US Trip Nov 2012
30 Oct 2012
Our flight from Nelson to Auckland wasn’t until 3pm, I had debated about going into work in the morning, but then thought what the heck I am on HOLIDAY, let’s make the most of it. DH and I did some last minute grocery shopping for the cats we were leaving behind. We were also leaving my Mum behind (she has lived with us for the last 7 years, and has Alzheimers). Up to now the longest we had been away since she had come to stay was about a week. We had a three or four caregivers coming in to look after her and the three cats for the 30 days we were going to be away.
The flight to Auckland was uneventful it takes just over an hour from Nelson. We arrived just after 5pm and our plane to San Francisco was leaving at 7.30pm. The international terminal in Auckland is about 10 minutes walking distance away, or there is a free shuttle bus that goes by every 15 minutes. We opted to walk; we only had our carry-on as the checked luggage had been checked through to SFO from Nelson. It only took ten minutes to get through security hardly anyone in the queue. Tuesday must be a slow night. The buzzer went off as I went through the scanner, so I got wanded (is that a word?). Turned out I had a metal button on my jeans that set it off.
We boarded at 6.30pm so didn’t have long to wait. However we were counting down the hours once we were in the air, eleven and a half hours is a long time to be sitting in a seat, with not much legroom. We were lucky as there were only the two of us in the four row middle section, so could spread our a bit. I did try sleeping across two seats but that was just as uncomfortable as trying to sleep sitting up. Do you know when you are watching the air map showing where you are it seems to take forever to go the 10,000 kilometres!! After watching a movie or two, dozing in fits and starts, it was finally 6.30am and time for breakfast. After watching another movie we landed in San Francisco at 11.30am, seemed to taxi for ages before we got to a terminal. It’s amazing to think we left New Zealand at 7.30pm on the 30th October and arrived at 11.30am on the same day.
San Francisco. Day 1
Here is a tip. Even if you need to go to the restroom desperately, when you finally get into the terminal, don’t. You need to go as fast as possible without stopping to get into the immigration queue before the rest of the passengers, especially if there is more than one plane arriving at the same time. Get your place in the queue and then go. I decided I needed to stop, and when we got to immigration the queue was very long. There were about 4 long zig, zags, and it was taking 25 minutes to move into the next zig, or zag!!. The passengers who had US passports were going through very fast, and eventually these lanes were opened up to us non-residents also. Things started to move more quickly then, and we didn’t have the eye scan or the fingerprints taken either. We were told though that this was an exception and would happen next time we came in. The immigration officer was very nice and polite, and welcomed us to the US. At 1.30pm we were finally through, we were tired and hungry and just wanted to get to our hotel. We had thought about taking a shuttle, earlier but flagged that idea and took a cab instead. Cost about $ 50.00 to get to our hotel the Coventry Motor Inn in Lombard Street.
I was a bit disappointed in the Coventry Motor Inn but it was my fault. On a Trip Advisor review a few months ago I had read that you could get a view of the Golden Gate bridge from some of the rooms. Someone had said they got a great view of the 4th July fireworks. I wrote about this on Fodors and was told that there is no way you would be able to see the bridge from any of the rooms. I e-mailed the Coventry and asked it we could have a room with the view of the bridge. They did exactly as I asked, and gave us a corner room overlooking Lombard St, but with a great view of the bridge. We were on the third floor. We loved waking up and looking out the window to see the Golden Gate bridge each day. Normally a clear view in the morning, but one day was completely fogged in by mid afternoon. The downside of having this room., was it was very noisy, we were woken up early both days, with the garbage collectors, and also sirens etc from the traffic. We had stayed in the Columbus Motor Inn on a previous trip and I think I prefer that one to the Coventry as far as noise goes. However the Coventry was close to some great shopping and restaurants on Union St., and once we worked out where to catch the bus, location wasn’t a problem.
The room we had was large, it was clean, we ordered a refrigerator for three days at a cost of $ 5 per day and it had free Wi-fi. The only complaint was the noise.
