Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Rest of April, 2010

No other big trips happened in April. Just a few little day things and evenings out. I'll mention some of the highlights.

They are filming a series in Vancouver now called the Fringe. It used to be filmed in New York. It's very exciting walking down the street and all of a sudden being in the middle of a movie set. Tonight it was set up like there had been an explosion in the street. All the main actors were there including Joshua Jackson and Leonard Nimoy (AKA Spock), we managed to get a couple of photos and videos from a far. Still exciting.

Wednesday 14th April was a beautiful day in Vancouver.
I met up with Sharon from work for brunch at a nice place on the waterfront called Bojangles. They do nice comfort food. It was still a bit cool but we were able to sit outside in the sun. After this we went for a walk around the waterfront. Sharon had a few things to do that afternoon so I met up with Andrea and we continued the walk around Stanley Park. Over all we walked about 15-20 km's. It's so easy to just walk in this city and end up walking over 10 km's each time. We had some nice afternoon soup and scone then headed home. A nice relaxing day.

The following Sunday we headed around to Andrea's house for a Wine and Cheese evening. We all paid a little bit more to buy the cheese. We had all sorts of different crackers and breads to go with it. For a change I actually enjoyed the cheese, I think it had something to do with being more expensive and not being from Canada. We had another great evening with friends.

Monday was another beautiful day in Vancouver. It was a friends birthday so we headed out for the day. Lauren, Lynne and I went for a walk to Lighthouse Park. I think we stopped to sunbathe, eat and enjoy the view more than we actually walked, oh well we still got some exercise. We had packed a picnic lunch so sat on the rocks and ate this. I love the fact you can just go somewhere this beautiful on a public bus, and you get to see birds of prey just fly right by. After our walk we headed back to the town. We caught the bus to Granville Island and sat down to have some fish n chips before Lynne had to head off to work. It was a nice day and afternoon.

Sunday 25th I took Cam on a surprise trip to Bowen Island. Well it was mostly a surprise however once we got on the bus he kind of knew where we were going as the bus only goes to one place. Bowen Island is a 15 min ferry ride from West Vancouver. It's a small island with cafes, gift shops, restaurants, bars and lots of hiking trails. We went over for the day. It happened to be another really nice day. Once we arrived on the Island we went searching for the information centre to get a map of the place. It wasn't open but we managed to find a map anyway. We decided to go for a walk around the lake. This walk took about and hour to an hour and a half. The path was a bit boggy at times as it's still quite cold at this time, and has been raining. We weren't quite prepared for this but we carried on anyway. It was a nice quite walk with not many other people on the path.

After our walk it was lunch time. We went to a place that had been recommended to us for their fish and chips. We found a nice spot out on the deck in the sun and looked out over the water.
Once we finished lunch we had a walk around the shops looking for some gifts. We were successful and purchased a few items. I love walking around these small places you get to look at things that are made within the area and you don't usually find in just any store. You can find some real bargains. We had spent several hours here now and didn't really have much else to do except buy and ice cream and wait for the ferry. Turns out the $13 we paid for the ferry covers the trip back as well. Overall a really nice day which turned out to be quite cheap also.

Wednesday 28th was a very exciting day. The day of my next trip back to New Zealand. I went out for brunch with Lynne and Lauren from work before heading home to finish packing and headed to the airport.

Monday, 5 April 2010

Easter Weekend in San Francisco, 2nd-5th April 2010

This weekend we were off to San Francisco for Easter Weekend. We arrived bright and early at the airport for our flight to find that it had been delayed by a couple of hours. We thought the culprit must have been fog however turns out it was wind. This was not going to dampen our day though, we jumped on the plane at about 10am. Turns out we were wrong, it did dampen our day, well that didn't but the rain sure did.

We arrived in San Fran and got the train to the city centre where our hotel was. It was pouring down at this stage. Lucky we had our umbrellas, Vancouver has trained us well. We checked our bags in at the hotel and decided to head out for some lunch and a wander around. We went to a pub/restaurant and had some lunch. After this we walked down through the city, admiring the cable cars, to the ferry building. It was a very beautiful building which was built in 1898. It was one of the main focal points for travellers coming to the city by train. From the Gold Rush to the 1930's this was the only way commuters and travellers could reach the city, via ferry boat. Now days it's main attraction is a peoples marketplace full of different stalls. Anyway enough about umbrellas I'm sure that's not what you came here to read.

