2009 Nov 14 | San Francisco with Jeannie

Pretty much every single row gets the window and aisle seats filled before anyone will even touch a dreaded middle seat.

It's always good to have your own plane snacks.

I think this is the US-Mexico border.

A dramatic end to the urban area.

We rented a Dodge Charger, which was the regular full-sized car and only a few dollars more per day than the cheapest rental of a really small vehicle.

I was a bit worried I wouldn't be able to figure out how they key worked.

Hmm... gonna have to adjust the steering wheel.

They were doing construction at the exact same place on this building over two years ago. And I thought road construction went slowly.

First San Francisco food stop after vising the old office: Boudin.

This beggar is still around, although he's in a different spot. I didn't see the other 3-4 beggars I remember, though, so maybe they chased them off.

Exact same workers at the McDonald's.

That's scary - gonna be careful going over the bridge.

The McDonald's has the best pictures of San Francisco I've ever seen.

After a few quick stops in San Francisco, we headed to Berkeley. You don't see clothing like this in the thrift stores in Texas.

That's actually rather art-like.

Yeah, pretty sure I'm not taking that route. Every yellow diamond is a turn.

View of the San Francisco bay from the Berkeley Hills.

From a slightly different location.

Jeannie trying to get a perfect shot.

She wanted to hit a bar in Berkeley, but I pretty much never drank there at all, so I couldn't think of any. We were driving down Shattuck and I saw the Starry Plough and remembered some of my roommates liked it, so we stopped there.

Ooh, there's a light in the cup holder of the Charger. Neat.

We stayed with some of Jeannie's relatives. The last time she visited them they were in a small apartment, so we were basically prepared to sleep on the floor. Since then they had moved into a beautiful house and had this huge guest room, which was certainly a nice surprise.

They lived right next to Golfland, although we didn't have time to go there.

On Tuesday we went up to the Napa valley to visit some wineries. This ended up being a wrong turn, but it was still a neat little bridge.

The first winery was Castello di Amorosa, which was basically a castle build to resember the castles in Europe.

A chapel.

The courtyard.

The bricks were hand-cut.

The style on the left was modeled after a time of peace, with nice even bricks that took time to make. The one on the right was during war, where they hobbled together anything that worked.

Bricked-up windows and doors to avoid taxes on them.

The great hall.

A balcony.

Pretty view.

Where they actually process some of the wine.

Ooh, even the torches look authentic.

Down in the caves.

An armory.

A little pit.

The torture room.

A quick stop for a tasting.

The acoustics in this room were really neat.

If you stood at the corner of one of the pillars and whispered, someone at the opposite pillar could hear you.

And if you stood right under a chandalier, anything you said would reverberate and echo really loudly.

Tasting a variety of wines at the end of the tour.

We only agreed on a few wines. I like them a lot sweeter.

Jeannie with her basket of wine.

The second winery we went to was Clos Pegase, which had lots of modern art sculptures.

Even the main building looked neat.

A view from the inside.

Our guide pointing out some grapes.

I had no idea this was supposed to be a person until he pointed it out.

There were lots of sculptures semi-hidden at the ends and corners of the caves, and this was one of the more famous ones.

She's hiding the wine glass so he can't drink any more.

A stage where they can hold private performances.

They actually had two slightly different labels of the same piece of art. The first one was censored whereas the second one was not.

Our third winery was Sterling, which had these little gondolas.

Nice view.

Their balcony was beautiful.

And also had an amazing view.

On Wednesday we went to San Francisco. Driving down Lombard Street.

A walking tour of the Golden Gate Bridge.

The tour guide went a little slow for us, though, so we went off on our own.

Alcatraz and San Francisco from the bridge.

You always had to keep an eye out for bicyclists.

A crisis phone for potential jumpers. Although they were spaced so far apart I'm not sure if they would do any good.

I wonder who uses the little gates to go out into traffic.

Ooh, look, a door to one of the towers is open. I wonder if we can sneak inside and go up to the top?

Aw, since all the workers are standing right here, probably not.

You also had to watch out for the little cart things the workers drove.

Someone going up high.

I think I'd use a sprayer, not a paintbrush.

The cute little Go Cars.

The tour guide said it would take one hour and 45 minutes. Even after we left the group and took off early, we still didn't make it back in time for the 2-hour meter, although thankfully no meter cops had been by.

Jeannie wanted to stop by the O'Farrell Theatre. Which I thought was an actual theater, so I was looking around for one of those, not a strip joint. She just wanted to see the outside, though, not actually go in.

My favorite map of San Francisco, a freebie from the Tourist Info store.

The Burger King downtown, which also apparently will exchange Euros.

A group of crazy people who hang out in this corner of the Burger King.

Right outside was a trolley stop with a few trolleys backed up. People would hop on and take their picture before being shooed away by the trolley workers so they didn't have to actually pay to ride them.

Union Square.

A photo of an aerial photo of San Francisco a street vender was selling, which really confused Jeannie when she was looking through my pictures.

