Last full day in the Big Apple

I never quite understood why New York city was called the Big Apple, and did not find out this trip either. Not in the last place because of the fact that I didn’t bother to go looking for the answer anyway.
Oh well. The last full day. Only one more night of sleep and we’ll be heading to the airport to go to the next destination.

But first today. As we have visited most if not all of the items on our todo list, today has been a day of relaxation and trying to do stuff wedding not think of beforehand. This meant we started off at a restaurant which was recommended to us by a couple of friends.

Little Italy. Or SoHo. Or NoLita. We actually don’t know. All we know the place we had breakfast is called Balthazar and is located on 80 Spring Street. That’s on Spring Street and Lafayette Street. And it’s not Italian. But French. And really good. Actually, really good. It’s where the locals also go. And where we had our breakfast. 🙂

With our stomachs filled we headed off to nowhere actually. We ended up touring SoHo (Wooster Street, aka Woostah!) only to find quite a lot of hipsters and really stylish stores with furniture, kitchens, interiors and designer clothes. After this, we went back to NoLita and also Little Italy (Grand Street) to get a good taste of what this was like. As we were there around lunchtime, the restaurants were literally begging us to get a taste of cannoli and pasta. We politely refused.
We can definitely recommend touring these three districts as they are both historically important for the city itself and really fun!

Trying to find our way back towards a subway station we ended up walking through Chinatown (Mott Street) which was a true blast. This was not the tourist’s Chinatown, this was Chinese Chinatown. Brimful of little shops with fruit and vegetables, weird spices, and fish markets, this is the place where the NY Chinese live and go grocery shopping. No common letters around. Only Chinese script. What a sight! We have been wandering around getting amazed at every corner on the streets.

With a small loot of cherries we headed to 34th in the neighbourhood of our beloved Empire State Building to eat those and enjoy being there. Eventually, we ended up doing some more shopping and buying as spending money on clothes is something all travellers to NY seem to do, we were definitely not an exception. 🙂

Heading back to the hotel, we figured we didn’t want to go far to grab a bite which meant we were going to eat at the restaurant directly adjacent to the hotel. Also serving Italian food, it was good but not too much. And at 23 degrees it was really nice to have dinner at a table outside.
Our last trip of the day included riding the 6 and the 5 all the way down to Fulton Street tosee the Brooklyn Bridge at night. Just lovely!

Unfortunately, we are destined to leave New York tomorrow. We have come to really like this city and the bustling atmosphere. We however disliked the smell. If only this could be dealt with. It’ll probably not be why we’re not going again! 🙂

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Second day at New York

After getting in pretty early yesterday, we were able to get a good night of sleep (10+ hours!) which meant today was going to be filled to the brim with new and exciting experiences.

We started our day off with a short walk to the nearest SubWay, a tradition started two years ago during our previous trip to the United States. We’ve found that breakfast at the hotels is usually really expensive and often not that good. We decided not to try it at our current hotel and opted for a safe meal. Today, it was Turkey Breast. 🙂

With our stomachs filled we set off to
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Doing time

Our only full day at San Francisco was planned full to the brim.
First, we started off with the Painted Ladies, 5 original imperial style houses painted in pastel colors sitting in a row next to a big park which made for a very scenic view. This featured a long drive by trolley bus and San Francisco’s most famous way of transport: the cable car. Riding is is a great adventure, and with cars built as late as 1993 the system is still pretty well maintained. It is not the fasted though, but will get you there faster than you can walk most of the time.

Returning to the Financial District, we made our way back to Union Square to snap the same shot as Mark & Christa did when they were in SF. It good fun guys!
We continued by riding the long cable cars down to the wharf where most tourists are.
This included a trip to San Francisco’s windiest street, Lombard Street. Really good fun.

We also paid a visit to the Aquarium of the Bay, which features not one but two 100 yard tunnels through 2 gigantic fish tanks. This aquarium was a pleasant surprise, as everything was way better maintained then expected.

Finally, and this must have been the mist impressive part so far, we went on a boat trip to Alcatraz. Awesome. I’m not going to say more about it: it’s just that great. We were both in awe for the rest of the day. What a trip!

After dining at the very posh restaurant in our hotel we tucked in early to prepare for the long drive tomorrow. We are heading for the Historic Santa Maria Inn, in Santa Maria. We’re planning to drive all the way on highway 1, which is not quite the same as the interstate…


Entering the Bay Area

After a night with a very loud air conditioning system, we got up and prepared for the trip to the best anticipated city of our trip: San Francisco.
Getting out of the Yosemite region is about as hard as getting into it, long and windy roads lead you eventually to an Interstate leading to SF.

Entering the Bay Area is probably one of the most impressing things we’ve done so far. After driving through the upper Bay Area with cities like Daly City with approximately 400.000 inhabitants and bigger, you arrive at a two bridge system called Bay Bridge. This is the Eastern entrance to San Francisco and almost as famous as the Golden Gate Bridge.

First thing we did in San Francisco wad to find a route called 49 Mile Scenic Drive. This road will lead you to most of the car accessible sites the city has to offer. As we couldn’t find the start of the tour, we started touring ourselves and found our way to the Golden Gate bridge. We first drove it Southbound and went to the tourist designated site there, especially made for all photographing tourists. The view from over there is great, but it is at about the same level ad the deck of the bridge itself. We heard from another tourist that driving to the other side of the highway and going up the hill would yield a better view.

So we went up there and got excellent views of the bridge and the city from across the bay. Wonderful. Albeit a bit windy. And cold.
With us getting comfy with temperatures high in the 30’s, the mere 21 in San Francisco was quite a switch. Stewed in shirts, shirts and jackets we stood there to take pictures while our pants were nearly blown off by the syringe gusts of wind up there.

Going back Northbound we had to pay toll; 6 dollars. Going over the Bay Bridge was cheaper at 4 dollars, but the Golden Gate is quite a bit bigger. After returning to the city, we drove to the hotel to find that the Hilton Financial District is located directly next to Chinatown. Hoe great is that!

Also, we had a grim reminder that the hotel was dead in the middle of the city: parking was a whopping 45 dollars per night. With 2 nights to spend, we have been parking cheaper…
After checking in at the very luxureus hotel, we made our way into the town to start sightseeing. We did Union Square and a whole lot of walking up and down steep hills, which is good fun as long as you’re going downhill. The other way around is really not ok!

To find dinner, we started searching for non dinghy looking places in Chinatown. Luckily, this was daily easy and we settled for some teriyaki at a restaurant called Floating Boats Sushi Restaurant. As you might suspect judging by the name, it features a carousel of chain linked boats (floating in real water!) with sushi dishes on the boats for the guests to pick and eat. It was really funny to look at. The food was great, and pretty cheap, so the day ended great.