San Francisco – just what I expected

San Francisco was everything I expected it to be. When I arrived I caught the train from the airport to the downtown area which was near my hostel. The moment I exited the subway on the corner of Powell & Market Streets I could feel the San Francisco vibe. I think this gave me the energy and enthusiasm to walk to my hostel, which I thought was only going to be four blocks uphill, but turned out to be eight blocks uphill, with my 14kg back pack.

Like usual I spent the first day riding around the city on a Hop On Hop Off Bus. The many hills, bustling city streets and the architecture of the buildings all contribute to the vibe of this city which just feels alive with character. 

Seeing the Golden Gate Bridge for real, after seeing it in so many pictures and on TV so many times over the years was a wow moment.

The Golden Gate Bridge from both sides

I also couldn’t resist the urge to find Alamo Square park and the Full House houses. The HOHO can’t take people there because it’s a residential street, so it drops you off about 2 blocks away and you can walk there (uphill again).

Houses opposite Alamo Square Park

You often see Fire Trucks trucks driving around the city and the HOHO guide informed us this was because 1/3 of all Fire Trucks must be out of the Fire Stations at anyone time in case an earthquake happens. When I was flying between Seattle and San Francisco I was lucky enough to be upgraded to an exit row window seat. From the sky not far out of San Fransisco you can actually see part of the San Andreas fault line, it looks like a line of cliffs where the earth breaks up onto a plateau.

The next day I took a ferry to the infamous Alcatraz Island. This was another place I had heard many stories about over the years, and it was interesting to actually go there and see the island and cell block where the prisoners where detained. Luckily I booked my ticket a few months ago. I spoke to a number of people who were disappointed they couldn’t go because they hadn’t pre-booked tickets. My trip to Alcatraz was followed by a late lunch and stroll around pier 39.

Alcatraz Island

Pier 39

 

While I was in San Fransisco I also took a tour which included the Muir Woods, the Sanoma wine region and a ferry ride between Sausalito and the pier. I wanted to see how US wineries compared to Australian wineries. The Muir Woods were lovely, but I wasn’t to impressed with the wineries. The tour visited 3 wineries and I tasted wines at two of them. Each winery charged $15 to taste 5-6 wines of their choosing, none of which were spectacular. I think I can safely say that Australia does wine better that the US.

Muir Woods, Olive Tree & Ferry Building

 

I also visited the California Academy of Sciences which is located at Golden Gate Park. There were some interesting exhibits including an Earthquake exhibit, a walk through rainforest terrarium, an aquarium and planetarium. 

All in all I really enjoyed San Fransisco, it was a city with its own character.

42 Hours in Seattle

ARRIVED BY: Plane

DEPARTED BY: Train

ACCOMODATION: Hostelling International Seattle at the American Hotel

Seattle wasn’t originally on my list of places to visit but a friend from work recommended I add it to my itinerary. When it came time to book my flights I found that it was about $300 cheaper to fly into Seattle rather than Vancouver. That $300 dollars was enough to pay for a couple of nights accommodation, a little sightseeing and my train ticket to Vancouver. So the decision was made to make quick visit to Seattle on my way to Vancouver.

When I was booking my transportation throughout Canada and the USA I organised most of the arrival times during daylight hours so that I could take public transport to my accomodation. This would help reduce costs and allow me to get a more local feel for the city. I arrived in Seattle about 2pm and took the light rail from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport to the International District/Chinatown stop which was just one block from my accomodation at HI Seattle.

This was my first experience at staying in hostel accomodation. The HI Seattle was in an old building but it was clean and the bed was relatively comfortable. The only downside of this hostel was having to walk up four flights of stairs every time I needed to go to my room.  

I settled into the hostel and I went out for a walk in search of somewhere to eat dinner along the waterfront where there are a number of fish and chip shops. While walking along the waterfront I discovered that in some cities their obviously isn’t enough room for all the cars that need to drive on the roads, so they have to build the roads upwards on top of each other. The Alaska Way Viaduct has three levels and runs for 3.2 km (2miles) along the waterfront. It was built for 60,000 cars a day but is used 110,000, which explains why the vehicles are still bumper to bumper.

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The Alaskan Way Viaduct

On my only full day in Seattle I navigated the local bus service to the other end of town for a ride on the monorail to visit a local icon, the Space Needle for some views of Seattle from 305 meters (520 feet). 

The Seattle Space Needle

Next stop was Pike Place Market where I had tried Clam Chowder for the first time. It was quite flavoursome without being too overpowering. 

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Clam Chowder

There seems to be a Starbucks store on every block in Seattle and being an avid coffee drinker I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to visit the very first Startbucks store.     

The original Starbucks store

Well that just about sums up my quick visit to Seattle. If I had stayed a little longer I would have liked to visit the Boeing factory.

I am now on my way to Vancouver by train and enjoying some beautiful scenery along the coast, which is another thing I would have missed out on if I hadn’t made the quick stop in Seattle.