Kate goes to California, Day 2: San Francisco

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Day 2, our first full day in California, dawned bright and early. We had tickets for the earliest Alcatraz tour of the day, and had planned to bus down to Pier 33, but while we were waiting for the bus we realized we’d forgotten the tickets at the condo, and had to hurry back. Then we were running late, so we took a quick cab ride down to the pier.

We waited about 20 minutes once we got there and then hopped on the ferry to take us across to the island.

Going to prison. #alcatraz #sanfrancisco #kategoestocalifornia

I was surprised, while looking through photos for this post, not to have taken a selfie on the boat with Alcatraz in the background, but now that I think about it, I’m pretty sure I tried and a guy with a giant camera stood right behind me and ruined my opportunity.

I did get this one of the island as we approached:

The Rock. #alcatraz #sanfrancisco #kategoestocalifornia

I’ll be honest. I wasn’t really that fussed to go to Alcatraz. I mean, it’s one of those “when in Rome” things – if you go to San Francisco, you go to Alcatraz. So I was happy to do it, but in the planning of the trip it wasn’t one of the things I was most looking forward to.

#alcatraz #sanfrancisco #kategoestocalifornia

The island was interesting, though I was surprised that there wasn’t more to actually see and do. Granted, many of the buildings were under construction/restoration, so we weren’t able to go into a lot of them, but it still seemed a little like you get to the island, go up to the main prison building, take a tour, and then go down again. There are definitely other little tours, like one about wildlife on the island and another about escape attempts, but most of them weren’t available while we were there, and we had a pretty packed day, so we didn’t stay as long as some other people might.

#alcatraz #sanfrancisco #kategoestocalifornia

The audio tour of the main building was neat. I appreciated that it was narrated by both former guards and prisoners, and it was certainly very well put together. The downside was that you couldn’t talk to the people you were with, or make comments, or really share the experience. At one point I made the motion to pause the audio recording and said, “okay, you know in “The Rock” where Sean Connery ties the bedsheets together and then swings them and throws them, and it catches around a lever and the cell door opens? Where is that lever?”

There may have been some eye rolling, and we quickly resumed listening to the recording. So I guess Hollywood is not always completely realistic?

Locked up. #alcatraz #sanfrancisco #kategoestocaliforniaPerhaps they would have liked to have left me there.

I think what struck me most about the prison was the fact that in certain parts of it, the prisoners would have seen beautiful sunlight, heard the water in the bay, the birds, the noise from the city, etc. It must have been incredibly strange to hear all of that and then look around your tiny cell and know that you were probably never going to experience it.

Luxury. #alcatraz #sanfrancisco #kategoestocalifornia

#alcatraz #sanfrancisco #kategoestocalifornia

It had been a little bit chilly that morning when we left for Alcatraz, but by the time we got back on the ferry, it was beautiful and sunny.

#sanfrancisco #kategoestocalifornia

And I did get a selfie on the way back:

#sanfrancisco #kategoestocalifornia

It was midmorning when we got back to the pier, and we decided to find something to eat on our way to our next activity. I thought we might find a little cafe somewhere with a terrace where we could sit outside, but in the end, convenience won out, and we went to IHOP. You may laugh at us for this. We really lived out the cultural experience.

On our way to IHOP, we saw this bus, and I started laughing and immediately grabbed my phone to take a picture. My good friend Dana calls me Koite (and herself Doina), and this bus basically said there is a tower built just for me.. right?

Koite

Our afternoon activity was to get back on the open-air bus, but this time take a longer, more informative tour of the city. It was a hop-on-hop-off tour, but we actually didn’t hop off anywhere – we were happy to let them take us around and show us the city. I like those kinds of tours because you get a good overview of what the city has to offer, and then you can go back later to specific spots if you want to. The tour began at Fisherman’s Wharf, and took us all around the city.

Fisherman's Wharf. #sanfrancisco #kategoestocalifornia

Fisherman's Wharf. #sanfrancisco #kategoestocalifornia

Amazing mosaic mural. #sanfrancisco #kategoestocalifornia

Mural in #sanfrancisco. #kategoestocalifornia

My favourite part of the tour was the Haight Ashbury neighbourhood.

Haight Ashbury. #sanfrancisco #kategoestocalifornia

It reminded me a lot of the plateau, the neighbourhood where I lived in Montreal, just a very bohemian, creative, unique, anything-goes kind of place.

