March 20, 2013

Adventures on the West Coast

A week and a day ago I was on an airplane an hour away from landing in Newark, NJ, thinking about the gorgeous sun setting over the pacific ocean and beautiful warm sunshine that we were leaving behind.  Not knowing what was going to be in store for us once we landed, but I'll get to that party later in the story!

It was such a wonderful trip and I am so grateful to have been able to tag along with the Doc while he attended his conference.  I haven't traveled much (yet!) but this is now my second time visiting San Francisco and it was just as wonderful a city as I remembered.  This time I was equipped with a great camera and some knowledge on how to use it!  I'm looking forward to going back soon, next time with the boys.  I know they would love the cable cars and the sea lions at Pier 39!

The famous Cable Car

Friday March 8th, 2013:

We got up at 5:30, packed up the car, I snuck into each of the boys rooms to kiss them goodbye one last time before we made our way to the airport.  It was snowing, but not too bad in our area.  According to the airport we were still scheduled to depart on time.  We had about 10 minutes to spare before they would begin to board us so the Doc headed over to grab us some coffee for the quick flight to Newark.  We decided we would just grab breakfast in NJ since it was a short flight and we'd be leaving soon.

We started to board the plane, only this was a tiny plane and we had to walk outside (in the snow!) to get to it.  Wouldn't it be just my luck to slip and fall hard on my behind while walking to the plane.  My behind was probably going to be majorly bruised, my ego was definitely bruised but more painful than those two things combined was not having my coffee.  They offered to run back and get me one but at that point I figured we'd be departing soon and it was a short flight so I declined. 

We got to our seats and they closed up, went through the safety spiel and just as we were about to start to taxi to the runway, the Captain told us we were delayed on Newarks end so we'd have to wait. On a tiny plane.  Hungry since we didn't eat breakfast.  With no coffee.  For an hour.  Needless to say, had I known about the wait, I would have definitely got that coffee refill and might have rethought our breakfast plans!

The rest of the travel was pretty uneventful, the plane was packed and it felt really long.  We landed at about 4:00pm PST (which was 7pm EST).  We got to the hotel and we were beat.  We decided to grab a bite to eat close to the hotel and then call it a night.

Saturday March 9th, 2013:

We woke up the next morning and skyped with the boys (love technology!) and mapped out our day.  The Doc was going to hit up the conference for the morning and then come and spend the afternoon with me touring down by Fisherman's Wharf and grabbing lunch and an ice cream treat at Ghirardelli's!    We got a map from the hotel concierge who suggested that since we'd be in town for 3 days that we get a public transit pass.  It's good for any of the public transit systems, including the famous Cable Cars (which cost $6 PER ride!).  Getting that pass would turn out to be the best money that we spent on the entire trip!

The Pier down by Ghirardelli Square

Lunch at In-N-Out Burger since we were on the west was a good burger but worst french fries of all time!  Five Guys for the Win!
Ready for an ice cream treat!
That night we decided to go see a movie.  I had been very curious about The Great and Powerful Oz and since we don't often get to see movies in the theater that are made for grown ups we made plans to go.  We walked over to the theater and found a place to eat nearby (thank you Yelp!) called Tommy's Joynt.  We found out while waiting in line (delicious food is served up cafeteria style) it was featured on Diner's, Drive-In's, and Dives.  I am not kidding when I tell you that it was the best corned beef I ever had in my life.  The Doc got a brisket plate with BBQ sauce, served with mashed potatoes and baked beans.  Everything was delicious but I could have done without the beans.  I'll stick with Boston Baked beans!  The movie was great and I enjoyed seeing it in 3D.

Sunday March 10, 2013

Sunday I was on my own for the day!  I decided to venture over to the Golden Gate Bridge.  I was excited because I would be able to take as many pictures as I pleased without hearing the words "Are you done yet?"!!  Before heading out, we grabbed some breakfast, I couldn't get enough of the sourdough toast with my eggs!  Then it was time to split up.  I had to take two different buses to get to the bridge, but it dropped me right off at the information center which was nice.

It was the most picture perfect day.  My perfect kind of day.  It was sunny, 65 degrees with a slight ocean breeze.  Perfect!
Thankful to the stranger who took this for me!
I took lots of pictures of the bridge at all different angles and wasn't sure what to do with the rest of my time.  I noticed that lots of people were walking across the bridge and so I figured why not!  The walk from one side of the bridge to the other (parking lot to parking lot) is about 1.7 miles for a total walk of 3.4 miles.  I walked at a leisurely pace and stopped many times (as you can imagine) to take pictures, so I was able to kill a lot of time.  Next time I'll remember to bring my comfy shoes!

