San Francisco Trip Log

Discussion in 'Holidays & Travel' started by Agg, Apr 5, 2015.

  1. Agg

    Agg Lord of the Pings

    Joined:
    Jun 16, 2001
    Messages:
    31,334
    Location:
    A Reported Post Near You
    I took a trip to San Francisco in June 2014. It was a bit unexpected, but I got an email regarding a one-day conference related to forum ownership/management which sounded interesting, and a good excuse to head out there for a week to do some exploring and geocaching. So, tickets and accommodation booked and about a month later I was on my way. Last time I went to the USA was with Sciby, but this time I was on my own. As per my previous trip log this is largely as a memory aid for myself, so if it's tl;dr for you then don't bother. :) Annoyingly I'm only getting around to doing the trip log now, so some of the finer details may be a little fuzzy.

    [​IMG]

    San Francisco hasn't really been on my "must visit" list, so I don't really know that much about it. Dirty Harry and Bullitt were filmed there, there's a big bridge.. and.. hills? I went there with my family when I was a kid but I can't remember much about it. So, I bought a guidebook, asked some friends, watched some TV (mostly food/drink shows) and formed an extremely general plan of attack. The good thing about being a near-compulsive geocacher is that you can to some extent let the caches show you the area.

    Anyway, it turns out United are the only people doing SYD-SFO direct, at 13 hours out and 15 hours back. I booked via Expedia and got economy both ways with a window seat on the way back. However the seat on the way out was literally the worst seat on the plane. Last row, aisle seat. So your seat doesn't fully recline, the galley is right behind you and the toilet is right next to you. Hrrrm, that's what I get for only deciding to travel a month in advance. I rang United and was amazed to discover it was only $180 USD to upgrade to Premium Economy and get a window seat for that trip. Sold! Consider it an investment in being less jetlagged and thus getting more out of the first day when I arrive.

    A friend very kindly loaned me his USA SIM which works in my SGS5 and saved me the trouble of visiting T-Mobile or similar upon landing. When I met him for coffee before heading out he cautioned me that United weren't great, and their Premium Economy isn't really a big deal over their normal Economy. Just the same seat with a tiny amount more legroom. This turned out to be a very accurate description, as I was able to find out for myself when comparing the Premium Economy outbound leg with the regular Economy return to Sydney. One notable absence was USB ports or any way of charging gadgets. This is a shiny newish Boeing 777 and for Premium Economy to have no charging ability is a little concerning, as it gives the impression United basically said to Boeing "build us a 777 and kit it out as cheaply as you can". I have previously flown Virgin Atlantic 777 to LAX and Emirates A380 to NZ, both in normal economy, and both had USB ports built into the entertainment screen for charging gadgets and playing your own media.

    From a technical standpoint, I am using my SGS5 for data connectivity and also as my primary camera, but I also have my little Canon PowerShot S100 that I bought for the 2012 trip. Last time I had timestamping issues due to timezones etc but this time I was careful to set the S100 to SF time.. but the end result is I still seem to have a fair bit of jumping around in terms of timestamps between the two cameras. Ahh well.

    Anyway, resisted the urge to pick up a $65,000 bottle of wine in duty free at Sydney, watched a couple of movies and some TV episodes in flight, dozed a little, didn't sleep a whole lot but soon enough was in SFO. The food on the way was pretty good for airline food but not particularly noteworthy.

    [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]

    A word about visas. The USA has a visa waiver program for Australian citizens, which basically means you don't need to organise a visa - but you DO need to register online. There are certain conditions and of course the basic question is whether you are travelling there primarily for business or tourism. Now, as part of the rushed preparation for this trip I had simply gone through the registration process the same as I did in 2012, which was unquestionably a tourism trip. But this time I was going to a business conference - not doing any actual buying-and-selling type business, and it was only one day out of the week I would be there, so I hadn't even considered the business visa side of things until I was on the plane and contemplating my arrival at SFO. I remembered a story about a technology journalist who arrived to cover a convention, got chatting with the immigration officer about the big camera he had, and was refused entry because he had clearly been intending to work in the USA, by being paid to report on a convention.

    So, when I arrive, do I declare the primary purpose of my trip to be business or tourism? GIven I had already registered for a tourism waiver, I decided that the primary purpose was tourism, and I wouldn't mention the conference, because I am so clever and sneaky. Except I got completely out-played by the Immigration Officer on arrival because he does this all day long. The conversation went like this:

    Officer: Are you visiting the United States for business or tourism?
    Agg: Tourism.
    Officer: Just yourself on this trip?
    Agg: Yup!
    Officer: When were you last in the United States?
    Agg: A couple of years ago.. mid 2012.
    Officer: Where are you staying?
    Agg: Japantown.
    Officer: Ah, nice area there. Any friends or family in San Francisco?
    Agg: Nope!
    Officer: So, of all the cities in the world, why did you decide to take your holiday here in San Francisco?
    Agg: Errr.

