Tuesday, May 11, 2010

From Prisons to Bridges - 09May10, 18:30 SFO Time.

We are running a bit behind on our posts but that's only becasue we are having too much fun..

From Prisons to Bridges - 09May10, 18:30 SFO Time.
Where am I now: At the passenger’s seat of our brand-new Ford Mustang convertible.
What am I listening to: Our Sirius Satellite radio)

Can’t write much – it’s tough because we are actually driving South on C-1, the Ocean Drive Highway, heading to Los Angeles. More on this one a bit later..

We visited Alcatraz yesterday, also known as “The Rock”. It was one of the coolest visits I’ve done and Aris really loved it. We woke up early again – this is the biggest surprise of the trip, we manage to wake up early and be out on the road without having to use alarm clocks or anything. I think it is still a combination of the JetLag (Sounds like a budget airline) and a natural “high” to discover & do as many things as possible.

10am ferry to Alcatraz, we got there using the cable-car, finally we managed to use it since on an average day it is so crowded you have to wait for a long time to catch it. The visit to Alcataz is one of the must-do’s for anyone that visits San Francisco, it has more than 1million visitors per year, a rather surprising number if you think it’s just a rock with a prison on it. Ok, it’s probably one of the most famous prisons in the world, legendary stories of escaping convicts and some Hollywood movies hype it even more. I won’t spend time describing the prison, you can see some of the funny photos below. What is really worth mentioning is the really great narration/audio tour that is included in the 26USD package (with the ferry ride) that is both entertaining and informative. As Aris said, “here they commercialize everything but you really get your money’s worth.” Welcome to the USA.

We came back, extremely hungry (as you are not allowed to take food on the island because of the rats…) and we just had to get some good food. We walked around Pier 39, a delightful place full of people and restaurants and little shops – it reminded me so much of Cape Town waterfront... I managed to convince Aris to stop at a Clam Chowder place. He went for the safer option of fish and chips (Katerina: Sydney still tops F&C, no debate) but I had the famous clam chowder, a delightful creamy “soup” that is poured in a bread bowl: “so delicious you will eat the bowl”, literally. I loved it. I wanted more. Actually I wanted more of everything in San Francisco. Everything was so nice, I was right to have it in the list of places to visit.

Happy and very full we walked around the Piers, where we discovered the Musee Mechanique the most unexpected place you could find in a place like SFO. A huge tent filled with all kinds of mechanical toys and games you would usually find in fairs. There were even some video games, even the first one I ever played. Moon Patrol and the first ever video game, you know, the tennis with the two bars going up and down and the little pixel moving around like a tennis ball, bouncing on the sides of the screen. I paused, I thought of my wonderful childhood, full of outdoor games in the “piloti’ of our apartment and basic computer games that let a lot of our imagination run free, low resolution graphics and crappy music, filled in by our self-created images & sounds. Nostalgic? Very…

Bridge. One way to happiness.

I love bridges. I started loving them the moment I first lay my eyes on Sydney bridge that Monday morning when I landed in Sydney and walked down George street. They give you a sense of presence, a feeling of connection – well, I guess that’s their purpose, to connect to places that would otherwise be inaccessible. This one is special – I’ve seen it so many times in films, in photos, spanning across the bay, its red color partly obscured by the fog in the morning, turning even redder during sunset. We got there by bus, after changing a couple of them – San Fracnsisco is overall good with public transport but we felt it could be a bit better for one of the most visited sights of the city. After the initial “Japanese rush” (that’s what I call when you get to a place and the first thing you do is take photos, as many as possible, till you are finally calming down and actually appreciating the beauty of the thing you are photographing)

[Two Japanese meet after their holidays in Europe, the one asks, “hey how was your holiday in Europe?” “I don’t know, I am still waiting for the photos to be developed”]

We walked the bridge, windy, cold, who cares, I was crossing again one of the big ones, the last one on my trip after Sydney and Brooklyn. I walked passed Aris, just like I would do on my own, looked, down, up, around at the big red columns and suspension lines and was happy just being there. Clouds low on the horizon coming in close, emotions overwhelimg me, what a wonderful place this is, what a wonderful life I have…

More Photos!! (we've got more, it's just so tough to upload!)

Climbing the hills on the cable car

Kostas with Tram Operator Mr. Wu

I’ll be a good boy, I promise

Catching-up with my reading in Alcatraz library
Alcatraz is full of plants & animalsWho watches the wathchtower?

Cozy rooms, just a bit smaller than our hostel room

3 floors of luxurious accommodation

View of Frisco from the Rock

Springtime prison

The Rock

Clam Chowder + Happy customer

“Did we order enough?”

Just like the movie!!!

Everyone has his own hero

Sea lions on Pier 39

Yes we can!

Aderfouli!!!! Look! Even the steering wheel! Remember the black OIL that made the car spin?!?

Happy. Fullstop.

We made it!!

Don’t do it man: THERE IS HOPE MAKE THE CALL! [The consequences of jumping from this bridge are Fatal and Tragic] – but at least you get a wonderful view…

Bridge beauty...

