Monday, 12 May 2014

Cruising the San Francisco Bay

"When you get tired of walking around San Francisco, you can always lean against it." - Unknown.

I know this sounds like a super cliche, but I fell in love with San Francisco, and everything about it. The steep hills, the rain, the people, the atmosphere... Our week there was so incredible, and I'm dreaming of a time in the future when I can go back. Maybe not any time soon - this Earth of ours has plenty of other places to explore - but someday, maybe, I'll be able to visit the gorgeous Bay area again.

My favourite evening in Frisco was the night we cruised the Bay. I booked our cruise through Viator (this one here), for just over £30 each. That included a 2 hours cruise around the San Francisco Bay, a complimentary drink, dinner and on board entertainment. It was an absolute steal as we had a fantastic evening and I got some beautiful photos. We set sail from Pier 43 and a half with the historic San Franciscan Red and White Fleet and headed towards the Golden Gate Bridge.
I took photos of the bridge from every angle - on approach, whilst going underneath, and on the way back. We got selfies, took each others photos and took photos for other guests on board. The sea air was cold and fresh and the wind whipped my hair about, but I didn't care, because I was in San Francisco and I was happy.
I always judge an occasion by it's buffet, and this one got full marks. Chinese style noodles, salads and olives, bread and dips... it was pretty perfect. We settled down with a couple of Corona's and watched the city as we floated by, filling our faces ;)
We saw Alcatraz Island from every angle, and got a really good feel for how much of a rock it really was. So close to the city, but so far as well. We passed other tour boats and waved to them. On board our boat was a guitarist, singing some American classics as well as other songs we didn't know. But it didn't matter - people were up dancing, singing along, and tapping their feet.
Our cruise took us right out under the Bay Bridge and round to AT&T Park, where we'd watched the Giants a few nights before. It was then that I realised how small San Francisco is, but how vast it felt. We passed by all the different districts and landmarks within minutes of each other. It's the sweetest little city.
As we headed back towards the Pier, the sun began to set, and I couldn't stop nipping outside to take photos. I took over 50 photos just of the sunset behind the Golden Gate - but in that time I stopped to think. I don't think I've ever been as happy as I felt that night. I am just a small person experiencing this big world from a different angle.
For more from our San Francisco trip, click here.
 

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Las Vegas, Nevada (according to my iPhone)

After an incredible week in San Francisco, we were really excited to fly to Las Vegas and experience Sin City for the first time. And let me tell you this - everything you've heard about Vegas is true. It's the most incredible place I've ever visited. 
We had to walk to a different terminal in McCarran airport to collect our luggage - there were slot machines in the airport. It was MENTAL. Our cab driver who took us to our hotel was hilariously obsessed with the royal family, and knew more about Queeny and co than we did.
We stayed in Luxor, the pyramid just off the strip. The hotel took my breath away. When we walked into the lobby and looked up to the tip of the pyramid it was totally overwhelming. Over 30 floors of rooms all around the edge of this magnificent building, Egyptian themed decor and statues were everywhere. We stayed on the 16th floor and had a great view over the Sphinx.
The casinos were so much fun. We didn't lose THAT much money, but we certainly didn't win a lot (see above). I loved playing the slots, having complimentary drinks brought to us and soaking up the fun atmosphere of the casino floors. It was amazing to be inside such prestigious buildings, like Caesar's and the Bellagio.
On our first night, we went to the Rio Hotel and saw Penn & Teller, the magicians. Their show was mind boggling and we met them in the lobby afterwards. Ash was far more excited about the fact that he met Kerry King from Slayer in the lobby though ;)
 The next morning was the most memorable. We got picked up by limo at 6am, and taken away to the airfield, where we boarded a helicopter and flew out to the Grand Canyon. At the bottom, we had a champagne breakfast and took lots of photos - I will write a post all about it soon :)
Back on the strip, I continued to be amazed. The New York New York turned out to be our favourite hotel, atmosphere wise, so we spent a bit more time there - gambling in their casino, drinking Cosmopolitans and riding the rollercoaster. Plus, they had a jelly bean Statue of Liberty!
We even enjoyed a ride on the gondolas in the Venetian! Our gondoleir, Gisele, had a fabulous voice and sense of humour as you can see from the above photobomb ;) It was absolutely crazy to be floating around the canals of Venice, where the ceiling looked like the sky and the hustle and bustle of St Mark's square wasn't too far away. In reality, we're in the middle of the Nevada desert, 6000 from Italy.
Our days in Vegas were spent wandering from hotel to hotel, soaking up the atmosphere, drinking massive Bud Lights (above left!), shopping and eating. I think we could have stayed in Vegas for a whole month and done something different every day - it's this reason that I am aching to go back as soon as possible.
And at night, we'd treat ourselves to a meal and some more drinks in a casino. I think you can make Vegas exactly what you want it to be - a place to lose yourself and drink until you don't remember OR a place to enjoy good food, amazing shows and the most incredible atmosphere.

