Saturday, June 21, 2014

San Francisco: Days 6 & 7 (The Finale)

Both yesterday and today were very full, busy days. WARNING: Long post, photo heavy, and a couple short videos.


We started the day by working our way down to Fisherman's Wharf, where we grabbed a quick breakfast, and then rode the Big Bus Hop on Hop off tour for most of the route.

We hopped off at Chinatown, as Gilles was hoping to get the word 'Dragon' tattooed on his arm by a 'real Chinese person'. After searching for a place to do it for about an hour, we gave up and worked our way down into the North Beach area (Italian district), for a real Italian meal. Gilles had a half chicken, and I had a sausage sandwich.

After lunch, we headed back down to the Wharf, where we hopped back on the bus and rode half the tour again, in order to get to the Presidio, in order to visit the Walt Disney Museum. It was a hot day, and by the time we got there both Gilles and I were thoroughly burnt. (It is amazing how huge a 5 degree difference can make!)
The Disney museum was well-worth the trip, although we were only able to spend a few hours there before it closed. It outlines the life of Walt Disney, from his early days drawing cartoons as a child, to the cartoons he drew during his time at war (WWI), through the upstart and failure of his first company, the beginning of Disney with his brother Roy Disney, all the way through the multiple ups and downs that they faced between then and the near impervious position they now enjoy. I  could have easily spent an entire day or more there, reading all of the information available and watching all the short video clips.
Here are some of the highlights:
Drawing by Disney during his time overseas for war.
Walt Disney's first successful "movies" - short films featuring both animation and live action, featuring 'Alice', on several different adventures.

Prints of the sheets for animating 'Steamboat Willie'.
Making of 'Who's afraid of the Big Bad Wolf'

After the Disney Museum, we took the Big Bus back to the beginning of the route, learning about the areas we had missed the first time. We got back just in time to take the night route, which allowed us to go through a couple of new areas, and across the Bay Bridge to Treasure Island. At Treasure Island we watched the sun set over San Francisco, and then drove back over the bridge in time to see the 'light show' start up. The show that night was of fish swimming. (See video)

It was about 9:30 when this tour wrapped up, and we headed back down to the Wharf for supper. We ate at a great little surf shop before heading back to our hotel, where we were asleep almost as soon as we got there.


That brings us to our final Day in San Francisco! (Boo hoo!)

We started by heading down to the Hollywood Cafe, which is about a block from our hotel. It had top rating on Yelp for breakfast places in Fisherman's Wharf. I had Eggs Benedict Florentine. While it was good, I don't see what all the fuss is about. Imagine Grainfields with a patio, and you have the Hollywood Cafe. We had heard on the Big Bus yesterday that the ship that Gilles fell in love with earlier this week was actually a floating museum, so from there we headed down to the Maritime National Historic Park, and spent about an hour and a half touring the very impressive cargo ship.

1886 square-rigger 'Balclutha' cargo vessel

1907 steam tugboat 'Hercules'

Ship's wheel. Interestingly, this is at the rear of the ship and steered by the helmsman, not the captain. Also, the helmsman rarely actually looks out to sea. He is either looking down at the compass at his feet, up at the sails, or up at the stars for guidance.

The reinforced hole in the front of the ship used to load lumber onto the ship.
Next we caught the bus again as far as the California Academy of Science in Golden Gate Park, where we caught a taxi to the San Francisco zoo, and spent the afternoon there. Here are a few of my favorite photos from the zoo:

Wild homeless people! Oh wait, this was on the way there.
Probably the best exhibit of the entire zoo. Tons of giraffes and zebras.

Made from bottles and plastic washed up after the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Turtles are eating plastic bags floating in the water thinking that they are jellyfish, and dying from it.

Aside from the airport rat race tomorrow, this concludes our San Francisco adventure. It was a slice!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

San Francisco Day 5 - Muir Woods & Aquarium on the Bay

Today, we discovered that our room has a fridge. Who knew?!

And that is exactly what you are here to read about, right?

Haha. Today, we took Tower Tours' bus tour to the Muir Woods, and through Sausalito. Our bus driver, a skinny older guy with a long white ponytail and a Harley Davidson jacket, was a hoot. He picked us up right from the hotel and out to the Muir woods, holding a running commentary the entire time. His commentary was a great mix of historical facts about the forests, information about the area we were driving through, facts about the wildlife in the area, and songs that tied in well to his stories. He even directed us to the bookstore at the Muir woods where he bought the books to do all his research as a tour operator. (He also mentioned that he has been doing this for 25 years).

On the way back, we drove through Sausalito and then got dropped off at Fisherman's Wharf. It seems like no matter what we do, we end up back at Fisherman's Wharf. Not that I'm complaining! :)

At Fisherman's Whaft we went to the Hard Rock Cafe for ... Lupner? (It was 3pm). It was expensive, but I would like to note that I had the most delicious Grilled Salmon I have ever eaten. Yes. It was that good.

