I left my heart in San Francisco.

I left my heart in San Francisco. That’s how I’m feeling right now. Is there anything worse than going back to work after vacation? Actually, yes, there is…going back to work after vacation without your next trip planned. I know, these are super first-world-problems, but I have the post trip blues and don’t particularly care how whiney I sound.

K+K San Francisco 2013 was an awesome trip. There is no other verdict to be made. We saw lots of touristy things and some real-deal “Life in San Fran” things too. We had a new experience or two and met some totally kick-ass people. Our first North American hostel experience was a success. And we rediscovered how freaking funny we are. I mean we are hilarious! In the day-to-day grind of real life we seem to lose some of that…too busy to be as fun as we are meant to be. I guess that’s something to take away from this trip: Life Lesson #1 – Don’t let the stress of the everyday stifle your natural good humor.

Looking back there is still a list of things I would like to do in the quirky city of San Francisco. I think this is a good thing. If you leave a city wanting more then you must have truly enjoyed it. Plus with the comments my boss made while we discussed my course (the actual reason we were in California) it sounded like there is strong potential for K+K San Francisco 2014 in April 🙂

So here’s my “Still To Do” List:
– Bike across the Golden Gate Bridge – I had walked on when I came to San Fran as a teenager and this trip just admired it from afar. Next time I’d like to rent a bicycle for a while and peddle my way over the most iconic bridge in North America (if not the world). Taking the bike around Golden Gate Park would also be fun!
– Take the TCHO Chocolate Factory Tour – It sounded like a fun activity but was all booked up by the time we looked for tickets. Now, after having tasted the delectable final product I am even more eager to check this attraction out.
– The California Academy of Sciences – I am a museum lover and reading about this museum has me practically drooling. The Exploratorium also sounds like a superb museum…visiting it would be time dependent.
– Visit Wine Country – It’s right there & I like wine!
– Ride a Cable Car – Again, this is something I did on my first San Fran trip but not this time. I think I would enjoy a photo of me hanging off the tram as a grown-up, as well as a child.
– A Walking Tour of Castro – We did our own wander through the neighborhood and soaked up the ambiance. However, next time I’d like to learn more of the area’s history, being that it has had such a controversial & important role. I’d also do a tour of Haight-Ashbury, but that’s less important to me.
– A Ball Game at AT&T Park – Be cause its more about the ball park than the ball game 😉 Plus I could take a ferry to get there!
– Take a PediCab Everywhere – They say you should always do your favorite thing again when returning to a city…and this was obviously the best!

You can check out KG’s Still To Dos here…Save Me San Francisco

We shall have to wait and see what next trip brings, but I think this list will be super helpful in planning! Plus I know I can always do Friday night Beer Olympics and have the top notch usahostels hostel to stay at! Basically look out San Francisco…I’ll be back…and soon!

Love & Luck,
Kris
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I think it tastes like pickles… A travel story.