    At this point I realise my choices are (a) come clean about the conference or (b) tell an actual lie to the Immigration Officer. "I'm a huge Dirty Harry fan! I like big red bridges! Uh.. my hometown is too flat?!" Whoops.

    Agg: Well, there's a conference on Thursday which is related to my business..
    Officer: But you've arrived in the United States on a tourist waiver.
    Agg: Yeeesss... but I'm here as a tourist for a whole week and the conference is only one day and I'm not doing any actual business, so it's not a business trip.
    Officer: Are you claiming the airfare or any other part of the trip against tax?
    Agg: Ah. Uhm. Yes.
    Officer: So it sounds like you're here primarily for the conference and are taking a few extra days to look around while you're here.
    Agg: Uhm. Kinda? (By which I meant "Yes. You have described my trip perfectly.")
    Officer: You don't have to be doing actual trading for it to be a business trip.
    Agg: I see.
    Officer: Enjoy your visit to the United States. (he stamps my passport and writes "WB" on the page)
    Agg: Uh, thanks! (scurries off)

    So it turns out that there are two kinds of waivers, Tourist and Business. WB being of course "Waiver, Business". I'm not sure how trivial it was that he transferred me from one to the other on arrival, but I will certainly pay more attention to the process when registering online in future. But I had arrived!

    The conference was at Hotel Kabuki in a part of San Francisco called "Japantown", so I'd booked all my accommodation there. I'd also pre-booked a shuttle bus which cost me $17 from SFO to the hotel, as opposed to $50-60 or more in a cab. Once at the hotel it was too early to check in, so left my bags with the doorman and hopped into a cab to the first place I'd heard of - Fisherman's Wharf. Yes, I know it's a tourist trap, but, you know, I'm a tourist, Officer. Also, there was a reason for heading there first. A delicious reason.

    [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]

    People who read my 2012 trip log will recall my final act in the USA was to gorge at In-n-Out Burger, so to ease myself into this trip I decided to do the same upon arrival. But the cab dropped me off at the other end of the wharf area, so I walked along and did a few other things on the way to In-n-Out. There's a seal colony that lives on pontoons at one end of the wharf so I checked them out (and found my first geocache of the trip).

    [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]

    Lots of crab and other seafood vendors tried to sway me from my burgery mission but I remained strong. I was taking a photo of a stone arch on one of the wharves when someone in a vaguely-official uniform came over and said "What are you doing?"

    Agg: "Taking a photo, why?"
    Person: "I'm part of the Police.. the Fun Police! Just making sure everyone is having fun!"
    Agg: "Uh, ok. Jeez, you made me think I was doing something wrong."
    Person: "Haha, it's all fun. Here, have a sticker!" (gives me sticker)
    Agg: "Thanks.."
    Person: "..and we're collecting donations for the somethingsomething"
    Agg: "Ah."
    Person: "It's all official, here's my permission from the City of San Francisco, here's the list of donations from other people, from all over the world, and how much they donated. How much are you going to donate?"
    Agg: "Smooth, man. Here's $5."
    Person: "Thanks!"

    So, he was basically giving me a lesson in Advanced Panhandling. All the other people on the list had apparently donated $20 and $50, but then again, I didn't fill in the form, so who knows what he wrote down for me. Annnyywaayyy..

    I did a loop through the actual Fisherman's Wharf super-touristy section and bought a hat, as I realised I hadn't got any sunscreen or anything and was going to get fried. But this whole section was really artificial feeling and just seemed like a huge tourist trap, so I kept on walking. Another geocache nearby was at The Musee Mecanique, which turned out to house an amazing collection of old novelty machines and arcade games etc. It's half museum and half gaming arcade that you can actually play in - really worth checking out if you're in the area.

    [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]

    Soon enough I arrived at In-n-Out, which was hugely busy. As a nod to healthiness I ordered my burger "protein style", in which the bread buns are replaced by lettuce leaves. While I was waiting with a zillion other people for my order, an old guy with a guitar sat next to me and started slowly counting his pennies. He had a sign around his neck saying "will play for pennies" or something so was obviously a busker. I asked if he had enough money for a burger and he said he did but he'd play me a song anyway. He played a little strummy something but his guitar was pretty woefully out of tune. While we were waiting he dropped some coins and I held his guitar while he dug around for them, so had a bit of a play on it then gave him a few bucks. It was one of those random encounters you can either avoid or embrace, and he turned out to be a very happy and friendly guy I could probably have chatted to for a while. But soon enough my food arrived so I headed off to eat and explore.

    [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]

    On other trips I have hired a car and driven around, but people recommended against that in San Francisco. Yes it's a famously steep and hilly city, which sounds bad for walking, but the streets are narrow and parking is an absolute nightmare. So I did hire a car later in the trip to go further afield but for the city itself I was sticking to foot power. I actually really enjoy that kind of exploration anyway. Some people visit museums, theatres, sporting events etc when they travel - I'm quite happy to walk around and explore, find geocaches, look at statues, read plaques, etc. I'm a sucker for an interesting plaque.

