So, part the first of my big holiday / honeymoon write up. Slight preamble, some experiences on the way there. Our flights were at nice civilised times, but to save any rush and extend the holiday a bit, we booked into a hotel at Heathrow. But it was rubbish - I don't recommend staying at The Comfort Inn Heathrow. The TV was fuzzy, the bar / restaurant looked crappy, and there's NOTHING in the locality, it's a ghost town around there. So we made do with crisps for tea, and didn't go in the only local "fun pub" we could find as it also looked rubbish.
Our flight was GOOD! I hate flying, so a ten hour or so flight is not normally fun, but flying with Virgin was OK. We had a full TV on demand system in the headrests, so I watched The League of Gentlemen's Apocalypse and Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy (don't bother) and House with Hugh Laurie and got some sleep. Also they didn't mess up my vegan meal, result!
On to San Francisco then! We had a car booked, but decided to leave it at the airport, save having to struggle round town with it for the four days we were there, and also save on the parking. I was nervous about driving in America at all, until just recently I'd taken something like a ten year hiatus from driving, was a fly drive thorugh California such a good idea..? Put it off for a few days anyway, we got a shuttle from the airport to our hotel at Fisherman's Wharf. It's a tacky sort of place, we were expecting that, but somehow we were the only people in the world who didn't know it would be cold and foggy. HEY, If you're going to San Francisco, forget about the flowers in the hair, wear a big jumper! Our hotel was the Holiday Inn, it was all OK, free drink on arrival, coffee percolator in the room, pool table in the bar, but kind of average really. Went for a walk around Fisherman's Wharf, it's more rubbish than we suspected, a faded fairground area like Southsea. We saw the sealions, and completely failed to book onto a trip to Alcatraz. I'm not so keen on the Sealions, maybe it was just that it wasn't warm anyway, but thinking about them just sitting there in the harbour on decking doing nothing made me feel colder, and a bit sad. Alcatraz though, we knew we should book onto it in advance, we thought perhaps just the day before so didn't do it right away... it was a weekend and it was booked up four days in advance, so we completely missed out. If you're going there, book onto a trip as early as possible... We got some food in the Hard Rock Cafe (hey you can mock, but it's good to have somewhere reliable) left the Wharf seafront bit, and had a few drinks in Kennedy's bar nearby. It's a proper pubby sort of pub, they have masses of beers on tap, scruffy pool tables, and DARTS. We have recently got WELL into darts, so this was great. There's an attached curry house to this pub too. We came back here again, though not to eat.
We mooched around town a bit, there are shops there, it is a city. The shops were OK, though I found myself looking at the same sort of things I would have done at home, like the Levis store, department stores, and various kitchen type things. One place that sounded ALRIGHT in the guide book was the Embarcadero centre, The Lonely Planet guide made it sound worth a visit, but it was rubbish. One place we found by ourselves that was very nice though was the Farmer's Market at the Ferry Building. Not sure you'd call it a real farmer's market, but it had lots of nice food and drink stuff all in one place, including the biggest selection of wild mushrooms I've seen...
We found getting around San Fran to be quite easy, it's not all that big, so we walked quite a lot of it, and got a cable car and trolley bus a couple of times. Food was alright in San Fran, though there weren't as many vege places as I expected. One delightful exception was Millenium, a full on vegan restaurant in the Savoy Hotel. As a birthday treat Clare took me to dinner there, and we had the full tasting menu - many courses, plus a different accompanying wines with each one. It was quite amazing, it's pretty much unheard of for me to go to a fancy restaurant at all, but to be able to eat everything there made this feel like a total one off. We got pretty squiffy, even though were being given half glasses of most of the wines (as there were so many) and it was a really great night. I can't recommend this place enough, helps if you are a vegan, but Clare liked it too. If you're going there, look out though - when we were trying to find the place at first, we stumbled into the Tenderloin San Francisco - didn't expect San Fran to get quite so grim so quickly, lots of homeless mental health issues, crack being smoked on the street etc. Lots of cities have this, but it's how close it was to such a fancy place that got me. Reminds me of Buffy "The bad part of town is just half a block from the good part of town - we don't have a whole lot of town"...
We also took a walk (past lots of NICE houses) to the Exploratorium, it's like the play and learn bit in the basement of The Science Museum here... there are lots of workshops and things, but also STUFF to try out. It's perfect for kids, the place was crawling with them in fact, but it was quite interesting for us too. Some of the exhibits / demos / toys there felt a bit shabby, but that must be just because of the thousands of tiny hands doing their best to break them each day. It's all in a nice park too, which you can probably see in a few of our pictures of San Fran.
Possibly from our pictures you can't tell just how steep the famously steep roads of San Francisco are. Man they're steep, feels like 45 degrees or more. If you can't do hill starts, don't try and drive there. Seems an insane place to have a bike race, but that's what they did, the San Francisco Grand Prix closed down the town while were there...
A final highlight of our trip to San Fran (I didn't think I enjoyed it as much as this!) was our fire engine tour of San Francisco. We got to put on fire-fighter uniforms and see the sites of the city (including going over the Golden Gate Bridge) on a Big Mack Shiny Red Fire Engine. Much recommended, the people who run it are a bit eccentric, and they like to sing all the way around the tour. Anyway, pictures of what to expect at fireenginetours.com, and more in our pictures of San Fran.
On to Monterey!
Paul Clarke's weblog - I live in Hythe in Kent. Married to Clare + father to two, I'm a full-stack web engineer, + I do mostly js / nodejs, some ruby, python, php ect ect. I like pubs, parkrun, eating, home-automation and other diy jiggery-pokery, history, family tree stuff, Television, squirrels, pirates, lego, and TIME TRAVEL.