Crazily enough, yesterday we woke up and actually had a schedule to follow! That hasn’t exactly been our style this trip, actually having plans, but it served on this occasion. You see, we had a boat to catch…a boat to Alcatraz! We got up, got ready and made our way to the water. Due to the fact that we were starting at our hostel early in the morning we had to take part in the inferior act of walking rather than ride about in one of our favorite pedicabs. Most unfortunate. We stopped at Starbucks for a delicious hot beverage and an even more delicious baked good. Now I expect that you are considering the assortment of pastries Starbucks has to offer and wondering how I could consider them “more delicious”? I mean there are some that are good, others passable, and a few (like oat bars) that you might call delicious. But MORE delicious? Well here in San Francisco Starbucks has teamed up with the local bakery La Boulange to offer a more delicious option. KG had a donut that she raved about and I had a summer berry croissant that could not have been better. Seriously, soooo good! As we kept walking we saw the bakery itself:
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We had both dressed for a day on the water, aka pants & sweaters, so it was nice when we reached it…we were both a little sweaty from all the hills. After a short wait we were able to board the boat. I’m not sure anyone else put as much intense planning into where they were going to sit…which is probably why we got the best seat. We were at our very own table at the back of the boat. I would normally have chosen the front with the wind in our hair, but we were pulling away from the city and the back offered the best views of the skyline. We ooo’ed and ahh’ed at the scenic shots of the Bay Bridge, San Francisco itself, the Golden Gate Bridge and a drive-by look at Alcatraz. We also spotted porpoises! I got really excited when I noticed a dorsal fin poke out the water….then another…and another. They are just so gosh-darn cute!
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If you were reading carefully you might be wondering why we only got a “drive by of Alcatraz” when earlier I said we went there… We did, but first we stopped at Angel Island. This was a very picturesque place. Very naturific. I’m glad we visited, but I’m not sure I’d rush back. To be honest we only went because we left buying Alcatraz tickets too late and the only ones we could get came in this package deal.
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The California State Park Service offers a tram tour around the island to show off the historic sites. We hopped on with the rest of our fellow sailors (yes, 15 minutes on a boat and I think I’m a sailor) and prepared to learn. Angel Island has a varied past, but its two main uses were as Fort McDowell and the Immigration Station.
The army built the fort in the late 19th century. It technically included the entire island although most of the buildings were concentrated in one location. The wooden buildings are actually some of the oldest purely wood buildings still standing in the USA. During its time as an army base most of the natural trees was cleared for use in building, etc and replaced with exotic vegetation. The Park Service is attempting to restore the native habitat but some of the eucalyptus trees still remain. You can recognize them by their stripping bark and long, pointed leaves.
The Immigration Station was the first stop in the Us for many Asian immigrants. In fact between 1910 & 1940 approximately 1 million people passed through the station. Due to the high volume of Chinese entering the nation in the late 19th century the Chinese Exclusion Act was passed. This kept many people on the island waiting to be processed and released into America for many years. There are poems carved into the wooden walls in various languages by these stranded but hopeful newcomers.
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A cool thing for outdoorsy folk to do is camp on the island. There are 11 camp sites on the island, the largest being a group site only accessible by kayak. That sounds like a really cool place to visit! But you need to be careful! A negligent group in 2008 let their bonfire get out of hand and set half the island on fire…literally half the island…check out the picture:
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If you want more details on the island you can visit the island’s website (did everyone else picture an island trying to log on to a computer?) or the more reliable source of Wikipedia.

There was one stop on the tour that offered a panoramic view of all the best San Fran sites. We whipped out our cameras and struck a pose!
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Fun Angel Island Fact: The island has its own sub-species of mole that can’t be found anywhere else in the entire world! We kept our eyes peeled but didn’t glimpse any.

After our tour we had some free time where we could hike or bike or Segway about the island. Being the new-found fans of sitting that we are we took a lunch break in the Cove Cafe. We split a tuna and a BBQ pork sandwich, having half of each, with some salad. They were both exceptionally tasty. I enjoyed every bite while using our break time to blog in the shade.
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Next we hopped back on the boat and headed to Alcatraz. Surprisingly KG was less nervous about being locked in this prison forever than she was about being trapped in the prison-like Oakland Coliseum the other night. You can read all the details about our visit to possibly the most famous prison in the world on KG’s blog: ——————-.
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When we had got our feet back on solid ground we fell right back into our routine of walking. We paced the waterfront and visited a up-and-coming chocolate shop called TCHO. They offer tours of their factory, but by the time we found out about them they were all booked up. I guess that’s another one for the list for next visit!
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With our pockets loaded down with chocolaty treats we started towards home (aka the hostel). On our way we passed a bike race. It was crazy when they would all flash by. The noise was like a swarm of buzzing bugs flocking around you.
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The plan was to find a coffee shop on the way. We could have a drink, relax a bit and do some blogging. Both KG and I love sitting around in coffee shops. We wish we could do it more in our everyday lives…there is just not enough time in the day! I’m not looking forward to having to squeeze blogging time into my busy schedule when we get back; I like being able to do it entirely at my leisure. As usual the San Francisco coffee gods were against us. After the 9th coffee shop we past that was either closed, closing in the next half hour or absolutely packed we resigned ourselves to just returning to the hostel to relax. We did stop at the 10th shop (a Starbucks that scarcely had a foot of floor space of stand in) to pick up a drink and another more delicious La Boulange baked good.

