Monday, September 24, 2012

San Franciso 2012 Days Three through Seven

San Francisco 2012 trip, continued.

Day Three.
This is the day the conference started. Frank and Brian attended classes all day while Lynn and I attended "Spousetivities" (activities specifically for the spouses that we signed up for ahead of time). We started the day with the get-to-know-you breakfast which was a buffet (eggs, polenta, fruit, pastries and coffee) and then a chance to win prizes. Lynn won a $25 gift card and I won nada. After breakfast we had paid for a walking tour, so we got going on that. Our tour guide was nice, but I don't know if he knew how to give a tour of San Fran. He would take us down allies, take short cuts through buildings and describe every bank, hotel and financial building we could see. Not exactly what I wanted out of the tour, so Lynn and I split once we got to the Ferry Building, which was perfect because we ended up getting a table at The Slanted Door- a highly recommended and reviewed Vietnamese restaurant. It was delicious!! Again, worth the expense. We got to eat on the patio right next to the water. We had two Royal "Pimm's" Cup drinks, the Slanted Door Spring Rolls, the Mesquite Grilled Range Brothers Berkshire Pork Chop, Lemongrass Chicken, and Sweet Corn. It was all amazing. I honestly think my favorite thing was the sweet corn, and believe it or not, the pork chop was cooked perfectly (it was the waiter's favorite dish).
After lunch Lynn and I headed out towards the Fisherman's Wharf. It was mostly touristy type shops and The Mechanical Museum filled with old mechanical toy machines (think the Gypsy fortune-telling machine in Big). They were all still working and you could pay 25 or 50 cents for each one. We had a good time looking at all the creepy stuff.
After that, we headed towards Lombard Street, which involved walking up the biggest hill I have ever walked up. I want to call it more of a mountain than a hill. It was an experience I don't need to have again. I'll take the cable car next time. After taking pics of the famous Lombard Street and watching a few cars drive down it, we continued our walk back to the hotel through German town and Nob hill. Both very nice areas.
I relaxed at the hotel until the guys got back from their classes. 

All four of us attended events by Commvault and World Wide Technologies in the evening. Lyndsey had to fly out late, so she left us to go home. Sad face. We took a cab home late and passed right out.

Day Four.

Having stayed out late the night before, I slept in while the guys went to their classes. I got up, had breakfast and did some shopping around Union Square. It's filled with a lot of shops we have around home (think Plaza type shops), but I didn't have a little guy slowing me down, so I had a good time and stocked up on Lush.

I met up with the guys around 4:30 to go to the Hall Crawl which was a part of my Guest Pass. It was pretty much exactly like the Welcome Reception so we only stayed for about an hour. 
We went back to the hotel and got ready for an event put on by Dell, and then, if we felt like it, an event by Veeam. Dell's event was at the Contemporary Jewish Museum. It was pretty fun (awesome specialty drinks, fancy food and small plates, a live band, and lots of service) and I saw one of the coolest pieces of art I'd ever seen. No pics allowed, so I can't show it, but just know it was cool. 
We tried going to Veeam's thing, but it wasn't very fun, so we left and went back to Dell.
We were pretty tired from the night before so we stayed for desserts and then went home.

Day Five.

Another day on my own while the guys went to class. I decided to go to see the ocean since we hadn't made it that far the day we visited Golden Gate Park. I made it to the ocean via the Haight-Ashbury district. I took a bus to Alamo Square (a pretty nice park where nearby Ken Kensey and Janice Joplin lived) and then walked to Haight street. Haight street is your stereotypical hippy/pothead street. I believe I even saw marjiuana dispensaries, but I didn't go in. 
From here I walked down to Golden Gate Park and hopped on the train down to Ocean Front Beach. The ride seemed to take FOR-EV-ER because the train stopped every 5 minutes. Once I made it, it was literally steps to the ocean. I sat and watched the waves for about 15 minutes. It was pretty foggy so I couldn't see very far and didn't venture very far. I only saw 2 surfers in the water- no one else. I guess the water is pretty rough and cold so they don't recommend swimming here.
After that I hopped on the train for a 45 minute ride back to the Moscone center to meet the guys. We then decided to go the Fisherman's Wharf. Lyndsey and I had already been there on Monday and we went in search of fish and chips, but all the booths seemed sorta questionable even though all the books say this is the best place to get fish, so we didn't up with anything other than Ben and Jerry's ice cream. 
We walked over to Ghirardelli Square thinking we would get to see chocolate being made, but all we got was another disappointment, just shops. I ended up buying a couple souviners for Jack and myself, so I guess I got something out of it. 

