Friday, December 9, 2011

7/12/11 – 8/12/11 Goodbye, San Francisco, Hello New York!

So today was our last day in San Francsico. Naturally, this meant that we had to check out of our hotel, and as such, the day didn’t start until about a minute before checkout time, as we were getting everything organised to leave. After having a very pleasant conversation with the concierge (a lovely British lady who brought her very sedate dog along with her), we headed off to see the rest of San Francisco.

Firstly, we headed down to the shopping area just north of Market St. Emma spent a good hour or so looking at shoes, and much to her delight, she actually found some pairs that fit her and suited her. Apparently shoe shopping is normally a nightmare for her, but this time it seemed to be quite easy. Me, having about as much interest in shoe shopping as I do about Justin Bieber’s latest album (although I must make it clear that I’d much, MUCH prefer shoe shopping over that crap), just sat there, playing with my iPhone and working out where we were heading next.

Then, I was getting fairly hungry, so I grabbed my first hotdog of the trip. Tasty, and one of many to come. We then headed to one of my favourite places in San Francisco – the Exploratorium. As I mentioned in my previous bloggings about the USA, it is essentially a gigantic version of the science centre. This time, we headed for the areas that I didn’t get to see last time, which included a whole bunch of exhibits on sounds and how the brain interprets them. I found them all quite interesting, and even aced quite a few of the sound-based listening tests. A good thing, considering my choice of career.

After having more of a look around, it appeared as if it was already closing time. Sadly, this meant we had to leave, and so we headed out into the palace of fine arts area, just on dusk. Unlike last time when I was here when it was undergoing re-landscaping, the palace was open to the public. We had a walk through, and with the evening lights on, it made for some excellent long-exposure photography. This was my first attempt at long exposure photography, and the results were mixed, but it definitely makes me want to try it some more in the future.

We then caught a long bus ride back to Geary street. While like most bus rides, this one was quite uneventful, we did see somebody carry a Christmas tree onboard. Like, a real Christmas tree – one that has been dug out of the ground  and has to be kept in a bowl of water. One of the cool things about the holiday season in the USA, for sure.

Then, we went for some dinner at “Thai Stick”, a restaurant I had tried in my previous visit to San Francisco. The food was tasty and didn’t disappoint. A very pleasant way to end my time in San Francisco.

It was time to head back to the hotel and get our transfer to the airport. Before long, my time in San Francisco was over. Needless to say, I loved this city just as much as last time. I can’t wait to return, and I hope that one day I can afford to live in this beautiful corner of the world.

American Airlines flight AA18 SFO – JFK N320AA
Boeing 767-200
Intended Pushback: 2300
Actual Pushback: 2254
Intended Arrival: 0725
Actual Arrival: 0647
Seat: 37J
Captain Steve Manden

Wow, a flight that actually left and arrived early! I was amazed. But, that was about the only amazing thing about this flight. They call Economy class “Coach” in the US for a reason. It was like sitting on a coach for five hours. The flight attendants appeared at the start of the flight to make sure we all had our seatbelts securely fastened, and then they disappeared for the rest of the flight, unless you called them for some water. No food or drink service (aside from aforementioned cups of water) was served, and there was only some very old programming showed on the overhead monitors, which I didn’t bother to watch.

Instead, I tried to grab some sleep in these super-cramped seats, which turned out to be near on impossible. I think I spent the whole flight with my eyes shut, but I did open my eyes long enough at one stage to see Chicago as we flew over it – a golden city of lights the glittered, followed by the complete blackness of Lake Michigan. I wish I got to visit there on this trip, but it will have to wait for another time.

Before long, the torture was over, and we were beginning our approach into New York JFK. My first indication that this city was going to be cold was the fact that I could see sheets of ice sloshing around in the ocean. After deplaning and making our way out to the baggage hall, this thought was confirmed. New York is very cold. Not the coldest I’ve ever been in, but very, very close. This will also probably change as the days go on.

Our trip from the airport to our hotel let us sample another of New York’s famous attributes – its traffic. The 90 minute journey was very start and stop, with us rarely travelling faster than 40 km/hr. Still, with the breathtaking Manhattan skyline in view, it was hard not to feel excited.

Like with our hotel in San Francisco, we weren’t able to check in until later in the day. This meant that we got to spend the morning walking around our local district. This time, I chose to stay at the Distrikt Hotel, just off of Times Square, as it was one of the cheapest hotels around, and also one of the highest rated from user review. The impressions I got at check-in were all very positive, and made my look forward to my stay.

We then had our first wander around Times Square. It was just as flashy and overstimulating as I remembered. We grabbed some breakfast at the McDonalds and sat on the upper floor to do some people watching. It should be noted that the cold seems to keep the crowds down a bit when compared to summer, but it is still very busy.

We then headed to Central Park to kill some time. We sat on a great big rock and watched squirrels bound about the meadows. The squirrels also had a habit of engaging in ninja-style battles with each-other as they clamoured around the trunks of trees. This was very entertaining, as they never seemed to hurt each other, just chase each other around a lot.
We were then very tempted to take a nap in central park, but decided against it as we didn’t want to get in trouble or mugged. So we headed back to Times Square to grab some lunch. Like always, we headed to Bubba Gump’s. This time I had something different though (spicy shrimp skewers), and it was just as tasty as the other dishes that I have tried.

By this stage, we could check in, so we did so. The room was fantastic, and we were all the way up on the 26th floor, meaning we had a brilliant view looking out towards New Jersey. We then had a nap, and awoke later in the day to get ready to go see our first Broadway play of the trip, “Sister Act”.

This was based on the film of the same name, but converted into a more musical affair. While some scenes did seem to drag a bit, on the whole it was very entertaining and it amazes me how fantastically some people can sing. I had goosebumps on multiple occasions, which is always a good sign.

One thing that was unfortunate about the performance was the seating. Not where we were seated, mind you – although we were seated on the balcony, I had a perfect view of the stage. The problem was with the legroom, or complete lack thereof. With the show going for over two and a half hours, I found myself beginning to get very uncomfortable in the last half hour or so, as my knees were stuck to the seat in front of me. It was far worse than any airline seat I had sat in, although the entertainment definitely made up for the lack of legroom.

After the performance, I helped escort Emma and the group of school students she was assisting back to their hotel, and then I headed back to my hotel. I grabbed a slice of Pizza on the way home – my first of the trip, and hopefully the first of many to come.

Tomorrow: MOAR NEW YORK!


    I am jelly

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