Sunday through Wednesday

It is as though I have lived a thousand lifetimes since my last post.

I have pictures through to Monday night. Tuesday night, I discovered that my camera was malfunctioning and I lost all of my Tuesday pics. *sobs* This is why I stopped traveling with a camera and will never again travel with one.

So, here is a very short recap of the last four days.

SUNDAY:

I waved goodbye to the Pacific Ocean, left my heart in San Francisco, drove across the whole width of California through the Sierra Nevadas and the Mojave desert to a glittering oasis dedicated to grown-up hedonism.

(Gee, not something I ever thought I’d write….)

I have a ton of pics and .avi files of this trek, but this ancient IE browser won’t let me upload pics to Blogger, so they’ll have to wait. Sorry! ๐Ÿ™‚

I was staying at the Gold Coast, conveniently located on Flamingo just past the I-15 off ramp, so I got into Vegas very easily. The hotel is fantastic–not too big (compared to other Vegas hotels), very clean, very friendly, and very well located with a free shuttle to the Strip (5 minute drive).

MONDAY:

I was picked up bright and early at my hotel and was driven down the Strip to McCarran airport in… a black stretch limo. I kid you not. My first view of the Las Vegas Strip was from the back seat of a limo. You have to do that once in your life!

At McCarran, we were quickly loaded (crammed) into an itsy bitsy helicopter.

The flight to our landing site in the Grand Canyon was something I cannot describe in words. We saw Lake Mead and the Hoover Dam and the Colorado River and beautifully planned communities and the site of filming of the end of ‘Thelma and Louise’…. Even though I felt very queasy, the 45 minute flight was the stuff of dreams.

The Grand Canyon is something grander than pictures and film can convey. It is an archaeological layer cake with a river running at the bottom, a place where rusty red is cut only by pure blue sky. I actually have two pictures of me there.

Our tour included a small breakfast, which included champagne. I imbibed, even though it was only about 9:30. I mean, how many times in your life will you get to drink champagne at the bottom of the Grand Canyon?!

The flight back was just as spectacular and finished off with a flyover of the Strip. Again, something that needs to be experienced!

The limo was waiting at McCarran to whisk me back to my hotel, where I arrived at 11! I had done a full day’s excitement in just three hours and I was beat! Still, I took off for the Strip using the shuttle.

There, I explored the south Strip and crossed a few things off my Vegas to-do list,like visit the Shark Reef at Mandalay Bay, King Tut’s tomb at the Luxor (SO worth it!!!!!), and stroll through Excalibur and New York, New York. It was HOT but not a sticky hot. With plenty of water, I came to discover that arid hot is extremely tolerable. That said, I wonder how anyone living in that sort of climate can be obese. I lose my appetite until I’ve been back in air conditioning for several hours!

Let me pause here to add that I was only planning to stay two nights in Vegas, but I was so tired when I arrived on Sunday that I decided to extend my stay by one night.

I’m so glad I did.

I absolutely LOVED Vegas. It wasn’t until I let myself succumb to its excesses that I realised that I’ve been very cold for a very long time. Sin City warmed up a place deep inside me that I’d forgotten even existed.

(Of course, palm tree lined pools with cute Latino cabana boys in tight red shorts and white tank tops showing off their rippling muscles as they adjust your lawn chair probably added to this feeling….).

I headed back to the hotel pretty early since I was famished and had a free buffet dinner coupon for there. I was planning to turn in early after a delightful swim, but realised that, hey, I was in Vegas! When else would I get to see the Strip at night?!

So, I did something completely out of character and went back to the Strip for a couple of hours, visiting Bally’s and Paris and Caesar’s Palace and watching the fountains dance at the Bellagio.

When I did finally return to the hotel for the night, it was LATE. I prevailed myself of a free cocktail as a nightcap, went up to my room, and just about passed out. Talk about a full day!

TUESDAY:

Warning: MAJOR geekiness ahead. Really. This will probably tell you more than you ever wanted to know about me.

First, the slightly non-geeky part.

I spent the early part of the morning at Circus Circus where I played at the arcade and won some useful and not so useful stuff like a Vegas mug and a lollipop. Then, it was off to the Hilton to use up a ticket I’d blessedly gotten for a half-price to attend… The Star Trek Experience.

