Tuesday, February 24, 2009

San Francisco - Day 6 - Final Day

Monday, 15th December, 2008

Well, our last day in the US. I can't remember too much of what we did, but do recall posting my Christmas gifts to the family, checking out the Castro area and being caught in another deluge. We also tried our first Krispy Kreme doughnut - it was creme filled and simply delicious (and no doubt not that healthy for us).

Us and Barry

Byeeee Barry, we'll miss you!

Our US travel Map

This shows our US driving route and the places we stayed. I've left off Anaheim and the places we visited on day trips. As usual, click to see better.

Around 5pm we got picked up by a shuttle van and taken to the airport where we ended up hanging around for an hour or two. We used up our last US cash in a Mexican themed bar (where we watched some REALLY drunk Americans getting even more plastered) and then took our flight from San Fran to Munich. The Lufthansa plane was smaller compared to the Air NZ flight we had taken from Auckland to LA, and the videos available to watch on the flight were of a lower calibre (ooooh, I sound like such a snob!).

Not to worry, I managed to read a fair bit of my Watchmen graphic novel, listened to some Tintin audio books and even managed to sleep a little, although there was a lot of cabin noise - far more so than the Air NZ flight.

Edit: Forgot to mention, on the flight there was a bit of wine consumed by most folks. There was also the Abba musical movie playing on the in-flight entertainment. The combination of the two lead to the priceless experience of hearing a slightly drunk Middle Eastern guy (sitting a few seats back from us) slurring "money, money, money...it's a rich man's world" and then tailing off waiting for the next chorus. So funny :-)

Next stop - Munich, Germany! Our first European experience!

Monday, February 23, 2009

San Francisco - Day 5 - The Mission District

Sunday, 14th of December 2008

Not much in the way of photos for today, sometimes it is better to enjoy the moment rather than view it all through the lens for enjoyment later. I guess that is the paradox of taking photos

Sunday morning - we took off to the Mission District. It is a predominantly Latino community and has a bustling neighbourhood feel with a lot going on and all manner of people wandering around.

Our main reason for coming here was to visit the Mission San Francisco de Asís, a Spanish mission founded in 1776. Even if you don't visit the mission, it's a still a fascinating place to check out.

Mission San Francisco de As
ís (side view)

Now, I'm not a religious person, but I was blown away by the history, architecture and overall feel of the mission. Well worth checking out if you are ever in San Fran.

That roof is amazing!

Wall relief


Jesus x3

Very impressive!

Prayer time...

As we wandered through the Mission we came across a Sunday morning mass going on inside the basilica - this was impressive to poke our head in on to see the huge chamber full of people. We stayed well back in the shadows and observed for a minute or so (no photos of course).

Stick with me kid

Mosaic mural

Bows, arrows and foxes...

We also wandered through the historic graveyard within the mission. There are houses which run right next to the graveyard; I can't imagine living so close to a graveyard with that much history.

Statue in the graveyard

The last tribute of love

A hut (Indian hut - maybe?)

After completing our visit, we left through the gift shop. This was a recurring theme of our trip - every single tourist attraction ALWAYS exits through the gift shop...to do it any other way would be criminal).

After leaving the Mission, we wondered around the Mission district, put up with the rain, had some Vietnamese for lunch, spent some time in a few second stores/thrift shops (that was a lot of fun...lots of interesting people).

I was obsessed with finding good second hand book stores to look for Doctor Who books (to get those last few I've been hunting for). Finding very little (probably due to not looking in the right place) I did end up purchasing a copy of the graphic novel Watchmen which has been made into a movie and is coming out sometime this year. If you haven't heard about the movie, don't worry, there will be adverts EVERYWHERE when it is finally released. Very simply, Watchmen is about superheroes and gives a very realistic portrayal. Time magazine voted it into their top 100 pieces of literature ever. It's really good. I hope the movie can match the novel - guess we will see later this year.

After we returned to Barry's, she made up for the not so great Mexican food of a few days back by driving us back to the Mission District to
El Farolito (averaging 4 and a half stars on yelp) and we got some really good Mexican food. When the queue goes out the door, you know you're going to get something fantastic. I had a Shrimp burrito (what is with me and burritos…I guess it is something I can easily say!) Yep, Barry did us proud...awesome food.

