The Retirees – Rocky Mountain High – Denver and Keystone Colorado for Xmas 2017 – Part 3

It’s Xmas eve and we are still provisioning for Xmas day feast. Xmas breakfast will start with sausages and eggs – oh we need some bacon too and some more wine oh don’t forget the vegetables hmm we will have to go shopping so after some research we are going to City Market in Dillon. Now research how to get there – shuttle which one what stop????

We identify that we need the blue line bus to Silverthorne with a stop off at Dillon and City Market. The bus is waiting at the bus stop across the ice skating rink from our Lodge, Kerry and I board and we are under way (by the way Ben and Jee have arrived grabbed their gear and gone skiing, Carly et al are preparing for the kids ski school etc). The trip through the valley showed just how big winter sports are in Colorado and just how pretty the valleys are. Dillon is a major centre in the valley and City Market is in fact a supermarket with a liquor store beside it in a group of shops forming what we know to be a shopping centre. Shopping complete we cross the car park groceries in hand and do the same trip in reverse.

Just as we approach River Run village the sounds of sirens from behind the bus and an announcement to the driver on his two-way tells us that there has been some disaster at the resort. Our bus pulls into the allotted space but the road outside Buffalo Lodge is blocked with two fire trucks, a fire tender and an ambulance but no one seemed to be in a hurry doing anything. A fuss over nothing it appears. We unpack the groceries and Kerry finds out that Carly and the kids are on the Summit in the snow castle. So that is where we go; through the village to the ski gondola up to 11,434 feet (3487m) to the Summit and there is the snow castle and the grand-kids running through it. Of course they could not play by themselves grandad (or step grandad as Mathis likes to tease me) has to join in (why me??). They get tired and hungry so they head off for lunch whilst Kerry and I go onto the Outpost on another peak again by gondola to inspect the sights and pick up some lunch. Fantastic views of the mountains and the ski runs the lakes and the valleys. Here are the photos.

By the time we get home Ben and Jee arrive and they have had a better day on the slopes enjoying the sunshine and the fresh powder snow. Tonight is the big pasta night at Luigi’s Pasta House where we all over eat some tasty pasta before retiring. On the way the boys enjoyed peppering the adults with snow balls rolling in the snow and generally having fun. Thus ends the day with us providing a carrot for Santa’s reindeer tonight.

Christmas Day and we both awake at 5.50am to a howling snow storm which is all it takes to convince us to stay in bed little knowing that above us two little guys were awake and awaiting our arrival to open presents. We had agreed an 8.00am start the previous evening so we were up ready to go and Kerry turned on her phone to a storm of messages from Carly telling us that they could not wait. We made our way up and were greeted by grandchildren holding presents and begging us to permit them to open them. Thus commenced the day, opening presents and trying out the new gifts. I cooked breakfast and then played some more, ate some chocolate and marveled at the continuing snow now inches deep on the balcony. We eventually ventured outside to build a snow man around 2.00pm. The drifts were as deep as my knee and it was no problem building the snowman it was decorating him that proved a test. Where do you find sticks for arms in such snow – answer the naked trees around you.

It was drawing near to time to start the evening meal and as I was the chef I had to break off, work out how to start the oven, put on the roast, peel the vegetables and a host of other things. Once cooked we carried it up to Carly’s apartment to find she had drunk a bottle of wine as her assistance with dinner. Overcoming that hurdle dinner was served after which we played a new card game then ate desert and made our way down to bed. Thus leaving a pile of dirty dishes with Carly ended our Xmas day. Here are some photos.

Tuesday was a day of little or nothing. The kids started ski school and the other kids (their parents) disappeared on the mountain. We took it easy until time to collect the kids from ski school when our attendance with a wagon for the gear was greatly appreciated. Ate in tonight as everyone was too tired to go out.