Some things are too hot to be cold

No U turn. You're bloody right, we’re not coming back (to Europe)

Driving down C-1 to L.A in our new!!! (13miles) Mustang Convertible!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

24HRS – Love at first sight Saturday 8May10, 07:05 am SFO Time. (Where am I now: At the coolest hostel in SF / Downtown on Mason st.
What am I listening to: Some song from Morissey in the hostel’s common room)

Landed in SFO.
It’s been a long flight I have to say. We looked at eachother as the wheels of the plane touched down and Aris was ust being dragged out of his second consequtive 4hr sleep in the plane.
He has the potential to be a world traveler in economy class. We headed to the baggage conveyor to pick up our stuff and looked around – much smaller airport, more crowded, it was Thursday afternoon, outside the big windows a purple-orange veil in the sky was already welcoming us. How do you want to get to the hostel I asked? We had options, the BART (train/underground) or Taxi. Let’s take a taxi, it’s a bit more expensive but we can at least we can do it faster (and it’s so much more convenient if we share costs like these). “You guys looking a taxi?” asked this dude with a blue-tooth thingy permanently attached to his ear.
“Yep, to downtown” I answered back.
“How about a limo for 45 bucks”
“Last time I checked the taxi was 35”, said Mr Greek negotiator/backpacker.
“Allright guys, let me get another couple and I take you down town for 35 plus tip”
“You got it” I answered back, Aris looking at me….

So that’s a nice way to start your “backpacking” trip, right? Have you ever been into one of these long-stretched limos? It’s cool. We talked about all the things the driver had seen happen in the back over time and how this is part of a thing we’ve seen in a film – it was all there: the bar with the glasses, the square crystal whiskey container, the little lights and buttons to operate the roof, raise the divider between the driver and the rest and even the tinted windows in the back, the film slightly worn our making the light come in a little reddish/orange, only making the sunset over the highway look even better. Limo to the hostel... nice, I thought.

We got to our Hostel – which is perfectly located and spotless clean. After Latin America this just looked like a lower star hotel accommodation for me. Even Aris who is not used to this type of accommodation really liked it. Above all though it’s the positive feeling you get the moment you enter, the staff is young and smiling, they know their stuff – it all felt so familiar…!

Showers and out for a quick dinner and drink – Italian food and one drink at the OWL mingling with the local crowd. Early wake up next day – courtesy of the jet lag…!

Breakfast at the hostel was great. Super basic with abundant coffee and bagles with cream cheese, orange juice, peanunt butter & jam and fruits – what else can you ask for especially after 3 days in scrambled egg/bacon buffets in the Marriots and Hiltons of Portugal, this was a refreshing change – including doing our own dishwashing at the end. You disagree that this is the way to go, do you have a different point of view? Well that’s why you are not with us traveling I guess! 

Out and about
We headed out quite early, very happy with the fact that the jet lag offered us the chance to spend more time outdoors. We headed downtown (well, we are downtown) walked around all the major shops, bought Levi’s jeans (SF is the HQ of Levi Strauss – no they are not cheaper, but still dead-cheap compared to Europe) and then headed towards Embarcadero, slightly hungry.
Have you read my previous blog posts around the world? Well then you know what happens during lunch time when I am in a nice sunny location with a lot of people, preferably in a park or nice area. We bought two huge foot-long Subways (see photos- haha) and just laid down in the park and had a siesta. Aris reported back home (=made phone calls) and I just fell asleep under the warm sun. You could see the Bay bridge from there: wonderful but not the place I came to see. Golden Gate Bridge was still calling me.

We walked around for a bit longer and headed for Chinatown. The Chinese are an integral part of this city, since a very long time they were brought over here to build America’s great railroads. There’s even a big mural showing the workers with the message above: “Over 10 miles of track laid in one day” (Ari, how long does it take for the Greeks to do this 150 years later?) We liked Chinatown, because we like Asians – it’s simple. We took a bus to go to the Bay– I helped an old Chinese lady to get in the bus – the stairs way too high for her, her cane, made out of a tree branch was too small – she was babbling in Chinese - I felt I was helping Yoda get on a space ship.
Another lady behind me tapped me on the back: “Thank you. Wer done, you are wery good person, the ord rady is very rich” (no difference between L and R)
“You are welcome, maybe she can help me win the lottery” I said smiling back.

From the point we got of it was all downhill to the waterfront. And as we slowly headed down, feeling the sun and Pacific wind in my face I saw it in the distance: Reddish, covered in a veil of mist, waves splashing around it, was the Golden Gate Bridge. I was in San Francisco. About two years later, the circle was complete, at least that's how I felt.

An afternoon at Starbucks
Breaks are necessary, especially if you are walking around all day – we went to the local Starbucks, a busy place as people stop there to refuel, on their way to the bridge and sightseeing. There’s a lot to say about this placebut I will let some of the photos and my comments do the story-telling. After all I need to get ready for Alcatraz... Talk to you soon

Niketown - zone pressing...

Aris trying on his new jacket...

(No it's not nuclear shelter #5, it's our hostel elevator)

It's for sale!! Anyone have 14,000 USD?? (My birthday is in 2 weeks!)

Lombard Steet ('Crookedest' street)
City view


Wonderful cable-car ways and steep hills
It's a little downhill (Hyde street)
Wonderful parks!
Yeahm sure, have another 2 kilos of chocolate and don't forget the whipped cream (low fat of course!!)
Calling home from Ghiradelli's - you're all sleeping! (Classic trip photo)
Fisherman's Warf
Friendly Shadows
Fisherman's Warf

Wonderful cable-car!

Chinatown (obviously)
Bay Bridge (and Aris)

One more for my collection!! SanFran port clock tower!
My favourite picture so far - Hostel (self portrait)

Night out at the OWL

Tiny portions wherever we went to eat (that's my salmon)

Patrol car next to our hostel (great neighbourhood)

Yes, he's feeling lonely (but I'm doing my best to keep company)


Just one more please...!

This boy will make you the "sweetest" coffee (if you get my point)

Santa is on holiday in SF. He had a smoke and then ordered a Venti Caramel Macchiatto and oured in (!!) packs of sugar!

Aris taking a photo of me on the phone (after clear instruction to include the hot asian girls in the background - they just happened to be there...)

She was cute, believe me...