraz on the way over. When we landed we forced ourselves to stand through half of the 'compulsory' induction speech before running up the hill to get into it!
A view of San Francisco (and the Bay bridge) from Alcatraz:
The tour of the cell blocks was excellent. It was narrated by former inmates an prison staff and was more focused on stories of the people inside and how they felt living and working here. This was a refreshing change from the usual 'full of statistics' tour. We picked up a tin cup from the souvenir shop and made our way back to the mainland. Nathan and Cassie finished their tour not long after, so we met up and went for some of the local Dungeness crabs. I made the mistake of choosing fish instead of crab... Or was it cardboard, not too sure in the end.
After lunch we rode the cable car into town. Cable cars aren't like regular trams/streetcars. Each cable car rail has a cable running from the top of the line to the bottom which is powered by a motor in the cable room. The cable car just grips onto the cable to move up or down the line. The brakes on these cars are wooden. We didn't realise at first but after smelling the burning smell we worked it out. When the driver wants to brake they pull a handle which levers the wood onto the tracks. They also put sand on the tracks to get more traction if the brakes are slipping. Anyway, no matter how it runs it was great fun to be leaning out the side of the cable car up and down the hills of San Francisco. Pretty expensive though, $6 each trip! We took a look through Chinatown and shopped around for a while at Westfield then headed back to Fisherman's Wharf for a Japanese dinner. Dinner was exactly what we all needed, something delicious but not too rich or creamy. After dinner we were all worn out so Michelle and I went back to the room and just crashed out.
We've seen a fair few hop on/off busses on our travels and at least half the ones we've been on have been rubbish. San Francisco's was a pleasant surprise! It took us all around Fisherman's Wharf, Lombard street where the world's crooked street is, Chinatown, drove through the not so nice part of town with lots of homeless and dodgy looking people and finally over the Golden Gate bridge and back through the city. The four of us decided to sit on the bus for a lap and just relax and listen to the commentary. It was a long lap (~2.5hrs) and it got really windy up the top but we saw some great places on the way around. We continued through till we got to Chinatown and got Yum Cha for lunch at a place that Michelle's dad recommended. We only just made the lunch service so we were fed and back out the door in no time. During lunch we decided that we would stop by the painted ladies and the Japanese Tea Garden before heading back. The painted ladies we saw were the ones used in the introduction to the "classic" TV show Full House down near Alamo square. We relaxed in the park and had a good look before we were overcome with the smell of smoke from some people living the 'high' life. We then moved on to the Japanese Tea Garden for a look around. We didn't know it but it was cherry blossom season there and it was the first time I'd (Blake) seen them so that was pretty cool. We all sat down for a cup of tea then strolled around looking at the koi, bonsai; Cassie & Michelle were chasing after squirrels for some pictures and we saw a child fell into the ponds.
After this we made our way back to our new local pub (Jack's Bar) for a burger and some different types of beer. Nathan and I decided to try the non menthol chewing tobacco again. This time it wasn't too bad.. still not something I'll be taking up anytime soon.
The Golden gate bridge:
The painted ladies:
Cassie & Nathan left today. So it is just the two of us again. It was lovely catching up with them and we had an awesome time. We've been so exhausted with all the excitement hanging out with the Vitanzas the last week, that we decided to sleep in.
We did our load of washing down the road and had a massive burrito for lunch. We spent the rest of the day chilling out at the hotel only leaving the hotel for dinner with Michelle's aunty & her husband in the downtown area. We were treated to a zapato (like a burrito) and a burger for Michelle. Before heading home, they took us for some ice-cream at Ghiradelli- a famous San Francisco chocolate company. We definitely went home with a very full belly .
We spent the whole day organising and booking accommodation for the next few days. Very last minute.. we know.
Just as we got back to the hotel, ready for bed, we got a message from Leif (a workmate from Perth) that him and his wife Yoli had just arrived in San Francisco. So we headed out into town to catch up for a few drinks with them. We met up at their hotel and tried the classy, and not so classy side of the local nightlife. We had a beer at an Irish Pub and a bottle of wine with olives at a fancy wine bar. What a great way to finish our trip to the west coast.