San Francisco 2013, Part 3 - Day 2

Posted in: Real life, San Francisco

*knock knock knock*

I went to sleep the night before at a relatively early time - 9pm - thinking that the hour or 2 of sleep that I got from the plane, plus whatever sleep I can get from this night, would more than make up for my lack of sleep from the last 2 days. No way I would sleep for over 12 hours.

"House keeping!"

Maybe 11 at the most.

*knock knock knock*

I open my eyes instantly, taking-in the sun-drenched room, even with the curtains closed tightly over the only window in the hotel room. Definitely not early morning any more.

I roll my head to the left, where the bedside table and the digital clock sits, to look at the time.

The barely-readable digital clock spells out 10:30am.

"Umm, sorry! I just woke up!" I shout at the clock. Or that's what I think I said. Having woken-up mere seconds before, my motor skills were still catching-up to my much faster and already-alert mind, so I think the words actually came out as "Umm soww, just wokkkkup."

Having heard some random incoherent blabber from inside the room, the house keeping lady just replies, "OK, I'll come back later," leaving me to try and salvage what was left of my day.

13-and-a-half hours of sleep. Bloody hell.

Lesson learned: airplane sleep does not count towards your recommended daily intake of sleep.

The Exploratorium

I threw myself out of bed, only to land in a heap on the floor as, much like my voice, the rest of my body hasn't yet caught up with my intentions, and is still lazily pulling itself together from sleep. I quickly change and brush my teeth, thinking all that time what it is I want to do today, and for the rest of my week here in San Francisco. What did my todo list have on it? What were the sights and things I wanted to see?

As I left the hotel room and the hotel behind, I vaguely remember the words 'CityPass' (some kind of free transit anywhere for 10 days + some attractions at a discounted price deal), and thought that The Exploratorium was one place that had it, seeing as it was one of the places to see on it. A quick look to Google Maps on my phone shows that the place is along the waterfront, not far from the ferry building I finished with in my brief wander through the city yesterday.

With that knowledge, I retraced yesterday's steps: towards Market Street (where I found a small bakery and bought a croissant that would hold me out until lunch), then follow it straight towards the bay.

A long pier, looking back towards San Francisco

Once I get there, I start wandering north along the bay towards The Exploratorium. There were a few detours here and there, including this long walkway pier that got you a good look of the Bay Bridge, then the city when you reached the end and turned back. There were a lot of people fishing off the edge of the pier. I've never fished before, but it didn't seem like the ideal spot to try get anything. I'm sure it must work, otherwise why would they keep coming back to continue fishing? I haven't stumbled across some kind of metaphor for human hope have I?

This morning, almost noon, was my first introduction to how hot it was going to be here for the week. I'm not much of a summer person, and I'm sure I've written a blog post that already covers my affinity for the cold of winter, so I came woefully under-prepared for the San Francisco heat. 20C+ temperatures may not sound like a lot to my summer-loving friends, but anything north of that number can become pretty uncomfortable for me pretty quickly. Still on my way towards The Exploratorium, I shed a layer of clothing that I wouldn't need for the rest of the day.

By the time I made it to The Exploratorium, the counter staff were witness to a very sweaty, panting-like-a-dog tourist, from New Zealand. I purchased the CityPass which would guide me through San Francisco for the coming days, then headed further into The Exploratorium to do the first of my many touristy things.

I didn't really know what to expect from this place. The impression I got over the internet was that it was some kind of science museum. It was that, plus quite a lot more since almost every exhibit is presented as an interactive one that you play and mess-around with.

I immediately started thinking that this would be the ideal place to bring your children to: using their natural curiosity to help teach them about the world. In fact, several other adults had that exact same idea, and most of the people I saw here were families with school-age children being wowed about magnets, momentum, electricity, the light spectrum, sounds, and a little bit of genetics. Basically, it was science in an morning/afternoon-digestible nutshell.

Seeing as I already had a firm grasp of how the world works, I wasn't too surprised by many of the exhibits. That's not to say I didn't enjoy them; I participated in almost every one that wasn't already occupied by a small child, but I think if I was maybe 20 years younger, I would have been running around this place far more enthusiastically. So, to my friends with kids who might go to San Francisco with their family one day: take note.

Some things really caught my eye though, like this slinky on an elevated treadmill:

Slinky on a treadmill
INFINITE SLINKY!

