zondag 19 februari 2012

The best spent Saturday ever: guided San Francisco tour

I had a feeling today would be nice, but no idea today would be one of the best days of my life. I actually felt bad at a point for feeling so beyond happy, while there is so much misery in the world. It was just fantastic and kept getting better and better.

We were guided by Tom, a fantastic guy Robert got in contact with while preparing this trip. He works for the El Cerritto touristboard (thats across the Bay) and was so great to offer us a tour in San Francisco! We
met him in front of the hotel around 9.30. He took us downtown by trolleybus and showed us how the ticket system works. We got off in Chinatown, and walked around on the crowded sidewalks, with countless little grocerystores and other shops. Just like in Chinatown in New York, I felt happy and at home straight away.(as I used to do a lot of groceries in the China"town" in Amsterdam)

Tom, our guide, with Ottmar (left) and Baltasar.
"oohh, the bus!"

Robert in Chinatown
View on the PanAmerican tower from Chinatown.

We walked towards Union Square, in the warm sun, the weather was so great! Must have been around 18°C! Tom told us the good weather was very unusual for the time of year, we didnt mind! everywhere was just so much to see, for example those hysterical steep streets, I cant imagine riding my bike there, while even walking is hard :-) The cars all have to turn their wheels to the sidewalk when they park so they cant roll down.

Around Union Square were all those fancy shops but we just left them for what they were, had a coffee, and went to Market Street, where Tom took us inside the Westfield shoppingcentre, where we split up for half an hour and I used it for the search of the dried strawberries and banana mix I bought there when we were in San Francisco 4 years ago.
There was just only great food around!
"Peet" is my nickname!
another history lession from Tom!

Peter Sutter allready has a street named after him...

 After that we teamed up again and took the F-Line historic streetcar towards Fishermans Wharf. In the meantime, Tom kept entertaining us with great stories, history tales and lots of fun facts! Wow he knows a lot about local history, he was just a fantastic tourguide!
The F-line streetcar used historical trams from all over the world and we had one from Brooklyn, and behind us was one from Milan Italy, complete with Italian words on it.

Marketbuilding (?) and its pretty tower

The Queen Elizabeth was docked in the harbour, and when we got out of the streetcar, I wanted to check the "seals" and the others didnt mind so we looked where they were.
From a distance you could see them sunbathing near pier 39, and it was also clear it were no seals, but sealions. We walked over there to take a good look on them and they were just SO CUTE!!! They were sunbathing next to eachother and leaning on eachother and barking at eachother and just being lazy.

Around that time, it was really way too hot for my jacket and I had to take it off. It was just extremely weird to walk around in the hot sun as I walked around in the snow less then 48 hrs ago!  But never mind!!
Clam Chowder in a sauerdough breadbowl...

...enjoyed in the warm February sun :-D
...on Fisherman's Wharf!

Tom took us to lunch at the famous Boudin Sourdough bakery and the soup in bread bowls got my attention, so I got Clam Chowder (a first too). That was a funny meal at least :-)

we slowly walked back to the hotel, its a bit hard to keep a group together but we havent lost someone yet. Its also a bit hard to speak 3 languages in one group (German to the others, Dutch to Robert, English to Tom) esp when you have jetlag :-D
We all enjoyed the tour throught the city, and were ready for the second part of the day; the trip over The Bridge.

When we were in SF 4 years ago, we arrived crossing the giantic Bay Bridge across the Bay, a stunning 13 km long steel monstreous and cool bridge and after that I allways lost my interest in the Golden Gate Bridge a bit.
Small bridge that happens to be red. Meh.
("and why is it called GOLDEN Gate Bridge when its red? Should be Red Gate Bridge!" << just kidding!!)
We took our cars and followed Tom across the Marina along the water, soooo pretty, towards the bridge. It was very crowed as everyone was enjoying their saturday in the sun.
Just when we got on the bridge, seeing it from THAT close, it all of a sudden hit me: I was in SAN FRANCISCO, = CREEDENCE COUNTRY.  Again!!
I got a bit emotional about that but at least I wasnt the first one this trip haha.
you cant even cry without getting noticed with a group of 12, sheesh ;-)

Impossible to take pictures when you're driving ON it, but we drove to a look out point where we could take nice pics and had a stunning view on the City, and Tom gathered us around for great information once more!

It was a bit hard to get us away from there for him, and he went "how many million more pictures do you wanna take!!" hahaha Tom, you dont know who you're dealing with!!
The Golden Gate Bridge (Golden Gate is the name of the water it is crossing) connects SF with Marin County (first city: Sausalito) > there is also a town called STRAWBERRY there!!!!
and theres a national park there, that consists of beautifull green hills. We drove up the hills more, and with every turn of the road, the view got, well, not "better", but, more beyond believe. Everyone in our car started screaming louder with every turn, in the end we were just screaming at eachother and Tom in front of us finally let us park :-D

No matter how many of the thousant pictures we took all together we will post, it wont do the view justice. It was breathtaking, spectacular, unbelievable, and a lot of other things I dont know the English words for.
Tom had to be home at 5 so he left us there, aww :-( We might see him later again this week though.
I cant imagine who wants to ride a bike down a 18% hill

When he left, we decided to climb up the hill behind us, and some of us choose an annoying little steep dirt path.

I didnt really trust it, and should have known better, so when I climbed up 5 meter I was stuck and couldnt move anymore. Next to me was a girl in the same situation and she was escorted down by her husband, I threw them some looks but they just left me there aaaaargh so I yelled for Martina who was allmost on top, to get Robert, who had to come down to rescue me, in the meantime, I was holding a small grass bush :-D and when Robert was there he guided me down. and we walked uphill a bit further on a path of wooden steps.
Over the tops of the GG bridge is downtown Oakland

On the top of the hill we had a stunning view on the Bay Area on one side, and a stunning view of the sun slowly setting in the Atlantic Ocean, with golden (sorry) light on the hills and coastal line, and waves splashing to the shore. It was remarkable quiet up there, though we were not the only ones.

checking one of the 12gazillion pictures we took

we were just hanging out there, reviewing the great day, looking around in awe, having laughs (at one point Baltasar and Pete allmost fell in the dirt laughing, they couldnt get up anymore) and taking weird pics of eachother. Uwe had a great idea, and took a picture of the couples in the group kissing in the evening sun (you have to see it, turn out GREAT) in a way you only see the silhouettes and the sun. On one of the pics of Robert and me, I was going "duckface" LOL and he said I looked like a "trumpetfish" what cracked everyone up. Thanks!! (tooooot)
the Queen Elizabeth was docked in the harbour

I just couldnt stop staring at the view

Allthough no one wanted to face that the day was coming to an end, it was. It was getting dark quick after the sunset and we walked back to our cars. We were all happy and gratefull for the day we had, and the trip we were part of. As we walked down, the lights of the city, the bridge and the bay were lit and as it was getting darker, we started making pictures again and every pic was prettier because of the darker evening, so it took quite a time for us to finally get back in the car.

We went back to the hotel, the others went to eat together but Robert and I wanted some allone-time, what I translated in "sitting at the beach in front of Ghirardelli's"
We thought of getting a light snack for dinner at Trader Joe's first, walked there, bought half the shop cos we were very hunrgy by then :-D We walked back via Beach street, because the further you get to the water, the less you have to climb. Unfortunately, we saw a big souvenirshop and went in. Bad idea! We stayed for at least an hour, buying postcards and going through numberplates... when we finally left, we couldnt walk straight anymore! Also, it was getting chilly, and the romantic night at the beach didnt seem like such a good idea anymore, so we stumbled back to the hotel.
pretty stairs on our way back.

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