Barry than whisked us back to hers and we thought it an opportune time to look at our flight plan in more detail. It was then that we discovered we had miscalculated and were flying out on Monday evening rather than Tuesday evening as we had first thought. This meant that Monday would be our last day in SF. One day left...it's not enough. Damn.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

San Francisco - Day 4 - Haight-Ashbury and Golden Gate Park

Saturday, 13th December 2008

Another day, another dollar. Well, not quite as I think you need to be working to make a dollar. You definitely don't need to work to spend a dollar though!

Today we left Barry to it with her studies and headed to the land of Haight-Ashbury, which is only a few streets away from where Barry lives.


Wow, those legs are huge!

Haight-Ashbury was very popular with Beatniks 'back in the day' as well as the hippy counter culture. I never quite understood what counter culture was all about - surely culture is culture, no matter if it is counter to the cultural norm of the day or not? I feel that culture evolves and changes, although I guess sudden events can cause change to occur much more rapidly than in the past. Anyhoo, we did a little shopping (Dad, that book on Freddie Mercury was from here), checked out a few op/thrift shops and took in the interesting sights of the street.

This included an art installation in a former shop front. It was like the aftermath of a drug fuelled frat party, littered with all the detritus from said party. Inhabitants in this monkey house included Bart Simpson, an alien, a karate kid, weird creatures and of course some monkeys (or perhaps ape is the correct nomenclature). Alas the photos don't really do it justice (due to the window reflection), but I'm sure you get the idea.

Frat Party #1

Frat Party #2

Following on from this installation, we saw a huge gaggle of Santas walking down the street.

Santas...some naughty, some nice

Hmmm, wonder what is the collective noun for Santas is?

Other things of interest - a huge number of Head Shops, people begging seemed to be more common, people rambling to themselves in the street, older hippies trying to educate the younger more 'punk' hippies, trendy modern hippies, a few wasted people (one guy throwing up) and another hippie reprimanding some young people for not helping the fellow brother who was puking...I guess it was all about the hippies. Maybe I am focussing on them too much - there were many other people out and about, so it wasn't like the streets were swarming with hipsters but there were more than you would normally see. I guess this goes to show the history of this area.

We made our way to Golden Gate park and there were circles of more hippies...I think there was a didgeridoo being played and certainly some drums. It was here it started to rain, so we managed to shelter under a tree for a bit and find a restroom (always good to know the local lingo - don't ask for toilet, ask for the restroom...it sounds nicer too).

Golden Gate Park

Golden Gate park is huge. It's roughly 3 miles long and half a mile wide and covers 1017 acres. On the map above (clickie to see better), we travelled from the red dot (left side) to the orange dot (right side), which took quite some time, perhaps 4-5 hours.

Me having a sit down

The park is full to the brim with interesting things to see and do: statues, the De Young Museum, the Academy of Sciences, botanical gardens, a couple of little lakes...and much more. To see the whole park is probably not possible in one day and to cover it thoroughly would take two or more days.

Statues - The Star Spangled Banner

From a time when men were men...

...and moustaches were king!

Statue from 1894

Not sure what it was presented for...

So much detail

This is only a small part of the whole statue

Mr Lion likes a scratch

Cool statue

Brings a whole new meaning to the term 'going horse riding'

How do I make fire again?

We had taken a packed lunch and stopped to eat in the botanical gardens. It was here that we were besieged by many squirrels all wanting a piece of the action. They were cute to watch but at times it really did look like they would launch themselves at you to get their meal ticket. It made me laugh how they clasp their hands together as if begging, which I guess they are. So human!

Please sir, can I have some food?

After lunch, we continued our ramble through the botanical gardens and then headed across Stow Lake (a cute wee lake surrounding Strawberry Hill).

Quaint bridge over Stow Lake

We came across a giant cross many stories high. Hopefully the photo with Sha below gives an idea of how tall it was.

The Cross

It was huge (either that or Sha has shrunk)

Continuing west, we reached a frisbee golf course, although most of the participants seemed to be drinking beer as well. It was fun to watch and great to see people out and about. I think San Fran is a lot more health/exercise focussed than LA and have been told they are more so the more north you head - wonder what they are like in Canada? A land of fitness freaks perhaps!

Frisbee golf

Nowhere in the rules do they mention the compulsory drinking!

Nearing the end of our park wander, we encountered a buffalo park with about a dozen buffalo inside. It was saddening to read how close to extinction they had come with the Americans killing a huge number of them to stop the Native Americans using them as a food source. Their numbers are on the increase now but it seems there is still a long way to go before they are fully recovered.

