Saturday, 28 June 2014

Lets go Giants! - San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park

We caught the bus from outside our hotel with the intention of taking it to the end of the line, near AT&T Park. But we got about half way there, and road works meant that we had to get off the bus - they run through electric overhead wires, so they can't just divert around the block! We wandered around for half an hour or so, and eventually found ourselves at the ball park.

The atmosphere was buzzing! We went into 'The Pub' for burgers and sweet potato fries before wandering around The Dug Out (merch store) and picking out our new Giant's shirts. I noticed straight away how excited everyone was for the game - a pre-season friendly with local rivals, Oakland Athletics. We bought our tickets from StubHub, which I've never used before so I was slightly worried about them, but we got scanned through, given free Giant's baseball hats, grabbed some Bud's and found our seats.

Neither of us knew that much about baseball, but after a few innings, we were into it. Everyone was in to it. There were chants, songs, kiss cams, the guy you always see on TV selling churros and popcorn! It was everything I thought going to see American sport would be - and more.
Darkness fell pretty quickly, and unfortunately the Giants lost - but it didn't matter! We had an incredible evening at AT&T Park, falling in love with a new sport and enjoying the atmosphere. Since being back in the UK, we try to watch as many Giants games as we can on TV (BT Sports covers lots of MLB games.) 
Lets go Giants!

Monday, 23 June 2014

On remembering to rest

Every now and then, we experience something which makes us re-evaluate the way we operate as human beings.

Yesterday, whilst out for lunch with friends, I fainted. I have fainted - or come close to it - a few times in the past 3 or 4 years, but I can usually tell when it's happening and prevent it. But for whatever reason yesterday, with a combination of beautiful sunshine and good food, I slumped in the chair, scared the life out of Ash and ended up in hospital. The restaurant called an ambulance. I know why they did it, and I would have done it if someone fainted in my work, so when I came around I was greeted by two lovely paramedics who helped me on board the ambulance. They did some obs, and my blood pressure was dangerously low  - 82/40-something. I sat in the ambulance whilst we waited for my blood pressure to come back up, and Ash went off to get the car so he could take me straight home. After 15 minutes or so, I felt well enough to stand up, and so got out of the ambulance, thanked the restaurant, and waited outside for Ash, chatting to friends and one of the paramedics. And then I woke up on the pavement. The next quarter of an hour was a blur. I was taken by ambulance to the local A&E department whilst Ash followed behind. Once in hospital, I put on a gown, had an ECG and blood taken. The nurse who was treating me was great, but it was a 2 hour wait before the Doctor came round.

When you sit in the sun, your capillaries naturally expand to the surface, meaning we have the same amount of blood in our bodies which now has a bigger space to fill. When you eat, blood rushes to your stomach to help the digestion process. Yesterday, my blood was going everywhere apart from my brain, which is why I fainted.

Okay - I'm lucky. I didn't fall off the chair and hit my head. I didn't get admitted overnight. But just those few hours in A&E got me thinking about how lucky I am. I'm healthy, I'm young, and I'm surrounded by people who care about me. I could have been in a much worse way, but I wasn't.

Whilst I sat on the bed in the hospital, I knew that I need to remember to rest. Not just physically, but mentally too. It's good to shut off. To forget about work and worries, and to just LIVE. I spend so many hours feeling guilty because I'm not doing anything, when really, there's nothing wrong with that at all. What happened yesterday is hopefully unrelated to my physical or mental exhaustion but it definitely made me think twice about how I tackle each day.

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Breakfast in Haight-Ashbury, San Francisco

We took a bus from outside the hotel to up to Haight-Ashbury, famously the home of hippy culture in the late 60s. The shop fronts were all painted gorgeous bright colours, offering vintage clothing, records and books. We came across Sparrow Bar and Kitchen where we stopped for breakfast. I went for the almond flour pancakes, which were definitely a lot dryer than the other pancakes I'd tried, but delicious nonetheless. Ash had a Sparrow farm breakfast, complete with 'fingerlings!' 

The corner of Haight-Ashbury, once a symbol of the Summer of Love, is now a Ben & Jerry's... All of the houses in the area are SO beautiful, and I'd definitely like to think that if I moved to SF, I'd live in Hashbury.

For more from our San Francisco trip, click here.

Monday, 16 June 2014

The Painted Ladies of Alamo Square, San Francisco

After a slow-paced breakfast in Haight-Ashbury, we walked to Alamo Square in search of the postcard perfect Painted Ladies. In the middle of the Square is a park, which happens to be up a hill - hardly surprising considering we were in San Francisco... There were a lot of dog walkers, and Mums with toddlers in the play area. After walking around most of the Square unsure of whether we'd seen the famous Ladies or not, we grabbed a bench, and I journalled whilst snacking on jelly beans from the Pier. Ash took out our guidebook, and after studying the photos, we realised that none of the houses we'd seen were 'the ones.' I think that really says something about the area we were in - all of the houses are SO beautiful. (Check out this one which The Blog Academy girls came across during their stay in SF!)