(this is your final warning about the geekiness ahead)

I spent about five hours doing the whole Star Trek schtick there and it was the most fun I’ve had in a long time doing something silly with just about no redeeming value at all.

I got growled at by a Klingon, was accosted by a Ferengi who liked my head scarf, ate Moogie’s pasta and Changeling cheesecake at Quark’s bar and restaurant with an Andorian sitting next to me, was almost assimilated by the Borg, rode down the Strip in an Enterprise shuttle (now THAT has to be experienced!) with Klingons firing full phasers at us until we were rescued by the Enterprise, sat in the Captain’s chair on a perfect replica of the TNG era Enterprise bridge, saw more original props and costumes from the movies and shows than I could have ever dreamt, and fondled the very torpedo that was used in the movies and was touched by the likes of Leonard Nimoy and Deforest Kelley. FUN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! LOL

I spent the rest of the day exploring as many more casinos as I had the energy for, including the Wynn, the Venetian (Mme Tussaud’s Wax Museum, where I HAD a picture of myself with Johnny Depp and Orlando Bloom, *sobs*), the Mirage (dolphin habitat and the Siegfried and Roy Secret Garden with beautiful white tigers, lions, and panthers), and the Treasure Island.

One loses most sense of time in Las Vegas. Things open late in the morning, but once they’re open, they are until very late and there are no clocks anywhere. Imagine my shock when it was going on eight when I finally decided that I should hike back to the Wynn where I’d left my car and I hadn’t even had dinner yet!

I got in, had a small dinner (still full from the delicious offerings at Quark’s, which was surprising value, incidently, serving quality food at reasonable prices), prevailed myself of a free sorbet scoop, gambled a bit (a dollar can go a LONG way in Vegas!), got another free margarita, and then went back to my room to look at the day’s pictures….

Which brings me to today, WEDNESDAY:

I didn’t waste much time this morning and was back on the I-15 for by 10:30. Except for a stretch of construction at Victorville my drive to my current location was very easy.

I am currently in Hollywood. On Sunset Boulevard, to be more exact.

As soon as the LA skyline came into view for the first time, I found myself thinking: “Raven, what the FUCK are you doing here?”

LA scares the crap out of me. I didn’t even want to get off the interstate until my exit even though I badly needed gas in case I wound up in a bad part of town (have any of you seen ‘Judgement Night’ or ‘Grand Canyon’?).

I found my hotel very easily and it’s perfectly fine, to my surprise. I booked in a huge hurry yesterday from the Wynn, picking the cheapest thing I could find on Orbitz that had a decent rating and it’s very good, with a freshly renovated bathroom and free wi-fi. For 71$ (including tax) I was pretty nervous about what I’d find!

At any rate, I have no intention of staying more than another day in this city. The only way to get around is by car and I’m not comfortable driving here. I saw two of my CityPass attractions tonight and will do the last two tomorrow morning, then I’m leaving.

The first thing I did tonight was hike down to quintessential Hollywood, that is the Grauman Chinese Theatre and Kodak Theatre area. I saw the Hollywood Walk of Fame, all the stars on the sidewalk, and let me say that like with everything else in Hollywood, it’s pretty pathetic, very worn and unkempt. At the Chinese theatre, I oggled some handprints in cement (including Mr. Gregory Peck’s) and signed up for my two hour tour of the movie star homes. This alone was the reason I bought the CityPass tour booklet.

The two hour tour was absolutely fabulous and took us through Hollywood and Beverly Hills. We went up into the Hollywood Hills and saw some star mansions like Penny Marshall’s, Brad Pitt’s old place (now Sean and Robin Wright Penn’s), Harrison Ford’s (!!!), Rebecca DeMornay’s, Charlize Theron’s, and Ben Stiller’s. We then headed up Mullholland Drive to a little observatory place to catch a glimpse of the Hollywood sign and the whole of LA down below. Breathtaking view!

The most memorable places I then saw in Beverly Hills were the Osbourne residence, the Lopez-Anthony home (very cozy, by McMansion standards), the Cruise-Holmes service gate, and Ringo Starr’s home… where someone was arriving in a very fancy car. Anyone know if Ringo Starr is home these days?! LOL We also saw Rodeo Drive from where it starts as a residential street with ‘starter homes’ (going for, oh, 6 million or so) to the famous shopping strip.

