San Francisco and Los Angeles – do’s and don’t s

A final wrap up post with the very last photos of San Francisco.

No further comment needed, this is indeed a very cute dog!

I had plans to both visit cinemas in LA and San Francisco, but the weather has been so marvelous that I better liked to be outside. I also found the cinemas in LA a bit too touristy. The Elwood cinema in Berkeley however looked so wonderful that I simply had to check it out.

And on my very last morning I had the choice between trying to get on a cable car or saying goodbye to the seals. Well that was not a hard choice, who needs cable cars!

Here are a couple more photos.

Things I liked in LA:

  • Santa Monica: both the beach and the 3rd Street promenade for shopping.
  • Renting a bike and cycling the Los Angeles beach bike path
  • Hollywood boulevard (for a short time)
  • Very friendly people all around

Things I did not like so much about LA:

  • the distances between the different parts of the city, LA is huge. If you don’t have a car, prepare to spent a lot of time on public transport. (I have to say that taking a bus was cheap, $1.25 for a bus ride, no matter how long! And downtown at the subway stations you could buy a day travel card for $5).
  • the lack of a centre (like in Santa Monica)
  • it is pretty hot in LA. Which is OK if you want to lie flat on the beach all the time. If you want to see things around in the city it can be a struggle in the heat.

Things I liked in San Francisco:

  • The whale watching trip. I hoped to see one whale, but ended up seeing 64. An unforgettable experience, which I recommend you to do if you are in the area. I went with them.
  • The bike the bridge bike ride. It is totally cool to cycle of the Golden Gate Bridge, the view is amazing and on the other side of the bridge you can visit Sausalito which is a very nice and cosy town. I rented my bike here.
  • Take ride on one of the beautiful vintage streetcars. Also – get yourself a Muni passport, so you can travel around cheaply on all forms of transport (including cable cars – if you manage to get on them!).
  • Have an ice cream at Ghirardelli or at the Cold Stone creamery
  • The seals, the beach, I even liked the fog!

There wasn’t anything I didn’t like in San Francisco.

And if you have the patience I can highly recommend you the train ride from Los Angeles to San Francisco on the Coast Starlight. The price for a seat (which lots of legroom) to SF was $52 and the views along the coast were fantastic. If you have more time you can continue to Seattle on this train.

It’s back in London now, where the weather is still perfect and where I had a lovely bicycle ride into work. And I am not complaining, in about 53 days I am off to New York to see a thing or two. Like, on stage. Phew, I like the poster! Let it rain!

San Francisco – day 6

Today I spent together with the lovely bloglily who invited me over to Berkeley. Berkeley is about 25 minutes by BART train (Bay Area Rapid Transit) and I had a great day. We had tea in a lovely cafe, walked around in the city, and Lily was friendly enough to lend me her bicycle, so I cycled to Berkeley University campus and had a bicycle ride in that area – the weather has just been amazing, and still is.
And I met Archie, the wonder dog, he is so so cute!

I also visited the charming Elmwood cinema in Berkeley where I both had a very first look at the US trailer for Pirate Radio (The Boat That Rocked!) with Bill and I saw Julia and Julie with Amy Adams and Meryl Streep (sweet film!).

I bought the mandatory pairs of Levi’s jeans and have started packing my suitcase. It feels like I have been away for ages, and it also feels very wrong to go home. Life here has been very good.

I do have some photos from today, I will post them when I am back in London as it is late, and I need some sleep. My flight tomorrow is 16.55 from San Francisco International airport – arrival Wednesday, 11am at Heathrow.

Bye bye USA. For now-uh!

San Francisco – Day 5 – Whale watching

If you want to do a whale watching trip you have to get up early, we had to be there at 7.30am, the boat left at 8am. There are some other things you need to consider: it can be freezingly cold (like on our trip), you get very far out on the ocean, and the waves there are huge!

I did not have any problems being sea sick, but being out this far with those waved did intimidate me. Until we saw – our first whale. The captain of the ship told us that they had seen 40 whales yesterday, which was extraordinary.

On our trip we saw … 64 whales!! 62 hump back whales (they are big), 1 blue whale (you won’t believe how big those are, much longer than our boat!) and one Orca. All in all I have been amazed about the amount of whales we saw, at some point we were in the middle of a group of 10-12 whales who were having lunch and it was an astonishing sight. They didn’t really seem to care that we were there too.

I recommend everyone (if you can handle the boat trip) to at least once do a whale watching trip. You will never forget the sight of those huge huge animals.

We haven’t seen any jumping whales, so it’s mostly backs, fins and tale photos, and the photos in no way can give you an idea of how fantastic it is to see them in their environment. But it gives some sort of idea – Photos here.

San Francisco – Day 3/4

The last two days have been relaxed. On Friday I met up with Gerry, a San Francisco local and a regular reader of my blog. He was very friendly and showed me around the city by car. We saw the Golden Gate Park, The Presidio, Ocean beach and drove up on Twin Peaks from which you have a fantastic view of the whole city.

We also crossed the Castro district which is the area of Harvey Milk (which you might know from the film “Milk” with Sean Penn). It was a great day, and thanks so much for showing me around Gerry!

Today I did some shopping, watched the kites at the kites festival at the Marina and had an ice cream in Ghirardelli. If you have a sweet tooth, it is the place to go.