Wednesday was an early start for me. I was going to base camp at White Mountain for a combo – snow tractor up 1000 feet ride the 5 zip lines down to base camp then snow mobile around the mountain. The trip to White Mountain commenced with a bus ride through Frisco and Copper Mountain up to about 9,000 feet above sea level. Our driver was a character who had lived most of his life in the mountains except for his service in Vietnam. There were 11 of us in the bus and on arriving we found there were many bus loads like us. To start with kitted up for the zip line and snow tractor. We were directed to a tired looking old Ford van fitted with tracks and a ladder provided access to the cabin. The crawl up the mountain was laborious but safe and at 10,000 feet we stopped at a tent designed like a Mongolian yurt overlooking the Arkansas River. Here we received our helmets and harness and we were instructed on how to ride the zip line. The views were quite spectacular. Here are my photos.

The first line – Top of the World  – gave us an easy introduction with great views which continued all the way down through 1000 feet. Then followed Train Wreck,  Leap to Faith (over the chasm ), Grandma’s house (because it’s through the woods), Honeymooners (because you can hold hands with your fellow zipper), and then base camp tower. In between each zip line was a pretty hairy walk down some slippery paths carrying your harness like a convicts ball and chain. Here are my photos of each launching pad and landing pad.

After shooting over base camp to the base tower, I climbed down the six storey structure and into the shed to be handed lunch –  a huge sandwich, piece of mud cake, crackers, a packet of chips and a cup of chicken and vegetable soup. Too much so I stored the chips and cake for later. We were then directed to collect our helmets for the snow mobile adventure. As I stood admiring the snow mobiles, a bloke came up to me and asked if I had ever used one – I answered proudly Norway and Quebec. He turned and walked away and I thought I had been too much a smart arse until he returned and said that he had put me in the advanced group that I had been placed with the beginners who were boarding their bus to go to boot camp. 

After receiving some initial instruction, we were given our snow mobile and were lead to a track where we were given further instruction then told to go and practice. It was great fun and ended up being a race amongst the confident riders. We were then chosen for our teams. My guide was Hammer; a weather worn individual who could have been 50 but was more likely 35. Hammer has been a guide for 23 years mostly in the snow, even worked in NZ and had visited Australia. My other team member (I never was told his name) had been there yesterday and enjoyed it so much he came again today and specifically asked for Hammer. So whilst other teams had 5 to 7  in a group, we were two. We watched as the other groups headed off. Hammer leaned in close (the two stroke engines on these things are noisy) and said “we will let them go as they are not going where I am taking you”. And he was not wrong. We headed off up into the mountains following the path that the snow tractor had taken but at much greater speed, climbing 1000 feet in minutes. Past the yurt and through into a new valley rising up above the tree line to 11,000 feet where we sat on a small plateau of fresh unmarked snow below a peak rising another 2,000 feet immediately behind us. The view – unimaginable! The air chill and thin. The snow – well I climbed off my machine and it covered my knees. Hammer explained what we we could see – the two highest peaks in Colorado and the valley below with the Arkansas running through it and not a tree any where in sight. My photos don’t do it justice.

Hammer then said he was satisfied we could handle the terrain and he would take us through the next valley into further fresh powder. So he took off with us following across the partly stoney ridge with its bumps and lumps (we soon learnt how to handle the machines standing to ease over the bumps) down the slope of fresh powder turning right to run along the slope then a sharp left to again run straight down the slope reaching speeds of 60mph into the forest and winding through the trees tight bends and bumps and hollows – we had discussed how to launch off larger bumps and here was our opportunity flying along and launching through the the air to a cushioned landing in fresh powder and blasting free on the other side. This went on until we came out of the trees again into a canyon of mountains forming a “U” around us. Stopping briefly to consider what we were seeing we turned on heel and shot back down a steeper slope rutted by previous tours into the next valley where no one had been since the last snow fall. We still had not seen any other tour group as they were contained to the usual trails. We played in the snow exploding through the drifts  – going down one hill I accidentally hit the kill button and my machine momentarily stalled and I slide uncontrollably down hill. I turned the machine on started it and accelerated blasting out of the consuming snow and joined Hammer and friend. 

We turned to return to the first valley and joined the other tour groups to stand triumphant and stare at the beauty of the mountains. 

