Monday, April 18, 2011

Welcome to California, Part 1

Last Saturday we made the long trip across the country to San Francisco, California!!  We have been counting down the days for this over-due vacation so it's fair to say that when we stepped out of the plane and onto California soil, we were beyond ecstatic!  We crammed our week with all sorts of touristy activities, so bare with me as I try to recall the sights, history and scenery of this beautiful city.

Let me start from the beginning...

Day 1

We stayed at the Kensington Park Hotel in Union Square, which is in the heart of the city.  It was a great location!  It was within walking distance from some of the best shopping and restaurants, and it was a block away from the MUNI station (transportation).  Kensington Park is a one of four "personality hotels" in San Fran, meaning it is a boutique hotel with somewhat of a theme with it's decor.  When we chose the hotel, I was a bit hesitant because most of our options did not include air conditioning.  Yeah, I know, how do you survive without a/c?  Well, it was made fully clear to us once we got there.  The a/c was your window.  And believe me, that's all you need.  With the frigid temperatures and the harsh wind, we did just fine without air conditioning.  We were also very impressed with the staff at the hotel.  They were more than willing to help us "tourists" out.

(yes, this is a pic from the internet... I forgot to take one when we were there)
our room.
the view of the city from our room.

down the street from our hotel was the heart of the city.

As we ventured out of our hotel room, we quickly realized this was not a "walking city" like NY.  The hills were outrageously steep.  So off to the MUNI station we went.  There are several different ways to get around the city including, taxi's, street cars (trolleys), MUNI (cable cars) and BART (subway).  We opted for the MUNI because, let's face it, it's the only one we understood. But of course we did ride the street car one time just for fun.

trying to figure out the transportation system.

Once we figured out how to get around, we rode the cable car down the famous F line to Pier 39.  We were thrilled to get there.  It felt like being on a mini theme park with lots of cute shops and restaurants crammed onto a pier overlooking the bay.  And at the end of the pier is a breathtaking view of Alcatraz and Sea Lions.  Yes, that's right, Sea Lions.  This was a hoot.  Hundreds of Sea Lions just chillin' on the pier.  Nic said they kind of reminded him of Bowden since they were just laying around sunbathing (this was my first indication that Bowden was going to be greatly missed on our vaca).  :)

first view of Alcatraz.
Sea Lions!!!

After roaming around Pier 39 a bit we decided to take it easy and go back to the hotel to take a nap.  We had been flying for what felt like ALL day and we were exhausted!  What's a vacation without a little relaxation, right?  We did force ourselves to wake up around 9pm to go get some dinner.  :)

Day 2

This was fun-filled day that I was really looking forward to.  On the agenda: bus tours and Alcatraz.  We booked a hop-on, hop-off bus tour that included 4 different routes around the city and was good for 48 hours.  Bus tours have become my favorite part of our vacations.  We quickly realized after our honeymoon in NY and our trip to Savannah, that bus tours are the best way to see the city, get your bearings and learn everything you'd ever want to know about the history of the city.

On the way to the bus tour... this is the Oakland Bay Bridge.

The first bus tour we chose was the Golden Gate bridge tour.  It was the perfect introduction to seeing this beautiful city.  The anticipation and excitement grew stronger and stronger the closer we got to the bridge.  It really is an amazing structure.  And with the backdrop of the bay with tall green hills surrounding it, it's truly breathtaking.  I definitely recommend driving, walking, or even biking across it if you ever go to San Fran.  Stay tuned for a future blog post containing fun facts we learned about this bridge.
On the way to GG bridge we passed by O.J. Simpson's Alma Mater.  This football field was named after him, but soon afterward was changed back to Galileo Lions.  Wonder why??
First sighting of Golden Gate!

getting closer...

view of San Fran from the other side of the bridge.


After our bus tour we hopped off to grab something to eat.  In-N-Out burger it is!! In-N-Out is California's first drive thru Hamburger joint.  All the food is fresh, although still very greasy, no frozen foods.  Nic wanted to eat here because one of his favorite bands always talks about it, and I have heard about it from other celebrities.  It's definitely not anything fancy, but it was really yummy!

Next stop:  Alcatraz.  We rode the ferry across the bay to Alcatraz.  Again, the ferry ride was so picturesque.  Although once you stepped onto the island it became kind of creepy.  We took an audio tour of the island, definitely a must-see!  The audio tour guided you through the infamous federal penitentiary as it took you back in time to what it was really like to live behind the bars.  It was narrated by Alcatraz guards and inmates.

ferry ride to Alcatraz.

The shower room.  First stop for all the inmates.

 After visiting Alcatraz Island, we hopped on to another night bus tour of the city.  And the highlight of this tour was seeing the gorgeous 7 Sisters... yes, the Full House house!!!  I was just a tad excited!

 A painted lady.  AKA a victorian home.  beautiful.
 There they are!!!  The 7 sisters!  The Full House houses.  And look at that view behind them.

This one just sold for 4 million.  Not too bad, right?

So, as you can see, we had a very full day!  And because I always cram my blogposts with tons of pictures, I will have to save the rest of the week for another post.  More to come...

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