Sunday, February 1, 2009

San Francisco - Day 2 - The City

11th of December 2008

Well, our plan was to drop off our rental car at the airport and then take the BART (not Simpson, but the Bay Area Rapid Transit i.e. Metro/Tube/Train whatever) into town. As we had to refill with gas before we dropped the car off it was a race against time. I was fiddling with the GPS trying to locate the closest gas station to the airport and Sha was doing the driving action. The car was due at 10:45am and we delivered it at 10:58. Bum, by being 13 minutes late, it cost us a $37.50US penalty fee. Damn!

After our little loss we headed for the BART station at the airport. We got off the little train that services the airport and noticed everyone mobbing the vending machine to purchase tickets. Of course as you walk down to get your tickets from the machine, everyone goes to the first four terminals they see, leading to huge queues. If you walk, literally, 10 metres to the other side, there are another four terminals with no lines :-) Nothing like using your noggin to speed up your journey!

We took BART to the waterfront edge of San Fran, known as the Embarcadero. Once we had disembarked, we saw a rather large union protest with a giant inflatable rat and everyone dressed in orange. Seemed to be builders/labourers protesting at lack of pay rises and complaining about the foreman coming to work and showing off his Harley Davidson, while at the same time saying no money for increases/Christmas bonuses. Very interesting to see this all go on. We checked out a few market stalls and found a couple more Christmas gifts.

Waterfront View

San Fran isn't as heavily built up as some other US cities and is quite spread out. It reminds me of a SUPER MEGA GIANT version of Wellington (hope I captured simply how much bigger it is than Wellington there!).

San Fran skyline

Looking back from the Embarcadero

After the market we headed for the Ferry building on the waterfront. This building has been converted into a huge foodies heaven (sorry, I seem to talk about food a bit too much don't I?). We had a wander round at all the amazing and pricey comestibles, had a glass of wine at a wine bar, saw many mushrooms at a mushroomery (is that a word?), had some delicious gelato - Sha tried egg-nog and guava and I had berry cabernet and melon (or was it lemon, oh dear, hard to remember...that'll learn me for blogging so long after the fact). The guava flavour was hands down the winner, although the berry cabernet was also very flavoursome and very unique.


The whole shop was dedicated to fungi

Inside the ferry building

After the ferry building, we settled on Mexican for lunch and went for rather large Burritos from a greasy Mexican place. Ordering was a little tricky when you don't speak Spanish and are asked the equivalent of 'what would you like with/on that'. Barry had told us to go for somewhere that didn't look too clean as this is where the best food comes from. Once we sat down, we found a little wasp sharing our table, so I soaked a little bit of napkin in beer and let him eat it. He seemed to really enjoy it - I guess it was the sugar in the beer (either that, or was already drunk).
The manager of the place was dressed in a grimy white singlet and kept shooing birds out the door, much to the amusement of the customers (despite the less than stellar food, it was a very popular place). While we were sitting, we were asked by a waitress where we came from and we said 'New Zealand' and showed her our purse stamped with New Zealand and a couple of kiwis to which she said 'ahhh Nouvelle Zeeland' and we nodded. Overall, We were a little disappointed by the food and later, after recalling our meal to Barry, were told that she would take us to a REAL Mexican diner in the Mission district which has far better food.

Mister wasp drinking some beer

He loved that napkin!

After lunch we continued our walk through the streets of San Fran and headed up through the streets on the 'long march' back to Barry's via China town and then to a Best Buy.

More San Fran skyline

The start of the long march

China town was very cool - lots of souvenir stores selling postcards and the 'same old' stuff (as per Los Angeles) but there were also more unique stores such as the three story Chinese version of the $2 shop called China Bazaar (although some things were more than $2). The basement floor had fountains, statues and the like and it was all very cheap. Walking around China town, we were struck by the number of statues everywhere. There were the three monkeys (see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil), horses, children reading books, monkeys, skateboarding kids - a really odd mix. They do liven up the streets and it makes me yearn for more 'odd' and unusual art works in Wellington as it really adds character to the streets.

China Bazaar in China town

More China town

Reading is good for you!

Statues everywhere

A little bit kooky and overwhelming

China town gates

Of course, we started at the wrong end!

Smell no evil?

Very popular statues - everyone was getting pictures taken with them

Cable Car

No, we did not ride (or drive them Marty)

A shop of stars - Part I

Who do you recognise?

A shop of stars - Part II

Not sure what the story was with this shop. I think all it sold were pictures of musicians. Would have been interesting to take a look inside, but we had to keep moving!

A church

I thought it looked pretty cool

Night approaches (skyline view from Best Buy)

Hmmm, I look a little portly :-(

After China town, we continued to head for Barry's but I wanted to check out Best Buy as I had been looking for a particular brand of fold out keyboard for my cellphone for quite some time. Inside, it was essentially a giant department store, but dedicated to computers and electrical goods. Alas, they couldn't help me find what I was looking at and I knew I might as well fall back to plan b, which was find it on the internet (and likely for cheaper too). Oh well. Best Buy did leave me wondering what an Apple store would be like...maybe I will check one out when I get to London.

All up it took us about 4 hours of walking from the Embarcadero to Barry's and we found that it was a great way to get a feel for the city (well, at least part of it!) Our feet were a little tired though - it seems to happen when walking through cities, but somehow when in nature we feel less tired. Weird!

Once we returned to Barry's, she took us out to a bar which really had a focus on beer. Barry is an IPA connoisseur and we were guided by her recommendations as to what was worth it and what wasn’t. The place reminded me a little of the Bodega in Wellington, but a little smaller and with more of a beer focus. I’m sure there were around 20-30+ beers on tap and maybe double that available bottled (Barry, please correct me if I’m wrong!)

After a couple of IPAs, we headed next door to a sausage store where they cooked gourmet sausages. We ordered and then took them back to the bar. Yumo!

Another thing of note was this bar had the most amount of graffiti in a bathroom I had EVER seen - literally the walls were covered from head to toe. With that much graffiti it transcended ugly and became art. After this bar it was time to head to Barry’s ‘local’ which was an unassuming Irish bar called Finnegans Wake. While the web page isn't much to look at (I guess they focus on drinking not websites!) I do wonder what is going on with that picture of a book? We had been warned that Finnegans Wake was a place for serious drinkers and not to bother order cocktails – beer (or hard liquor) was the order of the day. Although having said that, Sha did order a hot toddy. Hmmm. It was here that I spotted the mirror in the bathroom which had an Air New Zealand advert which was very unexpected! Strange how these things happen. After a couple more beers and shooting the breeze with Chile the bartender, we headed home. I really don't think Barry should have been calling me a lightweight though. I’m not, I swear :-)

Air New Zealand advert

Kind of clever, isn't it?

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