Thursday, August 7, 2008

Return to San Francisco

I spent four days in San Francisco with Mom before flying back to Australia and we had a great time just hanging out, even when we were doing unexpectedly strange things like spending five+ hours in Best Buy!

As many of you know, my laptop suffered a fatal hard drive crash during the last week I was at Dad's and I lost all of my information from when I left Australia (thankfully I had backed up everything before I left). Being a bit of a shopaholic and liking nifty toys also paid off for me as I had backed up all of my USA photos, including those taken in the Florida Keys earlier in the month, to my new Hyperdrive ColorspaceO photo vault! I would have been so grumpy had I lost those images, even if they probably aren't anything spectacular, they are still special to me (and one day I'll even get around to posting about that trip!) Anyway, the computer tech said there was nothing to be recovered and it wasn't worth simply putting a new hard drive in, so I went computer shopping.

My good friend Amber pointed me in the right direction for a new laptop that met my criteria and I ordered it from Best Buy. It arrived the Monday before I was to fly to San Francisco so I only had time to download some mail while at Dad's. Seemed the keyboard was a little funky, but I put that down to it being new and a bit stiff. I left for Mom's Tuesday night and Wednesday morning I booted the new computer up to do some work. The keyboard was really funky and the space bar wasn't working well at all. I was still thinking that it would work itself out, but Mom said "why don't you just take it in and have them look at it?" She likely regrets that excellent advice now!

We trooped off to Best Buy in Palo Alto and ended up spending virtually the entire day there dealing with pretty much every staff member they had LOL Most of them were very helpful and friendly, so it did make the process more pleasant, if not less frustrating. It was determined that there was no replacement model available and that the keyboard was truly fubar so I had to make a choice between taking a floor model (eeeewwww! all those people touching it and who knows what abuse) or changing from the Dell I had to a Toshiba that wasn't quite as spec'd out. After seeing the Toshiba's screen - lightyears better than the Dell, whose screen was barely visible in even daylight - and having Best Buy upgrade the RAM to match the Dell's, I chose the Toshiba. Then it took them another two hours to transfer my mail from one machine to the other...Mom and I spent more time walking around and finally settled down in the home theatre department to watch whatever movie was on!

But now I have a new laptop and she seems to be working just fine. I like the screen a lot and the keyboard is very comfortable and feels good when I type. So far I would happily recommend this ultraportable laptop and I doubt I'll even miss the funky extra stuff the Dell already had on it.

That was how we spent our Wednesday! We headed to the movies a couple of times during my stay and saw HellBoy II and the Mummy III - The Tomb of the Dragon Emperor. Both were OK flicks, nothing fabulous. Rachael Weiss isn't in the new Mummy and it suffers for that as the new actress has no on-screen chemistry with Brendan Frasier (how could you NOT??) and it makes the characters seem pretty flat.

Friday we decided to head to the city. It was very foggy and the whole Bay Area looked totally socked in as we headed up the peninsula, but there were rays of sun trying to peek through and the forecast was for a nice day, anyway. I love to watch the fog roll over the hills towards the ocean.

We stopped at John's on Sloat, by the zoo, for breakfast.

This is a great place with a funky atmosphere, old style service and food, a great location and a sense of history. It's too bad some of the nearby buildings look like they are being updated and we're hoping John's isn't going to get squeezed out after all of these's a San Francisco institution. Inside the walls are covered with photos of classic movie stars and the booths, tables and counters haven't changed in 50 years.

The menu, especially for omelettes, is extensive and the portions are hearty, to say the least! They come with delicious garlic potatoes - yes, for breakfast!

It was still pretty grey when we left,

but you could see the potential in the day so we drove up past Ocean Beach. We stopped at the Cliff House so we could walk around a little bit and enjoy the day. The Cliff House has been tidied up considerably over the past few years, it's almost a little sterile now, but it's still an icon.

And the views around it are still beautiful. Looking north you can see the remains of the old public baths and the Marin Headlands, still shrouded in fog

I don't know what these two monks were doing, but the seagull was keeping a close eye on them

People head down here to fish off the beach and off the cliffs

Unfortunately, sometimes they catch wildlife other than fish. This poor pelican got snagged by a fisherman and they spent ages trying to get away from each other.

The pelican did not come out the winner in this battle as it looked like he had a broken wing and perhaps a broken leg, as well. Mom alerted the volunteer Parks Guide at the top of the hill, but we never did see any Rangers or Bird Rescue people arrive. When we checked things out on the way back to the car, someone was down drawing in the sand

There were quite a few pelicans doing fly-bys while we were there. They are pretty cool to watch come over the baths, then over the rocks and into the blue

We headed into the City via the Presidio and kept catching glimpses of sunshiney skies, so pulled over at the golf course to look at the Golden Gate Bridge from one of the prettiest viewing areas around - even if you have to dodge the golfers, or on this day, the sprinklers!

Since we were driving by and there was a gap in traffic, we pulled in to get a closer a look at the Bridge, too. The fog makes everything look so cool, even as it covers some integral bits of the scenery.

And the mandatory tourist shot done by a random stranger (we returned the favor, of course!)

After the bridge, it was down to the Wharf to park, explore, eat and watch the craziness.

No visit to Fisherman's Wharf & Pier 39 would be complete without a visit to the stinky sea lions

The Bay was beautiful as we looked out towards Alcatraz

We grabbed lunch at a little Italian place across from where the new double decker tourist buses pick up

I wasn't in the mood for Italian, so had a burger - which was yummy, but enormous, especially since we were still working off breakfast from John's - and Mom had calamari. I mention this as I need to apologize once again for probably ruining calamari for her, at least for a while! Those poor baby octopuses with dey little legs - soooo yummy!

I like the Wharf area. It's always bustling and there are always lots of interesting things and people to watch. From street performers

to street vendors

to entertainment at the Boudin Bakery complex

How fun are these guys!

And just plain people watching...these two lovebirds had dueling Canon cameras that just struck me as a "moment"

After wandering around with the masses for a while, we decided to head up to Coit Tower. I'd never been there and it was on my "must do" list for this trip. The fog had burned off of the City and the sky was a beautiful blue - in most directions - so off we went. San Francisco has some of the steepest streets anywhere, and I love cruising around (NOT driving, thank you very much) and just enjoying the view on the way to our next destination. Lombard is the most famous with its switchbacks, but most people don't realize that it is really one of the main streets in the city, not just for tourists!

There is extremely limited parking at Coit Tower itself, but I was feeling a bit lazy and didn't want to walk up the hill, so we drove up and took a chance. There was only a short line waiting for a space - you hang out in the road, stopped (parked actually), and wait for someone to leave - so we hung in there. Coit Tower is a pretty cool building from the outside

and inside, with all of the murals

We didn't do the interior of the tower on this trip as there were a zillion people, the stairs were closed and the line for the elevator was out the door. Gotta save something for next time, anyway, right?

The views from the surrounding grounds are spectacular:
The TransAmerica Building in the City stretching to the bridge to East Bay

Out to Alcatraz

Lombard Street's switchbacks

Towards the West, over the City

It was a beautiful day to be out and about and we had a lot of fun.

In fact, I thoroughly enjoyed all of my time in California this trip. It's the first time I've been back in quite a few years, but Mom and & I didn't try to jam touristo things in every minute. Mostly we spent time talking, laughing, hanging out and just generally enjoying having some real time together for a change. Sprinkling in the "events" and "missions" added a little spice and I can't wait to do it again soon!

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