    Anyway, the SGS5 like most smartphones has a GPS - it wouldn't be much use for geocaching if it didn't. But it also tags photos with GPS coordinates which is a very handy feature. The S100 pocket camera in theory does this also, but in practise it takes so long to get a GPS lock that you really can't rely on it as a record of where you went. Fortunately the SGS5 is super quick and much more reliable in that regard, so when all the photos are uploaded to Flickr, the map function is quite a neat way to see where you went on a given day. So, I started at Fisherman's Wharf, then walked west along the foreshore before turning south into Russian Hill. I kept heading south, stopping to explore Lombard St ("the crookedest street in the world"), then on into Nob Hill. Then I looked south through Chinatown before eventually arriving at my destination of Columbus & Broadway, which is kinda in the North Beach / Telegraph Hill area.

    [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]

    All through this exploration I was treated to incredible views out over the bay and the ocean. The water ducks behind buildings and then you walk into the open and it's another amazing vista. There's lots of steep hills but I wasn't in a huge rush and I've always been able to pretty much just walk all day so I just kept on going. Each little neighbourhood has its own feel and the way the houses and streets have had to conform to the hills is really interesting to see.

    [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]

    On one particularly steep street I saw a few carloads of tourists chicken out and turn back instead of driving down it. Every now and then a tram will rattle by, and even when there's no tram you can hear the cables singing in the channels embedded in the streets. There were a few other people wandering around but apart from at obvious tourist focal points it was surprisingly quiet. I didn't have any concerns about feeling safe despite idly wandering around on my own.

    [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]

    The route was largely dictated by geocaches, general points of interest I was aware of, interesting things that caught my eye, etc. But the end point was my 7pm booking at The Stinking Rose, a restaurant that has the slogan "We Season Our Garlic With Food!". This is basically an Italian restaurant but with the gimmick that everything is garlicky - they apparently use "over 3000 pounds a month" of it.

    I had a Garlic Bread, "Roasted Garlic Baked Triple Cream Goat Brie" and the main meal was "40 Clove Garlic Chicken". Of course, for dessert I had to have the Garlic Ice Cream. It was all pretty good - the garlic icecream was a particular surprise. It's not just a gimmick, but actually worked really well. I wasn't super hungry because my stomach was still on Sydney time but I enjoyed it.

    [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]

    If I am in SF again I'd go back and try a few more things from the menu. One odd thing that caught my eye was a picture on the wall of the guy who played "Bernie" from "Weekend at Bernie's". A signed photo of him, slumped in dead Bernie pose. Bizarre. Anyway, the place was obviously set up for the tourist trade but I was there during a quiet time so it wasn't too awkward to be eating alone. It was only as I was finishing my meal that the evening crowd started to filter in, so I finished up and headed out to explore more.

    [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]

    The Stinking Rose is near Columbus & Broadway which is a bit of a gathering spot and has a few other things of interest nearby. It was pretty much ground zero for the Beat Generation, so there's a Beat Museum which covers the era and sells memorabilia and books. Nearby is a cafe called "Naked Lunch" and there's a Jack Kerouac Alley etc. There's also the City Lights bookshop which was famous for publishing banned books including one by Allan Ginsberg which resulted in the owners being put on trial for obscenity. One section downstairs has the book categories "Muckraking, Anarchism and Class War" on the wall.

    [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]

    As the light faded it became clear that there's also a bit of a red light district here including America's first topless bar. I kept wandering around and at one point a skinny guy stopped me on the street:

    Skinny Guy: Hey man, what's your name?"
    Agg: Uh, hi.. James.
    Skinny Guy: Wow, me too!
    Agg: Wow, what are the odds.
    Skinny Guy: You enjoying San Francisco?
    Agg: Sure, it's nice en..
    Skinny Guy: You wanna buy some dope?
    Agg: Hah, no thanks.
    Skinny Guy: Why not, it's legal now man!
    Agg: Uh, are you sure? I know it's legal in Colorado now, but California..?
    Skinny Guy: Yeah, it's all good!

    At this point a colleague of Skinny Guy, who we'll call Skinny Guy #2, walks past and this odd rhyming conversation happens between the Skinny Guys as #2 walks briskly past without stopping:

    Skinny Guy #2: Does your friend want some blow?
    Skinny guy: Oh no, no, no.

    The "no, no, no" wasn't panicked, but in a strange almost sing-song voice which exactly matched the timing of SG #2's question, like a two-part poem. It was a very surreal moment. I excused myself and went back to being invited inside by strip club bouncers as I walked back towards the main intersection. I stopped off at one bar which was a bit too clean and shiny for me but then I spotted The Saloon. This is the oldest bar in San Francisco and was recommended as a blues music destination. I'd been intending to go there later in the week, but I figured I'd drop in even though it'd probably be pretty quiet on a Monday night.