There are a couple of photos here.

Tomorrow I have to get up early, the whale watching boat leaves at 8am, we need to be in the harbour at 7.30am. I bought some anti sea sickness pills just in case, but the weather is going to be good (28C predicted so it will be good to be at sea where it will be a little cooler). If we see just one whale I will be happy!

San Francisco – Day 2


Is it me or are people on the west coast of the US just friendlier than the ones in New York? I spoke about this with two ladies from the US and they agreed. In New York everyone is in a hurry, they don’t have time to be friendly. Here everybody seems friendly. Is it the weather?

Well I certainly get in a good mood of this weather, the weather today was perfect, perfect to bike the bridge.

I left relatively early as I wanted to make an early start, but then I discovered the sea lions at Pier 39 and I was sold. They were so so cute, and there were so many of them, I could watch them for hours. When I finally got myself dragged away from them it was a bit later than planned, but I was ready to bike the bridge.

Again, if you ever get to San Francisco, this is the thing you want to do. I admit that there were some stretches that were a bit steep (the bridge is high, and you need to get on top of it to cross it) but once you are up the views are spectacular. It is a fantastic trip, I ended up cycling to Sausalito where I had lunch and I took the ferry back from there to San Francisco (which was a lovely sailing trip too!).

After another visit to the sea lions and a beautiful purple sky, I am now ready to sleep. And so are my legs!

The thing I learned today about the sea lions – you can distinct between seal and a sea lion by looking at the ears. Sea lions have tiny ears, seals don’t. I had no idea.

Here are the photos. (Expect a lot of sea lions, and a lot of bridge!)

Train trip and San Francisco – day 1

The train trip to San Francisco was a long one (11 hours) but it was worth it. A big part of the trip follows the coast line and the views from the train window were fantastic.
The train arrived in San Francisco exactly on time, and I arrived safely in my hotel.

Here are a few photos from the train and trip:
Los Angeles to San Francisco by train

It was a bit weird to wake up in a new city. I didn’t have a pre defined action plan for San Francisco today, so I started off like a head less chicken. But I decided to buy a transport pass first, so I went down to the waterfront first to do so. From there I could not resist the urge to take a trip one of the wonderful vintage trams that run in San Francisco.

I actually wanted to try one of the well known cable cars too, but the queues for those were so long, that I dropped that for today.

In stead I took a bus to the ocean to see what a San Francisco beach looked like. It looked good. And the weather is perfect here. Still sunny, but just a bit more bearable.

From there I walked a part of the San Francisco Land’s End trail, which gave stunning views of both the ocean and the Golden Gate bridge (now without fog!).

There are a couple of photos here (they are not that great though!):
San Francisco – day 1

There aren’t really any photos of the city itself, but I will take care of that when I am visiting some of the sights at a later time.

If I feel fit enough tomorrow and the weather is good for it I am going to bike the bridge.

USA Holiday preparation

There are only seven days until my departure to the USA, so a good time today to do any last minute holiday shopping on Amazon.

I ordered the following neccesary items:

  • SanDisk 4GB SDHC Secure Digital Card. Something tells me that I am going to take a lot of photos, and with both an 8MP and a 10MP camera, the file size of the photos will be large. I don’t want to take the risk of running out of cards, so I ordered another 4GB. Just to be on the safe side.
  • Lowepro Apex 20AW Digital Camera Pouch – Arctic Blue. A small more protective pouch for my Panasonic DMC-TZ4 pocket camera. Somehow I managed to get this for Β£7.49 from Amazon including postage, but it doesn’t show up for that price anymore now. I guess I was lucky!
  • A cute luggage tag and a lock. Yes ok they have hearts on them. But I liked them, and they will make my suitcase even more recognizable when it arrives at LAX airport.
  • Noise Cancelling Foldable Headphones
    It is going to be a long flight from London to LA, estimated flying time is 11 hrs 5 min, distance: 8758 km / 5442 miles. Wow!

    I have done a long flight like this before, from Beijing to London so I kind of know what to expect, but it is a long time. Good thing that BA has entertainment on demand in their aircrafts. And just to be able to hear the movies properly or listening to the onboard radio, and to keep some of the airplane noise out of my ears – noise cancelling headphones seemed handy.

    BA has taken The Boat That Rocked from their schedule again though, which is hugely disappoiinting. But they do show a Bill film: Notes on a Scandal, and they show other favourites like The Proposal. And there are actually some films on the list that I haven’t seen: The Knowing and The Hangover for example. I think time will fly. Literally.

  • The Boat That Rocked [DVD] [2009]. Yes what can I say, if BA doesn’t want to show it, I have to buy the DVD. For the extra material alone. Please, please let there be more material showing Bill Nighy dancing on Rolling Stones music.

I will now make a map of the locations of my hotels, and the things I would like to see. And write a long list of things I want to do, and plot them on the map too.

I bought two guides: Los Angeles (DK Eyewitness Top 10 Travel Guide) for LA, and San Francisco and Northern California (DK Eyewitness Travel Guide).

So I am already having a lot of fun finding out what to do and see in both places.

Of course I am also keeping a close eye on the wild fires in the California, and especially Los Angeles but it looks like things are getting under control. Which is good for the people who live there, but also for me as a visitor.

If there is anything I absolutely should not forget to bring with me, let me know!