In Hollywood per se, we saw the place where Lindsay Lohan had her DUI (oookay), the Viper Room, Sunset Plaza, the temple where Elizabeth Taylor married one of her husbands, and more.

What I took away from this tour is that stars are insane to live here. The Hollywood Hills area has nice homes, yes, but they’re on narrow poorly maintained roads and many have no driveways. Kevin Smith now owns the house Ben Affleck shared with Jennifer Lopez and his Escalade was parked on the street. Same thing at Rebecca DeMornay’s where we almost clipped her Lexus. Hollywood Blvd and Sunset Blvd are not even remotely glamourous, but rather dirty streets reeking of urine with dilapidated shop fronts. I have to say that it’s exactly what I was expecting, unfortunately enough. Beverly Hills, though, was post card perfect.

After the tour, I went to the Hollywood Wax museum which was okay, but nothing compared to Mme. Tussaud’s (where you were actually encouraged to touch the figures). I found that the figures weren’t particularly life like, but the horror gallery was much better than at Tussaud’s (for one thing, no one jumped out at me!). My CityPass gave me 5$ off admission to the Guiness World Records Museum, so I went in. Like the Wax Museum, it is very tired, dirty, and its exhibits need to be updated.

Tomorrow, I’m taking a walking tour of Hollywood, then visiting the Kodak theatre and possibly the Hollywood Museum in the Max Factor building. Then, if I can find it, I’ll go stroll around the Griffith Park Observatory (giving in to my MacGyver geekiness here), then I’m heading for San Diego. I’ll be spending the night there, visiting Mexico Friday morning, then heading back towards San Francisco via highway one, stopping somewhere past LA to sleep so I can have an easy drive to SF on Saturday.

I never thought I’d ever say this on vacation, but I actually think I’m ready to go home. I’ve done so much this past week that it feels I’ve been gone a lot longer than I have.

Day 4, “Welcome to the Pacific Ocean”

Day 4, “Welcome to the Pacific Ocean”

A day which can only be described with superlatives…. And pictures, of which I took dozens, none of which can convey the sheer beauty I encountered today.

Alcatraz was breathtakingly beautiful in a barren and desolate sort of way, architecturally graceful ruins blending in perfectly with scrub grasses, trees, and various flowers. Birds abounded and, in fact, most of the island is white with guano. It is a stark, foreboding place, but truly beautiful. I just wanted to set up a tent and stay there for spell. Some might think me crazy to find that place so pretty, but it is if you like ruins that blend in so thoroughly with their natural surroundings that you could not possibly imagine one without the other, then Alcatraz is the place for you. Here are only a few pictures that give the tiniest sense of the island’s magic:



The inside of the cell block is, of course, another story, but even that surprised me, with its pale pink and mint green colour scheme (!).


Wandering through the standard pathetic gift shop, I couldn’t help but marvel that I got the perfect Alcatraz souvenir my first night in San Francisco, when I picked up that pastel picture.

Upon returning to the mainland, Neil and I made a quick stop at the cable car museum then went to pick up my rental car:

Let’s play “what’s wrong with this picture.” I have no license plate. Apparently, this is perfectly legal because the car is new and I have a totally insignificant sticker on the front windshield. Yeah. I sure am looking forward to getting pulled over on the interstate. ๐Ÿ™‚ Otherwise, YAY! This is my car! Okay, it’s the newer model and is an automatic and has four doors, but things are still in the same place. And, of course, the Hyundai Accent is one of the most superbly comfortable cars in the universe.

Neil guided me to a place across Golden Gate Bridge called Point Bonita, where there is a lighthouse. The vistas were incredible.

Amazing day.

Decided that I’m too burned to take the long route to Vegas via Sacramento and Reno, and will therefore be taking the shorter route via the I-15. I’m therefore leaving sometime around 6 tomorrow (hopefully earlier) and should be in Vegas no later than late afternoon.

I’d forgotten it was possible to be this happy and joyous.

Day 3

Day 3

(I gave my camera a workout today, but Blogger is being a pain, so I’m only sharing a few at this time.)

