Hello from San Francisco. The trip started well with an airline upgrade to Premium Economy seats for Lynne and me - we loved the extra room and cosy blankets, but we still had to put up with a screaming toddler and bad food. We all arrived in San Francisco in good spirits and, with the help of a very grumpy old cab driver, met up with Cathy and Neil at our accommodation. The apartment is good, but not as nice as shown in the internet pictures and we had ongoing problems with the wireless connection. All the weary travellers managed to stay awake all of the first day by doing a city bus tour and then investigating the wares in Tiffany's and Macys. Kate and Jenna bought jewellry in Tiffany's. There was a nice 4-leaf clover gold charm I asked about, and it was $450 - way over my budget. I also resisted temptation in Macys because I did not trust the judgement of my tired brain, and I was a little bit sick too (cough and sore throat). We had dinner that night at the restaurant right next door to our accommodadation, which was fun.
On Day 2 we hit the shops again, with clear heads. Neil and Cathy hit the museums, while the rest of us went to Levi's where Jenna and Kate used the services of Alana, the 'jean consultant'. She was actually very good, knew her product well and was able to find the girls the perfect Jeans. We also saw 'product consultant' Whitney at Victoria's Secret for 'Secret Women's Business'. This was followed by lunch at the Cheesecake Factory, which serves more than just cheesecake, although we did share one piece of peanut butter cheesecake between us. It was very rich and even 9 of us could not finish this one slice! Afterwards we hit Gap, H&M and Macys again, where the girls went a little bit crazy and Lynne and I had fun buying Scott's (nephew) new daughter some little outfits. We then headed home (without super-shoppers Kate & Kathy) to prepare dinner. Karen and I were meant to have dinner with Aussie/San Franciscan Emy, but arrangements fell through, and I was still sick with a cough and sore throat, so it was maybe for the best that I did not spread my germs.
The next day, Neil and his harem of Cathy, Karen, Jenna, Peta and I headed out early to visit the Walt Disney Family Museum. It was a challenge for bus afficionado, Cath, to get us there but we made it just in time for the 10am opening. It is located in an old Mexican military barracks in an area which is now converted into a very nice, quiet housing and business estate quite close to the Golden Gate Bridge. The museum was very well set up with talking displays and examples of all the early cartoons right through to the award winning movies like Mary Poppins and the Parent Trap. It was a surprisingy large exhibition, taking up 3 floors of the building. There was also a display model of the first Disneyland on show which was mesmerising. It was so good there that we lost track of time, and were running late for the baseball game between the San Francisco Giants and the Oakland A's. Cath managed to get us on the right bus again, and we were only a little late for the game. We met Lynne at the game, and she had spent her morning at Union Square talking to a homeless man who wanted to talk to her about Jesus. She suggested to him that he should take Jesus' advice and stop swearing! The baseball game was great fun and the fans were very passionate about their game. There were about 25,000 people there, on a Wednesday afternoon for an exhibition game! Some of our group had traditional hotdogs and huge cups of soft drink, and others (who did not trust the look of the hotdogs) had chicken burgers. They do all sorts of crazy stuff between innings, like t-shirt throws, competitions, dancing like Carlton (from Prince of Bel Air) and the mid game stretch where the whole audience stands up and does stretches in time to 'Take Me Out To The Ballgame'. All these antics are shown on the big screen on the score board and there is lots of music. After the game we went to Pier 39, where we met Kate and Kathy, who had again spent all day shopping. We spent some time watching the seals and their antics, then strolled through the shops on the pier. In the meantime, Neil and Cath went home to prepare a baked dinner for the evening meal. The young ones, i.e., Peta, Jenna and Kate decided to visit the Rainforest Cafe for their meal, so Lynne, Karen, Kathy and I set out for the journey home. As we did not have Cath the bus afficionado with us, we got hopelessly lost, so we ended up hailing a taxi to get us back. We had a great day, and even though we were tired, we talked around the dinner table until quite late.