We were heading home but not by the traditional trails taken by the others, Hammer took us along the back trails with the steepest slopes the tightest ridges the most sheer drops off the scant little track we were following until we came out to the ridge above our “race track”. Hammer then went bush and we followed through virgin snowy undergrowth popping out onto the home track where Hammer decided to rush through the powder on the side of the track. This was almost my undoing as the machine lifted on the left side raising it ski out of the snow threatening to tip over but I saved it and with a blast of the engine blasted free only to be facing the wrong way. Turning these things around can be difficult – anyway Hammer came back to check on me and guided me back to where my tour companion waited and we rode victoriously into the base camp. Hammer stated that we had both surprised him with our ability to handle the machines in the unknown territory and we were both beaming with joy and the rush of adrenaline.

Farewell to White Mountain. I returned with the same salty old driver who took us through Frisco and up Swan Mountain Road so that we could get a better view of lake Dillon. This is a very large lake which provides the water supply for the various villages and to my surprise it freezes over in winter although at the present it is only partly frozen in the shallow ends and edges of the lake.

Thursday time to go home – it is always difficult to go home not cause I don;t want to go home but the logistics of doing so. You depend on arrangements made months before hand to link together and provide a smooth trip home. You have to be a f…ing magician to get it right and by and large Kerry has done that but she cannot account for United Airlines in Denver not issuing our boarding passes and leaving me in a quandary as to what to do next. The ever “right” Kerry insisted we go to Qantas and everything would be right which we did and of course she was right. As we waited in line for the Qantas kiosks to open Kerry receive an email form Qantas advising the fight had been delayed by 1 and 1/2 hours meaning take off at midnight. The only rough bit of our journey so far so I cannot complain. See you all in Brisbane.

The Retirees – Rocky Mountain High – Denver and Keystone Colorado for Xmas 2017 – Part 2

We both had a very restless night and when the alarm went off at 6.15am  Kerry jumped up announced it was snowing so we both went back to sleep as we knew today’s tour to the Red Rock Auditorium would be cancelled. We lay around until 9.00am had breakfast and then went to grocery shop at the only grocery store in the CBD of Denver after which we went home and then returned to the the Federal Reserve mint to learn the story about the American currency. From the first promissory notes to Confederate currency the history of the “greenback” reflects the changes in the United States. We also received some samples from our visit – a bag of shredded “greenbacks” confetti if you like. Some pictures of the various forms of the currency follow.

We then toured some of the shops before taking a rest as we had planned an evening of jazz and dinner at Dazzle in Curtis St. and what a night. A nineteen piece jazz band with special guests singers. Great night but the euphoria meant we did not check the bill until we reached the bus stop meaning we had to return and have the bill corrected. Wouldn’t you know it the NZ bottle of wine that was out of stock was on the bill. All fixed and we had a great night. Tomorrow we move onto Keystone.

Keystone is a mountain resort about 2 hours away from Denver. Kerry found the cheapest way to travel to the resort was to return to the airport and catch one of the many shuttle buses up into the hills. And this is what we did: checked out of the hotel after purchasing a Xmas tree and two bottle of wine, caught the train back to the airport to catch the shuttle and drive back the way we came to go to the resort – I cannot figure out how that can be cheaper but it was.

The shuttle carried about 9 people and as we were first to arrive so we were first to put our luggage in and first on board. We were also the first to get off which meant that the luggage was underneath everything else and the driver had no idea of where we collected the keys. After a bit of a muck around Kerry retrieved the keys whilst I guarded the luggage. One thing was obvious on our arrival, the village was praying for the snow predicted for that night. Slush everywhere; dirty brown slush.

We were staying at Dakota Lodge near Buffalo lodge. After settling in we took a quick reconnoiter but we weren’t properly dressed for this subzero weather and returned to the apartment with the necessary staples from the one and only grocery/liquor outlet in River Run Village. On returning to the apartment we set up the Xmas tree with the chocolate ornaments provided by Shanelle and laid out the presents. Now we have our comfortable Xmas nest.

The sun set very quickly and soon the magic appearance of the resort at night illuminated all around. We were still under dressed but the wind had dropped so off we went to find some dinner. Luigi’s pasta place was our choice. Here they have family servings of various dishes – a huge plate of pasta sufficient for four was set down and try as we did we were never going to finish it. Kerry discovered another liquor she likes – Kapoli a Kaluha knock off. Home and bed beckoned it was past 8.00pm and the weather had dropped dramatically such that even I was chill. No sign of that snow as yet but here are the photos of the resort at night and here’s hoping for snow for tomorrow.