The weather was perfect in San Francisco while we there. I wasn’t sure what to pack, as we were going to New Orleans, and New York City on this trip so needed both summer and winter clothes. I ended up wearing the summer T’s and capri’s I had packed for the New Orleans temperatures in San Francisco. This meant we had to do a Laundromat trip as soon as we got to New Orleans. Fortunately there was a laundry in the hotel.
After we had settled in to our room, we needed to find somewhere to get something to eat. It had been a good few hours since breakfast. I had done a bit of research and knew there were shops on Chestnut Ave, a block over from Lombard St. The first place we saw was a Starbucks (yes I know there are much better places but we were hungry). We got two hot teas, and two scones, (pronounced like long), but the server said two scones (pronounced like moans). Warren spied an Apple shop over the road, and was in heaven. No Apple shops in Nelson, closest one in Wellington where our son lives. He left me drinking the very hot tea and went for a visit. He had tried to check our e-mails when we got to the hotel and the mouse pad on the lap-top didn’t seem to be working. He decided he needed to get a mouse. When we got back to the hotel the mouse didn’t work either. He finally figured out that this fault had happened before and by undoing the back and taking the battery out, and putting it back in solved the problem.
We walked along Chestnut Street for a bit but were both very tired so made our way back to the hotel for a rest. Around 5.30pm we decided to have a look at Union St and find somewhere for dinner. This was just a block away in the other direction from Chestnut St. A lot of the shops had Halloween window displays which we loved. Took quite a few photos, as Halloween is not that big a deal in New Zealand. A lot of houses had their steps and porches decorated also. We found a lovely French restaurant close by, called Café Des Amis where we had dinner. Great food and five minutes walk from the hotel. We went to bed very early to try and catch up on some sleep, but got woken up very early.
San Francisco Day 2.
The first thing we needed to do was to to figure out how to get the 3 day Muni pass which is the most cost effective way of getting around San Francisco. It costs $ 21.00 each and gives you unlimited travel on the buses, streetcars and cable car. Seeing the cost of a cable car trip was $ 5.00 normally, it was the way to go. After googling to find the closest place to our hotel we worked out how far we had to walk. The nearest place seemed to be Polk Street. This was the same street that our Fodors GTG was going to be tonight so we checked out where the Lemongrass Thai Restaurant was at the same time. It was a steep walk to Polk Street but the views were great. We took photos of the houses on the way. By the time we got the Muni pass it was getting on in the morning and I wanted to go and see Golden Gate Park.
We caught a bus in Chestnut St which took us to the Park via the Golden Gate bridge. Unfortunately we ended up getting off at the wrong stop at the other side of the park. Instead of following the directions I had researched I listened to a man on the bus giving directions to other tourists. They got off there so we did too. I think they were going someplace else. We were looking rather lost with a map in out hands, when a very helpful man told us which direction to go and how to get to the Japanese Tea Garden. I knew there was a free walking tour there at 1pm and thought we would miss it. We wandered our way through the park, came to Stowe lake where the paddle boats were, but it is the off-season and a weekday so there was no-one around. We found the path to the Tea Garden and arrived just on 1pm. There was a tour guide waiting there, and was just about to leave when we turned up. We were the only ones on the tour, and learned a lot about the history of the place. We thoroughly enjoyed the tour.
We went to the De Young cafe for lunch, had a massive turkey sandwich, which we shared. We didn’t go into the museum. We caught another bus to downtown but had forgotten about the Giants Parade. We were going against the flow of people as hundreds/thousands were making their way home. It was very busy, but fun to be amongst it all.
We were meeting some Fodorites tonight for dinner, originally we were going to go to Oakland but the restaurant that Thereyet had chosen was closed for Halloween. Dayenu suggested the Lemongrass Thai restaurant in Polk St, which wasn’t too far from us. Aparnz had offered to pick us up but we decided to walk. Thereyet and Artsnletters were also there. A fun evening, with great company. Thereyet gave us Obama buttons and had managed to find one for Dayenu that was in Hebrew. Thereyet and Aparnz did a great job of selecting the food choices. It was raining by the time we finished so Aparnz drove both Dayenu and us back to the hotel.
San Francisco Day 3.