I took full advantage of my MUNI pass today.

MUNI is, bar none, the best public transportation system I have ever encountered in terms of tourist use. For all I know, it sucks for commuters…. At any rate, it’s really easy to schedule a trip since every bus stop has a map of the transit system and every single stop is announced on the buses. Instead of sitting on the edge of my seat praying I wouldn’t miss my stops, I could sit back and relax.

My first order of business today was to visit my quintessential San Francisco landmark, that is the one thing that tells me that, yes, I’m definitely here. Then, I was going off to the De Young fine art museum. As it turns out, this was really simple and involved two buses, the first one catchable just two blocks from Neil’s. The landmark in question was on the same bus route as De Young, so I just had to hop off a bus, hike to the landmark, take a million pictures of it, then hike back to the bus stop to catch the next one.

Here is my quintessential San Francisco landmark. I’m sure that these gorgeous painted ladies require no introduction!
(squeals with glee at finally seeing them live!)

De Young is located in Golden Gate Park and features recent works of art plus some more contemporary exhibits like haute couture. There is a fantastic 360 degree view of SF from the observation tower.

I wandered a bit around GGP after and found the Japanese Tea Gardens. They were breathtakingly beautiful and the highlight was the Bell Bridge:


So much fun to climb up and down I did it twice!

I wandered around a bit more, discovered the Shakespeare gardens, then decided to head over to the Legion of Honor, accessible with my De Young ticket. I hadn’t planned on how to get there since I assumed that someone at De Young would be able to indicate the way. Nope. I went back to the bus stop where I’d been dropped off and easily mapped out a two transfer route that took me to the Legion of Honor’s front door.

The Legion of Honor was my favourite museum thus far (not counting aquariums). It’s another fine arts museum, but with much older art, including ancient Egyptian sculpture, Estruscan pottery, medieval illuminations, 16th to 18th century furniture (including one of Marie-Antoinette’s sofas), impressionist paintings, and a whole gallery devoted to Rodin. I went through twice! I think my favourite piece was a truly hysterical frieze of Adam and Eve being scolded by god in the garden of Eden. The details were fantastic–the pair holding onto their fig leaves for dear life and god pointing his finger in a way that makes me think he was probably shaking it at them. Here’s one of Rodin’s ‘The Thinker’:
I bussed home after and decided that I really needed to spend a couple of hours off my feet. So, I grabbed Neil’s bike and went for a ride along the bay. This was interesting since he has a man’s style bike with the bar across it and the bike is set about an inch too high for me. So, getting on and off in my skirt was quiiiiite the challenge! The ride really did the trick and it was just so nice to use different muscles. I took a lot of pictures of palm trees today, but this is my favourite one and was taken on my bike ride:I also took a lot of pictures of the bay:

I came back to Fisherman’s Wharf after several miles, locked the bike, and went off in search of the most gluttonous seafood meal I could find involving calamari and shrimp. So, I was quite pleased to stumble on huge calmari body parts (???) stuffed with tiny bay shrimps in a creamy sauce. I think I got about two-thirds of the way through my plate before I had to capitulate. ๐Ÿ™‚

Thus ends what will most likely be my last full day in San Francisco. Neil and I are visiting Alcatraz tomorrow, then picking up my rental car so we can go search for nuclear wessels and light houses across the bay. Depending on how late we get back, I’ll most likely be leaving for Vegas tomorrow night. I’d like to get a couple of hours (and miles) under my belt so that I won’t be completely wiped upon arriving there Sunday night.

I could be happy living in this city.

Day 2

Day 2

My feet tell me that I definitely over-extended myself today…. ๐Ÿ™‚

Unfortunately, I’m still not used to the whole picture thing, so I have tons of pics (and movies) from my morning, but that’s it. I’ll get them on Flickr… eventually.

Here are the day’s highlights, and only highlights because if I put down everything I saw and did, no one will believe that I actually did and saw all of that. It’s been that sort of day. You try to see San Francisco in only two full free days there!