Ben and Jee arrived last night and we met them today. They want to use our place as as base for their skiing which is fine so while we wait for Carly, Vincent and the boys to arrive we walk around to Mountain House Lodge in the next village. Finding the ticket office for the ski lifts almost deserted of customers, we validate our passes the go to the day lodge buy two cups of hot chocolate (you would have thought it was gold at the price) and review some of the brochures on activities. A 5 hour Cat snow tractor ride zip line rides and snowmobile excursion catches our eye and we book for Wednesday.

Carly is now only 1/2 an hour away so we return to our lodge to greet them. 1 hour plus they arrive and the boys are jumping out of their skins with excitement. I start the first snowball fight and that continues as we show them around the resort.

The kids want to keep playing so we catch the gondola to the top of Dencrum Mountain about 12,000 feet high to see what we can see. We did not even get out of the gondola – the wind is gusting in gales blowing the gondola closer and closer to the supporting towers and the snow continues to fall as it has done all day. We return to the resort meet up with Ben and Jee help store their ski gear and go up stairs for a warm cuppa. Carly and family are home and plans are made for a family spaghetti and meatballs. Great day and here are some of the photos.


The Retirees – Rocky Mountain High – Denver and Keystone Colorado for Xmas 2017 – Part 1

This is a story about a white Xmas in the Rocky Mountains USA. 

However it starts with my having a molar tooth extracted on the Wednesday, guests staying overnight and entertaining in our house Thursday night,  hosting our Rotary Club’s Xmas party on Friday night, hosting a Xmas party for family and friends at our house on Saturday night, hosting an afternoon tea for family on Sunday afternoon, meeting the new neighbours drinks Sunday night before we depart for the airport at 7.30am Monday morning. Believe it or not it all went off without a hitch until we got to the airport and tried to claim the GST on purchases we had made for our trip.

We arrived at the airport 4 hours ahead of departure time, had breakfast waited in the longest queue to check in, then an even longer queue to go through immigration, and then the longest queue to claim back the GST. We gave up on the refund of the GST as we decided we were never going to make our claim and make the flight – so we chose the flight. It was the correct choice as I am certain the government pays people to stand in that queue to frustrate citizens like us leaving our shopping till we want to fly overseas and claim a refund on the GST we paid.

Despite the frustration around the GST refund, the flight was without a hitch or any sleep for both of us. Even the transit from LAX international to the United Airlines terminal was trouble and stress free (LAX is far too familiar). Landing at Denver International was also trouble free, and after picking up our luggage, we made our way to the train into Denver.

The 1/2 hour train trip even went smoothly. We sat relaxed in the train car watching some of the most boring scenery of the Great Basin go past – undulating prairie with a dried grass covering and not a tree to be seen and the few skeletons of trees that we did see were completely naked. As we closed in on the urban fringes of Denver, some pretty ugly industrial precincts mustered around the train line.

We arrived at our destination Union Station Denver in just under 1/2 an hour just as the Internet had predicted passed through the impressively renovated station building and hollered for an Uber to take us to our hotel. Well I thought we had been rustled – our Uber driver was heading for Lakewood but an alert Kerry questioned where he was taking us and after blaming his GPS he drove us through parts of Denver he had never seen (his confession) and took us to the wrong hotel (although our hotel was on the opposite corner – close enough is good enough?).

We grabbed our luggage apologised to the concierge of the Hyatt Regency and scrambled across the road to the Homewood Suites by Hilton whilst our Uber driver hum bugged looking for his tip (don’t try and rip off these little black ducks). Homewood Suites suited us just fine – spacious with a kitchenette and one street from the city mall. Checked in by 2.30pm. Back on the street looking for an early dinner we patrolled the 16th St mall with the sun starting to wane at 5.00pm.

