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North America » United States » California » San Francisco » Alcatraz
February 24th 2008
Published: February 24th 2008
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Hello, Rosie is writing the last few days from her perspective, and here is mine. They might end up as exactly the same but nevermind.
Basically we stayed at Pat's house from Friday to Sunday, and she was lovely. We played Rummikub with her into the night and she introduced us to bagels with cream cheese, which sounds horrible but is actually nice, Rosie particularly likes it, and I have a photo of her with cream cheese bagel eyeballs. Palo Alto had a bike race on Sunday, which was very entertaining because it had loads of famous people who I had not heard of, such as David Millar from Scotland. We went right up to the start gate to watch them go (it was a time trial thing, so they all went individually) so we were near the cameras and got onto some obscure sports TV channel. I also got a camera that day! A very nice and pleasing BIG ONE that I have been trying to take spectacular photos with, but failing mostly.. But I will get used to it I hope, the most annoying thing that I have found is that I can't turn the flash off unless I'm on an Automatic mode. Not that anyone actually wants to know that.
From Sunday to Wednesday night we stayed with George and Susan, who lived only a few blocks away from Pat, and were another of Rosie's mum's friend Peter's contacts. They were LOVELY and both very tall, which made me feel more normal size. Their house was like a magazine and so insanely beautiful, we both got our own guest room each with a double bed bigger than my house, and they had lovely humous-y food and Deborah (Peter's wife, who was coincidentally staying with them at the same time as us) made some stupendous meals as well. They had good ice-cream too, with chocolate shavings and rhubarb and strawberry jam. OH and really huge mugs, much bigger than any mugs I have seen, even that giant Mars mug. We were spoiled. I still have their key in my pocket actually, we'll have to post that back soon...
Anyway, those few days we spent around Palo Alto, we went to San Jose one day on the train, which was fun. We went to the Tech Museum there, where we had wheelchair races (which I won by 0.04 seconds) and a virtual arm wrestle which Rosie won, and went on an earthquake simulator. It was so fun there, we also went to the IMAX and watched a really boring film about a man who climbed a mountain but it was made much less boring by the fact that it was in an IMAX. We went to Stanford University one day because it is famous, and looked around some of the departments (that was more interesting than it sounds, honestly), and then we went to Stanford shopping centre to get some warm clothes because it is freezing here, but all of the shops were stupidly expensive, they had a Victoria Beckham shop there which we looked in for about 2 milliseconds, and it even smelt of girly. So that mission failed and we ended up in a Starbucks.
George and Susan's son's best friend Timi came around one night and took us to his salsa class, which neither of us were particularly looking forward to, but it ended up being the most fun thing ever, it was mostly fun to watch really short men come up to you and try and do a really intense romantic expression the whole time they were dancing. I've never really been in a situation where people come up to you and ask for a dance either, so that was weird. One short man called Alex from Israel started talking to us after the beginner's session ended and the more advanced people started dancing, and I thought he had said he was from Italy so when I said I was going there in the summer he asked if I was going to Tel Aviv, and for how long, so for some reason I made up an alternate holiday in Israel and described what I would be doing there. After salsa, Timi took us to a Safeway and we got a big tub of ice cream and a film called Martian Boy (very good) and went back to George and Susan's to watch it with a cup of tea in one of those massive mugs. That was thoroughly enjoyable, I think my best moments have been doing normal things like that with people, just like playing Rummikub with Pat, and drinking tea with Rosie's aunt in Australia talking about the education system there.. Yes I think those bits are good.
On Wednesday we came to San Francsico on the train and had the most gruelling walk with our bags, because we hadn't written down the address of the hostel so were blindly walking to somewhere more central, and it was Bad but eventually we got to some big shops and I went to a shopping centre and asked someone who was selling Learn a Language packs to type our hostel into Google (he was on a computer) so that got us the address and we got a cab there. Hmm. San Francsico is so nice! It really is probably the best city I've been to, there are loads of characters (people looking through bins and yelling things out randomly), and nice things to look at, and there are lots of steep hills and wires everywhere in the sky. The buses run off them and the cable cars run on metal rails on the ground (that is definitely not logical is it), and we have now been on both. Cable cars are REALLy fun, you get to hang off the side and whizz down really steep straight hills.