Finally, we spent some time at the Aquarium of the Bay. The feature exhibit was a long tube that allowed viewers to ride a slow moving sidewalk through it, in two sections. The first section featured schools of smaller fish (anchovies and such), and the second portion included more dangerous creatures such as sharks and stingrays.

That concludes day 5 of 7... tomorrow we will be taking a Hop on Hop Off tour around the city, and visiting the Walt Disney Family Museum.

San Francisco - Day 4 (Six Flags)

Today was quite an adventure, as Gilles and I decided that neither of us wanted to take a try at driving a rental car too badly, although we did want to go to Six Flags. After weighing our options, we decided that a cable car/subway/bus combo would be the most time and cost-efficient. 

We started our day by setting out on the Cable Car to Union Square again. From there, we connected with the subway system, where we rode almost all the way to Richmond. Luckily, everything was pretty straightforward. Next, we took two city buses out to the park. Figuring out the connections for this portion was a bit confusing, but we made it without getting on the wrong bus :)

At Six Flags, Gilles and I quickly discovered that we don't have the stomachs we used too. (Oops!) It was extremely hot (I later translated the temperature on the TV to 35F, and no breeze for most of the day. Having spent most of our time thus far in cool San Fran, Gilles and I wore jeans in anticipation of the weather being much the same. That was a mistake. We spent much of the day watching the shows, and seeking out the shade.

Overall, it was a good day, although I don't think we will be doing another amusement park anytime soon. Here are a few of the better photos:

Tomorrow: Muir Woods!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

San Francisco, Day 3: Alcatraz

As I sit here writing this, I am listening to a band called All The Apparatus, an energetic group who I would describe as energetic big-band indie, but whose website describes them as "avante-garde dirty gypsy klezmer jazz indie anti-folk rock." They were palying along the docks as we were walking by and I loved their sound, and bought a CD. For a taste, here is one of the songs they played while we were watching: "Bourbon".

Buuuut... you're here to hear about Alcatraz, not some gypsies I found on the side of the road, right?

Okay. Well, let me start by saying that when we booked our tickets (about 5 days before we left) all of the regular Alcatraz tours were booked solid, and that was the sole reason why Gilles wanted to visit San Francisco. (Whoops!)

Luckily after some searching I was able to find an Angel Island and Alcatraz combination tour. It was slightly more expensive (to the tune of about $30 each), but it was a full day tour instead of the regular 2.5 hrs alotted for Alcatraz, and included another island that we had heard absolutely nothing about. Sound fascinating?

On a side-note, I am really happy with the location of the hotel we are staying in. On the corner of Jones and Bay street, it seems to be close to everything. (Granted, my legs are sore from all the walking and hills, but that can only be a good thing. Yet, somehow I still feel guilty at the end of each evening sitting down to write this with my glass of wine. Despite all my walking all day, my conscience is still telling me I should be getting in my exercises for the day. Wtf conscience?)

It would seem that I got side-tracked from being side-tracked. What was I saying?

Oh yes. We started out our morning today at a much more reasonable hour of 8am. To save time, we ate supper at the restaurant right within the hotel. That is so far, the only complaint I have had about this hotel. The breakfast is good, but it is standard continental breakfast fare and not worth $20 each. Tomorrow we are going back to Pat's Diner. :)

From there, we walked down to Pier 33. We got there with about 20 minutes to spare, which we spent perusing the gift shop and reading 'information stations'. It didn't seem long at all before they were snapping the mandatory tourist photo and herding us like cattle onto the ship.

Angel Island ended up being a beautiful state park. Angel Island was once an immigration station, where Chinese immigrants were held (often for months) before being allowed entry into the United States. The Island acted as its own little town, with its own hospital, fire station and grocery store. During WWII, Angel Island acted as a quarantine for soldiers coming home with various diseases caught overseas (Malaria, etc.). The Island also facilitated beautiful views of San Francisco, the Bay Bridge, the Golden Gate Bridge, and of course, Alcatraz.

Alcatraz itself was much of what you would expect. Jails, jail cells, lots of concrete. :) We started by taking the audio tour, which we found ourselves pausing frequently to explore side-channels and read signs not included in the tour. From there, we went into the gift shop, where one of the former convicts (who got out of jail 3 years ago) was signing the book he wrote about his experience in Alcatraz. (!!!) We definitely got an autographed book, and I got my photo taken with the ex-con.

After this we ran down to catch the '200 years of history' walking tour. This was led by park guide Matt Murphy, and went into more detail about Alcatraz outside of the prison cells, helping us understand the actual history of the island and its surroundings. While the audio-tour was interesting and I wouldn't skip it if I were to do the tour again, I found this tour to be much more intriguing.

Gilles found the fact that the wardens' families lived right on the island (and lived quite a normal life despite their proximity to the jail) to be the most interesting tidbit of information for the day. Having read The Boy in the Striped Pajamas and other war-time novels, this didn't come as too big of a surprise for me. However, I did find it very interesting that despite there being only 3 escapees during the time Alcatraz was Alcatraz (the federal prison), there were several successful escape attempts in the pre-Alcatraz days where the island was actually a military prison. In fact, the successful escapes were as simple as soldier-cons walking away from their jobs in San Francisco.