The following day saw Cath, Neil and me heading the to Haight-Ashbury district. This is where the hippies live and it is a kaleidoscope of colorful shops, cafes, vintage-wear and graffiti. We dined in an old-style non-touristy cafe and were served by a no-nonsense (meaning grumpy) old waiter. I parted company with Cath & Neil and continued on to Golden Gate Park for a wander by myself. It is a huge park, so I only got to see part of it, but what I did see was very nice and there were lots of people relaxing, riding bikes, skateboarding, jogging, walking, playing tennis, etc. Our next adventure was a ferry trip over to Alcatraz, so we all re-gathered together from our various morning expeditions and headed (with 250 other people) to 'The Rock'. The audio-tour commenced up very high on the island so we needed to climb uphill for the equivalent of 13 stories in a building! Once we got there, we got our audio sets and commenced our tour of the prison. The commentary was very interesting and gave us a good insight into the prisoners' dreadful lives. Their cells were tiny and sparse, and solitary confinement would have been a nightmare. The better behaved inmates were allowed to read books, paint and draw. Some even took up crochet. The hardest part for the inmates was seeing San Francisco city from their exercise yard so close but unattainable. An ex-prisioner recalled that every New Years Eve they could hear the revellry and music coming from the Yacht Club on the shore. He said that it was nice to hear, but it also frustrated them because they could not be part of the 'free world'. After we returned from Alcatraz, we then went on a night tour of the city. This was a different tour to the one we did on our first day in San Francisco, and it was great to see all the different architecture in the city and learn the history behind it. The sun set towards the end of the tour just as the city lights were coming on which was very pretty. We then went to dinner at an Italian restaurant on Pier 39 before returning home at around 9.30pm, followed shortly by sleep.
Our last day on the streets of San Francisco. Today we set out for a bus tour over the Golden Gate Bridge to the little town of Sausalito. This picturesque village started out as a vacation spot for rich San Franciscans, is only 20 minutes from the city and is now home to many commuters. There were lots of quaint little shops to check out, the most popular with us being the Christmas decoration shop. We had lunch in a cafe next to the water, and the food for most of us was good. Unfortunately, Peta, who has been unwell since she arrived in the USA with stomach pain, seemed to be getting worse but she soldiered on and, after we caught the bus back to Fisherman's Wharf, we went to the Trolley Car terminal to have a ride on one of the historic trams. We caught our trolley to the top of Lombard Street, the crookedest street in the world. It was fun to walk down this part of the street, and to watch the cars as they twisted and turned their way down the hill. As luck would have it, we were able to hail a taxi at the bottom of the hill to take us home. Peta, Jenna and Kate stayed on to find another taxi to take them to the 'Full House' house, and they joined us at home a while later. We ate our last dinner in San Francisco at the Aloma Square Seafood Grill and the food was great (I had steak). Peta dined with us, but after she had finished her meal she began to feel very, very sick and her tummy was very painful. Peta decided it was time to get to the Emergency Centre, so Karen and Peta hailed a taxi at about 8.30pm. Peta underwent a battery of tests and the results were inconclusive. The doctor prescribed broad-spectrum medication to deal with her symptoms and advised to see her doctor when she returns to Autralia. Peta and Karen returned home at 1am and Peta was in much less pain but both of them were very tired and $350 poorer.
The next morning Lynne, Karen, Cath, Neil, Kathy and I headed downtown at 7.50am with all our luggage to meet our bus tour to Monterey and Carmel. Peta, Jenna and Kate left later in the morning to catch their flight to Los Angeles, which in fact was cancelled and they ended up in Orange County, a $150 taxi fare from LA. The young ones stayed at an LA hotel overnight while us oldies stayed at a hotel in Monterey and we will all meet up again at our Hollywood accommodation.
San Francisco is a lovely city. The people are friendly and very helpful, and the customer service is outstanding. The streets are very clean and we almost always felt safe. We caught lots of buses and we noticed that younger people always stood up for older citizens - maybe it is law here, but it was nice to see.
I'm still coughing, and my roomie Lynne has joined me. It's very annoying for us, and I hope we get better soon. We have been so lucky with the weather - it has been sunny and mid-20's all week. Apparently, it has been raining in San Francisco for weeks.
Next report will be from Monterey and Hollywood.