We decided to brave the weather and headed for a walk along the waterfront down towards Pier 39. Pier 39 is well, a Pier, but not just any Pier, this pier features several waterfront attractions such as restaurants, rides, live entertainment, shopping and sea lions. On our walk here which was further than I imagined we tried to spot Alcatraz, this proved quite difficult, not only could we not see it because of the rain and the fog, we couldn't see while we were trying to tame our umbrellas. It was one of those days where it was pouring down and then the wind couldn't decide which way it wanted to blow. Lets face it we may as well just have thrown the umbrellas away with all the fighting that went on between us (the umbrella and I, I mean).

We walked around the pier, unfortunately we couldn't see Alcatraz
or the Golden Gate Bridge so we decided to settle for the sea lions for a while. Weird to see nearly 50 sea lions just sitting up on the docks. We were getting fed up with the rain so decided to take a toilet break. Now I know San Francisco is known for it's changeable weather but I wasn't quite expecting this. After 2 minutes of being inside I walked out to find I was in a completely different city!! The sun was out, there was blue sky and the clouds were almost gone. We could now see the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz, not that I'm complaining. It was just weird.

We headed back to the waterfront for some photo
ops and a proper look around the Pier without having to fight the weather. It's really quite a beautiful location and scene.
After the worlds worst coffee or warm milk depending on your point of view we headed back towards the city. We walked around union square for a while and found somewhere to eat for dinner. A nice little pub/restaurant right in the city. We'd had a long day so far and had to get up early the next morning so headed back to the hotel for the night.

Saturday was probably one of the best days I have ever had. The day was absolutely stunning and I can see why everyone loves this city. There is just such a nice vibe to the city, I think it helps being on the waterfront. This morning we caught a bus to Pier 33 to
catch our boat over to Alcatraz. Now if anyone goes to San Fran this is a must see, probably one of the best attractions I have ever been to. I would recommend catching the early bird boat over in the morning as you get to beat the crowds this way. It was a little cool on the boat, but the day was perfect for a great view of the city and surroundings. After our boat across we were "Welcomed to Alcatraz". After a brief introduction to the place we were on our own to tour around. We went to watch a quick video about the Island before heading inside for the tour. Once inside you get your own headset (which is free, I might add), it's such a great idea, as you walk around there is a narrative about the prison, talking to you about different people that stayed there and differet tales about the prison. The story is told by prison guards and inmates. This was very interesting. You could even pause the story along the way which is great for someone like me that likes to read everything (so I'm told anyway).

Such nice views back to the city from here, they says that inmates either loved this fact or hated it. Some loved having the view and some hated the fact they could see what they were missing out on. We had finished the tour inside so headed for a walk around the outside of the building, trying to see where they did filming for The rock. We found a few spots that we think were in the movie. After more photos we headed back to the boat. You need a decent amount of time here, we spent three and a half hours.

Once back at the mainland it was time to find the Cable cars. No visit to San Fran is a visit without these!! We tried to get on theF line, this is where you can catch one of the many historic vintage streetcars. Now streetcars do differ from Cable cars,
instead of using a mechanical cable streetcars are propelled by on-board electric motors which require a trolley pole to draw power from an overhead wire. Turns out we couldn't get on as they were so full, it appears everyone had the same idea that we had today. We decided it was a nice day for a walk anyway. We arrived at the Powell-Hyde Cable car to find a huge queue, we decided we would take our place in the line as we figured it would be like this again other days. Not a bad location to wait with beautiful views out to sea and to the Golden gate bridge. The wait wasn't as long as expected and after about half an hour we were on the Cable car. Now words can't describe just how fun this experience is, hanging off the side while you go up and down streets, people jumping on and off and the crazy driver. Just awesome!! We were going to get off at Lombard street (America's crookedest street) but decided we would never get back on, so took this right into the city.