Golden Gate Bridge

View of the bridge from the other side - Vista Point
On my way back, the fog started to roll in.  By the time I returned from the other side of the bridge the bridge had completely disappeared.

Fog rolling in
Very cool to watch the fog coming in, it came in very fast!
The view before and after my walk
I headed back to the hotel and we decided we would go back down to Fisherman's Wharf.  There was a little fish shack we had found that had amazing reviews (again, thank you Yelp!).  It also would give us a change to explore Pier 39 and see the sea lions.  The food was delicious, the walk was a lot of fun and the sun set was spectacular!

Sea lions at Pier 39
The gorgeous sun setting behind the Golden Gate Bridge
Monday March 11, 2013:

On my own again for the morning and afternoon, I decided to head back over to Fisherman's Wharf in hopes to get some better pictures of the sea lions.  I also wanted to stop at Lombard Street, just because, so I hopped on the Cable Car (definitely got my money's worth on my transit pass riding that!) and headed over.  It was our last day so I wanted to get my fill of the rest of the tourist traps before we headed home.

While I was walking around looking at the sea lions and enjoying the beautiful sunshine, I got a text from a friend who moved out that way a few years ago!  We arranged a time to meet for lunch so I headed back after capturing a few more pictures down by the Wharf!

Lombard Street - The Crookedest Street 
Pier 39
Sea Lions
Boats over by Pier 39
I headed out to meet my friend for lunch, with this trip I managed to ride every single public transit system the city had to offer!  I was not joking about that $22 pass being the best money we spent!  Lunch was great, it was really nice to be able to catch up after all those years!  Afterwards we decided to head over to the Golden Gate Park Botanical Gardens to enjoy the gorgeous weather and chat some more.  It was a really nice park and I imagine it's even more beautiful in the spring.

After the walk I headed back to meet the Doc for our last and final dinner in San Francisco.  I made dinner reservations at an Asian Fusion restaurant just outside of Chinatown.  But first we had check off the last two touristy things I wanted to do before heading home.  First was Alamo Square, home of the painted ladies, seen in the last scene of the intro theme song from Full House!  The sun was setting, creating some really harsh shadows and not making for the best pictures of the houses, but not every shot is going to be post card worth!  Some are just meant to for the memories!

The Painted Ladies
Everywhere you look...there's a heart...a hand to hold onto!
After I got my fill of the "Full House" houses we walked a few blocks to take a long bus ride over to Cliff House.  The views at Cliff House are absolutely gorgeous and I couldn't leave without seeing the Pacific Ocean at least once!  It was good timing too, as the sun was setting.

The view of the ocean looking back towards the city

Thanks to the strangers for taking this so I could have one picture of the 2 of us on this trip!
We had just enough time to look around for a few minutes, snap a few pictures before we needed to catch the bus and head back to make our reservations, which were on the complete opposite side of the city! We ended up getting to the place early and our table was ready so we sat down and enjoyed our last meal in San Francisco!  After dinner it was time to head back because we had to be up and ready to head to the airport early the next day.

Tuesday March 12, 2013: The nightmare that was our trip home...

We head to the airport for 8am, our flight doesn't leave until 11 but we decided we'd just go early and eat breakfast there.  Wouldn't you know that another storm has caused us issues in Newark and about a 1/2 hour before we were supposed to board the plane, they bumped our flight back an hour and 15 minutes.  Bummer!  We have a connecting flight that leaves for NH at this point we'd be pushing it really close.  The only hope we have is that all flights are being delayed and therefore our flight would be as well.

We finally take off and this flight we have a newer plane, with free movies playing in each seat, plus there were plugs to charge our electronic devices, and even though we didn't have the "extra leg room" seats, they were definitely roomier than the seats we had on our flight to San Francisco.  In any case, being able to watch movies made the flight feel a lot faster and more pleasant!  It was still packed.  My carry one bag was placed 5 seats behind me, which ended up causing me stress once we landed.

We landed at 8:36pm on the dot.  I know this because at this point as far as we knew our flight was NOT delayed!  If we didn't make this flight we were stuck in Newark for the night.  I just wanted to get home.  For some reason we were not moving.  We were sitting there waiting for our gate to be ready.  I'm watching the minutes tick by, trying so hard not to panic.  Our plan was for me to find my bag and the Doc to run to our next gate to see about letting us board even if we're a little late.