#haightashbury #sanfrancisco #kategoestocalifornia

#haightashbury #sanfrancisco #kategoestocalifornia

#haightashbury #sanfrancisco #kategoestocalifornia

Listen to this wall. #sanfrancisco #kategoestocalifornia

This tour did take us across the Golden Gate Bridge, which was, well, windy.

Pictures I forgot to Instagram. #kategoestocalifornia #sanfrancisco

Things i forgot to Instagram. #sanfrancisco #kategoestocalifornia

Things I forgot to Instagram. #sanfrancisco #kategoestocalifornia

Confession: I know that this bridge is a huuuuuge tourist attraction, and sure it was pretty, but I have to tell you, I really wasn’t that fussed by it. The Bay Bridge is far more impressive and pretty (I’ll prove it in the next post), and honestly, when we were driving across the Golden Gate Bridge, I was looking at the hotline phones that dot the pedestrian crossing, and couldn’t help but feel sad about the tons of people who flock there every year with one goal in mind. I was acutely aware that while we were on our fun-filled tour, someone could very well be walking the bridge with that in mind at that very moment. It was just a weird feeling.

On the other side of the bridge, in Marin County, the bus just turned into a parking lot, turned around, and headed back over the bridge. This is where I got my bridge selfie:

Taking a Golden Gate Bridge selfie from an open air double decker bus proved difficult. #goldengatebridge #sanfrancisco #kategoestocalifornia

#goldengatebridge #sanfrancisco #kategoestocalifornia

In the end, I was glad I snapped it then, because the ride back, we were driving into the wind, and it was SO strong that we could barely keep our eyes open. Ducking and hoping for the best was the only option.

Confession: at one point during the bus tour, I got majorly distracted from the actual sights by the Spanish-speaking little girls in front of us yelling, “chihuahua!” excitedly. Chihuahuas indeed. Three fat, adorable chihooahooas were hanging out on the sidewalk. Eeeeee.

Things I forgot to Instagram: that time I was distracted from the tour of #sanfrancisco by the 3 chihuahuas hanging out. #kategoestocalifornia

We hopped off the bus a few stops early that afternoon, because it had taken longer than we had expected it to, and we had yet more to do that night! We took a cab back to the condo, grabbed something quick to eat at the grocery store again, changed our clothes and headed out for our first baseball game at AT&T Park.

Something kind of funny happened when we left the condo. We knew that the ballpark was very close to where we were staying. But the condo had several doors on several different blocks, and we had come in and out of a few of them, so we were a bit disoriented. When we came out onto the street, we stood there for a minute, trying to figure out which way to go. We had the sense that we should turn right, but there were a bunch of people in Giants shirts walking to our left, so logically, we followed them. A few minutes later, I stopped in my tracks and started laughing. Raising my arm, I pointed out that we were standing literally right in front of the ballpark – it was one block away from the condo, and impossible to miss.

AT&T Park. #sanfrancisco #kategoestocalifornia

What an amazing ballpark. We easily found our seats and sat down, and then just stared in awe.

When I said I'm never leaving this city, I meant it. Look at this ballpark!!! #attpark #sanfrancisco #giants #MLB #baseball #kategoestocalifornia

McCovey’s Cove just beyond the outfield was incredible, and I loved that the park really didn’t take away from the beauty of the bay. I honestly could have just stared for hours at the scene in front of me.

AT&T Park. #sanfrancisco #giants #mlb #baseball #kategoestocalifornia

The Giants were playing the Dodgers that night, so there were a lot of vocal LA fans there, but I was most impressed by the support for the home team. We had decided to cheer for the home team at every stadium we went to, and we were amazed that even though San Francisco lost by quite a lot, and had the night before as well, the fans were with them the whole time. We commented to a fan about it, and his response was, “they’ve won two of the last four World Series. They’ve given us something to support them for.”

Way more than we can say for our own “home team.” Ahem.

