Thursday, April 16, 2009

San Francisco, CA - Day 2

In April I travelled to San Francisco, CA for a research conference. I had two presentations to give and in my free time I got to see the city. Here is a narrative of my explorations, and a video montage of my photos is already posted.

Day 2:
I woke up bright and early (mostly because of jet lag) and got ready to start my day as super tourist. I had planned to start my day by window shopping around the famous Union Square. Judging by the maps I had, basically every big name retailer had a store front in the 9 block area around the square. The problem was, I was out and about by 9AM and nothing opened before 10AM. Woops. So I grabbed a juice from a coffee shop and chilled in the open air mall watching the farmer's market unfold until 10AM. There were a lot of awesome stores (Diesel, Ralph Lauren, Brooks Brothers) but I realized I couldn't afford anything at any of the places. I was about to move on when I saw a sign that said "PINK" and no, it wasn't Victoria's Secret (that was on the other side of the square). It was for Thomas J. Pink, a store I found when I was in London- where the company was founded. (Check out Wikipedia for more information). I don't know what it was about the place in London that I loved so much- I was in the St. James Square area and was going from store to store of high end men's clothing and I ended up in the famous Jermyn Street store (I didn't realize it was famous until much later) and just loved the place. I couldn't afford much, so I bought a polo and was content. Seeing the store in SF made me smile so I stopped in. Now, I said everything around Union Square was expensive, and PINK was no exception- even with the exchange rate, the one in London was cheaper. Oh well. I broke down and bought another polo from them. Someday, when I have money, I'll frequent that place.

From PINK, I went back to the hotel, ate leftovers from Cheesecake Factory, and then headed out for a cable car ride to the waterfront. So, maybe I'm dumb, or maybe its a tourist trap, or maybe both. But the cable car is $5 one way, $11 all day. So I pay for all day. Yet... I'm only taking it to the waterfront and back, so two one way tickets would have been cheaper. Doh! In hindsight, the cable cars are really cool (I'm still fascinated about how they work) yet terribly inefficent for real mass transport, but I didn't feel like figuring out the bus lines. So I get to Fisherman's Wharf and start looking around. The place was hopping! Lots of people (read: tourists) and street performers, lots of food and stuff to do. I loved it! It was like a festival, and thinking about it, the place must be a festival all year long because it was a random Thursday afternoon! If it was a weekend (which I will eventually experience) in the summer, the place would be crazy. So I walked around, took some pictures, and happened across a submarine sitting at the dock. It was like $5 to tour it, so I figured, why not? It was pretty cool (and $5 was worth it) but it really made me realize how scary is must have been to be at war in one of those things. You can't imagine how cramped it is, and this was as a tour boat. If it was full of sailors, if the place was up and running... maddness. I have so much respect for submariners. I've been on the USS Slater in Albany, and it was similar, but to have those condition UNDER water? Wow.

From there I meandered down the piers until I got to the pier for the Alcatraz ferry, checked in, and still had an hour and a half to kill so I went to nearby fancy-ish place called "Butterfly". I sat at the bar, ordered a drink and some soup (light lunch I guess), enjoyed it (it was very good!) and caught up on emails. After my soup I decided to have some scotch and ordered a Macallan on the rocks. The bartender reaches for the 18 year bottle- whatever- until I got the bill: that was a $35 shot! WOW. Check please! Got in line for the ferry and headed over to Alcatraz, got set up with an audio tour and explored the island. That place is so cool, so much history- from being a fort, to a military prison, to a federal prison, to a demonstration site for Native Americans, to a national park. Its very interesting, and it seems so much older than it is. The buildings are literally crumbling from the elements, yet its less than 50 years old. In fact, one of the last prisoners was at the gift shop signing books. Really cool. After a couple of hours I headed back to the mainland, and then back to the cable car and my hotel. I grabbed more snacks and dinner from Tad's Steakhouse and relaxed in my room.

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