The San Franciscan Hills

Trip Start Nov 01, 2010
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44
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Trip End Nov 01, 2011


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Flag of United States  , California
Thursday, October 13, 2011

7/10/11 (5 nights)

Eventually, we had made it to downtown San Francisco. We were relieved to get of the Greyhound, the smell of pi$$ and wine of Blue and the fitty gang had become too much, we felt like we needed a shower haha. On the way into the city the view was spectacular, we could see Bay Bridge and the San Fran hills and Skyline. The people were very friendly and even walked us to the bus stop we needed to be at.

HI Downtown San Francisco
Our destination, HI (Hostel International) Downtown San Francisco – basically a part of a large chain of HI hostels across the states which were well known for decent quality, a bit like TOP10 campervan parks in New Zealand. We found the place easily and really enjoyed our brief walk through the city, seemed class. Checked in, to our double room, 2 single bunk beds that is, haha – 7 going on 8 again waa lol. It will do, the prices of accommodation across the US are very expensive. Hostels made sense for us as we could then cook for ourselves, not so much because the food is expensive because it isn't but because the portions are fit for a baby hippopotamus. Hostel was very clean and had everything we needed. First things first, we were round the corner from Union square and Foley’s Irish Bar. We headed round and had a few drinks and watched the live band who were excellent. The place was packed with marines (we would find out the next day why- Caoimhe thought they were going fancy dress haha) however no sign of our friends from Fiji, the owner of the pub we were in, James and his accomplice and partner in crime Moss. Moss had given us his number for when we were in San Francisco, but we decided against ringing, they had only arrived back from their month long session, and I am sure their wives wouldn’t be best pleased if they left the house upon arriving home 2 days previous.

Arrived back about midnight, turned on the free Wi-Fi (handy), to find Facebook covered with messages related to Ireland getting knocked out of the rugby world cup, WHAT? Immediately we Googled 'time in Auckland’ – sure we had been through that many time-zones over this past few weeks we didn’t know whether we were coming or going. Sure we were about 19 hours behind Auckland now and clean mucked it up. We were actually looking forward to the Saturday night actually to watching the game, to find game was over, as was Ireland’s chances of winning a world cup. Gutted! What was even stranger, no mention of the game in bloody Irish Bar, TV’s had baseball on sure. Ah well, at least we were there to watch them beat the Aussies. 

Alcatraz

The next morning we were up bright an early, we had pre-booked our tour of Alcatraz/The Rock, about a month ago. We heard it was a busy tour, and we were glad we had it sorted, as we arrived on the F car to Pier 33 , we found that it was booked out for 3 days, relief. The pier was absolutely buzzing and then we boarded the boat. The Bay was covered in Naval boats, police, choppers, planes….it was really odd, we thought maybe there was some type of security alert, or maybe the Bay was like this daily. (Note: everywhere we go in America we really where clueless and just picked places on a map and booked stuff we had heard of)

We boarded the island, the weather was amazing, pure blue skies, we had heard San Fran’s best weather was in October. Felt great to finally be at the prison (?), especially after having watched the movie ‘The Rock’ a half dozen times. Tour was packed as expected, and we headed into the cell-house for the Audio tour (voted the best audio tour in the world) after having watched a short documentary on the history of the prison. We were able to play/pause the audio as we were directed around the prison, listening to interviews from past inmates. Some of the notorious prisoners included Al Capone and The Birdman.  Seemingly nobody had ever successfully escaped, as the 1.25 mile rough swim always swallowed them up. The tour was incredible and some amount of history. Mid way we were directed outside in the inmates court yard when we noticed hundreds of people ready with their cameras, then all of a sudden out of nowhere a fleet of fighter jets came whizzing past which nearly deafened us. We then heard that it was fleet week [http://www.fleetweek.us/], an air show performed by the Blue Angels, marines and Navy. I think it was time for pause on the Audio Tour for a while. The show was very impressive and we ended up watching it for about an hour, we had been unbelievably lucky to have the best seats in San Francisco to watch it. We resumed the tour after, handed our headsets back in and made our way back into the city. We had a sandwich from Safeway in a city park, the sun was scorching and we just lay on the grass, totally chilled out. Another thing we had noticed were the amount of homeless in San Francisco. There must be thousands a lot of which appeared to be a bit mental, especially whilst on the tram, however we never had any bother from them

Golden Gate Bridge

On the Monday, Columbus day, we decided we would head for the Golden Gate Bridge, another big San Francisco landmark. Before hand we needed to put our backpacker hats on and head for grocery store and stock up food for the hostel. We got a K Train out towards the Castro (the gay area of San Francisco - excellent), where there was a Safeway and got sorted out. Left the hostel about an hour later, for some major mucking around waiting on buses, traffic was nuts with it being a public holiday, marches etc., plus I think the San Fran 49’ers had a game. Eventually we made it to Golden Gate Bridge. We had been tempted to hire bikes out or 1 of them Segway contraptions (ironic - the guy who invented the Segway rode one over  a cliff by accident and died), but decided against it and done it the old fashion way. We walked it across, views spectacular, packed with other tourists. We were looking forward actually to reaching the other side where seemingly there was a really nice little Spanish/Mexican village, and may well pop in for a well earned Corona or 2. We made across, and about 100m from the end there was a barrier stating ‘sidewalk closed’ – what? We were looking forward to a rest now we were left with no option but to walk the whole way back. OR – climb around the outside of the bridge like a gorilla like the scene from ‘Rise of The Planet of the Apes’ movie - the walk it is 

Googling

Made our way back, dog tired, bussed it back, few drinks in the hostel and chilled out. The day after was the day we never left the hostel, freak rain had hit, however this was actually good timing. About 10 days of our east coast trip had still not been booked, nor had our hotels in Vegas. We had a pile of research to do. Between Google, Trip-advisor and the lonely planets books from the common room we got the whole thing sorted out. A week in Boston (40 Berkeley Hostel), a week in NYC (jazz on the park hostel and then an apartment further out of city) and Vegas hotel (LUXOR) – all booked – phew! But it really did take the whole day and was challenging – east coast availability and pricing is a bit nuts.

We had also been looking into how we were going to get to our next spot the next day, Vegas. We had contemplated the greyhound, but after realizing it took 19 hours and probably filled with headers, we consulted an Asian girl who worked at the Hostel. She was a bloody guru and sorted the whole thing out. Option 2 – Train it to Oakland ( a city half an hour away) and fly to Vegas (1.5 hour flight) – so we went online (free Wi-Fi in the hostel was very handy – glad I brought apple with me – a little saviour) Southwest airlines – price in total came to $60 each! The 19 hour greyhound trip would have been $80 – plus the airline allowed us to check in 2 bags each – we were waiting for the catch, but there never would be 1. Brilliant! Booked the flights, which didn’t leave until 530 the next day, which allowed us time to head down to fisherman’s wharf, a trip our friends and relatives advised.

Fisherman’s Wharf

We headed down to Fisherman’s wharf, Pier 39, on our last day in San Francisco, a city we were beginning to really love. Sun was back out, and we dandered around the markets and pier. Crowds had gathered around 1 particular spot, we followed the sheep to discover a pack of seals (yes a pack) – sprawling out in the sun, smelly but entertaining.

A great way to end our stay in San Francisco, a beautiful city we could easily settle in. Back to the hostel, collected our luggage from the hostel and we were off to Oakland Airport, next stop, 6 days in the mad Sin City, Las Vegas – we were very excited and knew this would be an altogether different experience, praying for a bit of luck in the casinos, to help pay for the little white chapel of course.
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