Monday, June 12, 2017

Reflecting on this fantastic trip around the USA.  

Things we've done, seen & learnt-
  • We had 9 flights totalling 52 hours in the air
  • Only 2 flight delays totalling 4 hours
  • 27 hours spent sitting in 9 airports
  • Caught up with 3 lots of wonderful travel friends 
  • Walked the Brooklyn bridge
  • Wandered thru Times Square
  • Visited the iconic Disneyland attractions
  • Went into Hogwarts Castle
  • Had a famous grouper sandwich & walked the perfect Clearwater beach in Florida
  • Cruised the West Caribbean on 1 of the biggest ships in the world
  • Visited Trumpy's pad in D.C
  • Attended the amazing Smithsonian museums
  • Paid tribute at the huge Arlington Cemetery
  • Rode a bike up Pennsylvania Ave to the Capitol
  • Visited Galveston Texas & their quaint beach bach's
  • Remained Las Vegas gambling virgins!
  • Watched the famous Bellagio fountains (a bit of a letdown!)
  • Flew over the Grand Canyon in a Helicopter
  • Night toured through Alcatraz prison on a significant b'day
  • Rode over the Golden Gate Bridge & did a night Segway tour in San Francisco

We've sampled seafood we wouldn't have tried otherwise - crab. Lobster & clam chowders galore.
We've been hosted by American's who can not do enough for you

The Weather - in 42 days we have only experienced ONE pouring wet day. We cannot believe how lucky we have been - unlike other trips to Europe haha. But you get what you get & you make the best of it, so are very grateful.

Managed to stave off other travellers bugs until the last week - thanks to the 2 men who hacked & coughed right in your face, not their hands. Ended up blah with colds and voiceless for 5 days! but thankful that was it sickness wise.

Have had THE BEST time, but are also ready to go back with our memories to our lovely home, unpacking for good.... our family, friends & the puppy dogs I have missed So much!

Day 41, 23rd May Flights Home

Day 41

Up today and packed ready to leave for home. We ordered an Uber as we had cancelled the super shuttle after the carry on from the airport to the hotel. All other super shuttle franchises in the other U.S cities have been great, but Uber and Lyft here are really good and easy to use since its loaded against a credit card. Graeme likes the fact we don't have to have the cash for them.

Arrived at San Fran airport and ready for our flight to LAX.  That was about 2 hours but the flight ended up being delayed a few times cos of air traffic in LAX, so took off 2 hours late. Luckily we had allowed 6 hours between the two flights, so we didn't risk missing the big flight home.

Just as well in the end as the check in for Qantas wasn't open until 4 hours prior at LAX and the business class line was longer than the premium economy - surprising how many passengers turn up super early, there must have been about 100 economy passengers there waiting early too.

Got through fine and hoping for a better flight than the debacle on the way over! Went into the lounge and relaxed for a couple of hours, apart from when Graeme dropped a full glass of coke down my front! Lucky there were showers or it would have been a sticky night! The food in LAX was surprisingly sparse and not so good, thought it would have been great being such a big hub, but Qantas seem to be cutting back on everything the staff told us, so maybe the lounge is affected too. But still was nice to sit in the quiet an relax.

Onto the plane - 16 3/4 hrs home with no issues and very comfortable yay! we both got about 4-5 hours sleep, then a 2 hour wait for the shuttle at Melbourne airport  when we land until the gippy shuttle arrived. We were glad to get home - lovely to see your home with a new eye and back to 2 very excited schnauzers!!
Cheers to an awesome trip- there wasn't one city we didn't enjoy in the States.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Days 39 & 40, 21-22 May. Alcatraz Prison, Biking the Golden Gate

Day 39-
Woke to yet another beautiful clear day, brisk & cool but sunny & not a cloud in the sky- very nice for your american 50th birthday! We went to our usual Starbucks for cereal & yoghurt and nice hot cuppas then decided to wander down the Hyde St pier which is right across from our hotel. The National Parks have restored ships there and at only $10 to go in, it was well worth it. They had a fishing ship, a mighty Tug named Hercules, a transport paddle steamer and a sailing vessel.

 The tug 'Hercules'


Was great being able to walk through them in their entirity and feel all the yesteryear they have seen. The sailing vessel had an interesting history as back then the, ship owners liked a captain whose wife would also live on board, so as to bring the level of refinement up! The most famous captain who broke two time records, actually did so because his wife - who had come from a sailing family & she had a talent for navigation and navigated them through from West Australia to America in record times.The owners would build a parlour, decked out in red velevet for the lady of the ship, to entertain and sew in.

Inside the paddlesteamer

Sailing vessel 

Engine inside the tug

Inside the carcass of the fishing vessel 

Knees- the bolts of the times

Water under the pier is a lovely colour 

The tug was pretty impressive too and Graeme was impressed with the size of the engine. Pity we arent local as they are looking for people with boiler & steam experience to help restore it further, which he could and would like to do, but today got to enjoy it anyway.  The fishing ship was massive down inside the hull and nearly all the original wood etc inside has survived, mostly due to the salting process they carried out on the fish. There are massive 'knees' which are like bolts in the hull that have all survived throughout the sailing years too.
The paddle steamer had lots of old trucks and cars inside the hull which brought back memories of Great Grannies cars they had when we were kids in NZ and that lovely old leather & oil smell.