We found a cafe (Cafe Rialto) and it was happy hour – they were happy we arrived – so we ordered a drink and some bar snacks which became dinner due to the size of the portions. Kerry struck up a conversation with a younger lady/business woman anxiously tapping out her report on her laptop. She is Canadian but has traveled to Denver extensively, said that no one speaks of Trump any more through embarrassment, and told us about a Xmas village just behind the cafe. 

We needed a walk so off the village we go, and we end up in the Beer hall/tent where we are given two free tickets in a raffle to be drawn at 6.00pm. So there we were in the Xmas village checking out German sausages, pretzels, Xmas decorations and a host of other things we did not need just so we could go bag a prize in the raffle and we were only 1 number off – we had ……29 and the winning number was …….28.

Good thing too, the prize was some enormous lolly treat and we were still digesting dinner. However I took some great shots of the lights in the mall and at the Xmas village and here they are.

There are free buses running up and down 16th Ave well into the night however we walked back to the hotel retiring for the night but both of us went from unable to stay awake to we each had a broken nights sleep. Kerry was unable to get out of bed the following morning and she sent me to play on the street all by myself. So after checking out the vista from our room, I wandered down to the mall past the Tourist Information Centre outside of which I was surprised by a large mural covering a wall of the building across the street.

I caught one of the free buses to the terminus outside some civic building and across the road from Capitol Hill -the State House. I circumnavigated the building before finding the visitors’ entrance. The building is beautifully restored and still operates as the meeting place for the general assembly of Colorado (House of Representatives and Senators). It was once the Supreme Court Chambers as well but they have now been given separate premises in 14th Ave. There is a museum in the roof which I visited and found the man who loved the city so much he took its name. I took some pictures and have shared them below. I was amused to see the space for the 45th President remained blank in the Gallery of Presidents.

Returning home to check on Kerry I found her just crawling out of bed (near midday) and reported to her on my morning. A desire to eat and a quest for information dragged us out again first to the Information Centre and then to WalGreen for some supplies. We made our plans for the next few days ate lunch then went to catch the #20 bus to the natural History Museum. It was quite some trip on the bus. The bus took us out into the suburbs of Denver; we rubbed shoulders with Denverites for about 1/2hour before getting off at the nominated stop. We then walked for 300metres to the next bus stop and the Natural History Museum across the road.

The Museum appeared very modern with a pack of wolves preserved in metal outside the front door. Colorado is a hot spot for dinosaur bones so a large display of dinosaurs was to be found. They also have a a space department which was showing a movie on our solar system and displays of native flora and fauna. We only had a few hours before it closed but what we saw was very interesting and informative. A few photos follow.

As we were chased out the door we saw our #20 bus pulling into the stop. Great timing and an easy trip home, dinner at the hotel and back to our room for a big day tomorrow.

Wednesday- We try our free breakfast and that is what it was worth then catch the free mall bus to Union Station to meet Austin our guide to visit the Rocky Mountains National Park. Founded in 1915 the park is some 400+ acres of “pristine forest”. Well not actually pristine as for years before (from 1859 when Colorado experienced a gold rush) people had settled in the park area such that once declared a park all those structures built by man had to be removed and the affected areas rehabilitated. 

So Austin took us and two other couples from Huston through the park. The trip took at least an hour before we arrived at Lyons a small town at the foot of the First Range.  We had a rest break and a walk through the town where I found a bamboo rod maker (the cut throat trout is both the State fish emblem and a much favoured fish for anglers). Here in Lyons we could see the result of two tectonic plates crashing millions of years ago thus forming the Rockies. Some pictures of the town and the tilted rock strata.

Leaving Lyons we drove up Trail Ridge Road passing a little chapel which had received a papal blessing so we had to stop.

Our journey continued until we reached a T intersection where we stopped so that Austin could purchase lunch for everyone then we proceeded into the national park turning off into Bear Lake Road passing a moraine park from a past glacier going onto Sprague lake where we stop for lunch and a walk around the lake. The wind is chilling and promises snow later in the day but with our ski jackets on we head around the lake which is largely frozen over. The edges of the lake are crowded with the naked Aspens, Ponderosa pines and the tent pole pines used by native Americans for their tepees. We eat our sandwich provided for lunch (turkey of course) circumnavigate the lake and return to the bus quickly to get out of the wind.

