Tuesday, June 24, 2008

3 Week Tour of the West: San Francisco

Well, what can I say, it is definitely as beautiful as I imagined if not more! And I am in no way disappointed! I was a bit worried that my expectations were a bit too high, but they weren't.

We drove into San Francisco over Oakland and came over the Oakland Bay Bridge and we did it just as one should. We drove over the bridge playing and singing " If you're going to San Francisco ", and wearing flowers in our hair! I was actually quite choked. Going over the bridge, we also got our first view of the Golden Gate Bridge. God, if I had been on my own I'd have been in tears of joy.

Golden Gate BridgeLinda drove through town and pointed out some of the different districts and Cafes, etc., she took us to the Golden Gate Bridge first. We all walked out to the first pillar. It is just so beautiful and the view was lovely, over to downtown and Alcatraz. For a prison island Alcatraz looks quite tiny, I'm not quite sure what I was expecting there. We had lunch on the beach where Hugh Grant filmed " 9 months ", another great spot for views of the Golden Gate Bridge. From there Linda took us to Twinpeaks, the highest viewpoint in San Francisco. Back down from there we drove through the Haight Ashbury district, which was the flower power district in the 60s. Gosh, there are some beautiful houses here.

Next stop was our hotel, where we literally just dropped off our bags and then went out wandering. We wandered (Neil, John, Katharina and I) straight to Planet Hollywood, where I bought a T-shirt. Then we carried on and decided that it was probably a bit too late for sight-seeing, so we entered the Virgin Megastore, where I spent yet more money and bought two CDs. Then we had to check out the price of jeans, but they have to be tried on first, but we weren't in the right mood. We got back to the hotel at 18.35 and we were meeting in the lobby at 19.00, but I managed to fit my shower in.

We had dinner at a Mongolian restaurant. It was delicious, and after we'd made pigs of ourselves, we made fools of ourselves with Karaoke! Even I got up to sing! It seems that this holiday is a holiday full of firsts! I sung two duets (I wasn't going up on my own!). First song was " I'd like to teach the world to sing " and the second was " Tie a yellow ribbon ". We all had a great evening, and most of us turned in at 23.00 as we have a lot to see and do in the morning.

Woke up somewhere around 7.30 sat up straight in bed and wondered where on earth I was, and who had pinched the tent! I soon solved the problem and went back to sleep again.

We had breakfast at 9.00 and then left for some serious sight-seeing. Which actually didn't start until 2 hours later as Juliane and Nicole did some serious shopping first. From there we went and bought our three day bus passes (cheaper than buying two single days!). We used it straight away and went on a bus to walk around the financial district. We found the Transamerica Building, and from there walked to Chinatown, that was just like being back in Hong Kong, only slightly less smelly. We had lunch at McDonalds in Chinatown, as we couldn't decide on Chinese and we didn't want to be sat around too long.

After lunch was a historic moment for us, our first ride on a cable car! Great fun. It was full so we had to ride on the step of the cable car. We went right to the end of the line got off and happened to be right by the Hard Rock Cafe, so we all went and collected our free shot glasses, and I bought my T-shirt!

From there we walked up and down the streets to find Pacific Heights. Beautiful houses (I probably took a whole film of them!) We then went to a couple of parks, looking for the view of San Francisco's skyline above some of the houses (postcard view). We were at the wrong parks, but we eventually found the right park on one of the many free maps, I'd picked up. So as Nadia was complaining of sore feet, we went on a bus to find it. Even Nadia then thought it was worth it. More pictures!

After a short rest there we walked to the Haight-Ashbury district, which is where there are a few Hippies left over from the 60s, when they all used to be there. On the bus to the park we met two people, one young girl coming from a demonstration, and one older woman, who had taken part in San Francisco's original peace rallyes and demonstrations. Somehow that seemed fitting for us to see in San Francisco.

Anyway back to sight-seeing. Haight wasn't too interesting, but it could have been that we were at the wrong end of the street, we walked all the way down Haight to market street, then on a bus back to where we had started, the V.C. By then we were all slightly worn out, so it was back to the hotel, where we had an hours rest, before we went out to dinner. We all went for Japanese tonight, after checking out 1/2 dozen different places beforehand. We = Neil, John, Juliane, Katharina and I. After dinner we went back to the hotel, to get another coupon for a Hard Rock Cafe shot glass, then it was off to the Hard Rock Cafe - Nicole and Nadia joined us again for that. That also meant more cable car rides! We stopped at the Hard Rock Cafe for a couple of beers, I'm becoming quite partial to Corona. John left earlier, so it was just Neil and us 5 girls, I'm sure Neil was happy! We all got back here at about 11.15, and I then phoned home to organise a shopping list. Eventually I was in bed at about midnight.

Got up with a start this morning, Katharina's alarm clock is SO loud. Well, I suppose we had to be up! Went down to breakfast at 8.00, also to pick up my fax from Mum and Dad. Only I couldn't get it because the people in the office don't get in until 9am so that threw our " we'll leave early " plans overboard! Eventually got two faxes with orders for jeans for Dad and Lee.

Where was Herbie?We started our tour at the cable car turntable, only four of us (Nicole, Nadia, Juliane and I), we took the cable car to Lombard Street, which is the " Crookedest street in the world " The cable car to get there goes up Hyde Street, which is the up and down street from a lot of movies with a direct view on to Alcatraz. We walked down the stairs at Lombard Street, but the last corner I pretended to be a car and ran down. I was all excited again about being in San Francisco. We walked down the rest of Lombard Street stopping on the way for a hot chocolate and to get out of the light drizzle.

At the other end of Lombard is the Coit Tower. The money to build it was donated to San Francisco sometime in the 1930s by Lilli Coit, who loved San Francisco so much she wanted to leave something to add to San Francisco's beauty behind. From the Coit Tower we caught the bus to Fisherman's Wharf. This was the first free ride on our bus pass. We went to pick the tickets to Alcatraz up first, then we went over to Pier 39, which is a very touristy part of Fisherman's Wharf. I bought Mum and Dad a sketch of San Francisco and me 3 and then I got carried away and bought yet another T-shirt. This time from the Warner Bros. Shop. I also got a Tazmanian Devil T-shirt for Ramona. I couldn't resist.

Now who could I think of to lock up here?We had lunch at Fisherman's Wharf. From there it was on to the ferry and over to Alcatraz, where we had booked a guided audio tour, meaning we walked around with a walkman on, listening to the different things about inmates and cells, etc. Very well done, and very interesting. We got back on the mainland at about 4.45 and Nicole was looking very green (she doesn't like boats!), even though the journey was only about 10 - 15 mins. I did OK, my tummy is trained to hold out 75 mins!

We then wanted to catch the cable car back up Hyde Street, but it seemed everyone had had that idea. So we thought we'd walk up the street a little way. Then we found a trolley bus and took that to get us back near the hotel. We split up when we got off the bus as Nicole had to pick up her photos, Nadia needed a bank, Juliane CDs and me jeans for Dad.

At seven we all met back up for food! Neil and Nicole weren't feeling well so we were only 12 for dinner. We ate in Chinatown and then went for an ice-cream. After the ice-cream it was only 21.30, so 4 of us went to the Hard Rock Cafe again for a drink (Julian, Cheryl, John and I). We got back at 23.30 and I cleared my bed off and went straight to sleep.

We left San Francisco at 8.00 the next morning. I will definitely go back again, the sooner the better!

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