So…

From Neil’s, conveniently located in Russian Hill, near Fisherman’s Wharf and Pier 39, I trekked to:

1) the famous Lombard Street, touted as the crookedest in SF. Apparently, the locals know that’s not true, but the real crookedest street is in an unsavoury part of town…. At any rate, the crooked part of Lombard is beautiful, paved with bricks and immaculately landscaped. I have no idea how residents of this part of the street manage to navigate in and out of their driveways. I’m no photographer, but I think this pic is pretty good!
2) Pier 39. There, I used my CityPass to visit the Aquarium of the Bay. I got a stamp on my hand that would have given me in and out privileges for the day, but I saw everything in one visit and didn’t return later for shows. Highlights included a tunnel surrounded by water in which we could see sea stars, leopard sharks, bat rays, skates, big sea bass, and much more. Very cool. I walked through twice. A highlight of this walk was a display where there was an open skate pouch (‘mermaid’s purse’) with a live developing embryo in it. Followed an awesome touch pool where I got to feel leopard sharks, skates, sea cucumbers, sea stars, urchins, etc. I have to say that except for the sharks, I could have been at a similar establishment on the east coast, the species are that similar.

3) After the aquarium, I had time to catch the 10:45 Bay Cruise, also courtesy of my CityPass. When I got on, I thought it was going to be a bit hokey, but no. We got an awesome tour of the bay, going all the way under the Golden Gate Bridge and then circling Alcatraz (which I’ll be visiting on Saturday with Neil). I took some awesome pictures of the bridge from many angles and most of Alcatraz. The weather was beyond cold and I was so glad I’d brought a sweater. One lady had just a tank top and I swear she was turning blue, until a gentleman took pity on her and handed her his jacket. Some people are just silly. A highlight of the tour was seeing the sea lions of Pier 39 who used to be chased away but are now a tourist attraction (as is just about everything in SF!). The narration (by Jules Verne’s character Captain Nemo, believe it or not) was pretty funny and very informative.

Here is the underside of the Golden Gate Bridge (choosing that one because it’s not a view you often see of this bridge!):
and here is Alcatraz (I can’t wait to be able to remove the people in the foreground from all my Alcatraz pics!):

I was surprised by how beautiful and lush the island is. Saturday’s visit can’t come soon enough!

4) It was noon when we got back and I had just one more stop to make at Pier 39. My CityPass had a bonus ticket for the Boudin Bakery, which produces the most famous sourdough in San Francisco using ‘mother dough’ that’s been fed since the 1800’s! This museum was fabulous and really set the history of the bakery into its historical context. The thing I’ll remember the most is the story of how during the earthquake of 1906 the owner of the bakery had just enough time and presence of mind to scoop the starter into a bucket before running to safety as her business burned to the ground. Saving the starter meant that she could restart her business and, essentially, lost nothing. Now bad for some flour and water! The self-guided tour ended at a tasting room where I got an amazing snack of sour dough, ciabatta, and chocolate and raisin breads, with various toppings like marinated parmesan.

5) My traitorous map made it seem like the Exploratorium was close-by, so I decided to hike there next. Let’s just say I arrived an hour later extremely footsore. ๐Ÿ™‚ I hadn’t spent any money yet today (!) so I decided to not look for lunch and just ate at the museum before exploring. The Exploratorium is so much fun. For those in Ottawa, just think of what the Science and Tech museum used to be like, and then multiply the fun factor by at least 1,000. Every single exhibit is interactive and teaches you something about a different branch of science. One of the cooler exhibits were a ‘shadow camera.’ I have no idea how it worked, but a flash of bright light would capture our shadows. Really, really cool effect. There were also some developing chicken embryos in the same style as the skate pouch. I spent a full three hours at this museum until I’d had my fill of fun. I’m such a kid. ๐Ÿ™‚ A final note regarding the Exploratorium is an hysterical find at the gift shop–an Einstein action figure. Love it! Coming out, I went around a lovely lagoon bordered by ‘palace’ ruins. I’m adding this so I can mention the only moment I regret not thinking to pull out my camera. A family of mallards was swimming close to shore looking for handouts. In the middle of the family, nonchalantly trying to fit in, was a sea gull. I’ve never seen a gull behave like that and I wasn’t the only one to find the sight pretty damn funny!