Everyone has the same idea and soon we are under way up the Trail Ridge Road again this time heading for Many Parks Curve where the road is closed until the spring. From here at just under 12,000 feet we have spectacular views of the canyons below.

Then we head down to Alluvial Fan the site of a disaster in 1970s but on the way we encounter some local fauna. Early settlers had built a dam on Lawn Lake which collapsed in a heavy rain event sending a tsunami of water down the mountain stripping trees soil and rocks and carrying it all into the canyon. The alluvial fan that was created remains today. Here are a few photos.

We are heading home now and we stop at the mandatory souvenir shop at Falls River Visitor Centre and Kerry makes some new friends. From there we visit the Stanley hotel which is a 19th century hotel now famous for giving Stephen King the inspiration to write the “Shining”. The hotel is well maintained and impressive. We noticed the storm brewing on the mountains and the haze of snow falling and Austin hints he wants to beat the storm back to Denver, so we have a quick look and then had an ice cream which we finished in the car. We encounter the evening rush hour on the way back but even so we make it back to Union Station by 6.00pm but you would swear it is 8.00pm as it is so dark and cold.

The Retirees Visit San Francisco – the highs and lows of living in the city

After some very hot weather in Southern California, we were looking forward to the cooler climbs of San Francisco. Carly had arrived in Irvine the preceding day so our role as Guardians of the Grandchildren was completed without injury to anyone. Vincent drove us to the airport on his way to work and with hugs all round our time in Irvine concluded.

We were flying domestically so we were able to use John Wayne Airport (alias Marion Mitchell Morrison – his given names) named after the rootin’ tootin’ cowboy himself but referred to as Orange County Airport or Santa Anna Airport with the code SNA – strange but true. So when you are looking for your flight to wherever don’t expect to see John Wayne Airport on your arrivals and departures board.

It is a short flight to San Francisco. Probably the busiest airport I have seen with planes flying beside you landing and taking off around you – they must have changed the rules about proximity to other aircraft as we had another plane on each wing and another plane landing beside us albeit on a different runway.

We made our way to the BART, the local name for a train servicing the airport to the city. Our son Ben met us at the airport terminal and showed us the ropes providing us with travel cards permitting us entry and use to all the transport in San Francisco but due to a hiccup Kerry was stranded at the end of our journey with insufficient funds on the card to allow her to exit. Always resourceful and independent she worked out how to top up the card and we were soon on our way to Powell St cable car station outside the BART station.

Now we still had our luggage (two pieces each) so we thought the cable car would be the go to get to our hotel which is just off Powell St in Bush St but bloody tourists were queued for the cable car (trams really) and we were in for a long wait or a walk. Ben insisted the walk was doable so walk we did. Now Bush St is past Union Sq (two blocks from the cable car terminus) then the hill really starts to climb for another two blocks before we reached Bush St. San Francisco is known for its hills and we soon learnt the reputation was deserved. Dragging our suitcases made it even more difficult. Meanwhile Ben strode on not thinking about his parents’ health or hearts one bit.

Of course, we made it, but it was a rude shock the first time we did it. We were to repeat the walk many times (without suitcases of course). Our hotel Cornell Hotel De France was 15 metres from the corner with Powell St and looked unassuming from the entrance but on entry I felt I was either in rural France or a museum of Joan of Arc memorabilia. It turned out the owners were from Orleans and had decided to create their own corner of Orleans in San Francisco.

There was a distinct French accent in the air and all of the staff laboured with a French accent to speak in an American English. We were given a ground floor (in the US 1st floor) room which suited us nicely. The bathroom although pleasant was not entirely functional – a deep claw foot bath with a shower curtain encircling it – was uncomfortable as the shower curtain stuck to you as you showered and the step out of the bath for us oldies was a bit hairy.

Anyway, the room was comfortable, and the hotel proved to be central. In a town where accommodation is expensive we were happy with our little French hotel and its price.

San Francisco, Spanish for Saint Francis, is the cultural, commercial, and financial centre of Northern California. San Francisco was founded on June 29, 1776, when colonists from Spain established Presidio of San Francisco at the Golden Gate and Mission San Francisco de Asís a few miles away, all named for St. Francis of Assisi. The mission building remains and can be seen in the Mission a suburb of the city.