While parked at our regular table in the basement common area of the hostel we made some friends…real hostel friends…and fun ones too! After the devastation of our roommates rejecting us it was reassuring to see that someone liked us. Ivan & Kevin, brothers from Melbourne, told us that they would have dropped everything to meet us if they’d received our Welcome New Roommates note. And Isabelle &Marisa from Switzerland were a blast to hang out with. The six of us sat around and drank wine & tequila then headed out to a club that was playing entirely Motown music. And odd combo of things to do but so much fun!!! KG reflected on making new friends in her post We Made Hostel Friends!
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To top off our evening and end our trip on a rebellious note we climbed to the roof. We’re not sure it was allowed but there was nothing posted saying we couldn’t. Plus there were stairs not only right outside the window but also up to the window! Ivan & Kevin were to ones who told us we could get up there and I was glad we listened to their advice to try it. I felt lie, a rebel and the night time view of the city lights was breathtaking. I was exceptionally proud of KG for following…she’s so rule abiding that this was a big move for her 😉
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And that’s the end of our last day in San Francisco…tear :(…Back to reality…but I will be out on another trip as soon as I can swing it!
Love & Luck,
Kris

Walking is for Chumps

Yesterday we made the most incredible discovery. It is a discovery that has rocked our worlds and left us questioning everything we previously believed…
We have spent our time in San Francisco walking everywhere. Walking, we decided, is the best mode of transportation in a city where everything is easily acceptable and close together. Walking, we mused, is better than going out of your way to take trains that don’t go directly to your destination. Walking, we felt, let us see the sights and experience the city in a way a taxi never would. Walking, we thought, is far superior to buses. But now we know the truth…
Walking, we have discovered, is for chumps.

If you have read KG’s post The day that we went to the Best Place Ever, did the Best Thing Ever, and listened to the Best Song Ever about our day you will know that we began with a walk from our hostel to AT&T Park…not a short trip. We then proceeded to take part in a walking tour. Next we walked along the water front from Pier 40 to Pier 15 (Fun Fact: the piers go from 40 to 2 with all the even numbers, then back up from 1 to 39 with all the odds…weird, huh?). When combined with the last couple of days it makes a whole lot of walking…but it was by choice! As I said before, we thought walking was the ideal method of travel. That was all about to change.

We had noticed an abundance of cycle-driven rickshaws running passengers along the boardwalk, ferrying them from the Exploratorium to Pier 39 or from Fisherman’s Wharf to the America’s Cup grounds. We hadn’t thought much of it until KG had a ‘lightbulb moment.’ She asked me if I remembered one of my Wonder & Wanderlust posts from Venice. I responded, “How could I forget How to Find a Hot Gondolier? It was both entertaining and informative on a very important subject!” She then drew a comparison between riding in a rickshaws and riding in a gondola that completely warranted its own blog post…but that’s not the revelation… In order to properly compare rickshaws, or pedicabs as they are also called, to gondolas (and more importantly rickshaw cyclists to gondola men) we needed to do some research. That meant taking a ride, which turned out to be the best idea we have ever had!

What have we been doing all this time traveling around on our own feet using our own energy like chumps? We could have been sitting back and relaxing while someone else did all the work! You still get the fresh air of walking. You can still hear all the sounds, smell all the smells and see all the sights…but while sitting down! Plus you get a built in tour guide and sometimes musician!
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So it turns out a rickshaw ride has more in common with cruising the canals of Venice than we thought. It is a venture that may seem expensive and possibly unneeded, but in reality is an adventure everyone should have and totally worth the cash. But much like maximizing your gondola ride by finding the ideal gondolier to escort you around, there are helpful tips to assist you in maximizing your rickshaws experience. I’m going to talk about San Francisco specifically, but I’m sure you can apply this to any city.

Tip #1: Be Informed!
Not all rickshaws are created equal.

The San Francisco pedicab scene is strictly controlled. Apparently in places like New York City pedicabs aren’t illegal but also aren’t necessarily legal. The drivers require no licenses or city approval. Therefore there are 650 bikes roaming the city. In comparison, the Port of San Fran has a 40 bike limit at any time. All companies/drivers are required of pay fees and undergo a 7-step licensing procedure. Basically it is not an easy process.
Along Embarcadero you will find drivers representing three different companies. I can guarantee you that they all operate legally. Police monitoring was proved by the shutting down of an unpermitted company a couple of years ago. But just because they are legal doesn’t mean they are awesome. Now that you are convinced you will be taking a rickshaws ride you can go online and do some research on who to ride with.

While I know there are other companies you can look into I am going to whole-heartedly throw my support behind Cabrio Taxi. We rode with them twice..more on that later ;)…and had a blast both times. Both Stan & John were thoroughly entertaining & super informative and our rides went uber smoothly. Seriously the company is soooo awesome! I can’t say enough good things, but maybe if you take what I have said/will say here and combine it with all of the epic 5 Star reviews on Yelp you’ll believe me that these are the guys to choose!
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Tip #2: Be Selective!
Like I said before: Not all rickshaws are created equal…neither are the rickshaw drivers.