    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    It was, but I got talking to the bartender and a guy sitting next to me at the bar, who turned out to be an artist from Colombia who had just finished a showing in San Fran. We were chatting about the city from a tourist perspective, trying to improve my very rudimentary Spanish and having a few laughs while the bar slowly filled up. Soon a band started setting up in the corner and the crowd started to really build up. The band fired up and turned out to be an absolutely blistering rockabilly trio. I was completely blown away. The place was packed, the bartender was basically running from end to end of the bar nonstop making drinks and throwing money into a bucket behind the bar because the till was too small, and this band was absolutely going off in the corner. And this was a Monday night! Imagine what this place would be like on the weekend?! Following the lead of my fellow drinkers I switched from beers to Old Fashioneds and stayed until the wee small hours. Eventually I said my goodbyes, poured myself into a cab back to the hotel, presumably checked in and collected my bags and found my room.. and slept like a log.

    Full Day 1 photo album here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/r6geek/sets/72157645495751951/
     
    Last edited: Sep 7, 2015
  2. OP
    OP
    Agg

    Agg Lord of the Pings

    Joined:
    Jun 16, 2001
    Messages:
    31,334
    Location:
    A Reported Post Near You
    Day 2:
    This day started off a bit frustrating. It was pretty much just a day of general geocaching and exploring, but I'd decided I wanted to try and meet up with a Food Truck for breakfast. Food Trucks are pretty much exactly what they sound like, specialised mini-restaurants on wheels that drive around and stop at particular places and sell their signature street food. There's a real culture of them in San Fran and I had my eye on one called "Bacon Bacon" for breakfast. According to a Food Truck tracking website there was a regular morning meetup of several trucks at the "SoMa StrEat Food Park". SoMa is the nickname for "South of Market", a distinctive part of San Fran on the other side of Market St where the street orientation changes.

    [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]

    Anyway, I was feeling quite jetlagged and somewhat hung-over, but decided to walk to SoMa from Japantown and grab a cab if I happened to see one along the way. I didn't, and the trip in my memory seemed to take hours, although the timestamps on the photos only make it an hour or so. Still, it was an hour of pretty much flat-out walking on an empty, hung-over and jetlagged stomach. I grabbed a few geocaches along the way and the route took me through some parklands, past the City Hall and business district, then down through a more run-down area and finally to the SoMa park under the freeway. But there were no food trucks! It turns out you can't believe everything you read on the internet.

    [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]

    I wasn't that interested in the freeway / Costco type area I found myself in, so I called a cab and headed over to just south of Golden Gate Park. This is a huge park stretching almost halfway across the city from the ocean side and I thought I'd explore and geocache there. But I asked the cabbie for a breakfast recommendation near the park and he dropped me off at "Howard's Cafe" near 9th & Irving in Sunset. I quite liked this neighbourhood - it reminded me of Newtown in Sydney. A relaxed "alternative" feel, everything very casual and a good place to regather my thoughts over a plate of eggs, sausages and fried potatoes, with endless coffee refills.

    [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]

    Suitably recharged, I explored the South-Eastern corner of Golden Gate Park, finding a few geocaches along the way and noting the "Coyote Alert" warning signs. Then I wandered up Frederick St and had a milkshake at "The Ice Cream Bar Sofa Fountain", a cool little Art Deco diner which you can actually look inside here.

    [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]

    Then down Haight St to "Haight-Ashbury", one of the epicentres of the 60's Free Love and hippy movements. It's a bit of a commercialised version of its former self now, with shop selling tie-die tshirts and "smoking accessories" next to Ben & Jerry's and gastropubs. It's also quite the tourist mecca as you'd imagine. But definitely worth a stroll along.

    [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]

    My walking tour continued, up into Buena Vista Park which has a steep climb rewarded with great views of the city (if somewhat blocked by vegetation), then back down and around to the Corona Heights area. By now my feet needed a rest so I got a cab back to the hotel and chilled out for a couple of hours.

    [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]

    At this point I started to realise that, although I felt fine to keep on walking, my feet were starting to rebel against me - and perhaps my cheapy sneakers hadn't been the best choice. So I switched to my bushwalking boots and went for a short walk to a couple of "Walgreens" pharmacies nearby to see what they had in the way of foot-endurance-extending products. Some blister bandages and heel pads and I was good to go. I ended up walking 23km today, which was pretty good given the hilly terrain and the fact that I'm a pudgy geek.

    As I walked back towards the hotel I was feeling peckish so had a pre-dinner of buffalo wings at The GrubStake Diner, half of which is a converted rail car. The food was nice enough if not amazing but the people were friendly, and I really dig that kind of little diner.