We were done shopping so we hopped a bus back to the hotel and relaxed before the last event of the conference- the Bon Jovi concert.

The Bon Jovi concert was actually put on by the VMWorld Conference. They had set up three different "areas" that had different food and different atmospheres. One was "sports" themed with giant TVs and table games, another was video game technology with different video game stations, and the third was the music hall with a live DJ. All had different food and beer and wine. Then Bon Jovi came out and played with the Kings of Suburbia. I was expecting to hear Bon Jovi music, but I was sorely disappointed. He played 3 Bon Jovi songs, and the rest were covers! I couldn't believe it. Bon Jovi, who has 34 number one hits, was singing Old Time Rock and Roll. Lame. We stayed for the whole thing, then went home and went to bed.

Day Six.

I went shopping again while the guys went to their last classes. They had free time in the middle of the day, so I took them to Haight-Ashbury and the ocean. We ate lunch at the Outerlands- it was delcious (Brian and I split the ham and roast beef sandwiches).
When we got back, the guys went to their last class and I finished up some shopping.

We ate dinner at the Woodhouse Fish Company- awesome. Best clam chowder ever. I then made Brian split a lobster roll, crab cakes and fish and chips. Gluttonous, but I had to try everything. We will eat there again.
We called it a very early night and relaxed in our room. I think we were ready to get home.

Day Seven and Eight.

Our last days. We were kind of ready to be out of San Francisco. We had a great time, but the city is filled with homeless people, and it gets old being shouted at every 5 minutes while you are walking down the street. Plus everywhere we went there were people, people, people and more people. And you know how much Brian and I LOVE people. 
Anyways, we bought some sourdough bread to take home and ate breakfast at Honey Honey near our hotel (we had breakfast there several times, and it was very good and fresh). We hung out in our hotel rooms until 11 A.M. when he headed to the airport. We got checked in, stood in the long line for security and got an email that said our flight was cancelled. Oh crap. Now what? Called my Dad, booked a flight for Saturday morning using the courtesy phone while Brian and Frank stood in the enormous customer service line, then ended up getting a red eye for Friday night, which was supposed to get us to KC at 2:30 P.M. Since we had 12 hours to kill, we headed back to the city, stowed our carry-ons at the hotel and headed to the mall to eat lunch and catch a movie (the best way to kill a few hours). 
We made our way back to the airport about 8:30 P.M. Guess what? Our red-eye was delayed until 1 A.M.! We got on the plane and two crazy people accused others of smoking crack on the plane. No one was smoking crack on the plane. Luckily nothing came out of that and we FINALLY took off for Chicago. We got to Chicago at 6:45 A.M., waited on standby for a 9:54 A.M. flight that was ultimately delayed until 11:45 A.M.. Frank ended up getting a seat on that plane, just in case our original flight at noon had issues. Brian and I finally left at 12:45 P.M. and got to KC around 1:30. On that last flight there was an empty seat next to Brian that a pilot from American Airlines took, and Brian and he chatted the whole time about some interesting things that I will save for another time.

And that was our trip! Jack had a WONDERFUL time with both Grammy and Nana and Papa. I don't think he caused too much trouble. We were glad to see him and glad to finally be home.

Friday, September 21, 2012

San Francisco 2012 Days One and Two

Brian and I recently had the pleasure of vacationing to San Francisco for a week while Brian attended the VMWorld 2012 Conference (server virtualization and cloud computing). Jack stayed home and started the week off with Grammy Anderson and ended the week with Nana and Papa Long. Here is a recap of the first two days of our trip.

