Tuesday, 14 May 2013

San Francisco.

Craig Writes:
7/05/13 The drive to San Francisco was about five hours with another stop off at the Priest Station Cafe for a follow up lunch of bratwurst, sauerkraut, red cabbage and coffee to fuel us for the long drive. The windows were down for most of this leg.  It was a mostly uneventful drive made easy by a comfortable set of wheels and the prospect of new terrain and sites around every corner. Speaking of. About an hour out of San Francisco on the pot holed and patchy excuse of a road called highway 580, we turned a corner to see a couple of those huge wind turbines sitting high up on a hill. We've got a few of them back home in Australia so we were familiar with them. "Oh look, there's a couple more over there." They're a bit of a blight on the landscape but not as ugly as the gargantuan spindle legged power poles and their thick black looping webs of cable dipping their way across the countryside. Suddenly, there were more then more again then as we drove around a bend and over a hill there were hundreds and then thousands of them. We're like, "what the?".  It looked like some alien invasion, these things were scattered for miles. Imposing landlocked giants straining to break their bonds and fly way.

Silly us, we weren't to know we were looking at the largest wind turbine farm in the world.  The Altamont Pass Wind farm has approx 5000 wind turbines and pumps out nearly 600 megawatts of energy per year. Good to see alternative energy practices in play.
Good effort on the sustainability front California

We pulled into the drive of our new home for the next few days, The Nob Hill Motor Inn around 5.30pm. Some of the streets here are crazy steep and a bit hairy. It was getting late when we pulled up and a stiff wind was blowing off the Bay.

8/05/13 Today was definitely "be a tourist day", day. We walked to Fisherman's Wharf going down the "Crookedest  Street in the World", had Clam Chowder out of a sour dough roll at Boudins, took photos of the sea lions at Pier 39, took the ferry out to Alcatraz then stopped for a seafood pasta and crab cakes at Sabella & La Torre. 
Makes you wonder if a bunch of, noisy smelly homeless people decide to camp here what would happen
I know, it looks like a camel sneezed into a bun but it does taste better.
Alcatraz, holiday home for the seriously naughty.
Imagine having these guys as neighbours
You would have to seriously like your own company

One of the finds of the day was Musee Mecanique at Pier 45.  It's a big warehouse housing Ed Zelinsky's lifetime collection of mechanical musical instruments and antique arcade games. Anyone remember playing Pong.  The stuff in here would have been a walk down my Grandads memory lane. And unlike the rip off in todays arcades that hit you for two bucks and upwards, 25 cents a game is all you pay. Five dollars has never lasted so long.  It was a good day.

Awesome place
Anyone remember PONG?
I swear this guy kept lifting his elbow
8/05/13 We took a walk to Chinatown today for Dim Sum at the Four Seas Chinese Restaurant. 
Tasty Tasty Dim Sum at The Four Seas, Chinatown
The place was packed with Chinese. Chinese butchers and grocers and chinese jewellery shops. Chinese fruit venders talking to chinese customers. Colourful chinese lanterns hanging and swaying and chinese dragons looking fiercely at you at every turn. But somehow it just didn't seem chinese to me. Maybe because we've been through a fair bit of Asia, including China, and can compare but it seemed to me like a Hollywood China. Maybe the smell wasn't right or the the old chinese ladies handing out pamphlets on the side walk seemed out of place.  I can't really put my finger on it.  Having said that, the Dim Sum was top notch and really tasty.
Chinatown, had the look but not the feel
To work off too many servings off shrimp and pork dumplings we walked to Coit Tower. A 64 metre lookout tower in the Telegraph Hill area paid for and dedicated to the late Lillian Coit. A cigar smoking, gambling socialite of the 1900's with a taste for mens clothes and a penchant for chasing fires. Her dedication to all things pyro saw her adopted as the official mascot of the Knickerbocker Engine Company NO.5. 
It was one last stop to Fisherman's Wharf, back to the Musee Mecanique to throw another fiver at the machines and then onto Ghiradelli Square for obscene sundaes. Ladles of oozing dark chocolate fudge over boulders of choc chip espresso ice cream topped in a Himalayan peak of whipped cream. Too too much. 
When too much whipped cream is barely enough
Afterwards we move slowly towards the court yard not wanting to antagonise the gurgling contents of our stomachs. I found a bench seat in the court yard and sat to listen to a woman playing some cool flute jazz tunes.The shards off sunlight slipping through the clouds were helping ward off a chilly Bay breeze. We eventually made it back to Nob Hill and believe it or not, an hour later headed around the corner to Escape From New York Pizza for a few slices. I honestly don't know where we put it all. It must be all the walking.

11/05/13. We took the car over the Golden Gate Bridge and out past Sausalito to Stinson Beach. This bridge is so damn big it has it's own weather pattern. 
Apparently once a year the cloud lifts and you can actually get a picture
All around was blue skies but the bridge was shrouded in clouds. I know it's high at 227 metres but that's not exactly in the heavens. Why the mysterious mystery clouds? I think it's just trying to be special. Stinson is a lovely little town. Laid back beachy feel to it. A lot like our own Dunsborough in West Aussies south west region. 
Stinson Beach, great township, beautiful beach, even had a shark warning to make me feel at home
We then stopped off at Alamo Park for a look at the Painted Ladies. You remember The Alamo. The Painted Ladies are seven remarkable Victorian houses standing side by side and overlooking the city. They have been featured in the sit com Full House and an estimated 70 movies and commercials. 