Speaking of our home team, the people who run the Rogers Centre in Toronto have a lot to learn from American ballparks. To use the accessible entrance (with elevator) at Rogers Centre, you pretty much have to either be in a wheelchair or be visibly mangled. I have been there with friends who have no visible disabilities but who need the elevator just as legitimately, and the staff have tried to turn them away. “You don’t look disabled,” one of their employees said once. Cue a lot of cringing on my part. In the States, first of all, the ballparks are all outfitted either with easily accessible elevators or escalators or both, and the kind, helpful staff direct you right to them when you go in (in fact, they are the main mode of “transportation” from the lower level to the upper decks), and if they’re not directly in front of you when you enter the ballpark, they tell you exactly where to find them. I was majorly impressed.

Apparently I didn’t Instagram my ballpark selfie that night, but I definitely took one – I probably didn’t post it because the ballpark and cove were so blown out:

Oh my gosh, you guys, it's been 2 weeks since I posted a ballpark selfie and I thought you might all be missing them. Thankfully I found this one I'd forgotten to Instagram at the time. #sanfrancisco #attpark #sfgiants @MLB #baseball #kategoestocalifornia

The other thing that stuck out to me, other than the fact that there is sooooo much more of an atmosphere of fun, team spirit, and real involvement in the game, was the stadium food! There were the usual hot dogs, beer, popcorn and ice cream, but there were also a bunch of things you never see in Canada. Like churros! I laughed out loud when I saw the guy selling churros in the stands. And sweet tea, and lemonade. I definitely had one of those at our first Giants game. Love me some freshly squeezed lemonade.

I’m not sure I can describe how truly enchanted I already was with San Francisco. It’s a beautiful, intriguing city, and really just absolutely wonderful. All that day, I had been marvelling over the beauty of the place, and trying to figure out if I could just stay there forever.

And then the sun went down at the ballpark, and all I could do was sigh repeatedly.

AT&T Park at sunset. #sanfrancisco #mlb #baseball #attpark #kategoestocalifornia


Kate goes to California, Day 1: Toronto – Chicago – San Francisco

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I hate packing and unpacking. Packing is annoying because inevitably you need half the shit you want to take with you up until about 5 minutes before you leave. Unpacking is annoying because inevitably it involves a lot of laundry and a bunch of organizing as you put things away. If it wouldn’t be completely unreasonable to hire a professional packer/unpacker, I totally would, just to save myself the hassle.

Over the last year or so, though, I’ve gotten a lot better at packing. Last summer I put together a travel toiletries kit so that I wouldn’t have to pack my every day toothbrush, shampoo, hairbrush, etc, every time I wanted to go away for a couple days. A kit now lives in my bathroom cabinet and even includes a travel sized hair straightener that I got for free with my regular sized one a few years ago. I also keep a little bag in a drawer that has a 10-foot long charger for my iPhone, a car lighter adapter for it, and a battery pack that will charge my phone without a power outlet. I love the convenience of just grabbing those two bags and tossing them in with my clothes when I’m preparing to go away.

This trip, though, I took packing to a whole new level. I bought some of these travel cubes to organize my clothes in my suitcase, and then I packed a big duffel bag within a larger suitcase, anticipating bringing back more than I was taking. These days I have to travel with my pillows to save my neck from disaster, and earlier this year I ordered a travel case for them online. Because I packed so efficiently, when we left for the airport, I was able to actually put my pillows, in their travel case, in the suitcase, so that I only had the one suitcase to contend with. When we left for our pregame show, this is what I had with me:

Luggage
My suitcase, my pillows, my pregame show overnight bag, and my carry-on.

My carry-on. Guys. You have never seen a more beautiful or organized carry-on bag. I was determined not to overpack, and have to lug a giant bag through airports. I had actually originally planned to take that striped tote bag in the previous picture, and then decided that was crazy (I always forget how big that bag actually is). When I found this adorable quilted bag, I knew it was perfect. Here’s what I packed:

I might finally have learned how not to overpack. #kategoestocalifornia #carryon #travel #california #ca #summer #vacation

Just in case you’re wondering, that’s a pair of little slippers, an inflatable neck pillow, one little cosmetic bag with a phone charger, a battery pack and my headphones, a slightly larger cosmetic bag with makeup – incidentally, that’s all the makeup I took with me to California, you may be impressed – my iPad mini, a pair of sunglasses and a soft case for them, a package of kleenex, a pack of gun, my wallet, and a travel case for pills (because I don’t go anywhere without an abundance of painkillers). As a side note, because the cosmetic bags were clear, I didn’t have to take my liquids out and put them in a separate Ziploc bag; when we went through security in Toronto, I just took that makeup bag out of my purse and sent it through the x-ray machine. Coming home, I forgot to do even that and no one said anything about it being in my purse. Très convenient.