    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    Back to the hotel to drop off a few things, then a cab to the Embarcadero. As the name suggests, this is the wharf and port area (where people embark) along the north-east edge of the headland, in the shadow of the Bay Bridge. It's a nice historic area between the water and the financial district. There's interesting old buildings, open spaces, restaurants, public art etc. They have some clever lights on the bridge that give a shimmering display and change colours, reflecting on the water.

    [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]

    I took a few photos and found some geocaches as I walked down to the bridge, then back up up to Broadway. Then I headed along to the Columbus St intersection where I'd been the night before - but this time I had burgers in mind.

    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    "Sam's Pizza & Burgers" is a classic tiny hole-in-the-wall dive. There's a grill, a counter, some counter seats, a narrow aisle and then the other wall. It's so small that I really didn't feel comfortable taking photos inside it. You have to play it cool in a place like that and the snaphappy tourist routine isn't going to go over at all. Fortunately if you do want to see the inside it's not too difficult to find other people's photos on the net because the place has become a bit of a cult destination since it was featured on Anthony Bordain's "The Layover" show. He declared their burgers the best in the world. I'm not sure that I agree with him, but at the end of a long day of walking and exploring it was very nice to sit at the counter and listen to the chitchat going on around me while I slowly worked through a cheeseburger and fries with a beer. By then it was getting close to midnight so it was time for a cab and bed.

    Full Day 2 photo album here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/r6geek/sets/72157645512548395/
     
    Last edited: Apr 5, 2015
  3. OP
    OP
    Agg

    Agg Lord of the Pings

    Joined:
    Jun 16, 2001
    Messages:
    31,334
    Location:
    A Reported Post Near You
    Day 3:
    Another day of general exploration, although not quite as extensive as the previous days. Firstly because I wanted to go to the pre-conference drinks this evening, and also because my feet were not very happy with me having walked so far yesterday. Also, this was the day that the jetlag really started to take it out of me. Normally I'm not that affected by it but I was really feeling foggy and dopey when I woke up. But there were a few things I wanted to check out so off I went.

    First to the Mission district, so called because it surrounds "Mission San Francisco de Asis", the oldest building in San Francisco. This district is very much a centre of Latin American culture in San Francisco. Following my little guidebook's suggestion I walked along 24th St up to about York St, then doubled back along 23rd St back to Mission St, occasionally wandering down some of the side streets. Then over to Guerrero St, checking out the cool restored houses along the way. For some reason I didn't really find myself getting into the vibe of this area. I was really just kinda wandering along in a bit of a daze. Maybe it was the jetlag, or too early in the morning for the place (or me) to be up to speed. Certainly it didn't seem too busy with people. Still, there were cool old buildings, great painted murals, interesting shops to poke around in, etc. I eventually ducked into a little place to get a burrito and coffee meal which as OK but I probably should have put more effort into finding something a bit less fast-foody - in fact not long after this I found a taco food truck but was already full!

    [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]

    Looking back I probably didn't give the Mission District a fair go really, and next time I'm in San Fran I should go back and explore in more depth - probably later in the day. But for now I jumped into a cab and headed to the southern part of the Embarcadero, exploring around AT&T Park (the city's baseball stadium) and the Caltrain train terminus, taking photos for my train-mad son.

    [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]

    I realised at this point that my jetlag probably wasn't being helped by how little coffee I'd had over the last three days. I'd barely touched the one at the burrito place and before that the only coffee I'd had was at my late lunch yesterday. This area seems to be a business district so naturally there was a Starbucks nearby, and I ordered a large iced coffee, forgetting that in the USA that means a large container of black coffee and ice. I've stopped having sugar in my coffee years ago but this was so incredibly bitter it needed a little to help it down. I sat and sipped and watched the teenage hipsters pitching startup ideas to each other over their Macbooks. Really.

    Another little food truck was parked nearby so I grabbed some sushi. Then I decided to head over to the ocean side of the city, on the eastern end of Golden Gate Park. You could be forgiven for thinking that this enormous park is named after the bridge to the north of it, but in fact both the bridge and the park take their name from the Golden Gate strait, the link between the bay and the ocean. Some people think THAT was named during the California gold rush, but the name pre-dates the discovery of gold there.

    [​IMG]

    On the way we drove past the Painted Ladies, a row of four Victorian houses which have appeared in dozens of movies and TV shows including "Full House".

    [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]

    There's great beach views here and some interesting historical sites like the Dutch windmills and a little local history museum - with a statue of Roald Amundsen outside it, which was a surprise. At one point five Blackhawk helicopters flew by. I headed into the parklands and wandered around a bit more and was keen to keep exploring but my feet had pretty much had enough after two big days of walking. So, another cab back to the hotel.

    [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]

    That evening I went to the ForumCon pre-drinks, met a few people, had a fun time. By the time it all wound down I was having trouble finding somewhere nearby to eat and didn't really want to go too far afield so went to the Benihana near the hotel. This seems to be a teppanyaki show type restaurant but it was pretty late so I just had a strange little sushi bar snack, a beer and wandered back to the hotel for bed.