Our first mission was to find some cheap shops to get warm clothes in, and we found an H&M which was hugely exciting, and Old Navy, which was also good. I needed a coat, so naturally I bought 2 dresses, but they are really nice so it is OK. We went to the Exploratorium which was SO FUN and had loads of fun things to do, like an eye-tracker where it shows you exactly what your eyes look at when you're shown certain pictures. And yes, that was fun, but we've mostly been walking round loads and looking at things. Today we went to Alcatraz which is probably where JK Rowling got the name 'Azkaban' from, it is a prison on an island where some really bad criminals were kept like Al Capone. They had photos of some of them, and there were lots of murderes and kidnappers, but then some people who were there because of Tax Evasion, which annoyed me because that isn't nearly as serious. Anyway that was cool but it was freezing cold and wouldn't stop raining all day. I ended up having a tantrum because the umbrella I bought in Australia broke and was flapping around everywhere, and there were too many things to carry and my feet were freezing puddles so I threw it away. We got back to our street to see a Chinese New Year thing happening which was strange, and a bit sad because all the big dragons had plastic coats on to stop them getting ruined by rain.
When we got here on Wednesday we noticed about 6 billion people walking around the city with blue tags round their necks, and we were wondering what they were when we met the man from our hostel room who was also 'one of them' and it turned out there was a computer game developer's conference happening (explaining why they were all men, and had t-shirts with 'SuperMARIO' written on them) and he told us of their party that was happening in a hotel and where to find it. So we went to that (I think this was Thursday night?), and it was a very weird situation because we were probably the only females, and probably the youngest, and looked so out of place, but it turned out really fun. Ethan from Intel showed me photos of their latest game (this is SO EXCITING, I really couldn't get over it, and I think it's like a big secret thing) and anyway yes, it is like a brain controller thing, where you can play the computer game using just your MIND, and it has all these electronic diode things that you stick over your head, and you just imagine something on the screen to move, and it does it, because it's been pre-programmed to recognise different electronic signals, so you can ask it to move up or down or whatever, and it works! How amazing. He said we could have a go on it the following day, and I really wanted to, but we overslept. I also felt a bit ill. They also have a new thing which is like a 3D virtual reality thing, that is basically like in the beginning of that James Bond film, or like in Existenz. One of the computer game geek-men has invited us to his barbecue which is happening on Treasure Island tomorrow. That is where Peter Pan is set.. No wait, I'm not sure if it is Peter Pan now.. Um anyway, we just had a 3-course meal at an Italian restaurant and Rosie set fire to the menu.
Ahh, I seem to have run out of time so I will leave now and paste Rosie here.

Hello I am writing my version and Sarah is writing her version.
We spent a few nights in Palo Alto before getting to San Francisco, staying with one of Peter's friends Patricia for a couple of nights and then Deborah's brother George and his wife Susan for 3 nights. In that time, we went to the cinema and watched a Hitchcock film called The Foreign Correspondent where everyone laughed and clapped lots, we had the most amazing ice cream concoctions with broken up bits of brownie and strawberry and rhubarb sauce.
We went Salsa dancing with George and Susan's son's best friend, Timi who is very good. It was really funny to dance with little mexican men with moustaches who took it very seriously and only came up to my shoulders. After Salsa we watched a film called Martian Boy which was a little strange but fun.
We watched the time trials for the 'Tour of California' bicycle race, which was being held in Palo Alto and we cheered for any GBR men. They do very nice little chocolate chip cookies in Starbucks, (3 for $1.75 if you're interested).
