Tuesday, August 10, 2010

10/8/10 "The coldest winter I ever spent was a Summer in San Francisco" - Mark Twain

I learned two fascinating things today about SF. Firstly, it's damn foggy, like, nearly every day. Part of SF bay is called "fog bay", and in various souvenir stores, you can buy "canned fog". I'm guessing that's a joke product. Seriously though, ever see that Steven King movie "The Mist"? Well I haven't, but I reckon that SF would kick that movies arse for sure, even if "The Mist" did have killer monsters lurking in its fog, whereas SF just has hobos.

Secondly, it is damn cold, even in summer. The wind chills you to the bone, and whilst it isn't really all that humid once the icy wind blows away the damp fog, you still feel like your face is covered in a thin layer of frost at all times. If you ever come to SF, and I recommend you do as it is a great city, rug up people! You'll need it!

Today was another 10 hour epic day. We saw so many things it makes my tired brain cringe just trying to recall them all. But, I'll give it a shot.

Breakfast can only be described with one word: Fail. I suppose we only paid $7 extra each per night with our hotel booking, but boy did it suck. We basically had the choice between Scrambled eggs on toast with shredded potatoes, or a cream cheese bagel. Peta chose the former, albeit without the eggs as she is allergic to them, and I chose the latter.

My bagel was nice, but needing something else aside from a 1.5cm thick slab of cream cheese to go on it. Peta's shredded potatoes with toast however, was where the true failing was at. Also, the service was awful, and the name of the diner is "David's Deli"! That reflects badly on me and the army of Davids around the globe. Next time, I'll skip the breakfast payment, and just get maccas instead.

Our first destination was the Westfield shopping town a few blocks down from our hotel. It is massive on the inside, and quite expensive too. I looked with Peta at several different stores, including a Bloomingdales, which I recognised the name from "Friends".

We then went for a stroll into Chinatown. This name is a bit of an understatement however. It should really be called "Chinacity". There was literally about 15 blocks worth of Chinese shops, selling everything from groceries to herbal remedies, to cheap Chinese souvenirs.

Our two favorite stores we visited were a Tea store, where you could try various types of Chinese tea (our favorite was the green lychee tea), and the pet store.

The pet store was awesome. They had a Macaw for sale in there for $2000. If I lived in SF, and had a spare $2000, I would've bought it then and there. They also sold chinchillas. They're like a cross between a rabbit and a giant mouse. They're also nocturnal, as Magical Trevor attests ( http://www.weebls-stuff.com/songs/magical+trevor+3/ ), so all the ones we saw were sound asleep. That didn't mean they weren't as cute as an otter wearing a bib though.

After browsing around Chinatown some more, we headed down to SF's financial district, where we saw the world's pointiest pointy point point of a building this side of that pointy thing in Paris. It was called the Transamerica Pyramid or something. It sure was pointy.

We then had a look in the "Welles and Fargo" bank. It was amazing. The foyer's roof was about 15 meters high, and seemed to be covered in something very ornate and shiny - possibly gold. Glad to see that they're spending their customers' money wisely. I took a photo of the foyer, but then one of the staff spat molten rage at me, so I quickly deleted it.

After about an hour of generalised wandering in any old direction, we made it back to Union Square, which is right next to the Westfield.

We had some lunch in Westfield's "Food Emporium", which is essentially a fancy food court full of non-fast food joints, including a vegan restaurant! Given her allergies to dairy and egg, Peta was impressed.

After Peta did a quick shop through another one of those massive "21" stores (three entire levels of women's clothes, one tiny corner of Texan styled clothes for men), we lined up for the cable car to take us to Fisherman's Wharf.

Lines. There's always lines in America. If there's anything good, convenient, cheap, or interesting, expect a "line tax" of at least 30 minutes to come with it - even for public transport!

The cable car itself was fun. Being dragged up the hill by this cable train and then semi-freefall rolling down the other side was great, until you stopped at every single intersection. Still, before long we were at Fisherman's Wharf.

Now remember how I said SF is a cold place? Well down by the water it is even colder. You get the fog, the spray from the ocean, and the rain, all to keep your (rapidly diminishing) core body temperature company.

Still, the wharf itself is quite nice, although it definitely was touristy. It reminded me of Koh Samui, except without the stinking hot weather, constant smell of running sewage, and taxis honking their horns at you because you're white.

We had a brisk walk along the wharf to Pier 39, where we had a look through the SF bay aquarium. The exhibit was quite cool - it had only species from their bay, which means whilst it wasn't as colorful as a coral reef, it was very authentic. There were also jellyfish. Lots and lots of jellyfish. They just swim around aimlessly, looking more like a screensaver than conscious beings.

We then went through the obligatory underwater tunnel, which had lots of interesting fish, including rock fish, that apparently find a territorial spot, and stay there for the rest of their lives. Which is a HUNDRED YEARS. Seriously, if I were a fish, I'd hate to stare at the same scenery for that long.

Upstairs, the aquarium had a touch pool, where you could touch various rays, sharks, sea cucumbers and starfish. Rays are slimy, and sharks have really rough skin - almost like sandstone! The exhibit also had other examples of land-based wildlife that live near the bay, including snakes, spiders, hedgehogs and chinchillas. These chinchillas were asleep too.

Afterwards, Peta and I went and ate at "Bubba Gump's Shrimp" restaurant, which is themed off of the movie "Forrest Gump". The restaurant had a real American feel to it - definitely a family spot. However, the food was excellent, and the restaurant was at the end of the pier, so it offered a 180 degree view of SF bay. I had something with a lot of shrimp in it. I was essentially immolated by a firewall of shrimp. Tasty, tasty shrimp. Peta had a salmon steak with vegetables. She said it was great.

After dinner, we headed back to the cable car and paid "The Line Tax". The ride was just as fun as our trip out to the wharf, and before long, we were walking back home to our hotel, in the freezing cold.

That's all for tonight folks... I think this will actually be the first time I sleep in summer WITH THE HEATER ON! So much for "sunny California"!

Up next: Alcatraz! The contiki holiday for prisoners!

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