A Travellerspoint blog

Alcatraz

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Today we all drove down to Fishermen's Wharf Pier 33 to catch a Ferry out to Alcatraz. It was a short trip getting us there not long after 10am. We listened to one of the Alcatraz Tour Guides talk about some of the attempts to escape the island for a bit, and then we took the steps up to the old prison (more "scenic" photos of the view of San Francisco). The Audio Tour was pretty good as all you needed was a headset that they gave you and you could walk around in your own time; you didn't have to rush through the interesting bits. The tour walked you through all of the prison open to tourists as well as giving you information about it at particular points. The was also information on the walls in some areas, mainly on some of the more significant prisoners that stayed there. The tour covered about 2 hours including a short documentary on Alcatraz near the end while we were waiting for the next Ferry back to San Francisco. One of the more memorable moments of visiting Alcatraz was watching mum make a fool of herself infront of some random guy. As she was walking out of the giftshop at the end of the tour, a man in a black coat which she thought was a worker there, was standing next to the exit door. She thought he was holding it open for her (which he wasn't) so as she walked out she said a big "thank you" to him. She realised almost straight away that he was neither a Alcatraz worker or holding the door, so she quickly darted around the corner and out of sight. I found it quite funny! The man must of had no idea what mum was on about :)
Geordie

Posted by bremner 16:40 Comments (1)

San Francisco Union Square

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Ever since we got to the States there has been one particular place Willl has been dying to eat at - The Cheesecake Factory. As he keeps reminding us regularly that we leave within a week, we decided today was going to be the day. We found there was one by Union Square so right in the heart of the downtown shopping area and as luck would have it (for me anyway!) it was at the top of a huge Macy's department store. We took our favorite F line street car down Market street and after a look around some gorgeous shops and once I'd managed to drag myself away from the Martha Stewart homewares line at Macy's, we headed up to the top floor and joined the crowds who also thought Sunday lunch at the Cheesecake Factory was a great idea. We had one advantage though - in my naievity I had no idea that we were meant to queue up, take a number and wait for an efficient looking person with a walkie talkie and armfuls of menus to usher us to our table. So when I saw a spare table I grabbed it and we subsequently ordered a delicious lunch followed by amazing cheesecake deserts. It was only as we started looking around when we were waiting for the food to arrive that it suddenly dawned on me that we were meant to wait for our turn. On the upside, I saved us probably a half an hour wait but the downside was that throughout the entire meal I was sure we were going to be revealed as massive queue jumpers!
We finished the afternoon with a look around Bloomingdales and Nike town - a massive 3 storey Nike shop. By this time it was freezing cold so we were happy to head back up Market Street to Castro and call it a day. Off to Alcatraz tomorrow!
Brigid

Posted by bremner 19:45 Comments (1)

Fisherman's Wharf

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With parking restrictions eased up for the weekend, we left the car at home today and took the trolley bus from just down the road in Market street to Fisherman's Wharf. We enjoyed the views over the bay, watching the sea lions at pier 39, I screamed as the Bushman scared me and many other unsuspecting tourists and we had our first taste of San Francisco's famous clam chowder in a bread bowl. We then decided we'd walk the few blocks up to Lombard Street, the street that is so steep they made it a zig-zag so that cars could drive down it. Of course that meant several blocks of walking uphills but this is San Francisco after all - you can't walk anywhere without coming across a hill! We ended up walking back down to catch a trolley bus home which was quite a walk but took us past some gorgeous homes and past the end of Chinatown. Another fun day!
Brigid

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Posted by bremner 09:50 Comments (0)

Will's idea of heaven - the Jelly Belly factory!

