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Friday, April 28, 2017

San Francisco Day 4

We figured that we'd keep jetlag as our closest friend so we were up again at 5am which was great because we wanted to catch the sunrise. This was the view from the north side once we crossed the bridge. The sunrise was beautiful.

Taking the advice of the fellow Uber passenger, we made a stop at Muir Woods. We arrived at 7.50am. The park opens at 8am. We got there early because we read online that parking was limited and true enough, by the time we arrived, there was only two more spaces available. The park costs $10 per person. The visitor counter had not opened yet and a sign was up saying entrance was free. So we went right in.

This was our first time walking amongst redwoods. It was breathtaking. We savoured the calm and tranquility being surrounded by these magnificent trees. There were a few other people but mostly we got the walk to ourselves which was lovely. Also, the sun was just starting to peek through the trees which added a mysterious feeling to exploring these woods.

The winding wooden boardwalks were maintained well and there were squirrels scuttling across every now and then.

There were bridges scattered across the length of the walk. To illustrate how giant these trees are, that's my 6ft husband standing at the foot of the tree.

By the time we got out of the woods, it was starting to get blindingly hot. There was also a long queue for tickets at the entrance. We were glad to have gotten there at the time we did.

We continued our roadtrip towards Oregon with a bag of flamin' hot cheetos which was quite addictive!

Thursday, April 27, 2017

San Francisco Day 3

Noe Valley is a lovely place to stay in when visiting San Francisco. You get to drive up the most insanely steep hills where you feel as though you are driving straight into the sky. These undulating roads were such fun and gorgeous to look at too.

We enjoyed looking at the houses there because they all had individual character and design. 

We started our morning by visiting Mission Dolores Park where we could have a good view of downtown San Francisco. Little did we expect to run into some beautiful hummingbirds upclose for the first time. We enjoyed capturing slo-mo videos of their unbelievable speed.

Golden Gate Park was the next stop of the day.

The Golden Gate bison paddock.

Ocean Beach

It was a lovely day to be at the beach. It was quite windy and there was a mini sandstorm on the other side.

The main event for the day was the Golden Gate Bridge. We didn't stop where the hoard of tourists were but drove a bit further down and parked right in front of the waves. It was exhilarating.

The bridge was stunning against the blue sky.

This is the view from Fort Point. 

We stopped by the main visitor centre later on and enjoyed the bridge from a different view. 

The next stop was the DeYoung observatory.
This was like a museum with a fantastic observatory deck on the top.

We enjoyed the art and sculptures displayed. We thought of Callum the whole time. Especially when we saw this gigantic map. He loves looking at maps.

We ended our evening with dinner at In-N-Out. Needless to say, we followed the online secret menu hacks recommended and got Animal Style everything. After which, I made the controversial declaration that I preferred Mcdonalds over In-N-Out in disagreement with my husband. He insisted we go back again the next day and reluctantly I agreed. We ordered the items just regular without Animal Style and it tasted so much better! Conclusion: We don't like the online hacks that everyone shouts about. Good ol' off the menu is best!

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

San Francisco Day 1 & 2

We arrived in San Francisco after a 6-ish hour flight. I had been coughing the entire time in the plane. During the last 20 minutes, a lady came over to give me some coughdrops and it turned out she was a doctor in San Fran. She was so kind and offered to give us a ride to our Airbnb if we needed. We assured her that we already booked a rental car. So far, Americans have proven to be very friendly and down-to-earth (the exception being rude security guards and power-crazy immigration officers in New York). We chatted for quite a while then set off to find our rental car company. 

We had booked the second smallest car (as we were told it's quite dangerous to drive in US highways with the smallest range) but were upgraded to a honking huge GMC 7-seater. If we wanted a smaller car, we would have to wait a further hour. We didn't want to wait so we took it. I could not see the road from where I was sitting, it was so huge. It was my husband's first attempt to drive on the other side of the road. It was nerve-racking and almost immediately, we took a wrong turn. When we got onto the highway, we exited twice immediately as well because the exits in the US were on the right. Upon entering the highway, we needed to cut to the left quickly which we didn't. But the American highway planners gained our admiration because we could always remedy any wrongful detour by reentering the highway within a few metres. After driving up and down the intimidating but beautiful curves of San Fran, we decided the GMC was way too big to handle or park.

My nerves were almost shot at maintaining an extreme level of alertness to the car always swaying too close to the right (symptom of British drivers). Thankfully, a nice lady at the rental car centre allowed us to keep the upgrade and gave us a Chevvy Malibu instead which was still plenty spacious but more manageable in length and height. It was so interesting to see how spacious American cars are. I had trouble reaching my husband's neck to give him a massage which I normally do when he drives long distances. 

Our Airbnb hosts were a family of 3 and they were very kind, welcoming us with a card and a bar of Ghirardelli chocolate. They had a booklet of things to do and eat in San Fran. They suggested getting dinner from a Burrito truck which they frequent almost every evening. We did that and crashed into bed soon after that.

The next day we decided to Uber downtown. The Uber driver was incredibly friendly. She asked us if we wanted to charge our iPhone, offered us Clif bars and chatted a whole lot with us. We Uberpool-ed so she picked up another passenger on the way which turned out to be an aspiring actress who insisted that we visit Muir Woods before we leave which we did on our way out of San Fran.