The plane was packed, we weren't the only ones trying to make a connection and I couldn't find my bag.  Thankfully a very nice passenger helped me.  People were very nice, I think they could see the panic in my eyes.  I got my bag and we have about 10 minutes to get off the plane and run!  Except that we're not moving.  They are not opening the door and now I'm really starting to panic, especially since I'm by myself at this point in the middle of the plane.  With 5 minutes before our flight is supposed to be taking off, I got a text from Charlie that said it was delayed for an hour!  Phew!  I can breath easy!

Thankful that we're going to get home, we grab something to eat quickly and head over to the gate.  Looks like a packed flight so we wait and wait.  At 5 minutes to 10, we still haven't begun boarding.  The ticket rep that was working the flight at the gate next to ours came over to see what was going on for us.  Turns out the delay was due to maintenance issues and they delayed us again to 11!  What is going on?  No one knew.  The lady at the booth was very nice and ended up saying to us:
"I'm going to be frank with you.  The plan is having an issue with the ventilation system and operations wants to cancel.  The pilots, do not want to cancel since they have been sitting there all this time and if they don't fly, they don't get paid.  I am going to see what I can do as there is no more flights to NH tomorrow"
Say what?!  Well after another hour and 15 minutes they came out to tell us they cancelled it.  12:15am in the morning.  We're not going home tonight, we're going to a hotel.  Only we can't just go to the hotel we have to find out how we are getting home as their are apparently no flights they can put us on.  People in front of us were heading to Boston and then going to drive to NH, we figured that is what we would do except that we found out because our original flight to Newark was delayed they had already put us on a flight at 2pm in the afternoon!  Not great but better than any other alternative.  And then she remembered she had 2 open seats on an earlier flight that someone else declined earlier in the evening when this whole thing started.  Great!  Tickets are printed we're on the 8:30 flight to NH which means we'll get about 4 hours of sleep but better than waiting all afternoon.  We arrived at the hotel and were out cold at 2am and because we had to do the whole security thing over again we were getting up at 5:45 to catch the 6am shuttle to the hotel.

And as if things couldn't get worse, we got to the airport, dead tired, annoyed at our circumstances only to find out that they have overbooked our flight. NO, NO, NO!  I am getting on that damn flight!  So I go over to see if I heard the lady correctly and yes I did hear her correctly.  I started getting that panicky feeling again.  I told her that I had to get on that flight.  She clearly had no empathy skills because she got very curt with me asking for my tickets.  Well I didn't have them.  The Doc did and he was getting our food.  He came over to hand me my drink though so I had him get our tickets.  He asked what was going on and I said the flight was over booked and that I'm about to lose it.  She gave me more attitude and that is when the Doc said he would lose it to.  To which she replied, "well you're not going to lose it on me, because I'll send you right over to the customer service booth".  Nice, all that was missing from her tone was a finger snap.  I was dumbfounded.   

Clearly she was getting defensive so I looked at her and said "Listen, I know this is not your fault, BUT we need to get on this plane, we had a really long night and I want to get home".  Sure my tone was boarding on mental breakdown, but my sheesh, I don't know who would be calm and rational after spending the entire day prior either in an airport or on a plane and then getting less than 4 hours of not great sleep in a hotel after change time zones.  So her response is to look at my husband and say "Well I'm going to deal with you because she is clearly losing it for no good reason".  Excuse me?!  No good reason?!  At that point I really was going to lose it...but the Doc made me leave and go get our food.  I was beyond ticked off!

Whatever happened to customer service?  A little, "ma'am, I'm sorry for what happened to you, I'm not sure what is going on, but lets take a look and see if we can't get you home as soon as possible." would have gone a long way.  The night before not ONE person lost their cool when they all had every right to, because the lady working the booth was so nice and calm and appreciated the fact that we were not happy and did what she could to ease our frustrations.  You could tell that she cared that we were put in a really crappy position.  This other lady was the complete opposite.  I just can't believe she had the balls to tell me that I had no reason to be upset.  Whatever lady.  I'll be sending my complaint and you are clearly in the wrong line of work.

In any case, we got on the plane, some nice couple took the $500 coupon and 2pm seats that were still left vacant from our original flight.  And we got on the plane with no issues and we were back in NH in time for me to surprise Shaun at preschool pick up!

A similar situation happened the last time we flew home from the west coast, I guess we don't have the best luck.  But we are home safe and sound and that, at the end of the day, is all that matters.

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