These lions in Chinatown had signs that said "Please do not sit," which was disappointing because I had seen the lions in the distance and my first thought was, "I want to sit on that."

Wow, that's a nice chess set.

A dog with a rather interesting hairdo.

A neat building and a cable car.

Aw, man, I hate these things.

Guys playing chess on the sidewalk.

Jeannie chasing some birds.

All the cheap tickets for Wicked were sold out, so we decided to wait for the lottery. Two hours before the performance they let people sign up for a few limited-view seats for cheaper than the cheapest regular price. However, we needed to use a bathroom, and they're hard to find in this area, but the really nice employee at the theater mentioned the public library right down the street had free restrooms.

They had a cheap book section, but nothing looked that great.

In the bathrooms they had a list of free shower facilities, which was nice.

We were still a little early for the lottery, so we decided to find a nice looking hotel to sit in until it was time.

Back to the theater.

Everybody put their name on a piece of paper and he drew them out.

And we won some cheap tickets! OK, actually, everyone there did. They said in the summer they sometimes have lots of people trying to get only a few seats, but since it was this time of the year, we didn't have to worry. And we even got these cute little buttons that say, "I won the Wicked Lottery!" I think Jeannie liked the button more than the actual play.

I loved the seats we got. They were the third row from the front, and even though they were "limited view" because they were so far off to the side, we could basically see almost everything because the actors always came up to the front of the stage.

And when they went onto the balcony, they were right above us. I'm really glad we went; it's actually now my favorite play.

We took the Bay Bridge on the way home. It was under construction, though, and went from five lanes to three, so even at 11pm it was really slow.

The next morning we went up to the Twin Peaks.

You can just see the Golden Gate bridge on the left side.

The Peaks are easy to find because you just drive towards this tower.

Jeannie kept giving me crap about cutting off her chin in pictures, although I think by the end of the trip I was doing better.

Castro street.


The Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park.

An older couple was near this statue at the same time we were and we took each other's pictures. The woman was pretty demanding, though; she wanted me to take at least three pictures from different angles. Although I see her point; most people are pretty bad at taking pictures, which is why I usually try to find something to set the camera on and use a timer.

A neat bridge.

Some buildings.

Really tame squirrels. Too bad we didn't have any food for them.

A beach on the west side of the city, although it's too cold for swimmers. There were a few people trying to surf in wet suits.

The Cliff House.

Which has a pretty view of the ocean while you eat.

A cute license plate.

One thing I don't miss about San Francisco is trying to drive around. There are always trucks stopping to unload in the actual lanes of traffic. In this case, they're on both sides, so only the middle lane is still open.

The Charger was actually really big, so we ended up not parking in a lot of spots because we couldn't get out of the car.

Fisherman's Wharf.

We had thought about a boat tour, but they were too expensive for what we were getting. We just happened to walk by this private one right before it left, though, and it was a lot cheaper, so we took it.


Under the Golden Gate.

A back view of Alcatraz.

Jeannie with one of the street entertainers. This guy was actually pretty good; he even told me which angle to stand at to get the best lighting.

The Musee Mecanique has lots of old games. The XXX movies were really tame, and a lot of the others were pretty boring.

I love this sign.

Breakdancers at the wharf.

The smelly sea lions.

My favorite busker at Fisherman's Wharf, Bushman, who hides and then jumps out and scares people when they walk by. Jeannie jumped about a foot and screamed quite loudly when he scared her, haha.

His hiding spot from the parking garage.

Ghiradelli chocolates. I had wanted to buy some, but they sell the exact same things in stores everywhere, so there really wasn't any point.

Lots of candy.

That evening we met some old coworkers for dinner and drinks. We were trying to find street parking to avoid the super-expensive garage fees in the area and happened to find this spot. The only problem is that we were about a foot over the no-parking paint, so we weren't sure if it was safe or not. Thankfully we never got a ticket.

We ate at the Tonga room.

Annie, Nia, me, and Kat.

After that we went to the Top of the Mark in the InterContinental Mark Hopkins for drinks. It was actually really nice. The drinks were extremely strong, they brought us some chocolate-covered strawberries on the house for no reason at all, we got in before 9pm so we didn't have to pay the cover to listen to the music, and the staff were all really nice. Nia decided to ask for her "alcohol on the side," which confused the heck out of the poor waiter, but he was really fun about it once he figured out she was playing around.

A view out of the window with the Transamerica Pyramid in the background.

We decided to see if we could fit all five of us into the revolving door at the main entrance to the hotel.

And we did.

We saw the doorman and I thought he was going to yell at us and tell us to get out, but he smiled and said give him a camera so he could take a picture of us. What a cool guy.

Our flight went to Los Angeles first, and it almost completely cleared out except for us, four of my classmates who were also on the flight, and about four other people. Then it filled up again with people flying to Houston.

After the trip, I felt like this kid looks, exhausted. It was a lot of fun, though, and we managed to do it pretty cheaply.