And this real-life bicycle version of QWOP:

QWOP in real life

Off in one corner of The Exploratorium was a temporary exhibit about mental health in the last century or so that really piqued my interest, comparing how mental disorders were diagnosed and treated in the earlier days of the profession, compared to how maybe those patients would have been diagnosed and treated now. It wasn't a part of The Exploratorium proper, and all it had to show was run-of-the-mill non-interactive reading. I think I stayed in that part of The Exploratorium the longest, taking in the stories of mental health in the earlier 20th century, and how we've progressed since then. They even had this part showing the DSM through the ages: the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Medical Disorders, from the tiny first issue from 1952 to 7th iteration of it (yet, called the DMS-5) for 2013.

(This whole thing caught my interest because a lot of the news that comes to my attention has talked about the DSM this year, particularly about all the new entries in it that have raised a few eyebrows because it seems that anything is now some kind of mental disorder, according to the DSM anyway.)

Odd, that I found the most interesting exhibit to be the least interactive and least exciting. Maybe I'm showing my age? Then again, with all the kids that were running around in that place, I doubt The Exploratorium was made with someone like me in mind.

That easily took up most of my day. It was now mid-afternoon, and having skipped lunch and been enthralled by all the lights and electricity and magnets, I walked further up San Francisco bay to see what I could fit into what I had left of the day.

America's Cup Park, Fisherman's Wharf (Pier 39), Lombard Street

There was no racing today, but the America's Cup Park was a little way up the road. I had a small stroll through there, seeing what kind of place they had set aside for the spectators and fans come Saturday when we had the first races between New Zealand and America.

America's Cup Park map

Mostly though, they had rich-ass boats like these:

Larry Ellison's boat in the America's Cup park
I'd learn later that this was Larry Ellison's boat

In one part of the park thought was a little slice of New Zealand in the form of a pop-up restaurant called the Waiheke Island Yacht Club.

Waiheke Island Yacht Club restaurant
Complete with fake sheep for... authenticity?

With my hunger and lack of hydration finally getting the better of me, I settled in here to have a late lunch and surround myself with fellow New Zealanders.

With my energy back, I walked further up the bay to reach what was probably San Francisco's largest tourist trap: Fisherman's Wharf on pier 39. It's an area of souvenir shops and seafood-themed restaurants that my friend Melissa told me about back home. She said that, if I were to ever come here, I had to eat a clam chowder from a sourdough bread bowl (turned out all the restaurants here served that!) and take a photo of it for her sake. Having already eaten, I made a mental note of the restaurants here so I could come back to them another day.

There was a lot to take in, and even though pier 39 took up a small area, it extended in either direction for quite a while. By the time I had done exploring more of it, it was approaching dinner time, and I was getting hungry again. Just like yesterday's dinner, I did the American thing and found me an Applebees to eat at. Only 2 days in (not even 48 hours!), and already I was treating my stomach like shit! What I ordered - macaroni and cheese - was sooooo good though. In New Zealand, mac 'n' cheese is just that: macaroni and cheese, maybe with some bacon. In America, it's macaroni and half a dozen kinds of tasty cheeses, definitely with bacon, and it had little bits of fried chicken in it too!

By the time I had finished, it was time I got back to the hotel (I spent about an hour each night doing some more practice and last-minute edits of the talk I would be doing at the SpringOne 2GX conference the following week (the main reason I was in America at all)), so I got my phone out and looked at the map of where I was, and how to get back to the hotel. Once it drew the path back, I started walking. Well, waddling to begin with, as I often do when having eaten a large meal.

Maybe 10 minutes into my walking/waddling, I consulted my phone map again and noticed a familiar title just off to the side. Lombard Street. Isn't that super steep and crooked street? I thought? It was just a small detour from my path, so I thought yeah, why not?

Lombard Street

It felt a bit funny finding this one street out of so many in San Francisco, flanked by tourists at both the bottom and top of the streets. A street. That gets tourists. What the hell!? Yet here I was, drawn to the street because it was listed on some guide somewhere on the internet as something to see if you visited San Francisco.

Well, I was here, at the bottom of the street. Time to see what it was like from the top.

Lombard Street, from the top

I think it was a lot better at the top: not only did you get a nice view of the city, but the cable car passed behind me as I was looking out at the view. That's another thing I gotta do, I thought, but not today.

So aside from The Exploratorium, today had a lot of mental note-taking for things I should try out or see or do the next time I go through the area again later in the week: be there for the first day of America's Cup races, take a boat tour around the bay, eat clam chowder from a sourdough bread bowl, think about whether I should get those stuffed-toy minions that I saw in a shop near Fisherman's Wharf for some friends back home, and ride the cable car.

From starting out with just 'CityPass' in my mind, I was accumulating a list of things to do during my week here. It was all coming together in my head, some kind of plan to be the best tourist I could be, for my first real solo vacation overseas :)