So you’ve done your research, listened to my advise and picked your company. (If you picked Cabrio Taxi you will identify their pedicabs by the sparkly red cabs!) Now it’s time to pick the rickshaw itself. My number one tip is to not be afraid to be selective. If you find a spot where cabs are lined up waiting but you can’t find one you want, walk on. Another rickshaw will drive by or be parked ahead. They are scattered all about the waterfront.
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We made a list of wants when we caught our first ride and although it was short we would not settle for less:
– The pedicab had to be pretty…and sparkly red is very pretty!
– The pedicab driver had to be pretty…How did we do?
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If you are young, single girls like us don’t be shy, pick a nice looking guy! We were first propositioned by a creepy-ish, older man with a basic cab…not at all meeting our requirements. We politely said no thanks, all the while staring at the attractive young man with the pretty Cabrio cab behind him. Unfortunately it felt rude to ask him to stop right in front of the other guy. Plus in the end we did more than alright and had a good chat and laugh about the whole thing with the young stallion we’d missed when he pulled up behind us during our ride.
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Tip #3: Be Friendly!
They’ll do most of the work so try to reciprocate!

Both John & Stan were impressive conversationalists. Now I will admit that as a socially awkward person I can be impressed by small acts of socialism social competency but these guys really were masters. Stan fed off our excited energy & laid out the basics of the pedicab business and John expanded on our further questions & offered a mini tour. I’m pretty sure these guys have this job because they enjoy people and will not let an awkward silence occur (despite the fact that you are staring at their backs the whole time and have very limited eye-contact), but I can only imagine that the more you give the more you will receive. For example, we had Stan laughing as much as he had us and in the end he gave us his card with his number to call whenever we needed a ride…and he held true to that!
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As a side note, Stanislaw (aka Stan) is also apparently the Creative Director of Cabrio Taxi…cool, eh?

Tip #4: Be Generous!
This tip is more for the benefit of the drivers than the riders.

Both of our drivers were super lax about what we should be paying. While the pedicab itself has a fee guide posted, the drivers don’t take it too seriously. Stan told us $15 for our first ride, which I’m sure was $20 on the guide. And for our second, most epic ride (just wait for the details) John didn’t even tell us how much we owed. Basically it’s a ‘pay what you think the ride is worth’ system (with Cabrio at least). So when you are measuring worth remember a few things:
– The pricing guide should be something at least you pay attention to.
– You got a tour or at least great conversation with your ride.
– You didn’t have to take part in that inferior act of walking.
– You received all the ambiance with none of the work.
– You probably got to feel like you were in a parade…because that’s how I felt!
– That guy just pulled your ass around on a bicycle! Sometimes up hills!
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Be generous! This is what these guys do for a living!

Tip #5: Be Location-Savvy!
Remember they will take you there!

Take a look at the map they have posted. They go all of those places! And in the case of Cabrio Taxi (and maybe others) you can also hire them by the hour! So if you need to go somewhere not on that map (or want them for an event like wedding photos or a pubcrawl…both examples from Yelp!) you can book them to do that!
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It was the highlight of our day when we realized that the map had both Ghirardelli Square and Union Square on it. As we were planning on ending our day at a coffee shop across from the old Ghirardelli factory and our hostel is just blocks off Union we thought there could be no better plan than taking the pedicab home! So I called up Stan and told him our plan. We’d mentioned this on our ride earlier so it wasn’t a surprise for him, although I’m not sure he’d believed we’d actually follow through with it. Although he was off shift he did everything he could to accommodate us. He recruited one of their top guys, John, and sent him over to us tout suite.

John was a hoot! He took us all the way home, even though it was a long way through hill country. He was even kind enough to take an extra hilly way so that we could have the scenic route! Along the way he gave a running commentary on where we were and what we were seeing. He also told us about his interesting past as a sailor on old-school pirate-ship-style boats and the driver of a horse and buggy. And occasionally he played his back seat drum (I got to play it too!), maracas, harmonica and bell while driving…and it didn’t even feel sketchy! That’s a good driver right there! He was great about the leech we picked up…we’re not really sure if he was helping drag us up the hill or coasting along for the ride…?
Apparently about 15% of a pedicab driver’s business is routes off Embarcadero. We were proud to be one of them. John took us right to our doorstep…literally. We were about a foot from the stairs of our hostel when we jumped out of the cab. Such a gentleman!
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The moral of this post? Find a pedicab/pedicab driver you like and hop on for a ride! You won’t regret it!

Love & Luck,
Kris

P.S. Don’t forget about my Cabrio Taxi recommendation!