Viva Las Vegas! x

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

San Francisco, California (according to my iPhone)

I can't believe that we've been home for a whole month. In some ways, it feels like only yesterday we were enjoying California. In others, it could have been a life time ago. I fell totally in love with San Francisco, and the Californian way of life.
We stayed at the Holiday Inn Fisherman's Wharf, and enjoyed a whole week of exploring the Bay. From sea lions to Alcatraz, baseball to cocktails, I will remember those seven days spent with Ash forever.

Here are some peeks of what we got up to from my iPhone. I hope to share some more details and photos about our trip soon.
 
Seeing the Golden Gate Bridge took  my breath away. I caught a glimpse of it from the plane as we flew in to land, and even that put a lump in my throat. But on our first full day when we ventured towards the International Orange land mark, I honestly felt like I'd accomplished something. It was a very special moment.
 
Here we go Giants!!! We were lucky enough to get some quite cheap tickets to see a pre-season San Francisco Giants vs Oakland Athletics game at AT&T Park. The atmosphere at the baseball was better than any sporting event (or gig!) that I've ever been too. It was friendly and fun, and there was lots of singing and chants. The beers were the only let down - $10 each! We were far too used to the $5 beers on the waterfront by then ;) Both of us picked up Giants shirts from the store next door, and since we've been home we've been recording their games on ESPN/BT Sport so we can follow them this season.
 
We learnt that when it rains in Frisco, it bloody pours! Before breakfast one morning we got on our rain coats and walked uphill to Lombard Street. If you've visited SF before, you know that the hills are quite a challenge! We arrived at the top feeling a bit tired and damp, but seeing the city shrouded in rain was worth it - the views were just as good. The walk back down the hill was more challenging than going up - slippery sidewalks plus a steep descent, I'm surprised neither of us fell on our bums! We sheltered inside Starbucks for breakfast, before deciding that a trip to the Aquarium of the Bay would be a good way to spend a few hours out of the rain.
 
 
My favourite evening was definitely when we cruised the San Francisco Bay. The sunset was incredible! I will definitely put up a whole post about this soon because I took hundreds of photographs.
 
One sunny morning we travelled from our hotel on the bus to Haight/Ashbury for breakfast. The houses in the area were something else! So grand and colourful. The shops are adorned with portraits of musical heroes; peace and love was everywhere. We strolled down to Alamo Square with full tummies to see the Painted Ladies. The park was full of dog walkers and sun bathers -  I loved how no one seems to be rushing in San Fran.
The viewing platform overlooking the sea lions at Pier 39 quickly became my favourite spot. It was fun to watch them play and snooze in the sunshine, and the views from the Pier to Alcatraz Island were amazing.
We left San Francisco having fallen in love with the city and everything in it. But we were still bursting with excitement to arrive in Las Vegas!
Rosie x

For more from our San Francisco trip, click here.