    Full Day 3 photo album here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/r6geek/sets/72157645518511485/
     
    Last edited: Apr 6, 2015
  4. OP
    OP
    Agg

    Agg Lord of the Pings

    Joined:
    Jun 16, 2001
    Messages:
    31,334
    Location:
    A Reported Post Near You
    Day 4:
    Not much touristy stuff to report for today. The bulk of the day was taken up by ForumCon, which was interesting but not something to cover in detail here. I met lots of people, had some great discussions, watched the presentations etc and came away with a lot to think about. Afterwards I explored Japantown a little more, specifically the Nihonmachi Mall, a shopping centre near the hotel, looking for gifts for the folks back home. This was a very Japanese-focussed mall with lots of quirky gift shops for fans of Japanese culture and anime etc, but also for the local Japanese community wanting a taste of back home. Then I walked a few blocks away to the SF Jazz centre as I had a ticket for a gig that night.

    [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]

    Before the trip, when I had been looking for things to do in San Francisco, I tried to find any Blues/Jazz things that were happening and by coincidence there was a "Chester Thompson" gig within walking distance of the hotel, and a grand total of $20 for a ticket. I wasn't familiar with Chester but it turned out he'd been the keyboardist for Santana for 26 years! So that had to be worth risking $20 and an evening. It turned out to be a great gig, just a small crowd in a small room, with Chester and his band. Halfway through, an amazing female soul singer (Kim Nalley) joined the show and took it up another notch. A definite highlight of the trip.

    Full Day 4 photo gallery here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/r6geek/sets/72157645510217632/
     
    Last edited: Apr 6, 2015
  5. OP
    OP
    Agg

    Agg Lord of the Pings

    Joined:
    Jun 16, 2001
    Messages:
    31,334
    Location:
    A Reported Post Near You
    Day 5
    Time to get out of the city. I had a hire car booked for the last two days of the trip and the plan was to head north of the bridge and check out the scenery up there. I'd tried to arrange to have the hire car available from the hotel or a depot nearby but as usual it's a nightmare trying to pick up the car from a different place than where you intend to drop it off. So that meant I had to go to the airport to pick it up. This meant a ride in the airport shuttle bus again which isn't a bad way to see the sights on the way south, then the little airport monorail thing to the rental car area. The car turned out to be a GM Captiva which is familiar to Australians as the Holden Captiva, a mid-size 4WD thing. The booking guy was a bit concerned that I had requested a 4WD, and when I explained I was intending to visit the national parks north of the bridge so there might be dirt roads, he said "this is California, there aren't any dirt roads!" Allrighty then. Anyway, the car was unexciting but did the job.

    [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]

    So, SFO airport is a fair way south of the city, and my destination for the day was north of the city. But the first stop was "The Shops at Tanforan", a large-ish shopping centre not far from the airport. Why? Because whenever I had googled things I wanted to try or places I wanted to shop, the nearest place was pretty much always this shopping centre. So I headed there for Cinnabon (delicious, I now have diabetes), Five Guys Burgers & Fries (also delicious, if a bit sloppy, and incredibly over-staffed, but very friendly) and Toys-R-Us to pick up some goodies for the kids.

    Then back to the car, onto the freeway and over the bridge into Marin County. I stopped off at "Vista Point", which is an observation area to the northeast of the bridge where you get great views of the bridge and the city.

    [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]

    After some impressive tunnels through the headlands I arrived at my next destination, Nike Missile Site SF-88. This is a former missile launch site which is now a museum and educational facility. If you like military stuff and cold war history I absolutely recommend you check it out.

    [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]

    I thought it would just be a static museum but you are walked around by a retired military person who has awesome anecdotes to share and they even raise a Nike Hercules missile out of the silo and into launch position. You look around the control module and then go down underground into the silo where there are several missiles. It's a great little tour, and it's free!

    [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]

    Here's some videos:
    Missile bay doors opening: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L6XWB1eUTQQ
    Missile rising out of bay: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HR5xndG_hHQ
    Raising into launch position: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LkGqOfcUTNU

    Also here's a video of the guide asking some kid if he thought his sportscar was quicker than the missile:



    The guide was a classic. Anyway, I then drove over to Hawk Hill, which has great views down onto the bridge and across to the city. This is another former military area so has derelict gun emplacement structures etc. Then it was off to Sausalito.

    [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]

    Sausalito is basically the next town north from San Fran, facing out into a smaller bay called Richardson Bay. It's a beautiful little seaside town with steep hills behind it. The main drag is a bit touristy but it's a cool little area with cafes and gift shops. I walked along the main drag then up into the residential areas above. Steep going and hard work on my already tired legs, but the views make it worthwhile. It's fascinating to see how life has adapted on those steep slopes. Every house seems to have its own strange little outside goods elevator, presumably for when you get a fridge delivered or whatever. But imagine being the poor plumber who has to find a broken pipe underground in that environment? I'm sure it's a great place to live but it seems like everything is shoehorned onto the side of a mountain.