It was getting close to dinner time, we had been recommended an Italian restaurant in Little Italy, San Fran. We jumped on a Cable car to take us as close as we could get to the restaurant, just because we could, don't think I would ever get sick of them. The restaurant was called The Stinking Rose, I believe because of all the garlic they use, pretty much everything had garlic in it, on it or around it.
It was a very interesting restaurant and I think it's fair to say we both really enjoyed it. Everywhere you looked there was another little room off the side which had tables in it, was like a rabbit warren. After eating it was time for another recommendation. We went to a bar called Saloon, I'm sure the owner was about as old as the building, well sure looked it anyway. Now I'm sure I asked for vodka and something else in it, but pretty sure it was just straight vodka. So cheap as well, its fair to say after a few I was really feeling it. Was a nice little place and what more could you ask for with cheap drinks and live music. We walked back to our hotel through the city, wow what an amazing day :)

Sunday was a horrible day weather wise, it was cold and very wet. We couldn't let this stop us though as we only had limited time here. We decided something in doors would be the best. We jumped on a public bus and headed towards the California academy of sciences. Turns out the bus to take us there went right up to the Golden Gate bridge.
We jumped off the bus in the rain to get some pictures, we though while we were out this way we may as well. It was a bit miserable so we headed to some shelter to wait on the next bus. Once at the academy we decided perhaps today wasn't the best day to come, it was pretty busy. I think once again everyone had the same idea that we had. The academy was alright, nothing too spectacular but a good way to fill in the time. They did have a pretty cool rain forest even for someone like me that doesn't like birds and things that fly around. There were some big moths and butterflies, lucky I had someone with me that I could hide behind. Once we had, had enough of reading and walking around we left.

We had been told about a Chocolate shop that was a must visit in San Fran called Ghirardelli Chocolate. It's all around the United States but is in Ghirardelli Square in San Fran which has become an official city landmark since 1965. We made our way here on the bus.
It was still poring down and cold so was nice to get inside a warm building, with lots of Chocolate and Ice Cream. The place was really busy, we had to order then hang around near tables waiting for somewhere to sit. We were so cold to begin with we had to have a hot chocolate, European style. We finally found a seat and waited for our drink. While waiting we looked around at all the beautiful desserts that were coming out, turned out this was a bad thing. After our drink we decided to get an ice cream as well, so naughty but so nice!! There were so many amazing choices I think we would have been happy with anything.

We thought the cable car on a day like today would be a good option. Thought the queues wouldn't be very long, turns out we were right and wrong at the same time. The queue wasn't as long but it was still a considerable wait so we decided to go to the streetcar for our ride back. We had to wait a bit but it was worth it. It's fun getting on all this old style transport. Once back in town we headed back to the hotel to change and head out for dinner. After walking around for a bit we settled on a Chinese restaurant, then went back to the hotel after dinner. We were both stuffed after our long day.

Monday was our last day in San Fran, very sad, I could have spent so much longer here. Think we'll have to head back some time. We left our bags at the hotel and headed to the pick up point for our movie tour. This was great fun, you travel around the city in a small shuttle looking at places where movies have been filmed.
There is a guide who is an actor in San Fran. Inside the shuttle there is a TV and as you go along looking at places they show the part of the movie on the TV that corresponds to that setting. Along with this the guide gives you information about the movie and how they film some of the scenes. It was very interesting for movie fans like us.

Some famous scenes were: the building where Will Smith works in Pursuit of Happiness, the street where Robin Williams walks across and gets his purse stolen in Mrs Doubtfire, some Dirty Harry scenes, and where the cable car roles down the hill in The Rock. We got to visit the park at the start of full house, Mrs Doubtfire's house, the house in Princess diary and we saw where Sean Connery meets his daughter in The Rock. Of course we also went to the Golden Gate Bridge where many films have been done one example being Vertigo. I would recommend this tour if your ever in San Fran. It happened to beautiful day so we got some real nice photos by Golden Gate Bridge which worked out well.

After the tour had finished we walked around Pier 39 briefly before heading to the hotel to pick up our bags and then to the airport for our flight home.

What an amazing trip in an amazing city!! Cam and I absolutely loved it here, would love to go back for some more fun. Definitely a city I would recommend to visit if you are ever in the States. I hear the best time to go is August/September for the nicest weather and April for the least fog.