6) I was completely burnt out by this point, but I had a rogue ticket left in my book for a downtown attraction. The other two were for Golden Gate Park. I wasn’t sure I’d have time to see the downtown one any other day and it was open till 8:45 today. Since it’s something I wouldn’t have paid to see, I decided that a half-assed, ‘been there, done’ that tour would be sufficient. Which it was. You see, I’m not a fan of modern art, as in the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (or SFMoMA for cute). Now, there were some things I actually liked and I really enjoyed the Martin Munkasci photograph exhibit, but, otherwise, modern art exasperates me!!! The big going on today was the ‘Matisse as sculptor’ exhibit, but I just breezed through it since I’m not a huge fan of Matisse. At any rate, I did the SFMoMA in 45 minutes flat and I can’t imagine I would have spent more time there had I not been so burnt. I’m embarrassed to admit that the best part of going to the SFMoMA was the LONG bus ride from the Exploratorium. Hey, I can’t like everything!

7) After dinner at a nearby diner I realised that I wasn’t going to be able to walk home, so I hired a cab. Now, that’s exhaustion for you.

My left little toe is currently double its normal size thanks to an impressive blister and my SPF 60 failed me around mid-day, so I’m a tad cooked (but not burned, thankfully) and very footsore. What an amazing day!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I’ll just add that Neil came home with an impressive earthquake survival kit, given to him by Google. Obviously, Google knows something we don’t know, and I’m quite nervous. ๐Ÿ™‚

Day 1 in Review (or an attempt, anyway)

Day 1 in Review (or an attempt, anyway)

Where do I start???

My day started with the trek through Chinatown, where I was afraid I’d become a jaded traveler. ๐Ÿ™ I’m sorry, but I swear that every Chinatown I’ve been through–Montreal, Toronto, Chicago, New York–is the same, dirty and filled with shops carrying the same junk. They just fail to impress me. ๐Ÿ™ So, other than stopping for post cards and a gift for Neil, I went through the neighbourhood very quickly.

Breakfast took a surprising amount of time to find, so I grabbed a Starbucks soy latte upon exiting Chinatown, using a gift card Neil gave me. I eventually made it back to where I arrived last night, Market and Powell, and found Mel’s Diner on 4th Street where I had a breakfast of more coffee and some pancakes.

Replete, I ambled down 4th Avenue towards the Caltrain when I noticed the most bizarre plant I’ve ever seen. It took me a second to realise that I should perhaps be looking up. Yes, drum roll please, this plant was my very first sighting of a palm tree in its natural habitat!!!!!
(sorry, but I can’t get Blogger to recognize that I rotated the image!)

I was able to get such a nice clear picture of my first palm tree because a very helpful man moved people aside, helpfully telling them to ‘please back away and let the tourist take a picture of the tree.’ I’m not laughing. Really.

I got to the Caltrain station a full two hours after I’d left Neil’s and had just enough time to buy a ticket, wonder if the gold coins marked 1USD I got as change from the machine were legit, and get some ‘just in case’ literature (ie. a magazine), and it was time for the 10:37 train to leave.

The ride through Silicon Valley was most pleasant and I couldn’t help but note two things, one mundane, one not so much. The first was the xeriscaping, something I’m not used to seeing. The second was that, holy smoke, not everyone lives in hostile natural environment where the climate is an enemy.

Upon arriving in Mountainview, I took Neil’s advice and hailed a cab. At Google, a security guard told me to go to building 43 (‘hook a right up the stairs, then turn right at the dinosaur’). From there, a receptionist was able to call Neil for me.

He took me on a short tour of the amazing complex and then we had lunch. I couldn’t believe the amount of food there was to choose from and it’s all FREE. After witnessing first hand all the perks at Google, I informed Neil that I’m going to send him a resume and he better pass it around the office!

After lunch, we snagged free Google bikes to roam a little farther. I hadn’t been on a bike in five years, and I’d never ridden in a skirt, so it’s there that I realised that the adage is true–once you learn, you never forget! That was a lot of fun.

Neil then gave me directions back to the train station and I decided to hike. Unfortunately, I missed the train by less than a minute, so I had to wait a half hour for the next one.

I made it back to San Francisco for quarter to 4 and, since the California Science Academy and Steinhardt Aquarium were on the way ‘home’, near 4th on Howard, I decided to stop and see if the whole thing could be viewed in the hour I had before closing time. Yes!

