San Francisco

TGSWRT: The round up

Well we're home now and still struggling with the change in time zones, but I did promise you one last blog post to try and sum up the whole trip, but first let me try and sum up San Francisco. I really liked it. It's got Big Town infrastructure and Small Town attitude. It's quirky and odd but also feels like some forgotten area of Manhattan where everything went right. With such little time to take a city in I didn't get to do all the touristy things I would've like to do: we didn't get to see Golden Gate Bridge or see the sea lions on the fisherman's wharf or visit the "painted ladies", though we did ride a trolly (and it went "clang clang") so it wasn't a total loss. I did manage to buy new trainers, jeans and socks and I'm very glad about that. Miko and I spent our last full day mostly walking around the city; partly as a method of exploration and partly on trying to find a trainer store that we'd lost the map to earlier, and in doing that you end up walking to places and finding things that you shouldn't (like the "heart of the city farmers' market' just off Market Street) and it also gives you a general "vibe" of a place that maybe you wouldn't get from an open topped bus, travelling from designated stop to designated stop. We did manage to catch a tiny bit of DF Tram's set at the Minna Street Gallery, but  we had to rush back to our hotel complete our online check in so unfortunately our time with Dylan was quite short. Dinner was once again at Max's and, again, was very good indeed.

As our flight wasn't until 6:50pm we had some time to kill the next day so we started off at The Honey Honey Cafe and Creperie on the corner of Taylor and Polk for a mighty fine breakfast. We'd intended to go to the famous Dotties (on Dylan's recommendation) but after reading nightmare stories about long queues we decided to try the above instead as breakfast is not a meal you want to mess around with. I have to say I'm very glad we did - The Crepe House (as it seems to be in the process of rebranding)  serves a great selection of breakfast fares: Miko plumped for her final pancakes of the trip with home fries and scrambled eggs and I went adventurous and opted for a crab benedict (a new brekkie option on me)  and home fries. The food was lovely; slightly rustic in appearance and homely. I'm not too sure whether I'd chose the crab benedict again, but it wasn't unpleasant, quite the opposite in fact, but it was a bit odd however I'm still glad I ordered it. The home fries were delicious: fluffy, crisp and tinged with sage. Both our stomachs were happy.

Afterwards we decided to take in some culture and wandered down to SFMoma to see the Richard Avedon exhibition. The SFMoma is a great gallery and worth the visit. The standing collection is well presented and the gallery itself is quite a joy to walk round. We managed to cover about 2 floors of the 5 that were available and the Richard Avedon exhibit (which in itself was worth a visit) and that took us about 2 and a half hours. I could've easily come back and spend more time here.

After that we walked back to the hotel and waited for our shared taxi to the airport. And that was it. Holiday over. :)

So what can I say in summary? It's difficult to sum it up when you're still quite close to the event. What I would say is that we both feel relaxed after it and that's a remarkable feat. On the whole, everything went ok - we stuck to our rough schedule and (more or less) saw everything we wanted to see. We've both come back with tonnes of photos and video to sift through. Having two days at the end of the trip in San Fran (in a lovely hotel to boot) was a God send and allowed us to declimatise back into civilisation. If we were to do it again (not that we would) I don't think we'd start in Dallas, as that put a huge amount of miles on our journey, just to get going. I doubt I'd return to Las Vegas, without $3000 and a box of cigars to burn (and I wouldn't hestitate to stay at the fantastic Desert Rose Resort again, either). We would spend a lot more time just in Utah, which has a tremendous lot of incredibly awe inspiring nature to offer the senses. I could quite happily spend 3 weeks in Zion.  I could easily spend a large portion of my life in San Francisco, too.

It does look like the holiday was a lot more expensive than we budgeted for - especially with the increase in petrol/gas prices that the USA is undergoing (cheapest fuel we saw was in Oklahoma at $2.16 a gallon, most expensive was $4.04 p.g. on the road to Yosemite) and us miscalculating the mpg of the vehicle.  However, as a once in a lifetime journey, I can only recommend it. I'm really glad we've done it. :)

And we have plans for more...