That's it for today... tomorrow we are heading to Six Flags, so you can expect a much shorter post, but perhaps some funny pictures?

Monday, June 16, 2014

San Francisco - Days 1 & 2

**Sidenote: Obviously I haven't gotten back to the blog to rewrite the Mexico posts yet. I also haven't written about many other projects that I have been doing in the meantime. The main reason? I'm so busy 'doing' I haven't been taking time to write about what I've done. I'll come back to it eventually. In the meantime...


After several delays, we arrived in San Francisco at about 3pm (Original arrival time: 1:30pm). After arriving at our hotel (Pier 2620 Hotel in Fisherman's Wharf), we moved took off to see the city. We started by heading a couple of blocks north to see the Crooked Street, which is part of Lombard Street.

It was soon apparent that I was going to be getting a gooood leg workout this trip. From there, we headed down to the ocean and walked along the street, looking at all of the little shops and scenery, until we reached Pier 39. Pier 39 included lots of little touristy shops and restaurants. While there, we stopped at Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. for supper (at 8:30pm).

"Shrimp is the fruit of the sea. You can barbecue it, boil it, broil it, bake it, saute it. Dey's uh, shrimp-kabobs, shrimp creole, shrimp gumbo. Pan fried, deep fried, stir-fried. There's pineapple shrimp, lemon shrimp, coconut shrimp, pepper shrimp, shrimp soup, shrimp stew, shrimp salad, shrimp and potatoes, shrimp burger, shrimp sandwich. That- that's about it." - Bubba

The food was so, so, but the environment did not disappoint. We had a great view of Alcatraz Island from where we were sitting, and we weren't allowed to get our food until we had correctly answered 3 trivia questions about the movie. (Apparently I don't remember the movie very well... it took awhile.)
As you can see, the weather is rather cool... it has been about 20C during the day, with a cool breeze.

We slept in today (whoops! Guess the fresh air and exercise got the best of us) and got up at about 11am. By the time we figured out what we wanted to do for the day and left the hotel it was 12pm. We went to a great little diner for brunch (Pat's Diner), and then took the Cable Car up to Union Square.

In Union Square we (I) did a bit of quick shopping. I purchased a new dress and dress sandals at The Gap. (Great deal and I will get a few different uses out of them this summer!)
From Union Square, we walked up to Chinatown, where we spent most of the day shopping and poking around.

We ate a delicious supper within Chinatown (best scallops I have ever eaten), and then started to make our way back to the hotel.

On the way back, we climbed our way up to the Coit Tower on Telegraph Hill. Unfortunately the tower was closed for the day, but it was a beautiful view.

Tomorrow we will be heading out on a ferry to tour Alcatraz and Angel Island. :)

Friday, March 28, 2014

Etsy Feature Friday - Easter Edition

For this week's Etsy Feature Friday, I have decided to go with an Easter theme. It may seem a bit early to be focusing on Easter, but if you are going to have your decorations up long enough to enjoy them, the time to purchase them is now! (Plus it allows extra time to order that little custom something you've always wanted). All listed prices are in Canadian Dollars. Without further ado, here are our featured items for this week:

1. Handmade Easter Bunny - HandmadeGiftBoutique, $43.15

I chose this doll because of its soft, quaint look and feel. If you are trying to get away from the commercial aspect of Easter but still give your child something to cherish, this would be the perfect option. This little bunny would also make a great Easter decoration for a country-style home.

2. Hand-painted Easter Eggs - MyAuntieEva, $11.50

Many people, myself included, love the look ad feel of traditional patterned Easter Eggs, but do not have the time or talent to create them for themselves. MyAuntieEva provides a gorgeous (and cost-effective) alternative to making themselves, without the fuss or the mess.

3. Easter Nest Wreath - RedRobynLane, $55.25

This photo really speaks for itself. RedRobynLane's wreath captures the soft, quiet gentleness and frailty of spring in a beautiful rendition of the traditional holiday wreath. The use of grapevine and real spanish moss adds to its unique charm.

4. Easter Block Decoration - FayesAttic11, $24.17

This great decoration adds a pop of color to your living room or front entrance. The use of blocks and the childish font bring the memories of Easter egg hunts and mudpies into the door in a clean, happy ensemble.

5. Pussywillow Butterfly Wreath - WestTwinCreationsLLC

This decoration brings a particular smile to my heart. Every year, my grandmother collects a branch from a blossoming pussywillow tree, and brings it indoors as her Easter Tree. She then decorates the tree with wooden eggs. While pussywillow branches may not be available everywhere, this pussywillow butterfly wreath is a lasting reminder of the Easter tree and all of its meaning.

Finally - I would be remiss if I didn't mention something from my own shop, HardlyMartha.

Easter brings memories of mud, fresh grass, baby animals, and time spent with loved ones. It is with all of this in mind that I select my favorite shop item for an Easter celebration: Pretty Purple Handmade Earrings. These earrings sell for a bargain at $5.76.

Which earrings would you choose from my HardlyMartha shop to wear for Easter?