Day One.
We headed to the airport with Frank (Brian's coworker) and Lynn (Frank's wife) at 6 A.M. to make our 7:45 A.M. flight. We arrived on time in San Francisco at 9:30 and picked up our bags. After a $50 and 20 minute cab ride, we arrived at our hotel- The Prescott. Check-in is normally not until 3 P.M., but they had two rooms available on the second floor, so we got right in. We took a few minutes to get settled and then headed out. 
Our first destination was Chinatown and lunch. It was actually quite an uphill walk to Chinatown and once we got there it was PACKED. Sorta like the Puerto Rican Day Parade in NYC (inside joke with my brother). I'm guessing they were doing their weekly grocery shopping because everyone was going crazy for the fresh produce (which there was a ton of) and whatever else you can buy in the Asian markets. The sidewalks were packed and we were hungry so Brian found the closest and best rated dim sum restaurant- the Hang Ah Tea Room. It was pretty good and pretty cheap.
After lunch we headed toward Pier 39. Again, tons of people. I guess I needed to get used to that if we were going to be doing all of the touristy things.
We saw the sea lions and the pier shops and decided we wanted to try for an Alcatraz tour. Apparently it's so popular you have to book a week or more in advance, so it was a no-go. Instead we took a San Francisco Bay Area tour on the Gold and Blue Fleet cruise ship. We boated all the way to the Golden Gate Bridge, turned around and headed back near Alcatraz. Brian and I stood outside to get the full experience and it was breezy and COLD.
After the boat we headed to the Moscone Center to get Brian and Frank checked in to their conference and pick up their gear- a fancy backpack, water bottle, notebook, etc. I also purchased a guest pass so I could attend the welcome event, the hall crawl and the VMWorld Party (Bon Jovi- heck yeah!). 
We headed back to the hotel to get cleaned up for dinner at Boulevard- it won the James Beard Award for Best Restaurant in the country for 2012. We took a cab back down to the Ferry Building, right across the street from Boulevard. We were early so we walked around, but didn't see much because everything was closed. Our reservations were at 8:45, so we grabbed a drink while we waited for our table to get set up. The meal was AMAZING! Totally worth every penny (and there were many pennies dropped). We started with the scallops app, then I got the pear and Gorgonzola salad, while Brian got the fig salad. The figs were the best bite of food I've ever had. For the main course, Brian got the filet and I got the halibut. The halibut was a thick piece of fish and perfectly cooked. Brian's steak was about 2 inches thick, and also cooked perfectly. We had to get dessert, so we got sticky toffee pudding with a glass of 10 year old port. Both were excellent.
We were beat after dinner, so took a cab back and had a celebrity sighting- Hubert Keller. Who, you say? If you are fans of food and Top Chef, he is the owner/chef of several restaurants, one of which, Fleur de Lys, is in San Francisco. We saw him standing right outside his restaurant's door, just hanging out. Pretty cool. Wish we could have gotten a pic.

And that was the first day! We crashed when we got back.

Day Two.

We actually slept in until 8 A.M. (10 central)! Latest in about 19 months! It felt great.

Brian and I were tasked with finding a breakfast spot, so we found Dotties, but apparently eveyone else in San Fran had too, so we headed to another spot, the Blue Bottle. This place seemed a little too pretentious for us (2 of the 3 pages of the menu were dedicated to their specialty coffee), so we kept walking and happened upon M'oz Cafe. It was perfect and had perfect prices. Brian had the pancakes, eggs and apple-sausage breakfast, with fresh squeezed OJ, while I had the belgian waffles topped with strawberries, blueberries and whip cream. So good.
We then hopped on a bus to Golden Gate Park. This place is beautiful and huge. We only saw about half of it. Lots of flowers, walking trails, and several museums (that we didn't have time to go in). When we come back to San Fran we will have to spend more time here.
From there we hopped on another bus that took us to the Golden Gate Bridge. By the way- the public transportation is pretty easy to figure out and the Google navigation app was a godsend. You can type in where you want to end up and it will tell you the fastest way to get there by public transportation- walking, bus, subway, whatever.
The Golden Gate Bridge is a must see. It is beautiful and from it you can get a great view of the city and ocean. We walked about a third of they way out and then turned around as it was getting late. We hadn't had lunch yet, so we grabbed a couple "sandwiches" from the "cafe" (glorified gas station food). I don't recommend it, but we didn't have much of a choice.
We hopped on another bus and headed back to the hotel for a quick nap and to get ready for the VMWorld welcome reception. This was something I could attend with my guest pass, and it was a lot of fun even though I wasn't there to talk to anybody.

After we hit up every booth, we went to dinner at The Sausage Factory in the Castro District. This place was recommended to Brian by his seatmate on the flight out. We knew we wanted to check out the Castro, so we headed there. Of course we got the white, racist, homophobic, conspiracy theorist cab driver, but it made the ride that much more entertaining. We were all glad when that cab ride was over.
The Castro was pretty entertaining. Lots of great people watching and store browsing. Don't know if I really need to go back again, but it was nice to check out. 
We hopped on the subway after walking around a bit and headed to the hotel to relax and hit the hay.