Buffalo park

They kinda looked animatronic but I'm sure they were real!

Black limo, pink house

I love the contrast of this photo

Just before we exited the park we came across a windmill (see, I told you Guus we'd seen one!) and then exited the park and headed to the bar above the visitors centre on Ocean Beach. Had a locally brewed IPA beer while we watched the sun slowly set. I think I'm really getting a taste for good IPA.

The Dutch Windmall

Windmill world information here

Ocean Beach

That's the Pacific Ocean that away

Looking back at the Windmall from Ocean Beach

Golden Gate Park Rocks!

(sorry, couldn't help myself)

Visitors centre

More ground floor murals

After a beer, we took the Muni tram/train back to Barry's, where she had cooked us some super spaghetti bolognese. Very yummy indeed!

Thanks for the recipe Barry, we still haven't given it a go, but I am cooking again after a very long absence so will try it sometime soon. Might be hard to get it as good as yours though!

After dinner, we left Barry to continue work on her design project while Sha and I went and played a few games of pool in the basement. Sha won all three games we played. I should really practice more.

Here is our board of 'to do ness'

Sha loves to plan :-) The above board helped us to work out what we would do each day and while we didn't manage to do everything, we still had a damn good time.

Barry hard at work

Barry did quite well for this paper, so all the work was worth it!

The pool shark in action

That's all for now. Next time on The Foo Files: our penultimate day in San Fran (sniff) - we check out the Mission District where we oddly enough see a Mission.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

San Francisco - Day 3 - Muir Woods

Friday, 12th of December 2008

This morning, for some reason, I had a little bit of a headache - could it be to do with the bars we had visited the night before? Nah, that can't be it.

Today was the day that Barry had taken off from work as well as her studies to take us to a few special places.

First up, she took us to a lovely cafe called Zazie. It's a French bistro and seems to rate very well on yelp (yelp being a bar/restaurant/cafe San Fran & Bay Area review site that can make or break a business).

I had a Croque Madame, which is an egg, sunny side up, sitting in a lovely lake of Gruyère cheese and ham on toasted bread. Also one really super tomato juice - very useful for washing away the previous nights alcohol. The pictures on this wikipedia article really don't do the Croque justice - the one I had was far better!

I won't bore you with how good the food was - wouldn't want to get repetitive! And, once again, the lateness in blogging makes it hard to recall what culinary delights Sha and Barry experienced. I'm sure it was good though.

Tomato juice and coffee

Nice touch with the celery and bean pod!

Barry and Sha

From Zazie, we went over the Golden Gate bridge, drove through Sausalito (flash coastal expensive area) and then on to Muir Woods. It was a lovely drive and Barry really knows what we were into.

Muir Woods

These Redwoods were sooo tall!

Leaves starting to change colour

Barry hiding in a tree

Barry giving us a 'Y'

Walking around Muir Woods was magic...lots of Redwood trees and we made it to the peak of the hill and stumbled upon some wild deer of which we got some brilliant video footage. Of course, it was at this point Sha started with a sneezing fit, frightening them off. Actually, it was quite funny and I'm not sure who got more of a surprise - me or the deer.

Spooky tree

Best appreciated in close up

Daddy deer

Deer children

After Muir Woods, we were taken to a small town, had a quick look at a bookstore and then popped into the local saloon for a pint of IPA. Nice :-)

The Saloon (wish I had a better photo!)

Chinese Chuckwagon

Odd seeing this here but it made for a great photo

From here, Barry took us to Underwood, a restaurant which seemed to be in the middle of nowhere and we had an feed of awesomeness - we all shared with each other to ensure we got to experience all the super flavours. As it was quite dark when we were driving it was hard to keep track of where we were, but Underwood is in Graton, which is north of Sebastopol (all in Sonoma county, so big wine area).


I have to say that both Sha and I really enjoyed the day immensely - there is nothing quite like being shown around by a local who knows their stuff. I think we will be returning to San Fran at some point in the future, so Barry, you're not allowed to move! My only regret was not taking enough photos - I quite like snapping the odd and strange things and when looking back on photos it makes it a heck of a lot easier to recall what happened and where you went. Will lock this away in my mind for future reference.

Next post: A wander through Haight-Ashbury and then another long walk but this time through Golden Gate Park.