Packed into the quilted bag, it looked like this:

The cutest and best organized carry on bag ever? I think so. #kategoestocalifornia #california #ca #summer #vacation #travel

So pretty.

We were flying to San Francisco via Chicago, and in an effort to get the most out of the day in California, we opted to leave Toronto ullllltra early. Our flight to Chicago left at 6:20 AM. It meant we had to be at the airport two hours before that, which meant getting up at 3:30, after not getting in from James Taylor until close to midnight. Needless to say, it hurt to get up that early, even though it was for a good cause. The airport in Toronto was a zoo as usual, and we ended up being hurried through the customs line in order to make the flight.. which of course was then delayed. Luckily it wasn’t delayed too too long, and soon we were on our way. Thanks to the beauty of in-flight wifi, I was able to Instagram along the way.

Pretty clouds somewhere between Toronto and Chicago. #kategoestocalifornia #summer #vacation #chicago #layover
Clouds between Toronto and Chicago

After a fairly short layover at O’Hare, we were well on our way to San Francisco!

More #clouds. I think we're over #Oklahoma. #kategoestocalifornia #summer #vacation #travel
Oklahoma clouds

Mountains in #Nevada. One more hour! #kategoestocalifornia #travel #summer #vacation
Nevada mountains (the pink in the photo is a reflection of my slippers, haha)

Curious, #nevada. Very curious. #kategoestocalifornia
I’m not really sure. Nevada is weird.

#nevada .. I think. #kategoestocalifornia
More Nevada mountains

Desert. #kategoestocalifornia
Maybe California now?

And then.. we were there.

Oh thanks! #kategoestocalifornia #sanfrancisco
Why thank you, San Francisco!

Greetings from San Francisco!! We're heeeeeeere!!!!! #kategoestocalifornia
The picture I sent home to my mom to let her know we’d arrived safely

We booked all of our trip accommodations through AirBNB, and the condo owner in San Francisco had hooked us up with her friend who offers rides between the airport and the city. Once we had our luggage, we easily found him and were on our way.

#sanfrancisco #kategoestocalifornia

After getting settled into the condo in SOMA, which we had chosen specifically for its proximity to AT&T Park (the main purpose of the trip was, after all, to see as much baseball as we possibly could), we grabbed some food at the grocery store in the condo building, had a snack, and then found ourselves exhausted. The benefit to leaving so early was that when we arrived in California it was only about 11:30 AM, and we didn’t have plans until that evening, so we took the opportunity to have a little lie down. When we woke up, slightly more refreshed, we set out to start exploring the city. I was determined to find a Daiso, a Japanese dollar store that exists in Japan and California (and maybe one in Vancouver?) and sells 4 billion amazing little things, and I had mapped one out not far from our condo, so we went there first on our way to other things. Much to my disappointment, it was a tiny, kind of yucky store that really didn’t have much. I bought a couple things and left hoping the other location I had mapped out would be much better.

When we arrived in San Francisco, the weather was gorgeous. It was about 75 and sunny, which we kept hearing was really rather unusual for the city. We would strike up conversations with locals, and several times I heard, “being from Canada, you must love this warm weather.” Informing them that in fact it was hotter at home than it was in SF – and that it stays like that the whole summer through – and seeing their surprised reactions was both funny and kind of sad.

We took a trolley down to Fisherman’s Wharf, where we bought tickets for an open air bus night tour of the city. We sat up top in the open part, enjoying the evening air and the tour guide’s spiel.

Old and new. #sanfrancisco #kategoestocalifornia
Just one example of the crazy mix of old and new in San Francisco

Never leaving this city. #sanfrancisco #chocolate #kategoestocalifornia Yum

Things I liked the look of. #sanfrancisco #kategoestocalifornia
Random pretty things I liked in the city

#sanfrancisco #kategoestocalifornia
Fisherman’s Wharf

This tour didn’t take us over the Golden Gate Bridge, but it did take us near it:

I found a bridge. #sanfrancisco #kategoestocalifornia

And it did take us over the Bay Bridge to Treasure Island, where we were able to take photos of the bridge and the city across the water:

Oh, found another one. #sanfrancisco #kategoestocalifornia

#sanfrancisco #kategoestocalifornia

San Francisco at sunset. #sanfrancisco #kategoestocalifornia

That night began a tradition of California selfies. I couldn’t help it; I felt the need to compulsively record everything, and record myself in everything.