We had lunch at Boudin Bakery- the famous clam chowder in a sourdough bowl & bought two cans of it home with us as souvenirs.

We then strolled over to Pier 39 to see the seals.

I was surprised to see so many seals upclose. We watched them push each other off the platforms, it was really quite entertaining.

We saw Alcatraz from a distance.

Then, we headed to Sotto Mare to takeaway the 'best damn cioppino' for our dinner. I wasn't well so I couldn't stay out too long. That seemed to be a blessing in disguise because of the well-known long queues and wait-time to get in this tiny restaurant. We went there at an off-peak time i.e. 4pm. Even then, we only got served after 20 minutes because they cook it fresh. This was the priciest meal we had in the States which lasted us till the next day's breakfast. It made me miss eating fresh crab and prawns very much. I was very spoilt growing up in Penang. They are lousy with seafood back there.

My husband went out later that day to catch the gorgeous sunset at the nearby Twin Peaks which has the most picturesque view overlooking the city.

Monday, April 24, 2017

New York Day 3 & 4

We checked out and headed down to the Lower East side by a bus. We rode the bus in NY a few times as our card allowed us to use both the subway and bus. We got down at the stop near to Katz's Delicatessen, a Jewish joint known for their pastrami sandwich and a scene in When Harry Met Sally. I was quite thrilled to try the matzah ball soup aka Jewish penicillin. My brave husband went to the deli and survived the notoriously challenging ordering system. By then, my tonsilitis was in full force and the matzah ball was definitely the most comforting thing I've ever eaten. However, we can't really appreciate the hype around pastrami so felt that it was too pricy.

We took a walk near Battery Park.

Saw this memorial for soldiers.

We walked past the Charging Bull of Wall Street. There were so many tourists mounting the bull's behind (thankfully you can't see that in this photo). The entire area around the bull was crowded beyond belief that they had to put fences in that area so that the tourists don't spill out into oncoming traffic whilst attempting to pose with the bull. 

We walked through Battery Park and saw Lady Liberty from a distance.

We decided to visit the 9/11 memorial next. I didn't expect much as I thought it would be some monuments with pictures or a typical museum-like installation.  It turned out to be nothing like that. It was a very overwhelming, heartbreaking and unforgettable experience to be there. The memorial was very thoughtfully and beautifully designed. The four corners of the block had the names of all the ones who perished and a waterfall cascading down almost as if the tears were being wept by everyone standing around it. The waterfall then flows down towards the center where it forms another dark and smaller waterfall which we cannot see the bottom of. It brought tears to our eyes standing there in that vast space with only the sounds of loud but serene water gushing down. It communicated the immense sadness of the loss of life so well and yet the serenity which so many of us need after a devastating event like this. It made everyone fall silent and think of our place in the world.

We walked on and came across the Oculus- a transport hub/mall which is supposedly shaped like a dove in flight. This replaced the old station which was destroyed in the attack. We went in and caught the subway from there.

We dropped in Greenwich Village to see side of the 'Friends' building. It was a nice and quiet residential street save for a tourist couple which got there before us and were posing for photos in front of it.  I love how the fire escapes look.

This day was our designated New York Pizza Day. The two most recommended places online were Joe's and Bleecker St Pizza. We visited both and we agreed that we much preferred Bleecker St because the pizza was just crispier and juicier. We got to watch it made and freshly taken out of the oven (the cheese bubbling to perfection). The Nonna Maria pizza in Bleecker St Pizza is definitely a must-try. My mouth is watering just thinking about it again. For $2.50 a slice, definitely most worth it. We were also advised by my mother-in-law to try the Coca-cola in the states as it was supposedly different and original. We did, and she was right! Best Coca-Cola ever! So much fizz and for some reason didn't taste as sickeningly sweet as the Coca-Cola's that we are used to. Coke and Pizza= perfect match.

The view of the Brooklyn Bridge.

Manhattan from the Brooklyn side.

Gorgeous bridge

Manhattan Bridge from our place for the night.

We couldn't leave New York without having Junior's one more time. Even my husband who doesn't really fancy cheesecake was the one requesting for it. He went off to the original Junior's in Brooklyn and bought a slice of cheesecake and red velvet cheesecake. They were to-die-for. Such deliciousness! Our place of lodging for the final night in NY was right smack in the middle of Chinatown. We did some shopping for much needed fruits from a local Chinese shop. We tried a lovely place called Carol's Bun for dinner which served wonderful homemade-type Chinese dishes with rice for the best price ever! We were almost weeping at the thought that we couldn't get that back in London. The hotel was really good apart from the fact that it would rattle everytime a subway would pass. Luckily we were so exhausted we couldn't feel a thing. The next morning, the Mr ran out to Carol's Bun the moment it opened and had a long chat with Carol herself whilst buying congee and dumplings for breakfast. It was again very tasty like mum's cooking. We then made our way to the airport and the husband sampled Dunkin Donuts whilst I had my final serving of Shake Shack fries (sob!).

And..... we were off to the West Coast!