The much filmed and photographed "Painted Ladies"

Plenty of beautiful buildings to look at

Some post modernism perhaps
Some very nice looking buildings but if you look around the other streets surrounding The Alamo you'll see some much grander and prettier buildings just not with the same outlook. 

12/05/13 Mother's Day and it's off to La Boulange for a tasty breakkie before  a casual stroll up to Grace Cathedral to walk the inside Labyrinth. 
Mothers Day at La Boulange
The inspiring Grace Cathedral
The pattern is the same design as the one in France's Chartres Cathedral which we have also walked in 2010. Not quite the same feel but Chartres is a thousand years older and there is something to be said for experience. Time to pack up and say goodbye to San Francisco. I feel like I've left something there but I'm not sure what. 

Callum Writes: 
As we walked into Think Out of the Box, a small, modern wooden puzzle shop, we were asked if we wanted to try some puzzles by a nice guy who worked there. I eagerly said "Yes please" and he ushered us to a small round table with intricate wooden puzzles laid upon it. I recognised a few puzzles as Magic Boxes where you need to open a secret draw and other ones on the shelves lined with puzzles ranging in difficultly. He showed us the first puzzle on the table, the easiest, and Mum, Charlie and myself, Dad was still in the Alcatraz gift shop, started on the first puzzle.
Think Out of the Box. Not the Spice & Tea Exchange. 
It was one of Magic Box puzzles and I managed take out the drawer that was well placed so you had to pull on two almost opposite sides to take it out. I waited until Mum opened it, then Charlie, to continue with the next challenge the Shop Assistant had for us. It was two wooden pieces that you needed to place together to make a triangular based pyramid. The problem was, each identical piece had a square on it, so you had to place them in such a way both square sides were hidden. I think I managed it without realising, then took it apart, so Mum ended up finishing this one first. I might of peeked at her finished product to then finish mine soon after. By that time Dad had wandered over to the puzzle shop where we watched him finish the first one, by then Charlie was shown by the Shop Assistant how to do the second puzzle, and Dad did what I did, made the pyramid without realising. Mum kindly pointed out to him that he had done it. The last puzzle on the wooden table was challenging. You were given two more of the pieces that you use to make the pyramid, and had to place them all in a small wooden box that had a lid with a square on it to make it more challenging. 
In the end when none of us could finish it he told us he didn't really like this puzzle because it was more of a gimmick than a puzzle. He  revealed that you had to loosely hold the wooden blocks, then drop them in the box and give it a bit of a shake so they fall into place. He saw we were enjoying the puzzles so he brought out another. It was two wooden, overlapping blocks that he said could be separated by just pulling one off the other after unlocking them. He also told us it can be done with one hand, and with it remaining on the table. I pulled it, twisted it, shook it and even pushed them together for some reason. Eventually I accidentally did it, I must have spun it at one point, because it was the spinning motion that made the wooden sticks that locked the pieces together separate so you can pull the blocks apart. As we walked further into the store, as we had only been at the display counter, I saw wire puzzles where you had to separate the two, three or sometimes four metal pieces. There were classic Rubix Cubes, simple two across Rubix cubes, more challenging four across cubes and even mind boggling five across cubes! And if you were planning on getting put in solitary confinement for a few years, almost impossible six across Rubix Cubes. At the back of the shop was something interesting. For three dollars a turn, or five bucks for three turns, you can play Mindball, a game where you have to strap headbands to your forehead that had small, metal sensors that measured your brainwave activity. You place a special ball in the center of a table, hit a button and think of nothing. The more calm your brain is, the further the ball rolls to your opponents side. I thought it was slightly rigged because whoever sat on the left hand side almost, always won. Mum was the best at it, and she thought that was pretty cool considering her mind was always busy remembering things for us. Her words, not mine. I reckon if it was the opposite, making your mind as active as possible I would be pretty good at it. After a bit more browsing at the many puzzles that lined the shelves we continued onwards to explore other exciting things. Mum had seen a mirror maze just a short walk down from the puzzle shop. We followed Mum  and when we reached the entrance and paid, we were handed gloves to go in. We all wondered why we needed them, but when we got the answer, "Fingerprints" I felt a bit silly for asking. 
When you enter the maze, it is a wow moment. Infinite, almost invisible, glass portals, stretching out every direction you look.  

A bit dark, but you get the idea.
The strobing lights don't help either. The only way to get around was trial and error. There were other people in the mirror maze so when I go to a point where my reflection was right in front of me, my brain left the building, I said "Excuse me" and tried to walk around my reflection. Not my finest moment. I then found a good way to get around was to not bump into anyone. Mostly myself. That seemed to work for not hitting mirrors, but I still couldn't find my way out. I saw an exit finally, and Mum, Dad and Charlie were there too! I walked as fast as I dared to in a mirror maze, the man at the front told us of stories of kids coming out its chipped teeth and black eyes. When I did find them, they didn't look proud I finally came out, because it was the start again. I asked them to help me through again, and Charlie raced in again, which didn't really help me but he liked it because it meant he got to go through again. Dad went after him to make sure he didn't hurt himself, so it was up to Mum and I to get through it. I think we got up to the same bit I had previously stuck at, and Mum started to use the keep left trick. She put her hand on the mirror, and we both managed to get through before Dad and Charlie. I must have just not seen the pathway that Mum discovered by keeping her hand on the mirrors. Which probably is not hard to do when your sense of perspective is left behind at the start and strobing lights are bouncing off mirrors into your face. It was all fun and next we were  off in search of another place to explore.

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