DM's USA and Japan 2016 Diary

Day 1 - Sydney to San Francisco

Saturday, 13 February, 2016

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22:01 San Francisco time

We departed Sydney on a flight at 14:30, arriving in San Francisco around 09:30 on the same day, thanks to crossing the date line. With no checked luggage, our passage through immigration and customs was very fast, as there were no queues of people waiting except at the baggage claim. We caught a BART train from the airport and were at our hotel by about 11:00.

After checking in, we immediately left for a brisk walk to keep ourselves awake against jet lag. We walked up Grant Avenue through Chinatown, then across to Powell through North Beach until we arrived at Pier 39. By now it was after midday and we stopped at Boudin Bakery for soup in sourdough bowls, as we did last time we were here. M. had tomato, while I had beef chilli. After the early breakfast on the plane, it was good and filling and hit the spot.

Fire escape mural
Mural in Chinatown.

We wandered through Pier 39, amazed at how busy it was, probably because it was such a lovely sunny Saturday and there were hordes of tourists around. After browsing a few souvenir shops we stopped to look at the sea lions for a bit, before walking around past Fisherman's Wharf and to Ghirardelli Square. There we stopped for an afternoon tea, M. having a hot chocolate, while I had a mint bliss sundae, which consisted of mint ice cream, hot chocolate fudge sauce, and whipped cream. It was large and very filling, but delicious. There was a bit of a queue waiting to order at the Ghirardelli cafe, which was a second one in the square, different to the one we visited last time two years ago. As we left, we walked past that one as well - so there are two Ghirardelli chocolate shops and cafes in the square! The queue at this one was enormous, running well outside the shop, so we were glad we'd stopped in the other one.

Choc-mint sundae
Mint bliss sundae, Ghirardelli Square.

To walk off this sugar hit, we tackled Russian Hill, walking up along the cablecar tracks to the top of Lombard Street, where we walked down the famous crooked section. Traffic directors were waving dozens of cars down the street, as everyone seemed to be wanting to drive down it today. We also saw a Segway tour group go down the steep and winding street.

Lombard Street
Lombard Street.

We walked downhill a bit along Taylor Street, but then up another very steep hill to reach the top of Nob Hill. Here we explored inside Grace Cathedral, which is something I've wanted to do for ages, but have never managed to visit before today. There was a wedding taking place in the western small chapel on the side of the main altar, but the rest of the cathedral was vacant except for a few tourists looking around and taking photos like us. The interior is quite impressive, with a traditional Gothic style design and lots of stained glass.

State of Grace
Grace Cathedral.

From here we walked across to the Fairmont Hotel and then down the hill on Powell Street to Union Square. We crossed to the Levi's Store on Market Street, where M. looked for some things she wanted to buy. She didn't find them, so we went to Macy's on Union Square and she browsed around the clothing and handbag sections for some time, while I used the free WiFi to post some things. She ended up buying some stockings and a handbag, which were all on sale with 50% off, and then she got the extra discount for being a foreign visitor on top of that.

Old Cadillac.

By now it was after 18:00 and the sun had set outside. We went up to the 6th floor to the Burger Bar, where we'd eaten dinner once last time we were here. M. had a veggie burger with Swiss cheese, while I chose a salmon fillet burger with chipotle aioli. Neither of us asked for chips, as we didn't need a big dinner after the excesses of the afternoon. I did get a beer though, a locally brewed Hefeweizen (wheat beer), which was very fruity with banana notes, and quite nice.

Salmon burger
Salmon burger, Burger Bar.

After eating, we went to the nearby Walgreens to buy some toiletry supplies that we hadn't bothered to bring with us, as well as some chocolate squares for snacks. Then it was back to the hotel for much needed showers and a night of much needed sleep.

But first we decided that tomorrow we will take a guided bus tour out to Muir Woods. A company offers a half day tour there, which suits us as we need to be back for dinner in the Mission district by 18:30. I booked the tour online, departing at 09:00, with a pickup from our hotel a bit before then. I need to call to confirm in the morning, so we need to get up about 07:00 to do that and grab some breakfast.

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