We are back from America! We had an amazing time, in both cities we visited. We crammed so much into the nine days we had that I am finding it difficult to remember it all properly! As previously promised, here are some of the highlights of our trip. First up, San Fransisco.
We left for the airport on a rather dull and grey Wednesday morning. Getting up early and the prospect of a long and boring flight did not inspire me to any great excitement, until we were at Heathrow and about to get on the plane. I'd never flown such a long distance before, and was a little apprehensive. We tried to get an upgrade, but unfortunately there wasn't space in the posh seats for us. The best we got was moved to a row where we didn't have to share with anyone, so we had three seats between the two of us.
|Arctic ice breaking up off the coast of Greenland|
After a few hours of excited looking out of the window, watching first England, then Scotland, Iceland and Greenland passing below, I got bored and fell asleep. We flew over Canada, which was mostly empty Arctic tundra, before crossing the Rockies and heading down the West coast of America. By the time the plane landed we were very fed up, but by the time we'd checked into our hotel it was only 2.30 in the afternoon, so we had to force ourselves to stay awake and enjoy the afternoon! We failed miserably, and snoozed, and went to bed properly at 8pm. It took me days to get over the time difference.
We did a lot in San Fransisco. Our hotel (the Hotel Carlton) was on Sutter Street, so on the first night we took a walk up Nob Hill to Grace Cathedral. We didn't go inside, but marvelled at it from the outside. It is built in the image of the classic Gothic cathedrals of Europe, but this being America, is actually poured concrete over a steel frame. It's really weird, to see something we're so familiar with but built in a completely different way, and surrounded by buildings that just don't match.
The first full day we were in San Fransisco was also my 30th Birthday. We spent the day exploring the city by open top double decker bus. There are multiple companies running these tours, and their representatives enjoy very spirited arguments with each other at the shared stops, trying to convince tourists to use their bus and not any other. We used this one, as it was recommended by our tour rep and went around the city anticlockwise, which meant we saw things in the right order for our planned itinerary for the day.
The highlight of the tour is of course traversing the Golden Gate Bridge, one of San Fransisco's most famous landmarks. Unfortunately for us, on the day we chose to see it, we also got to experience on of San Fransisco's other famous features - the Fog!
|This was our view of this most famous sight!|
It was cold, windy and foggy, and we were sat on the top deck of an open topped bus. I won't lie, it wasn't the Golden Gate Bridge experience I had anticipated, but it was certainly a lot of fun! The cables reared up into nothingness as we drove across, but on the other side the fog was thin enough to afford us this view:
Part of me doesn't understand why the Bridge is so famous, I mean it's not the biggest or most impressive suspension bridge I've seen or crossed (I mean, it's not as big as the Humber Bridge here in England!). It was fun to cross, and fun to look at from across the Bay on later days when the weather was clearer, but I felt no desire to go back and have a closer look when the fog had gone.
The rest of the first afternoon was spent in Golden Gate Park, where we explored the California Academy of Sciences and wandered to the top of Strawberry Hill. If we'd had the time or more money, we'd have done the Segway tour of the Park, as that looked like a lot of fun! But it was $70 each and took two and a half hours.
The second day in San Fransisco was given over to Fisherman's Wharf. We rode the cable car from our hotel up to the Wharf, and spent the morning on the historic pier, exploring the World War II submarine USS Pampanito. We found a museum dedicated to historical sideshow machines, which amused us for an hour or so as we joyfully dropped quarters into machines that moved and danced when you paid them. My favourite was a mechanical horse, that galloped when you put your money in, little springs and hinges all working smoothly to replicate a horse in motion.
One of the advantages of visiting San Fransisco was that it gave us the opportunity to meet up and have lunch with Renee, whose blog I have been reading for some time now. Renee and her gorgeous Little Man treated us to lunch at Boudin's, where Jamie got to fulfil his wish of having clam chowder in a sourdough bread bowl, and I surprised him (and myself) by having the crab and corn bisque (I don't eat shellfish). We then wandered down Pier 39 to show Renee's son the sealions, and ride on a giant carousel (for proof of me on the carousel, check out Renee's blog!).
The afternoon was reserved for our trip to Alcatraz. We hadn't been sure about going, but our tour rep insisted we should go and booked us on to a tour when we arrived in the city.
|There's a thing on the back that looks like a monster...|
but no, it's ALCATRAZ
I am so glad we did this! The ferry ride over was lots of fun, the tour of the prison was very interesting and very well done (an audio tour featuring ex-guards and ex-inmates). The ferry ride back to the mainland was even more fun than the ride out, as we stood right at the front of the boat and got a faceful of sea spray!
|Proof I rode a cable car!|
As you can see from the pics, we were pretty well wrapped up while out and about in San Fransisco - their climate is very similar to ours here in Britain, so it was quite windy, even when the sun shone. I did manage to get sunburn on the day we went to Fisherman's Wharf, though, so the sun was fairly strong even if we didn't feel the full effects of it's heat.
The last day of our trip was spent shopping. I purposefully bought something in Bloomingdales, just to get a Little Brown Bag of my own!
Then we rode the bus over to Haight-Ashbury and went shopping in the hippy district. I bought a new summer dress, and we enjoyed some very refreshing punch in a Victorian Punch House. We then walked through Castro (the gay district) to find Imagiknit, but I will tell you all about that in another post, as this one has gone on for too long already! I'll save Las Vegas for another post as well.