In San Jose (which we visited one day) we went to the Tech Museum which was anything but a museum, there was an imax theatre there where we saw a film about the alps and it was sort of documentary-style following the journey of a man who wanted to "Climb the north face of the Iger". It was very dramatised but quite good. We sort of lay our heads back and watched it on the ceiling as it was dome shaped and the screen was projected onto the dome. At the Tech museum, me and Sarah had a virtual arm wrestle, where we both sat sort of opposite each other and then held a fake metal hand and it somehow transferred my strength onto the fake arm sarah was wrestling with and vice versa. I won that 😊 We also had a virtual wheelchair race which Sarah won. Unfortunately the Museum of Modern Art in San Jose is 'Closed on Mondays' and we went on Monday so we couldn't get in. San Jose actually has a larger population than San Francisco.
I bought some pringles the other day and they had Blue-dye writing on them! each pringle had a question and answer thing on them about the American racer Jimmie Johnson. It was very strange to eat pringles with words on.
We got a train to San Francisco and spent hours walking round trying to find a bus stop, and then we tried to find the visitor centre which according to the map we were standing next to (a few days later we finally saw it, underground?! you have to walk under the main road to get to it, no wonder we didn't see it) Sarah managed to find someone in a shopping mall with access to the internet and a printer and he printed us a map of our hostel and we got our first cab to the hostel. He forgot to set the timer thing so guessed the price to be around $6. We had our first meal out in a place called Lori's Diner which was basically a Hard Rock Cafe with a different name, each table had it's own mini jukebox and cars were coming out of the wall.
There are quite a lot of homeless in SF and some have signs saying things like "Spare change wanted for pot" and "Will accept verbal abuse for spare change" but most seem to wander around bins with shopping trollies and loads of paper bags.
We are sharing our 4 bed dorm with a French man and a Canadian who is here for the International Gaming Developers Conference which seems to be lasting about 4 days and involves hundreds of nerdy men walking round the city in huddles each with a massive photo ID pass round their necks.
We have started to have brunch instead of breakfast and lunch, not really due to any planned money saving strategy, it's more the fact we are waking up too late to take advantage of the free pancakes and have to buy food at a time which is more socially acceptable as lunchtime.
We got a cab to the Exploratorium, a science museum slightly north-west of the city centre and spent the afternoon playing with bubbles and lights and magnets. There was so much to do there that by closing time we still hadn't seen it all.
San Francisco is very hilly, we knew this but it was still a bit of a suprise to see how steep some of the hills actually are, it is made more obvious by the fact that all of the roads form blocks and are at right angles so there are really long, straight roads and you can see all the hills. We went to a place called "The Crookedest Street" which is a road int eh shape of a few tightly compacted 'S' shapes and must be like that because the incline is too great to drive up/down.
The Canadian gamer invited us to the game developer's conference in a hotel so we went along to this and were doubtful we'd get in, but we were able to walk straight in and were suddenly in the midst of loads of people, about 95% men aged between 25 and 40 and a fair few having 'TETRIS', 'NINTENDO', 'PS2'.... written on their clothes. The party was spread over 3 floors and each floor had balconies overlooked the ground floor in a semi circle shape. The lights kept changing colour and it was quite a nice place. We talked to various people, one of whom lived on an island called Treasure Island and he had to get a boat to work each day which sounded fun. We managed to get a lift to the 31st floor with the use of a pass by one of the actual hotel guests and we looked out over San Francisco, it was a nice cityscape.
We wanted to get a boat to Alcatraz on Friday but after walking miles (literally) we had missed the last ferry there by half an hour, so we booked one for today (Saturday) and decided to walk on a bit more to get some views of the golden gate bridge, which we did but not after another massive walk; we noticed the amount of hugely expensive houses which lined any road with a view onto the bridge. We found our way back to the hostel by getting a cable car! which is like a tram more than the type of cable car I associate with snowy mountains and they are very fun to ride on, they're often nearly full so you hold onto the handrails precariously and squeeze in when you pass another cable car going in the opposite direction. They are such a lovely change from walking up the hills.
By now we are both suffering from leg aches and pains due to all the walking we've been doing lately.
Today we got a boat to Alcatraz and managed to choose the most windy and rainy day to do it, anyway we were all given our own headsets and we went on an audiotour round the prison, most of it was indoors which was good and we saw the cells and where Al Capone and other notorious prisoners were kept. It was really interesting although we're both only now regaining feeling in our fingers and toes from the cold.

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