San Francisco

So, waiting for our delayed flight back to London seems like a good time to post.

Golden Gate Bridge in fogLeaving the desert heat of Las Vegas to the east we flew to beautiful San Francisco. Actually, leaving Vegas was a little more eventful than usual as after waiting in a long security line the guard took one look at our tickets and redirected us to Lane Nine… This was a much shorter line which seemed promising although I got a little curious as the people in front of me started stepping through in to what looked like some kind of transporter out of Star Trek or maybe a kind of decontamination chamber.
It turns out we were in the “slightly suspicious” line as we had one way tickets. The transporter turned out to be a bomb detection chamber that blew puffs of air from head to toe. We came through this clean although the manual detection swabs did set off an alarm that flagged Kathryn’s mobile as an explosive device. The guard seemed to buy our story of it being a, you know, telephone and we eventually made it onto the plane.

We flew with Ted which is the budget arm of United Airlines (because they are Uni…Ted. Get it?) They were really good. One of the best bits (if you are kind of nerdy) was you could tune to channel 9 and listen to all the radio traffic. It wasn’t just our plane either; you could hear all the aircraft talking to the various control stations as they passed into the airspace. So it was cool to hear our pilot, “the Greaser”, request permission to perform a 360 over Yosemite National Park to give us a great view of the park and Half Dome.

Cycling in Marin CountyIt was my second visit to San Francisco but Kathryn’s first so we started with a little walking tour of the city. San Francisco was just as cool as I remembered it. On Sunday we hired bikes from Blazing Saddles down at Fisherman’s Wharf (great people, highly recommened) and headed off to bike the bridge. As is often the case, a sea fog was covering San Francisco with the tops of the bridge disappearing into the mist but as soon as we rode out into the Marin County side the fog burned away and the sun was shining.
We rolled down the hill into pretty little Sausalito and had fish and chips by the water with a fantastic view back to San Francisco. Kathryn was loving the bike ride and the weather was so nice we decided to push on and do the whole sixteen miles round to Tiburon. This took pretty much the whole day and we caught the ferry from there back to San Francisco.

AlcatrazOn Monday we went to Alcatraz. I didn’t get to the Rock last time as it was closed but this was a fascinating trip. They have an excellent audio guide that is narrated by ex-Alcatraz guards and inmates. Before it became the most notorious prison in the USA it was a military fort. For thirty years from 1933 the most “incorrigible” prisoners were transferred to Alcatraz. In fact it turns out that many prisoners felt conditions at Alcatraz were better than other Federal prisons (like only one inmate to a cell). The tour guides you around the main cell block and describes the life of the prisoners and guards as well as describing some of the famous inmates and escape attempts. Make sure you book in advance but definitely recommended.

That night we ate at what has become a San Francisco institution; the House of Nanking. We got there fairly early so there was only a short queue and we got to go straight in. It was packed inside, though. It has a reputation of having excellent food and bad service and I was a little disappointed that we didn’t get the usual first-timer treatment. Apparently, the owner will usually ask if it is your first time there and if so not allow you to order from the menu but instead choose whatever they think you should get. Maybe we looked like locals. It didn’t matter. We had pork egg rolls and the Nanking Special sesame chicken. The food was great and the service was acceptably bad delivered with little more than a “Chicken. Rice coming!” followed by a bowl of rice being dumped on the table with a brief “rice!” Don’t come here for a relaxing meal but if you want great tasting and reasonably priced Chinese food it’s definitely recommended.

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