Although it was more than a month ago now, I needed to take a moment to blog about the great birthday I had this year.
It seems that Valerie decided to surprise me with a last minute vacation to San Francisco for just the two of us. She had already taken care of all the arrangements in advance and had even gone so far as to contact my boss at work to clear my time and make sure that there wasn’t anything major I would be missing in my two days away from the office.
San Francisco is one of those great cities that must be seen and visited that is just a couple of hours by plane from Seattle but we never seem to have enough time to go down and explore until now. It had also been a long time since just the two of us went anywhere together and thanks to the very nice friends who were able take our kids for us, this was destined to be a stress-free and much-needed vacation.
We caught the first flight of the morning to San Francisco on Tuesday, September 15th. Our plan was to not rent a car, not figuring to need or want one since we would be spending all of our time in the city. Since it was just the two of us for a couple of days, we packed all of our gear into a large backpack that I wore to keep us very mobile.
Upon arrival in San Francisco, we took the BART system right from the airport to down town. The plan was then to purchase a three day unlimited cable car pass. The cable car stopped not far from our hotel in Fisherman’s Wharf. What we hadn’t counted on was that the cable cars throughout our time there were exceptionally busy. We waited for about ½ hour to board them as they came and went full but it looked like we would be there much longer waiting.
We decided to hoof it to our hotel instead and started walking and exploring. It turns out though that what had only been a couple of inches on the map was really quite far. San Francisco is also very hilly (gasp!). Well, after a few blocks we decided to just hop in a cab. That was a good decision… since we survived. Ever play that video game “Crazy Taxi”? We lived it.
We checked into our hotel and ditched our bag and headed back out again to explore the city. Valerie had booked us passes on a double-decker bus tour that you could hop on and off of throughout various loops in the city. In other words, you get off in areas you would like to explore and then later catch the next one that comes by.
We decided to spend some time in China Town and spent several hours walking up and down the streets and alleys there. There is a lot to do and see there and was a lot of fun. There were crowds of people so it was a great place to visit while kid-free.
The highlight was Chinatown Restaurant where we had lunch. It looked a bit seedy from the outside and probably was but the food was fantastic. Everything we tasted was absolutely delicious. We devoured everything that was placed before us.
We had also heard there was a “fortune cookie factory” in Chinatown that you could visit. Finding this became sort of a mission for us. Apparently the tern “factory” is used VERY loosely here. After much searching, asking and wandering we finally found the factory behind a little door in a tiny alley. Two ladies are there cranking out fortune cookies all day long. We loved it and got to taste the cookies right off the… whatever that thing is that they use to make them.
Other than Chinatown, we did a lot of other exploring around the city by various means of transportation and by foot. We crammed a whole heckuvalot into the day.
That night, there was a San Francisco Giants game in town vs. the Colorado Rockies. I really wanted to go, not because I care about either of those teams but because I really wanted to get a look at the stadium there which I had seen so often on TV. Aside from Safeco Field and the former Kingdome in Seattle, I had very limited exposure to other Major League ballparks.
We took public transportation across the city to the stadium, getting there just an hour or so before game time. We got a couple of cheap tickets from a guy selling on the street and before long were in the park. It is a very nice stadium. We did a bit of exploring, standing in the left field bleachers waiting for batting practice homerun ball and even climbed the ladder and rode the slide down the giant Coke bottle above the stands.
We basically did the whole loop around the stadium seeing everything there was to be seen, not caring much about the game itself.
We did park in our seats for a little. It was quite cold and windy once we sat down but it was here that we discovered the best feature of the stadium of all. They have these vendors that walk around wearing hot chocolate dispensing backpacks available for purchase. No doubt, we were all over that. They even had whipping cream canisters in holsters on their belts.
The game was maybe halfway over when we decided to finally call it a night. It had been a long day for us. We again caught a taxi outside the stadium to take us back across town to our hotel.
The next morning, we had early morning tickets to head out to Alcatraz Island and explore there. I had always wanted to visit Alcatraz but had never been before. Valerie had been. It was a great boat ride across the foggy bay. While on the island, I also wanted to do a Virtual Geocache that I had heard was very cool. It didn’t disappoint.
Valerie had insisted that I do the audio tour with headset at the prison. I didn’t really want to. The idea seemed hokey to me, I thought I would rather just wander around and explore on my own. I was wrong. I did try the tour and LOVED it. It was very well done and did so much to enhance the visit there. It was really fascinating.
The audio tour dovetailed nicely with the geocache we were working on too. Valerie, as usual, kept track of all the paperwork and math that needed to be done for us to log the cache.
All in all, Alcatraz was probably the highlight of the trip for me. I knew I would like it but it was even better than expected.
Since we had visited so early in the morning, we still had a lot of the day ahead of us when we got back. We did do some wandering around the touristy area of Pier 38 at Fisherman’s Wharf but it was even too touristy for us so we didn’t really stay there all that long.
We hopped on a bus tour that we had wanted to do that took us among many other places to and across the Golden Gate Bridge. Crossing the bridge was another thing I had always wanted to do. We sat on the very front row of the open-aired upper deck of the bus for the scenic and windy crossing.
Eventually, it we started running out of day and had to go check out of our hotel. I put on the backpack of our gear as we were able to do a bit more shopping and touristy looking around on the way back to the BART station for our trip back to the airport. We had crammed about a week’s worth of vacation into two very long days and were, by now, quite exhausted.
We got home very late that night and rounded all the kids back up and home again.
This was a great birthday. I can’t wait to see how Valerie tops it next year. ;)