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The one shortcoming of our wonderfully located San Francisco apartment is that there is no weekday >2hr street parking in the vicinity, so we decided to hit the road for the last day of the work week. The Jelly Belly Factory is about an hours drive away so that was our morning destination, and the Napa Valley our afternoon destination.
We managed to find our way courtesy of the obligatory GPS, and were all just a little excited (Will more than just a little!) to arrive at the factory just in time for a factory tour. (They run constantly I think.) A very interesting hour or so (98 flavours, and around 20,000 jelly beans made per minute) which culminated in a salivating splash in the Jelly Belly store. Significant damage was done as we sought to make the most of the 5 for the price of 3 Jelly Belly Flop (seconds) 2lb bags (it doesn't warrant converting to kgs - you will be disgusted!) and an assortment of other bits and pieces for the kids friends back at home. Luckily we had the "truck" to carry it all - would have been a tight fit in anything smaller!
We were thrilled to get a call from Sam just as we were leaving, to hear that he has arrived back at Lane Cove from his trip, safe and sound and with the house in good order. We miss not having him with us, but know he had a wonderful experience with his friends in Mexico, Belize, Vegas and LA.
The afternoon was then spent cruising through the vineyards of the Napa Valley with an afternoon tea break in a beautiful little town call St Helena. Very picturesque with lots of boutique stores (too expensive to buy in!) - reminded me a bit of an upmarket version of Greytown. There were some amazing homesteads but we passed on any of the wine sampling opportunities. Too much concentration needed keeping directions and staying on the right side of the road! (In fact drove past a nasty head-on on the way back.)
We arrived back via the Golden Gate Bridge as a lot of locals looked to be heading out of town for their long weekend - Martin Luther King day on Monday.
We are looking forward to leaving the car behind tomorrow and tramming down to the waterfront for the day. It will be a relief for me not to be driving, and to be honest I think an even bigger relief for Brig not to be sitting in the front seat with me driving!
It has not been unusual in our travels to see down-and-outers with placards asking for money begging homelessness etc., and or the odd "honest" one asking for drinking money. Nothing unique in that and certainly not peculiar to the U.S. We were more than a little amused yesterday however in our wanderings around this area, to see a slightly older bloke standing still and silent with his placard in a street mall - completely and utterly stark bollocky naked. Everybody else seemed to be going about their business in the vicinity as if nothing was amiss.( I suspect only in San Francisco.) We had walked past him from behind, and I wasn't brave enough to turn around and read the placard to be honest. I asked Brig if she had, and she confessed to having turned around - but not to having read the placard!! (In her defense she initially thought he was a statue.)
Dad/Pa, we are all thinking of you and wish you a speedy recovery. You know you will be in good hands when you arrive home tomorrow.
John

Posted by bremner 21:12 Comments (0)

On the Road Again ....

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We packed up and managed to leave South Lake Tahoe by 10 this morning. The slightly later start gave the boys a much needed sleep in and meant the frost on the inside of the car windows had a chance to melt! With night time temperatures regularly getting to minus 10, we'd often go out in the morning and find that the ski boots left in the car overnight would be completely frozen to the floor of the car!
The scenery on the Tahoe to Sacramento part of the trip was really scenic - mostly driving down through the mountains and forest. We had a quick stop off for lunch In Sacramento and then back on the road to San Francisco and with mostly 4 lane freeway driving, it didn't take all that long to get here. We drove in over Oakland bridge which meant we got our first glimpse of the golden gate bridge as it's the next bridge along.
The apartment is in the Castro area, just off Market street and we have a 3 bedroomed bottom flat in a 3 storey apartment building. It will be perfect for our 5 days here but it looks like parking is going to be a bit of a pain. We're surrounded by gorgeous looking cafes and restaurants though with our own fully equipped kitchen, we'll be doing our best to resist them!
All we had time for this afternoon was a short walk around Castro and Market streets and a stock up at the local Safeway supermarket. It was the boys first time in a supermarket so we took about 3 times longer than needed while they checked out all the different products and brands!
We're all a bit weary tonight so it's an early night for all before starting our sight seeing tomorrow.
Brigid

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Posted by bremner 21:51 Comments (0)

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