This was our last day in San Francisco. We had done most of the touristy things on our previous trip 5 years ago so were happy just walking around, and had nothing specific planned, although we did want to have a look at the marina and Fort Mason.
Warren had been trying to download the free Fodors apps but because we lived in NZ wasn’t having any luck. He decided to go visit the Apple shop again and see if they could help. He arrived at 9.45am but the doors were locked and a queue was forming up outside. The shop opened at 10am. Once inside he waited ten minutes but no one served him so he gave up and we decided to walk to the Marina. We walked through Fort Mason, over the hill to Fisherman’s Wharf. Went to the Ghirardelli chocolate shop and bought some Halloween chocolates for the grandchildren that were now half price. They had soft toys attached to them. Also bought some for us that were in a San Francisco cable car tin. They didn’t last long. We came across a genuine replica (an oxymoron) American diner called Lori’s where we decided to have brunch. We were only having two meals most days as the hotel wasn’t doing free breakfasts. Enjoyed Lori’s although the bacon was a bit crispy, difficult to cut with plastic knives!!!
We then joined the queue to catch the cable car. Had done them before but couldn’t not do it again. Waited for about 20 minutes or so. Loved going up hill in the cable car, we managed to sit on the outside although it was a bit of a squash. I wasn’t brave enough to stand on the outside. We got off at Union Square, and had a look at some of the shops. We each had a huge ice-cream at Ghirardelli’s in Unions Square. It was in a food court not sure of the name of the place we were in.
Tried catching a bus home later, but got the wrong one and ended up at the Castro. We didn’t really look around; we needed to get back to the hotel as we were going to Beach Blanket Babylon that night. We eventually made it home but for a long time weren’t sure if the bus was going in the right direction. We did have to change buses, but the driver was very helpful and told us where to change. As we had been walking so much I think I strained a muscle in my foot and it was getting very painful. Not a good start for the next few weeks.
Warren walked down to a pizza place and got a pizza for dinner, it was about twice the size you get in New Zealand for half the price. We worked out the best way to get to Beach Blanket Babylon, and fortunately one of the buses on Chestnut Street went close to Green St. We loved Beach Blanket Babylon. The costumes were outrageous, but it was very funny, and very topical. As Warren said it reminded him of one of the local school productions where they change the words to songs to fit the situation.
We had, had an e-mail the day before to say our flight to New Orleans had changed from 1.30pm to 4pm, so now had most of Friday for sight-seeing also. Our daughter Adrienne has a good friend in San Francisco and we had arranged to meet her and her husband for brunch at Dotties’s at 9.30am. They would stand in the queue from 9am and we would meet them there. We were actually about 10 minutes late by the time we worked out which bus to take, but they were at the entrance just as we got there. As we were 4 people we had to wait a bit longer, the people behind us who were a couple got in before us. We had a huge brunch, and very nice too, and it was great to catch up with Adrienne’s friend. After that we took the F street car, to the Ferry building, and the Embarcardero. We had ordered a shuttle from the hotel for 1.30pm as our flight was at 4pm so eventually made our way back there to get our bags. There was no problem leaving them there when we checked out at 9am. The shuttle fare was $ 16.00 each, which is markedly cheaper than taking a taxi. We did have to pick up another couple of people on the way.
We had no problems checking in, although we did have to ask someone how to print off our boarding passes. We had tried from the hotel but wouldn’t let us. Just as it got to boarding time we were told there was a mechanical problem with the plane, they were trying to fix it and we would be updated at 4.30pm. We were told the same thing at 4.30pm and would update again at 5pm. At 5pm we were told they were bringing in another plane but would have to shift to another gate. There was a mad rush as passengers took off for the other end of the terminal. When we got there we were told there was a problem with the replacement plane and another one would have to be brought in. There were some unhappy passengers by this stage. Warren and I weren’t particularly happy either as we were not sitting together. Apparently this is common on US planes, we found it very strange. We tried to get it changed but no luck. Others were trying to change too.
We finally left just after 7pm and arrived in New Orleans at 1.30am.
To be continued.
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Our 30 day trip to the US. Part 1 San Francisco. (LONG).
US Trip Nov 2012