USA series: Las Vegas to San Francisco

Goodbye Luxor - goodbye Las Vegas

Goodbye Luxor – goodbye Las Vegas

Alex and I have spent the last couple of days in Las Vegas and had a fantastic time.  Today we are leaving the bright lights of Las Vegas and travelling to San Francisco where we will spend 4 days exploring the city. 

Some of the highlights of San Francisco we are hoping to see include a trip out to Alcatraz, walking the Golden Gate Bridge and visiting Pier 39 & Golden Gate Park.

8:00am
We are flying Virgin America today from Las Vegas to San Francisco on an 8:00am flight. The taxi from the Luxor Casino to McCarren Airport takes 10(ish) minutes and cost USD$13.  So long Las Vegas!

Las Vegas below as our plane takes off

Las Vegas below as our plane takes off

9:00am
Hello San Francisco!!

San Francisco according to Wikitravel:

“San Francisco is a major city in California, the centerpiece of the Bay Area, well-known for its liberal community, hilly terrain, Victorian architecture, scenic beauty, summer fog, and great ethnic and cultural diversity. These are only a few of the aspects of the city that make San Francisco one of the most visited cities in the world.

San Francisco is located on a small seven-by-seven mile (11x11km) square of land at the tip of a peninsula between the San Francisco Bay and the Pacific coast. It has a population of 812,000 which represents a small fraction of the entire Bay Area population of 7.1 million. San Francisco is just one of the cities which makes up the entire San Francisco Bay Area. San Francisco’s neighbors -Oakland and Berkeley east of the Bay Bridge, Marin County north of the Golden Gate Bridge, and the Peninsula south of the city are all part of separate counties, each with their own governments and local public transportation systems. San Francisco suffers from heavy crime rates in some downtown neighborhoods like the Tenderloin, Mid Market, 6th Street, Soma and Civic Center. The south eastern part of the city also suffers from violent crime. Visitors should be aware of their surroundings when walking late at night near some downtown hotels. San Francisco also has a very high rate of pedestrian and bicycle fatalities.”

On arrival at San Francisco airport, we follow the signs to the (free) Airtrain airport shuttle. The airport shuttle takes us the few stops to the BART transfer station.  At the transfer station we board the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) train to take us into San Francisco city centre.

Public Airport Transportation according to Wikitravel:

“San Francisco and Oakland Airports are connected to downtown SF by the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) system (Oakland Airport indirectly through an AirBART shuttle buses).

Passengers arriving in SFO can walk (5 minutes from United’s domestic terminal) or take a free airport shuttle (AirTrain) to the BART station (which is adjacent to the G side of the International Terminal). The BART ride from SFO to San Francisco costs about $8 one-way and runs frequently, every 15 or 20 minutes depending on the time of day. BART trains run through San Bruno, South San Francisco, Colma, Daly City before reaching the city of San Francisco, from where the SF MUNI can take travellers anywhere in the city.”

And so, before boarding our train at the BART transfer station we purchase our USD$8.25 (each) ticket for Powell Street station.  Powell Street station is our best stop for our hotel at Union Square.  The train from the airport to Powell Street station takes about 30 minutes.

BART train interior

BART train interior

10:00am
I am aware that San Francisco has welcomed homeless into their city.  It is when we first arrive at Powell Street subway station, as Alex and I make my way through the subway, that the stench of homelessness hits us.  We see our first San Francisco homeless person before we are even out of the underground station.

It is too early in the day to check into our hotel and we desperately need some clothes washed so we head straight to a self-service laundromat on the corner of Stockton and Bush which gives us our first encounter with the hilly San Francisco streets.

San Francisco hilly streets

San Francisco hilly streets

Waiting for washing over a cup of coffee

Waiting for washing over a cup of coffee

11:30am
With our washing done we head to our reasonably priced hotel on Geary Street in Union Square to hopefully check in.

Union Square – Financial District according to Wikitravel:

“Surrounded by upscale hotels, Union Square is one of the largest shopping areas in the U.S. and is home to some of the nation’s finest department stores, malls and specialty stores. As if that wasn’t enough, it also boasts many fine art galleries, some of the best restaurants in the city, and it also serves as San Francisco’s main theater district, featuring many Broadway and off-Broadway shows. The city earmarked the area as a park in 1850, and its name was derived from the many lively, pro-Union Civil War demonstrations that were held there. The square itself, a public plaza, which is bordered by Post, Stockton, Geary, and Powell streets, got a major refurbishment in 2002 when most of its grass was paved over with granite stone. Built in 1903, the monument dedicated to the Goddess Victory still remains at the heart of the square. Today, people use the square mostly as a space to relax and soak up a bit of sun, and to wallow in the atmosphere created by the surrounding cable cars, hotels and shoppers.”

Alex and I have been able to check in early at the Union Square Plaza Hotel.  Checking in early is normally a good thing… right?

Upon reaching our room, my initial reaction is one of shock and a desperate need to refrain from touching anything – except for the window, which desperately needs to be opened to bring in some fresh air.

Within seconds (well minutes) I am standing in the middle of the room with my tablet in hand, searching through hotel rooms on Agoda, in search of somewhere (anywhere) else to stay.  My reality check is the realisation that this independent hotel is a reasonable price for the area at $USD620 for 5 nights and we are not going to find anything better or anywhere near the price for 5 nights at such late notice.  Breath…breath.

Ok, time to actually assess our room to see whether we haven’t been a bit hasty and that we can spend 5 nights here without going nuts.

The room is a basic queen room with a TV and complimentary internet.  Did I mention the wash basin is in the corner of the room with the shower and toilet in the teeny tiny “bathroom”.  The interior is dated, the carpet is colourful, the wallpaper so decade before last and the bedcover borrowed from nanna.  BUT, I check for bed bugs and the cleanliness of the bathroom and the room generally.  I cannot fault it for being clean which is a blessing so I just need to stop being a sook about what is basically dated decor.  Another thing we can’t fault is its central location.

We conclude that the room is perfectly fine to inhabit and that we can handle the room for 5 nights.  Besides, we won’t be in our room that much anyway… will we??

2:00pm
The rest of our day is spent wandering downtown, including inside the huge Westfield on Market Street (which makes Alex happy).

San Francisco Westfield interior

San Francisco Westfield interior

Here, across from Westfield on Market Street is the starting point of the famous San Francisco cable car, which we will save for another day thanks to a long queue of tourists.

San Francisco cable cars

San Francisco cable cars

Tomorrow is an early start.  Alex and I have pre-booked 9:30am Alcatraz tickets.  Also tomorrow, following our visit to Alcatraz, we will visit Pier 39 and Coit Tower.  Happy to visit anything that keep us from returning to our hotel room…[showmyads]

For previous USA series post see The Vegas Show and Bellagio Fountains
For next USA series post see Alcatraz, Fisherman’s Wharf – Pier 39 and Coit Tower