This was so much fun and included a touching pool. Most amusing moment: when I asked if I could touch something at the way bottom of the pool and was told: “Gee, no one’s ever asked, but okay, if you’re feeling brave. But we wouldn’t.” (I put my hand down.) “Okay, that’s sad. A tourist is more brave than we are.” *ggl* My favourite part until then was the tiny crab climbing over my hand, but things were about to get better. I found… The snake exhibit! There was a beautiful python, a green snake (my absolute favourite kind of snake, and, yes, that’s its common name), and…. an anaconda!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I don’t think I’ve ever seen an anaconda before! It’s absolutely gorgeous–black with a uniquely shaped head. At one point, it moved around a bit and its gaze seemed to fall on me. It stuck out its tongue and I mimicked it. We then had a brief tongue sticking out contest. A guy behind me suddenly spoke up and said: “You’re not imagining it; it’s tracking you. I’m just waiting for it to pounce at you and bounce off the glass.”

An hour was more than enough time to see everything, so I went back up to Market and Powell, planning to meander my way home. I have a long list of things to do each day in SF and my list for today was done (!), so I decided to hop on the cable car that turns at Powell and spend the rest of the day wandering aimlessly in the general vicinity of home.

Before I left Howard street, I noticed something, and snapped a pic for Neil who laughed even harder than me. I present: How to Not Lock Your Bicycle:The cable car ride was amazing. Our driver, Jack, was absolutely hysterical and a crackerjack at customer service, favouring ‘tourists’ over ‘locals’, and dealing super well with an extraordinarily bitchy local woman. I rode the cable car right to the end at Fisherman’s Wharf, leaving my stomach somewhere across town as we zipped up and down breathtaking hills! Let me just say that driving a cable car looks like a lot of work! I have pictures of the cable car and Jack; I’ll upload them later since Blogger takes forever to upload and I’m beat.

Things were closing up at Fisherman’s Wharf, so I didn’t stick around. I hadn’t planned on staying long anyway. Neil’s place is near the water, so I figured that I could take a long cable car ride, then make my way home from the Wharf. At the Maritime Store, I picked up some reproductions of gold rush era documents that I’ll frame and hang in my study. I then decided to scout for dinner and found a Mexican place that looked promising. However, something told me to not eat just yet, so I left and stumbled on a pastel artist with absolutely gorgeous drawings of famous San Francisco landmarks. I immediately fell in love with one of Alcatraz, done in muted greys and purples and asked him, casually, how much they were. 20$, as it turns out, which was amazing value considering that they’re matted. But I was feeling cheap and would have paid 15$, not 20$. So, I walked off, slowly, sending out ‘I’m open to bargaining, but I don’t want to insult you’ vibes. Well, the man called me back and said that I could have my pick of any one for 15$! I’m very happy; this is the sort of souvenir that lasts a lifetime. I’ll have the picture framed when I get home and hang it in my bathroom since the colours will be perfect for it.

By this point, I was famished, so I decided to head home to drop off stuff and get more money, then focus on dinner. I determined based on the water’s positioning where home would be, roughly, and headed off. Sure enough, I came across a street I recognized, and then home was a mere three blocks away. I’ve got such a good sense of direction! ๐Ÿ™‚

For dinner, I still craved Mexican, and I found little place with really good food and even better prices (10 bucks got me out of there stuffed and included beer), then I found a market where I picked up breakfast and snack items. I was beat by this point and planned to go straight home and crash, but I found a bookstore on the way back and decided to browse.

I’ve been looking for a certain book since the summer of ’05 and have looked for it in used bookstores in Gatineau, Ottawa, Wisconsin, Winnipeg, and Maine. I can’t believe how impossible it’s been to find. So, imagine my delight in finding it here, in San Francisco! The book? A hard cover copy of Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind.

I got home at about 8:20 and Neil followed just after. We settled down to watch an ep of Firefly, got in our giggling for the day, and then he went off to bed since he has an early morning tomorrow (cycling to Google–60km!).

It’s been a rich, full day. I’m wiped and off to shower and then sleep the sleep of the dead–and content!