    [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]

    I was tempted to stay in Sausalito into the evening as it's a pretty chilled out place on the water and it seemed like some local Jazz-in-the-park thing was setting up. But I'd already made plans for this evening.. plans involving food trucks. Back over the bridge, to the Fort Mason centre!

    [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]

    "Off the Grid" is a huge celebration of street food and food trucks every Friday night at Fort Mason, which is on the northern edge of San Francisco, to the east of the bridge. Given my lack of success with food trucks so far I was determined to make amends and get me some food. I managed to park nearby and timed my arrival perfectly. The event starts at 5pm and I was there at about 6:30. The queues weren't bad at all, so I tried food from three trucks and got a beer to wash them down. Feeling very satisfied I walked up the hill into the nearby parklands and a little community garden to grab a geocache. By the time I came back the place was absolutely packed with people and the queues were all a mile long, so I was very happy to have already pretty much had my fill. If I lived in this area I'd be here every Friday for sure. There were literally dozens of different food trucks, selling every kind of food you can imagine, along with craft beer, mulled wine, etc. A little more exploration and it was time to head back to the hotel.

    [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]

    Full Day 5 photo album here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/r6geek/sets/72157645523554865/
     
    Last edited: Apr 6, 2015
  6. OP
    OP
    Agg

    Agg Lord of the Pings

    Joined:
    Jun 16, 2001
    Messages:
    31,334
    Location:
    A Reported Post Near You
    Day 6:
    My last day in San Fran. So, I checked out of the hotel, left the bags with the concierge and set off to Muir Woods, once again north of the bridge. On the way I got spotted "Mel's drive-in". I love a proper American diner so this seemed like a good place to stop for breakfast. It turns out this is quite a famous place, but I only found that out later. It had a cool 50's vibe with very friendly staff, a jukebox control at every table and a tempting selection on the menu. I had the "sandwich of the month", which was grilled cheese and braised short rib meat served with fries. Delicious.

    [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]

    Back into the car, back over the bridge, past Sausalito and up into Muir Woods, a national park type area with huge redwoods and, surprisingly, a lot of eucalyptus trees. I knew they were found in California but really in places it felt just like bushwalking in Australia. However, by the time I got to the Muir Woods parking area, so had everyone else. It's a popular place on the weekends. I drove for literally miles further along the road, but every possible parking spot was taken.

    [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]

    It got to the point where it would have been over an hour's walk from parking to the gates, and I decided to reconsider my options. I decided to go explore the Presidio instead, which is another national park right off the southern end of the Golden Gate Bridge. So, I drove back at a leisurely pace, stopping at Fernwood, an interesting-sounding ornamental cemetery - bear with me - that had a nice little bush walk, a lookout, some Buddhist shrines etc.

    [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]

    I also stopped off this time at "Battery Spencer", which is another observation point north of the bridge. This one has more gun emplacements to explore, some hills to scramble around on and also some geological info about building the bridge.

    [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]

    So, back over the bridge to the Presidio. This is another great area with lots of trails to walk on, open parklands, historic buildings etc. I started off at Marsh Beach then worked my way south along the coast to China Beach and Land's End. All the way along here the views are great. I actually bumped into another geocacher along this stretch. She was on foot but somehow ended up arriving not long after me at each spot. Finally I ended up at the "Legion of Honour" which is an impressive museum and monument. This whole area is spectacular and unsurprisingly a popular spot for wedding photos.

    [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]
    [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]

    By now I was back almost into the urban area again. I followed Geary Boulevard back towards Japantown to get my bags. Along the way I stopped at a few more geocaches and also at "Buffalo Burgers", which curiously sold a lot more than just burgers. I can't remember exactly what I ordered but it was some kind of beefy asian rice with cabbage. I ended up eating it a bit later and while it didn't look too fancy, it was delicious and seriously filling.

    [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]

    Finally it was time to head off. Filled the car with fuel near the airport, grabbing a handful of snacks for the flight while I was there. Actually now I remember, I ate my beefy rice in the carpark of the service station. Anyway, picked up a final couple of geocaches near the airport and dropped the car off. Of course I had to sit around at the airport for a while so eventually I had a final meal of noodles at Ebisu which was really surprisingly fantastic. Also spotted a vending machine dedicated to that "proactiv" anti-acne medication. Bizarre.

    [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]

    Anyway, uneventful flight home, although it was interesting to see the Linux-based in-flight entertainment system reboot itself about a dozen times in a row before takeoff. I ended up with a spare seat next to me and at the end of the row a nice guy from Guyana of all places, coming to Sydney to try and further his boxing career. The flight was comfy enough and I was soon back in Sydney.