We decided to explore from street level instead of the park, and on our way downhill, we spotted them. We wasted 20 minutes taking silly photos and enjoying the sunshine, wishing we had frozen coffees and a picnic. 

For more from our San Francisco trip, click here.

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Alcatraz Island, San Francisco

You break the rules, you go to prison. You break the prison rules, you go to Alcatraz.

My first glimpse of The Rock was from the sky; as we circled the city to land at SFO, I saw how disconnected the island was. As part of our city tour during our first full day in SF, our coach dropped us at Pier 33 and we climbed aboard the ferry boat over to the island. 

The trip across the bay was short, only 15 minutes or so, and on the advice of our coach tour guide, we skipped the half an hour talk about the wildlife of the island, and headed up hill to the prison tour. The tour is guided through headphones, with signage around the prison to prompt the track on your guide player. You're 'shown around' by prison guards, their families and previous in-mates. They explain about each cell block, visitation, the recreation yard, the food hall, and of course retell some of the stories which make Alcatraz so famous.
The prison was decaying. Windows were smashed through, there was a musty smell, the flooring is worn and old, and the exterior is weathered. But, if anything, these characteristics added to the whole experience. Ash took the below photo from the top of the stairs - you can understand why it was so important to the inmates to be at the top of the 'prison hierarchy' which entitled them to gaze at the city from the top step. 
Seeing the paper mache head and the open grill was fascinating. To think that 3 men plotted their way out of the most secure prison in the States and have never been seen or heard of since is incredible. We also read about Al Capone, the Birdman and Machine Gun Kelly, as well as other escape attempts, prison fights and 'The Battle of Alcatraz' which saw two guards and three inmates killed.

Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary closed on March 21st, 1963, after 29 years. The last inmate to leave, Frank Weatherman, said "It's mighty good to get up and leave. This Rock ain't good for nobody." In 1972, Alcatraz became a national recreation area, and has since become the number 2 most popular attraction in the whole of the United States - second, of course, to Disneyworld.

A tip if you are thinking of visiting Alcatraz - book in advance. Our tickets came as part of our tour (booked here) so we didn't have to worry about it. But we saw a lot of people being turned away for tickets on the day, or even for the whole week. Some vendors who have managed to get tickets massively inflate the prices.

Monday, 9 June 2014

A stroll from Coit Tower through North Beach, San Francisco

It was this day when I fell in love with the city. Before we'd even thought about breakfast, we'd hiked up Lombard Street in the pouring rain. It was worth the calf ache! Breakfast eventually came in the form of Starbucks granola and a cup of "hot tea" whilst watching the rain drip down the windows. We scurried through the streets to the Aquarium of the Bay to dry off for a few hours, and when we emerged, it had stopped raining. We decided that it would be the perfect opportunity to seek out the parrots of Telegraph Hill - which, unfortunately, we never found. We did, however, find some gorgeous views of the city from Coit Tower, and eventually made our way downhill to North Beach.
We were both cold, wet and tired, but San Francisco was too mesmerising to get our spirits down. We nipped into a gelato shop - Ash went for white chocolate and pecan, I chose blood orange - and carried our weary feet back to our hotel for a snooze.

For more from our San Francisco trip, click here. 

Friday, 6 June 2014

Aquarium of the Bay, Pier 39, San Francisco

"The coldest winter ever spent was a Summer in San Francisco." - Mark Twain
It really, really rained in San Francisco. We got up one morning looking forward to a day exploring, and instead found ourselves in Starbucks watching the rain trickle down the windows. I persuaded Ash that we should visit the Aquarium of the Bay to avoid the damp morning. We'd walked past it a few times at the end of the Pier and thought it looked great - I have a thing for sea life anyway. The tickets were slightly more pricey than we anticipated, but we still went in for a look around.
I think the jelly fish were my favourite. They were kept in huge, glass tanks with changing light colour which made for amazing photographs. Plus I find them really relaxing to watch - anyone else?? All of the tanks had beautiful fish, coral and sea creatures. Way more interesting than the Weston Super Mare sea life centre I'm used to.
Near the end, we wandered through a huge tunnel. There were crazy sized sea bass, huge sharks, 'sea stars,' and sting ray. We watched it all for a long time, before going out onto the viewing deck to see the sea lions - AGAIN. It was certainly the best aquarium I've visited!

For more from our San Francisco trip, click here.