The California Gold Rush of 1849 brought rapid growth, making it the largest city on the West Coast at the time. Three-quarters of the city was destroyed by the 1906 earthquake and fire. In World War II, San Francisco was a major port of embarkation for service members shipping out to the Pacific Theatre. It then became the birthplace of the United Nations in 1945. After the war, the confluence of returning servicemen, massive immigration, liberalizing attitudes, along with the rise of the “hippie” counterculture, the Sexual Revolution, the Peace Movement growing from opposition to United States involvement in the Vietnam War, and other factors led to the Summer of Love and the gay rights movement, cementing San Francisco as a centre of liberal activism in the United States.

San Francisco is known for its cool summers, fog, steep rolling hills, eclectic mix of architecture, and landmarks, including the Golden Gate Bridge, cable cars, the former Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary, Fisherman’s Wharf, and its Chinatown district. It is home to number of educational and cultural institutions, such as the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), the De Young Museum, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and the California Academy of Sciences.

That evening we ventured out on a Segway tour around San Francisco. Although not the best tour we have been on we did get to see many of the sights of the city. Below a mural from China town, San Francisco’s highest building, and the harbour bridge at night

The next morning we walked back to the Wharf area to get on the Hop on – Hop off bus and see the whole of the city. Only problem was the sea mist had rolled in and it was so thick we could not see the Golden Gate Bridge. On the way we walked passed the zigzag street seen in many movies, Fay Park Garden, the backyard of a past resident of San Francisco. Ben and Jee joined us at the bus stop and we boarded the bus with a chilling wind and mist over the water. The bus firstly went to the Bridge but with nothing to see but mist we moved on to the gardens with gale force winds and single digit temperatures. Past the gardens we arrived in Haight Astbury, the place of the Love in the 60’s. From there we went to Union Sq and the heart of San Francisco and down to the Wharves where we hopped off at pier 39 and its famous sea lions. Lunch at the pier and we joined the bus to finish the circuit back to the beginning where we wandered to Fisherman’s Wharf. That night we had dinner at Lolita in the Mission.

The following day were learned to use the bus system and traveled to Alamo Park and the Painted Ladies – a series of different coloured 19th century San Francisco houses. In the park we found this mobile coffee shop.

We then picked up the bus again to go to the Mission and our food tour. The Mission is one of the oldest districts in San Francisco and has one of the oldest Spanish mission buildings in California. Our tour was started in front of the Pirate Supply Store 826 Valencia St Mission. Our first stop was Craftsman and Wolves pastry store where we enjoyed a sort of scotch egg. At my feet the grates exhibited a Spanish myth regarding Halloween then we went past a women’s refuge emblazoned with murals and outed some of the shops and houses in the community ending up at Taqueria la Cumbria.

The next day we walked down to the wharves once more this time to catch the ferry to Alcatraz. We went through China Town and then the Transamerica  Redwood Park before arriving at the Ferry.

San Francisco is also famous for Alcatraz, Alcatraz Island is located in San Francisco Bay 1.25 miles (2.01 km) offshore from the city wharves. The small island was developed with facilities for a lighthouse, a military fortification, a military prison (1868), and a federal prison from 1934 until 1963. In 1972, Alcatraz became part of a national recreation area and received designation as a National Historic Landmark in 1986.

Today, the island’s facilities are managed by the National Park, and  it is open to tours. Alcatraz Island is home to the abandoned prison, the site of the oldest operating lighthouse on the west coast of the US, early military fortification, and natural features such as rock pools and a sea bird colony.

On our way home we decided to catch the cable car up California St. The tourist cable car runs up Powell St so this was a different experience where we got to see the operation of the cable car close up.

Our second last day we chose to visit a redwood forest – Muir wood. For this we crossed the Golden Gate Bridge on a clear day and caught a further bus to the wood. This is not the giant sequoia but a relative that grows tall rather than thick. The forest was beautifully restful and a lovely day out.

Our last day and we headed back to Haight Astbury and the De Young Museum.