    So. Difficult to sum up the trip. I really liked San Francisco, although I am painfully aware I only scratched the surface of the city. The climate really suits me, with it only getting to about 25C or so in summer, not too hot. I must be getting old as the jetlag was a bit of an issue, so next time I might try sleeping pills to help force my sleep cycle into sync. Anyway, the scenery and surrounds are fantastic and there's a huge number of diverse neighbourhoods to explore. Like any major city there are many opportunities to enjoy different food, music and cultural experiences. I'll happily go back and explore in more depth sometime. For a start there's a lot more geocaches to find..

    Full Day 6 photo album here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/r6geek/sets/72157645522678114/
     
    Last edited: Apr 6, 2015
  7. thetron

    thetron Member

    Joined:
    Dec 23, 2001
    Messages:
    8,167
    Location:
    Somewhere over the Rainbo
    Did you consider dropping into a few hackerspaces or shared tech workshop business?
     
  8. OP
    OP
    Agg

    Agg Lord of the Pings

    Joined:
    Jun 16, 2001
    Messages:
    31,334
    Location:
    A Reported Post Near You
    Nope. ForumCon was enough nerdery for me. :) I prefer to just get out and explore when on hols.
     
  9. mtma

    mtma Member

    Joined:
    Aug 12, 2009
    Messages:
    4,801
    I was done by this guy as well at fishermans wharf. I think I gave him a fiver in the end too. I had almost no USD on me at the time (how2businesstrip) so I can't remember if I gave him AUD. But definitely not the series 1977 $50 greenback that nobody accepts anyway :lol:

    I think the reason why he gets as many $20's and $50's is exactly that, tourists with freshly changed USD don't have many lower denominations.

    ED- also did you take a cab, shuttle or the BART from the airport? I've only ever done the cab and BART but I heard horror stories from everybody who did the super shuttle.
     
    Last edited: Apr 5, 2015
  10. OP
    OP
    Agg

    Agg Lord of the Pings

    Joined:
    Jun 16, 2001
    Messages:
    31,334
    Location:
    A Reported Post Near You
    Shuttle bus/van.. "Go Airport Shuttle". $17 from SFO to Japantown including luggage. No dramas at all, used them for the return leg to get the hire car also. Way cheaper than a taxi, less hassle than the BART.
     
    Last edited: Apr 5, 2015
  11. mtma

    mtma Member

    Joined:
    Aug 12, 2009
    Messages:
    4,801
    I too thought that the BART was going to be a lot of hassle but everybody insisted that I didn't want to be traveling to the airport by the highway at the time I needed to, so I ended up taking the BART. (Actually cab to the closest BART station then the BART)

    It would have been inconvenient if I had more luggage than I did (a regular luggage bag + cabin roller). The service itself had a real grotty feel to it but it wasn't overcrowded or late.

    Not totally sure if I would recommend it. Perhaps a bit of an experience to go with the city.
     
  12. thetron

    thetron Member

    Joined:
    Dec 23, 2001
    Messages:
    8,167
    Location:
    Somewhere over the Rainbo
    I wonder if the US customs knew about your conference. Hello Metadata!
     
  13. mtma

    mtma Member

    Joined:
    Aug 12, 2009
    Messages:
    4,801
    Haha

    The customs is pretty cool.

    When I entered:

    *** questions about job ***
    ...
    "So do you have any cool robots to declare?"
    "No, I'm hoping to see some at Silicon Valley. Maybe next time"
    "Ah, so we've got too many of them here already so you need to take them away"
    "Haha, that may be so"
    "Enjoy your stay"
     
  14. MoNk{LAH}

    MoNk{LAH} Member

    Joined:
    Jun 27, 2001
    Messages:
    19,973
    Location:
    Melbourne
    Very good read and nice photos.
    I'll be heading to SFO in June this year for holiday so it's good to see what you got done in only a week.
     
  15. OP
    OP
    Agg

    Agg Lord of the Pings

    Joined:
    Jun 16, 2001
    Messages:
    31,334
    Location:
    A Reported Post Near You
    Added a few more photos and URLs, and a video from the Nike Missile site. There's links to more photos from each day at the end of each post. I think this one is finished now.
     
  16. Zee

    Zee Member

    Joined:
    Oct 27, 2002
    Messages:
    10,325
    Location:
    SYD/MNL/SIN/SFO
    Nice write up - remind me to point out the good coffee shops and places to eat at the Mission. A good friend of mine lives about 10 minutes walks from the Food Truck Park - it's only open for lunch and dinner.

    I think you did a pretty good job for the time you spent there, I find SF to be quite a rich city in terms of things to do. Also, San Jose, Alum Rock Park, and the observatory near there is fun.

    Hope you enjoyed your trip!

    Z...
     
  17. The Baron

    The Baron Member

    Joined:
    Jun 22, 2005
    Messages:
    294
    The Stinking Rose is glorious, had it last time when I was in SF, will definitely be visiting again in October.
     

Share This Page

Advertisement: