Wednesday, March 13, 2013

San Fran Adventures (1 of 2)

I have had Part 1 of this two part post written since I was in San Fransisco.  I have just been hesitating on posting it because I wanted to incorporate some of our friend's pictures.  J put them on his computer.  I should have transferred them to my computer, then edited them, and then added them to this post, but as I've mentioned before: I liked to be disconnected from the internet in the evenings.  Thus, I am adding this post quickly during the day.  I'll pop in some pictures that I have access to right now.  Perhaps I will add some additional ones to Part 2 when I get around to writing that...

I woke up on Wednesday (in early December) morning with anxious excitement.  I was nervous about getting myself to the Fort Lauderdale airport and getting myself out of the San Fransisco airport by myself.  J was already in San Fransisco.  I had very little sleep on Tuesday night because there were so many preparations to make for the trip.  I got to the airport economy parking, took a bus to the airport, got through security, and waited to board.  The other passengers and I boarded the plane only to get off five minutes later because there was an hour and a half delay.  It ended up being closer to two hours, but it wasn't terrible.  The flight was long and slightly boring.  I must say that Virgin America planes are really clean and streamlined compared to the planes AirTran and Southwest use.  I got off in San Fransisco at what felt like 5 o'clock Miami-time, but it was really 2ish San Fransisco-time.  That was a bit of an adjustment for me.   

I was so impressed by the little bit that I saw of the San Fran airport.  It was clean, beautiful, and immense.  I took the Air Rail to the BART station.  I had to ask the attendant for help.  I was confused about how to work the stalls and a little scared of going the wrong way.  At first I sat on the BART for ten minutes without it moving and I was getting immensely anxious.  Then it was a thirty minute ride into downtown.  I was counting the stops on my fingers and getting a little motion sick because I was facing backwards while the tram was moving forwards.  I got off at Powell Street, which is a very busy thoroughfare.  Our friend Emmy picked me up immediately.  I am so glad she saw me right away, I was immediately intimidated by how many people were around and I had no idea of which way to turn.  We walked into the Westfield Mall and she promptly headed me towards the food court because she knew I would be hungry.  She even met me with cookie in hand.  I had some Japanese-style fast food.  It was tofu with steamed veggies and rice.  It was really good: substantial enough to satisfy me after a six hour flight, but light enough that I didn't feel sick (which is how fast food usually makes me feel).   

Papa Beard Cream Puffs at Westfield Mall (they don't hold a candle to WI State Fair Cream Puffs, but Papa Beard is cute)

We walked around the mall for a little while before J would be able to meet us.  It was huge!  After visiting the mall we went straight to Emmy's hotel room with my bags.  We thought about going out for dinner, but by that time, it felt like 8 o'clock to me and I had only gotten five hours of sleep the night before.  We decided that J and I would head to the Fisherman's Warf, where our hotel was located, and meet early the next morning.  While J and I headed to the hotel, Emmy scouted out Chinatown.  I had been sick with a cold and a bit of a sinus headache, and J had run a 5K that morning, so we headed straight to bed and slept for 12 hours.  It was a bit luxurious to stay in bed for so long.  Usually we are up to take the dogs out and feed the cats.  I also know that I've needed rest for over a week, so despite “wasting” my first twelve hours in San Fran, I had much needed rest and my cold was substantially better the next day.

This isn't the best picture, but it gives you some perspective on how BIG Westfield Mall is.  I would never have found Emmy if she hadn't have found me first.  Thank goodness for cell phones.

We started waking up at 5:30 AM San Fran-time, which was 8:30 AM Miami-time.  It was the first time in a long time that I didn't wake up zombie-fied.  We showered and hit the pier for a long morning walk.  We walked a long dock that looked out over Alcatraz and the Golden Gate bridge.  It was a bit of a dreary morning, but I enjoyed the cool air that was moist from the sea.  We took some pictures of the Ghiradelli square and walked back towards Boudin, a bakery.  We ate some breakfast there while waiting for Emmy to arrive.  Nothing was open!  We were up so early and wandering around with nothing to do by sight-see.  Fisherman's Warf is pretty touristy, so we didn't want to hang around too much.  We said “hello” to the stinky sea lions (I could watch them for hours!) and since it would be another hour and a half before anything fun opened we decided to head to the Golden Gate Park.  It was a long bus ride (we had to make a transfer) but we got to see a bit of the famous Haight-Ashbury neighborhood.   

Our good friend Emmy with J.  Alcatraz in the background.

As my friend E knows, I could watch these guys all day.  Too bad they stink so much.

Golden Gate Park is HUGE.  It would take days to explore the whole thing.  I would estimate we saw an eighth of the park.  We entered near the Children's Quarter (we didn't stop to see the carousel) and headed towards the Academy of Sciences Museum.  J had heard that it was good and we thought we would take a look.  Little did we know how much walking we would be doing.  It was exhausting (especially after walking a mile and a half that morning).  The Academy was very expensive to get in ($30 per adult, we got in for $27 since we took public transportation there).  It was very well done, but nothing so spectacularly “San Fran” that I would recommend it to someone spending less than a week in the area.  They had a well-done aquarium (I love aquariums, by the way), a neat rain forest dome that demonstrated the different levels (from flooded forest floor to canopy).  It was a circular ramp that you walked up (more walking!) all the way to the top.  The top was my favorite part because there were the most beautiful birds and butterflies flying around.  There was an earthquake exhibit where you could experience a slight “earthquake” in a scaled down living room.  There was a great African exhibit with a lot of taxidermy.  There was also a room of “snow” which was kind of fun.  After we saw just about everything, we headed towards the Japanese Tea Gardens.  I thought it would be a small building where we would be able to sit, have some tea, and relax after all of that walking.  We walked all of the way there to find out that it was $7 a person to get in.  I would have liked to go, but it was more of a Japanese garden and we were so tired of walking and we had just spent so much money to go to the museum that we decided to skip it.  I have seen the Portland Japanese Botanical Garden, so I didn't feel like I was missing out on a truly unique experience.  Still, if I had more time, I would have liked to go.  We hiked all of the way out of the park to catch a bus.   

Pretty Emmy.  This picture doesn't do her or the fish justice.

J caught a butterfly.
At this point I was having a pretty bad sinus headache and I don't like public transportation, but it wasn't terrible.  We got off downtown and tried walking in one direction to find something unique to eat.  We couldn't find anything and we were all pretty hungry and tired at this point, so we settled for California Pizza Kitchen where we could sit for a long lunch and take our time.  After that, J headed to the conference for a quick check-in and Emmy and I headed back to the humongous Westfield Mall.  We started from the top and worked our way down.  It has six stories, but neither of us are super rich or super shoppers, so we made quick work, stopping into stores only when we thought we might buy something there.  We shopped at the Sanrio store and David's Tea where I got some loose leaf teas that I am excited to try!  Then we shared a cream puff from Papa Beard while J checked directions for the Tonga Room, a famous tiki bar.  What a hike!  

 We walked all of the way up an incredible hill.  It was so steep that I thought my heart would beat right out of my chest, flop onto the pavement, and inevitably roll down the hill.  We had to take two little breaks, it was very intense.  J is fit, so it didn't wind him like it did for Emmy and me.  I am also fairy chubby, okay- fat, and I was practically begging for a ski lift or something to get me up the rest of the way.  Finally we made it to the top and found the Tonga Room.  The Tonga Room is a lot of fun and very kitschy.  None of us had been to a tiki bar before and I am pretty sure that this one is something special.  It has ship masts and a pool inside.  Every so often it “rains” into the pool.  You can get the buffet, but we weren't interested.  We got happy hour tropical drinks.  It was still expensive, so I'm glad we went for happy hour and not at another time.  After taking our sweet time drinking and talking (mostly resting from a crazy walking day) we headed down the hill (down, thank God) towards Chinatown.   
Picture of the enterance to the Tonga Room.  Emmy has some much better pictures of the inside.

J by a mural in Chinatown on the way to dinner.
Emmy is Chinese, so we were very excited to share that experience with her.  We asked her to pick a restaurant and our dinners for us.  She took us to R&G Lounge.  We had to wait a bit, but we were fine as long as we were sitting.  We ended up having appetizers of cold tofu, beef slices, and duck tongue.  Yes, duck tongue.  And yes, I ate one.  Except I ate it the wrong way.  I didn't realize you were supposed to pull out the cartilage.  I chewed mine and swallowed it whole.  It was crunchy and I didn't like the texture or the taste.  But, now I can say that I have had duck tongue.  It is truly the most exotic thing I've ever eaten.  J didn't mind it, he had several.  We also had fried oysters.  They were good, but I prefer mine raw.  And we had a spicy bean curd dish.  That was my favorite.  I loved the oolong tea with dinner.  There is something so comforting about sharing a pot of tea with friends at a meal and drinking out of those tiny cups with no handles.  Dinner with Emmy in Chinatown will go down as one of my most memorable meals.  Perhaps it wasn't my favorite food, but it was an experience that I may never have again.  We parted ways after the restaurant since our hotels were in opposite directions.  Instead of taking the bus we decided to walk the mile and a half back to the Warf.  I'm glad we did.  It was long, but we got to see a different street and have a good talk on the way back.   

Part 2 coming... eventually.

I also have to add pictures of our adventures of swimming with manatees.

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