Mood: Busy Sightseeing!
We were treated to yet another beautiful day of fine weather in Cupertino. Today was the day to tour San Francisco and I was looking forward to seeing all the famous landmarks that San Francisco had to offer.
Over breakfast, the route was mapped with great care, so as to limit the amount of backtracking required to take in all the sights. While Auntie Karen and Aunt Magdalen took care of the tour route, Uncle Henry and I discussed the accessories I was to purchase from the Apple Company Store.
Uncle Henry works for Apple – aside from a short stint with Sony, he has always worked for Apple. On this trip, I had arranged with Uncle Henry to purchase a new 80G Video iPod using his employee discount scheme. The new toy is a shiny new black beast – so slick and gorgeous in design, and I love it!
After careful planning, we set off for our day trip. First stop, Apple Company Store on the Apple Campus in Cupertino, about a 2 minute drive from Uncle Henry and Auntie Karen’s house. The Apple Campus was very impressive – so huge it deserved a postcode of its own. We weren’t allowed to stroll through much of the campus, so we headed straight to the store. The Company Store was huge compared to some of the other Apple stores I’ve been into. There were so many accessories to choose from, and after some time, I decided on a pouch for my iPod and a camera connector.
It was close enough to lunch time by the time we set off for San Francisco, so it was decided we would stop for lunch at one of the best Chinese restaurants in the district, Koi Palace @ Daly City. This restaurant has come highly recommended by all my uncles and aunties in California – everyone has raved about the food, and spoken in amazement of the long lines for a table at lunch time and at dinner time, even with reservations. We would be driving past Daly City on our way into San Francisco anyway, so we took a slight detour to sample the restaurant.
And my relatives were right – the food at Koi Palace was amazing. It was well worth the effort.
On full stomachs, to San Francisco we went. First stop on the whistle stop tour was the Golden Gate Bridge. The very impressive structure was gleaming in its glory under a clear blue sky. Whilst there was a definite wind chill factor in the slight breeze, it was still very pleasant for the group to disembark and take plenty of photos of the bridge, the city and Alcatraz Island across the water.
Next stop, Lombard Street, the crookedest street in USA. Uncle Henry stopped the car at the top of the crooked part of Lombard Street so we could jump out and take photos – and take photos we did!!! The intersection of Lombard Street and Hyde Street provided a fantastic vantage point to see gorgeous parts of San Francisco: Ghirardelli Square, Fisherman’s Wharf, Alcatraz and the rest of the Bay. The intersection was also the stop for the famous Cable Car, and we were treated to the sight of a packed Cable Car before our journey down the crookedest street in USA.
Uncle Henry really tested the brakes in the rental van (aka the Fun Bus) on the way down. I was given the honour of sitting in the front seat for the full view of the entire journey, with Uncle Henry expertly navigating around the 8 sharp turns ("switchbacks"). At the bottom of the crookedest part, we found a car park in Leavenworth Street and jumped out to take more photos of the funny-looking street from a different perspective.
It really was an amazing sight, seeing all the turns in the street, the pretty landscaped gardens and the cars in the same frame.
Soon, the Fun Bus was ready to move to the next destination – Coit Tower. Sitting atop Telegraph Hill, Coit Tower looms over the eastern side of San Francisco with its almost regal presence. Coit Tower was constructed in 1933 at the request of Lillie Hitchcock Coit, who lived a rich and colourful life in an era when women were more reserved and retiring. Lillie had the means to live her flamboyant lifestyle and she donated much of her money to build Coit Tower in the interest of both honouring the firefighters (she herself was a volunteer firefighter) and creating a beautiful spot for viewing the city she loved.
After such breathtaking views of the city, it was time to visit another popular landmark – Pier 39. Here we were treated to the sights and sounds of hundreds of sea lions, sunning themselves on the dock and playing with each other. We walked around the Pier and looked at the restaurants and shops, and took many photos of the sea lions and Alcatraz Island from the best vantage point yet.
From Pier 39, we headed towards Fisherman’s Wharf on foot. Along the way, we did a little bit of window shopping through the souvenir shops that lined the main street. Soon, the big round sign with the orange crab proclaiming Fisherman’s Wharf of San Francisco loomed before us and the cameras were at a ready again. With not much to see at Fisherman’s Wharf – the wharf is the same as the Sydney Fish Markets, only smaller – we headed back towards Pier 39 and the parking structure where we had earlier left the Fun Bus.
We strolled through Boudin Bakery, which makes the yummy sourdoughs used as bowls for the delicious seafood chowder. We walked through Bakers Hall and saw the fantastic conveyor line of breads in bread baskets along the high ceiling beams being transported to the different sections of the hall. The smell of the fresh bread was mouth watering to say the least.
Boudin also makes specialty breads, and along the way, we saw bread in all sorts of shapes – crabs, alligators, teddy bears, turtles, flowers. Very cute indeed.
Time was ticking on and we all piled back into the Fun Bus to try to get out of San Francisco and beat the rush hour traffic. On our way out of the city, we drove past AT&T Stadium, home of the San Francisco Giants. There really was nowhere to park the Fun Bus, so I took a couple of shots of the stadium as we drove by. All I can say is: the outside of the stadium looks very impressive.
As we headed back to Cupertino, we debated where we were going to stop for dinner. In the end, it was just as easy to eat at Koi Palace again, so back to the restaurant we went. There were plenty of tables available, considering it was only 5.30pm. There were already other customers seated, so we didn’t feel like over-enthusiastic diners trying to beat the crowds.
Dinner was great – the food was just as good, if not better than lunch. During dinner, Uncle Henry suggested one last activity to round out the day – sampling the many different beers that are brewed on site at BJ’s Restaurant & Brewhouse back in Cupertino. I very enthusiastically agreed, much to the amusement of Dad.
So this is how Uncle Henry became The Fun Uncle. He took me to a pub and got me drunk.
The pub is actually located adjacent to the Apple campus, and Apple staff members frequent the establishment on a regular basis. Uncle Henry and his department have been there on many occasions for Friday afternoon drinks. This is how Uncle Henry has intimate knowledge of the beers on offer.
We arrived at BJ’s Restaurant & Brewhouse just as the Monday Night Football was concluding. We had to wait a few minutes for a booth to be ready for us, but once seated, I was quick to spot the menu item I wanted – 8 different beers in sampler glasses.
Everyone else ordered a drink – Mum, Auntie Karen and Aunt Magdalen all ordered a fruit cocktail, Dad ordered a cup of tea (go figure!!) and Uncle Henry ordered a beer. We also ordered a platter of chips and dips to go with the drinks.
Everything came at once, so we asked our waitress to take a group photo for us.
My order was fantastically presented – click here to see the presentation, here to see my reaction, here to see my efforts, here to see the aftermath, and here to see my face when told we were going home to bed.
But seriously, it had been a long but fantastic day. I was a little sad as our time in the US was fast coming to an end. The next day was the tour of Alcatraz Island and a couple more places to see in San Francisco before heading to the airport for our trip back to Hong Kong. Couldn’t believe how time really does fly when one was having fun!