TGSWRT: The End of Days - San Francisco


So I find myself awake once again at 5:30am, tappity tapping into my beloved mac book pro on the penultimate day of our trip. Yesterday we got up, packed everything, gave the RV one final paranoid clean and drove it to the El Monte depot in Dublin, California. It was sad to see "Minnie" go, into the parking lot of large, white box like vehicles but part we must (as the late fees were astronomical). The staff at the Dublin depot were surprisingly teutonic, but after reading the blow-up newspaper article on their show room wall, you can understand why. Back in the late 80s and 90s, sales of RVs were dwindling in the States, but the market was kept buoyant by the rentals and specifically El Monte (whom, in this article, had been singled out for praise by Winnebago, the name synomynous with US Motorhomes) who had concentrated on securing deals with European Travel agents to promote their services on the older side of the pond. And it looks like that decision is still reaping rewards. Our fellow "returnees"  were all European: mostly German, one Dutch couple and us. The staff who checked our vehicles back in were also German, I also noted that the paperwork could be supplied in different languages if required by renters.

On the whole, our experience of renting an RV in the States has been a good one and I wouldn't hesitate in recommending El Monte to anyone. Given the opportunity to bore you with caveats, I would point out that needlessly noting any damage at all at the point of pick-up is always worth while (not that this was an issue at the return, but it's still good advice).

Anyway, the driving portion of our trip is over - a total mileage of 3,203 miles covered in just under three weeks - a quite impressive feat from someone who's home country is only 837 miles; that's just under driving from Lands End to John O' Groats (do I need to state that I do get that these landmarks are neither the most northern nor the most southern points on the UK Mainland? No? Good) and back again twice. I'm not to sure why you'd want to do that, but still.

We were rapidly chauffeured into San Francisco by another European El Monte employee, this time from Bulgaria, into our final destination - San Francisco. We're staying at the Hotel Adagio on Geary Street in Downtown SF. The room is pretty spacious, clean and beautifully decorated. The staff have been friendly and helpful and from our 12 floor vantage point we can pretty nice views of the city. A great choice of last port of call for us.

For lunch, we walked a couple of blocks to Max's, which can be described as a posh diner, if you will. I ordered the cheeseburger and Miko had a chicken steak sandwich and both were delicious and ample in size. Service was on the slow side but very friendly and, to be honest, we weren't in any rush. It was nice to see San Francisco's Bomb Squad also having a late lunch in there - after all, if they've got time to eat then the city is not in any immediate danger. Key lime pie was ordered to go and we slowly walked back up the hill to have an afternoon nap on our huge king sized bed. Lunch with tip was $55.

For dinner we opted to try somewhere Chinatown but we were late (by US standards) - 9pm -  for dinner and by the time we'd taken the trolly, Chinatown was mostly closed, however, the restaurant we'd chosen - Chef Jia's - was just still open (they were sweeping up, but beckoned us in). Chef Jia's is a no frills restaurant: it's overly lit, has utilitarian serving dishes and cheap plates, offers no decor or delight at all in it's surroundings apart from a wall of reviews and accolades, praising its food. We ordered 5 spice duck (me), sesame chicken (miko), vegetable fried rice and broccoli in garlic sauce, accompanied with chinese tea. The food was tasty, fresh (ample, of course) and simple affair and initially the meat courses came across as slightly over seasoned, but as we chowed down we forgave and forgot this. The service was brisk and informative. The star of the choices was the broccoli, which was crisp and very flavoursome. I polished off the very fatty half duck that was coarsely cut up into bony chunks (and that's probably why I'm awake now) but our tummies were happy with the cuisine. A great find. Dinner was $50 (tip incl).

Today should see us do a bit of shopping (we also popped into Macy's for an extra bag for the flight home - now to fill it!) as I need new trainers, T shirts and socks and I hope we can catch DF Tram DJing at the Minna Street Gallery tonight. Then it's a leisurely day tomorrow before catching the BA flight to Heathrow at 18:50.

Bring on Blighty. :)