Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Stuck at home today

It snowed a very little here last night – less than a cm., which seems very anti-climatic (in a good way) compared to the weather reports I’m seeing for the rest of the country at the moment. The snow has all gone now, and its been really windy all day. I had to stay in because my car has been getting some work done and I was promised it back today. They kept moving the goalposts on when I could have it back, so I decided it was too risky to trust anything they said, and settled for staying in. It has nothing to do with being wimpy about temperatures around freezing with strong winds, nothing at all… Winking smile

Food today:

Breakfast: All bran with raspberries and peaches

Lunch: Sweet potato, apple chipotle soup and a scramble of onions and peppers with one whole egg and some egg whites.

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Dinner: Ma po tofu with steamed broccoli and brown rice

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Snacks: Greek yoghurt with granola and blueberries; a smoothie in a bowl

Weight: 10st 6.5lbs (146.5lbs) – a false low because I drank wine last night and was dehydrated when I got on the scales

California Academy of Science

The California Academy of Science is in the Golden Gate Park. In the evenings they offer a special VIP tour – smaller crowds, access to areas not usually open to the public, plus some booze (very little and not well organised – don’t bother to do this if you want to get drunk Winking smile )

We had to take a cab to get there as the Golden Gate Park was not walking distance from our hotel in Fishermans Wharf, and when we got there it seemed to take ages to get inside – possibly because the people manning the desk for pre-paid tickets & vouchers weren’t sure what they were doing. We did the tour on the Thursday before Halloween and a fair few people doing the same tour were dressed up for the occasion. That made me feel very dull…. but I’m not into dressing-up so it would never have occurred to me!

The drinks part of the evening was not impressive, consisting of a queue of people waiting to be served by just one guy in a corridor…  Most people managed to get 2 drinks, but the queuing was not much fun.

The tour behind the scenes was very interesting. We got a chance to go up onto the roof, which has been planted with grasses and other flora, and into some of the labs where specimens are processed (all animal specimens are provided naturally by people finding animals dead on roads etc.); we also got to go into a vault where they keep geological specimens.

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After the tour we walked around the Aquarium by ourselves,

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listened to a lecture on the history of absinthe, and then went to the Planetarium – our tour included reserved seating. Unfortunately I was still jet-lagged from the flight and time difference, and fell asleep in the Planetarium, so we headed back to the hotel after the show!

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Muir Woods, Sausalito, Deluxe City Tour

We decided to do this tour because it would cover more of the city than we could walk (and we walked a very great deal of it!!!) and also take us out of the city to see more of the local area. As it turned out it wasn’t really a full day tour, just a way of stringing together two half day tours, but that didn’t matter so long as it still covered all the places we wanted to see.

The day of this tour the weather was worse than on any other day of the entire holiday – typical, as we were spending over an hour walking through Muir Woods. Luckily it was more damp and drizzly than pouring rain, so it didn’t spoil the day!

Muir Woods was very good; we enjoyed walking along the ‘Boardwalk’ on the way in, and when we reached the far end we came back via the more difficult and interesting hike. Unfortunately the weather meant that none of my photos turned out very well, which was disappointing given that on a sunny day they could have been pretty amazing. On the other hand, it was really difficult to get any sense of scale, so maybe it still would’ve just looked like a bunch of trees Winking smile

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After Muir Woods we went to Sausalito, where sadly we only had an hour (part of which we spent getting some lunch). I liked Sausalito, but because the visit was so short we never risked going off the main street so I didn’t really feel like I saw much of it.

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After Sausalito there was a break of a couple of hours before the City Tour started. It was a little repetitive at first as we started out in the same area covered on the way to Muir Woods, seeing the school where Joe di Maggio & O.J. Simpson went, and getting a lot of the same stats about the construction of the Golden Gate Bridge, but then we went off to the Twin Peaks, drove along the coast a little, visited the Golden Gate Park, and covered a lot more of the city, making this one of my favourite trips in San Francisco.

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In the evening (this was the day before Halloween) we tried to go to a Vietnamese restaurant near our hotel, but it was closed for a party so we went to a tiny Sushi place just down the road. I thoroughly enjoyed my sushi box; M had sashimi with no rice and didn’t find it very filling.

My starter: potstickers

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M’s sashimi, complete with tentacles…P1080307

My sushi box…

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and green tea ice-cream with mango and pomegranate arils for dessert

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Chinatown Walking Tour

On the first day after we arrived in San Francisco we had booked a walking tour in Chinatown, with an optional Dim Sum lunch, as neither of us had really had Dim Sum before.

The tour met outside Old St Mary’s Cathedral, and it was literally just myself, M, a lady from Louisiana, and the guide – so nice and small! The guide was excellent, very friendly, interesting, and the tour was well-paced with no hanging around waiting. It was intended to give us a look at the culture and lifestyle of the people living in Chinatown, so it included Chinese medicine, grocery shopping, a visit to a Buddhist temple, and of course, food!

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Below is a prescription in a Chinese ‘pharmacy’.

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And here is the tea resulting from one of these prescriptions – a huge pile of leaves and twigs!

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There are also pre-packaged remedies available

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I’ve always really liked the architecture of the Far East (not that I’ve seen much of it in person) and it was great to see it in the middle of a Western city – in London the Chinatown is much more about colours and signs than architecture!

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I was surprised we were allowed to take photographs inside the temple, but we were. It was beautiful, and peaceful.

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And then we ate Dim Sum!

I can’t now remember what each dish was, if anyone reading is an expert on Dim Sum you might be able to fill in the gaps for me?

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I know this (below) is a steamed pork bun)

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Stir fried pak choi

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Chicken chow mein, and some other things…

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Prawns in some kind of ‘nest’

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And I believe these were sesame balls.

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It was all delicious!

The tour was definitely worth doing, and if we’d stayed longer in San Francisco I would have gone back for more Dim Sum – sadly, there weren’t enough meals in the day!!!

In the evening we were very, very lucky (and it cost us a fortune to be so lucky…) we ate in one of the best restaurants in the USA, and generally considered to be THE best in San Francisco. We didn’t have a booking, but checked on the day in case they’d had a cancellation – and they had! The restaurant is called Gary Danko’s, and we’d tried to book a table before leaving the UK but been unable to. It was packed!

The amuse bouche was a sorrel soup – it was heavenly!!!

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I then had a seafood risotto – delicious

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And then a thai curry – also amazing

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Followed by a trio of creme brulee and cookies.

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My meal was excellent but M’s was even better – he chose a tasting menu. However, it was ‘reassuringly expensive’ so it should have been!!!

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