We wandered round town in the sunshine for a bit and looked through more of the shops. Fishermans Wharf is humming in the weekend! With so many languages being spoken in the street- its great.

At 3pm we left to walk down to Pier 33 where we are catching our ferry ride over to Alcatraz Prison, my choice for a great place to spend your birthday haha! Had a few anxious moments (for both of us) when I went off to the toilets and we somehow missed each other on the way back to the waiting point. I was standing there but Graeme had gone to sit down and couldnt see me. After about 15 mins and nearly boarding time, I starting to feel worried cos his 'germaness'! Never lets him be late!! Finally found each other after we both had scenarios running through our heads (mine is he has wandered off & been whacked on the head by someone cos he never disappears....his is Im stuck in the toilet!?!!!). Oh well......

Happiness restored we hopped on the ferry and across the San Francisco bay to Alcatraz. I had bought a behind the sccenes tour which includes the night tour as well. I had a look and they are currently booked until June 26th! So very popular and they only take a group of 33 through on these. It was really worthwhile as we got to go down under the prison common areas and see tunnels and names carved into the roof and walls, of the soldiers who were stationed there before it became a prison. There was even one inscription from an 'Albert Anderson from Melbourne Australia'.

The old laundry 

Down in the foundation tunels 

Albert Anderson from Melbourne- a solider in the garrison 

Ok give us the key! 

Then we went upstairs and looked at the cells and also D Block which housed the bad boy and isolation. The tour guide invited us all to be locked in one of the isolations cells for a bit. It wasnt too bad but the fact that they took the prisoners bed out each day and the left them to sit, stand and eat in the pure dark - apart from a crack of light around the door, must have been horrible. There was a fixed term of 19 days if you ended up in there.

We also saw the Birdmans cell - he was apparently noisy and a pain in the butt,  so he had 7 years in the very top, end cell on the 3rd floor.
The gardens have been kept in their original state 

The showers - bugger that!


The Birdmans cell for 7 years at top

Then we did the night audio tour which was great, it told you stories from the inmates and guards themselves and walked you through the areas they used. I think there were usually only about 250 inmates but they said the dining room was the most dangerous place cos of the cutlery and there were gas canisters hung up on the roof in there, in case of any trouble.

There was a photo of the last man to leave Alcatraz and the commentary said everyone else had somewhere to go or family to see, but he was scared as he had nothing and noone. Must look up what happened to him. All the men who were sentenced to Alcatraz were hardened criminals with real crimes behind them, not stealing a loaf of bread or a blanket to keep warm.

We finished the tour and caught the ferry back over the bay. This place is surreal the way the mist blows so fast you can see it moving, just like on the top of the rock of Gibraltor. The air was soo cold with the mist blowing, I loved it but even I had a lot of clothes on and was just warm enough!

Looking back at San Fran. Inmates said at new years, they could always hear the frivolity & music across the water 

We wandered through town on the walk back to the hotel after we had docked and stopped at Joes where we had lobster and crab the other night. Had a delcious bar meal of crab stuffed mushrooms, crumbed mozzarella sticks and Graeme had a burger. Celebrated my birthday with a pina colada or two (remind me not to have creamy drinks late at night next time = heartburn galore!)

Day 40 -

This morning we are renting pushbikes and cycling the Golden Gate Bridge. We walked round the corner to the Bike rental place and got our bikes. The cycling path begins on the beach and there were more and more people as we went along! Had a few pretty puffy hills at the start but once you get up near the bridge it levelled out,  although there was a really gusty headwind the whole way!@#!!

We stopped and took photos along with everyone else - not surprised when we found out the bridge is the 2nd most visited attraction in America :)
The bike took us about 1 1/2 hours then over the hill into Sausalito which was a really lovely little town. Would be worth staying there for a couple of days as its a quaint costal area.  Parked the bikes and went to have a very cold tall glass of beer- Noice!  Then back on the bikes and down the road to the jetty as there is a ferry that goes between Sausalito and Fisherman's Wharf in San Fran. The lines of bikes were massive! I tied my scarf around out two handlebars or we wouldn't have known which were ours as most people had hired their bikes from the same place as us.

Off the ferry back in town and we decided we had to go see Lombard St the famous one way crooked st. OMG pushing a bike up hills as steep as ladders made for very good exercise! The howling wind really wears you our too when you've been in it all day, but we got there fine.
Parked the bikes and walked up part of the street to take the touristy photos and talked to a nice local man, then we biked back to the Wharf. Graemes bike gears had been slipping quite bad and on the up-hills they kept doing it so he couldn't really ride. We got back to the hire place and sorted the bikes- the guy gave Graeme half price on his bike, which was good.

Wandered back to the hotel and had a quick lay down. I'm losing my voice after having my cold and being in the wind, sound funny haha.  Then we went downstairs to the restaurant and had the Argonauts award winning clam chowder, yummy.

