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.

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