Bay Bridge selfie. #sanfrancisco #kategoestocalifornia

Once we left Treasure Island, we moved down into the covered part of the bus to get out of the wind, and somehow I managed to trip over a step and fall into a railing or something. Injury number one of the trip was sustained, although I didn’t know it until a day or so later.

Once the tour was over, we were pretty tired out again, so we headed back to the condo and called it a night. We’d been in California less than 12 hours, and I was already well and truly head over heels in love with San Francisco.


Kate goes to California, Day -1: The Pregame Show

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My vacation started a day before my vacation started.

Confused? Let me explain!

Oh, and PS, if you follow me on Instagram, you’ll already have seen all of these photos. Be kind and put up with me, because I’m documenting this here just as much for my own memory as to share stories with you all.

Months ago, I had made plans to go to a baseball game in Toronto followed a few hours later by a James Taylor concert. When California was planned, it just happened that it coincided with that day, so we ended up spending two nights away from home before we actually left for the west coast.

I have wanted to see James Taylor for years. Like, more than half my life. I became a fan of his when I was 14, and although he comes to Toronto fairly often, I always find out either after the fact, or when tickets are sold out and there are none to be found. This year when I got the lineup for the venue and he was on it, I was determined. I kept thinking, he’s going to die and I’m never going to see him! Dramatic? Of course. But he is getting up there and I needed to get this done.

It was a beautiful day. We headed to Toronto for the midweek, noon game, and found parking where we could leave the car all afternoon and evening while we were at the concert.

Rogers Centre #toronto #mlb #baseball #bluejays #kategoestocalifornia #pregameshow #vacation #travel

No matter how many times I go to a baseball game, I always seem to need to take a CN Tower photo. Not sure why, as I’m not that fussed by the tower at all, but there you go.

CN Tower #toronto #baseball #mlb #bluejays #vacation #travel #kategoestocalifornia #pregameshow

There was no batting practice that day, but a bunch of the players were out on the field warming up so we walked down to the field level to see them. While we were there, a young pitcher named Aaron Sanchez came out of the bullpen, warmed up and then walked over to where some fans were waiting for him. This kid had made his major league debut the day before, and had done quite well. So literally 24 hours before he was a relative nobody. Less than a day later, he was signing autographs. I couldn’t help but smile and wonder if he could believe it was real life.

Couldn't help but smile as I watched this. 24 hours ago this guy (Aaron Sanchez) was a relative nobody. Today he's signing autographs. Wonder if he can believe it's real life. #pitcher #toronto #bluejays #baseball #MLB

The Jays beat Boston 8-0 that day, which was deserved since they’d lost 14-1 to them three nights earlier.

After the game, we had several hours to kill, so we sat at a cafe for a while and then slowly made our way down to the Molson Amphitheatre. I had the show time wrong, so we ended up being there an hour earlier than we needed to be, but we just found our seats and chilled out.

All the hippies and I are seeing James Taylor tonight at the #molson #amphitheatre! #toronto #ontario #jamestaylorMe and the oldsters and hippies getting ready for JT

James has no opening act, which I LOVE, and when it’s time to start the concert, he just walks out and simply says hello and introduces himself. Class act.

Guys, I was enchanted. I didn’t even care that I was probably the youngest person there by like 30 years. That man puts on an amazing show, and I stand by my claim that he has never hit a bad note in his entire life. I sang, I sat and listened in awe, I swooned a little. It was amazing.

Here are a few quick Instagram clips from the show (PS, if you’re in a reader you will probably need to click out in order to see the videos):

Our seats were pretty far back, so I didn’t get a ton of photos of James, but did grab one from the big screen:

Annnnnd, life complete. #jamestaylor #concert #molson #amphitheatre #toronto #ontario #travel #vacation #kategoestocalifornia #pregameshow

And then my life was pretty much complete. Even the fact that it took us almost an hour to find a cab when we left the amphitheatre (when we had to be up at 3:30 the next morning) wasn’t enough to ruin my mood, because, guys… James Taylor. Sigh.