At 7.30pm we went back up the road to the Segway place we booked into for a night tour on them. They gave us a run through. I thought I probably wouldn't be so good on them but the instructor said I was actually better than Graeme!!! The secret is to keep your hands very light on the handles, so women are probably better at that. They are So much fun and we hit the road as it is legal in san Francisco to ride segways on the road. It was freezing though so we were glad we had our puffer jackets.
The instructor took us all around the city and you can get a decent speed up on them. We went through Chinatown which used to have a 'murder alley' and it certainly was dodgy - we were told you don't wander round here unless you know it.

One thing that really stands out here is the amount of rubbish everywhere on the streets. We were told that all the homeless and Las Vegas and somewhere else were rounded up year ago and dropped over the border in San Francisco, hence why there are so many and the rubbish everywhere. There is also a terrible stink in the streets in some places like backed up sewer.

Spent 2 1/2 hrs 'segwaying' around! It was so cold and misty but we really enjoyed it. Back tot he hotel and fell into bed. We have 2 flights tomorrow to get home- have had such a good time though!

Monday, May 22, 2017

Days 37 & 38, 19-20 May. San Francisco

Day 37-
Spent most of the night awake as my cold bug kicked up a notch to match how my neck feels -haha. Felt so blah and as we didnt have any tea making facilities in the room so couldnt make hot drinks to help, bum. But when Graeme woke up in the morning, he got me to cuddle up and I crashed for a few hours.

We got up and went up the block to a starbucks cafe- a really flash one in a huge warehouse type building like our hotel. Had a yummy cereal, berries & greek yoghurt brekky and hot drinks then went to a store to buy some essentials, tea bags and cinnamon whiskey lol!!

Louis had told me about the famous sea lions at pier 39 on the wharf and we found them by the noise- they are great to watch, all basking out in the sun on pontoons and the antics they get up to!

Dropped that off then wandered all round fishermans wharf today on a gorgeous perfectly clear and sunny day. So lucky!!  It started to fill up with people and added to the atmosphere and there is so much to see & do here being right on the seafront.  We had a stop or two to quench our thirst with pina coladas & beer - as you do, then wandered round the shops again before going to the infamous Ciopinnos for dinner. Italian owned & operated, it has a plentiful menu - more clam chowder but in a bread bowl this time - so yummy and afforable here.
This glass sculpture was $40,000! 

Trail marker in the pavement 

Clam chowder in a bread bowl 
Day 38-
Slept way better last night and not feeling so crap today, but Graeme is trying to catch it now! So took our time then went to Starbucks again for breakfast as it is right across the road from the iconic cable  car we want to to take into the city. When we got there, 2 very unhelpful young workers said it was wasnt working today so we were talking to a couple from NZ & Australia when suddenly another worker came along and said they had decided to open the cable car now. So we all hopped on and luckily got the seats outside the sit sideways. Enjoyed the ride up and down all the streets- certainly is hilly on this side!

The mechanism of the iconic cable car

A funny looking NZ flag 

We hopped off at the end of the line just past Union Square and into a loud march for workers with placcards etc -thought we were back in Aussie for a min with union protests!!  We wandered around the area having a look and bought some gifts. There are a lot of beggars and homeless who are off their nuts over here on this side of San Fran . One lady told me she had come face to face with a young person injecting themselves with heroin in the street this morning? Pretty sad.

The queue for the cable car back to fishermans wharf was huge with over an hours wait and we werent fussy how we got back, so decided to go round the corner a bit and catch the trolley car - like an electric tram and it was one of the old authentic ones. It was getting pretty warm by then and the tram was getting full but there was a gap in the middle and we found out why. There was a young skinny looking homeless guy who had taken up 2 seats & the stink everyone could smell was coming from him.  Another passenger said he had crapped himself and it was all up the outside of his clothes. It was rank and then the driver just kept squeezing more and more people in. There were no opening windows and it must have got up to neary 45-50C in there. Everyones hair and faces were drenched in sweat, so you can imagine what it was like being stuck near the homeless guy. Graeme was almost gagging as well as sweating!!  Pretty freakin bad but there was a weird sense of comraderie with everyone, trying to breathe/not breathe while standing up for 40 mins in an airless tram!!!

We finally got to fishermans wharf again and straight into a pier 39 bar where we practically inhaled our pint of icy cold beer!! Thats was followed by a pina colada or two and by this time we had cooled down and stopped feeling nauseas lol!

Went back in the lovely sunshine, back to the argonaut hotel and had a lay down - zonk! Crashed for an hour. Not a good idea when its late in the afternoon, youve been drinking and havent had any food!!!  Mouths like  the bottom of a birdcage, we got up at 5pm, had showers then walked back along the seafront and found a lovely restaurant overlooking the bay and alcatraz, for dinner.
Pina colada & a lime martini! 

Restaurant overlooking Alcatraz & the Bay 

Our hotel at the far end 

I have been spoilt by all the lovely p.m's & messages on FB today, as it is my birthday in Aussie and NZ- so I am getting a 2 day milestone birthday with the split time  zones as tomorrow is my birthday here!! Noice, very noice!