Category: San Francisco

Used: 2011 (and pretty much every year of my life)

So like recently I went to San Francisco for the families annual holiday fun fest. We don’t celebrate Christmas but my sister does like getting us all together for the holidays, since it really is only the 4 of us. I flew on Southwest, which I call the bus line of the LAX-SFO route (flying Virgin is like taking the train; both will get you there, Virgin is just more comfy. But there is really nothing wrong with Southwest!).

If you have never flown Southwest (really you must, it’s such an experience!) they don’t have assign seating. Essentially it’s first come, first serve when you check in as you board in that order. Usually I try to get Group A (pretty much guarantee yourself a window seat) but since I didn’t have access to a computer for my return, I ended up in Group C (the “worst”). I don’t really mind this most of the time, as flying from LAX to SFO and vice versa only takes like 50 minutes, but I am partial to a window when given the chance.

Though when I flew over the holidays, and ended up in Group C, I came to a realization why Group C kind of rocks. At this point, there are no more windows or aisles, so really you have all the control. As you walk up the aisle, check everyone out and pick your seat based on who looks the least crazy. In between two big guys? Ew, no! Screaming babies or talkative old people? No thanks! Skinny people with headphones are my favorite (though cute guys with no rings are a close second, haha). Silence (and eye candy) and you’ll most likely get the arm rests. If you are in Group A and claim a window, you have no idea who is going to sit next to you. But loading in last, you have all the power! And for a short flight, who cares? Southwest still gives drinks, pretzels and peanuts as well as an airplane magazine and a Skymall catalogue. Can’t say as much from Virgin!

Moral: So next time you print your pass and you see Group C, don’t groan (well, you probably still will) but think of all the power you hold!

Used: 2011

Something random I have always wanted to do is go to San Francisco for lunch. I remember when I was a kid and someone I went to synagoge with mentioned that their dad went to San Francisco for lunch and that sounded so cool to me, what a jet setter! I have since looked into it, but it never really made sense when you think about it, especially because my sister currently lives there, so why not stay longer, which sort of defeats the purpose of the whole thing.

The moment after the U2 concert at the Rose Bowl back in 2009, tickets went on sale for shows the following year and they included a San Francisco area date this time, in Oakland! (Plus the LA dates are really being held in Anaheim, ew.) It’s so much easier to get good tickets for face value for SF dates and I immediately grabbed two cheap (face value!) field tickets for SF, which is next to impossible for any LA dates. Early in 2010, there was a rumor going around that the U2 shows were going to be postponed. I bought a decent airplane ticket from Burbank, my local airport to Oakland, on Southwest knowing I could cancel it at anytime. A bit before the shows, they were officially postponed, rescheduled date to come soon. I canceled my plane ticket and held on to my concert tickets. When they shows were finally rescheduled for a year later for June 7th, I was so annoyed the show was rescheduled for a Tuesday! Originally, the show was going to be on a Wednesday, so I was going to do a quick turn around anyway, but my fingers were crossed for any days but Tuesday or Wednesday because then I could make a long weekend out of it. But since it was rebooked for a Tuesday, I was going to reschedule my original plans. Take a midday flight from Burbank to Oakland, meet sister in Oakland, go to show, stay at hotel near the stadium and fly home first thing the next morning and arrive only slightly late back at work. For the first time in a long time, I wouldn’t even go into the city on this trip! And that is pretty much what happened:

Originally, I was going to leave work around 2:30 for a 3:45 flight out of Burbank. Since I work nearby, I wasn’t too worried, though I did have to park the car and take a shuttle and who knows what the parking situation would be like as BUR is a real commuter airport and I know lots of business people use it. As usual, after getting freaked out by my co-workers that I had to get there an hour early and who knows how security would be, I ended up leaving work at 1pm because I also had to make a pit stop and pick up some books at the local library. After that, parking the car in a half empty parking lot, waiting 5 minutes for the shuttle, a quick 5 minute ride to the terminal, walking slowly down the terminal, reading about all the info about the history of Burbank (if you are a flight buff, I highly reccomend a stop in Burbank, it’s got some really good history! You don’t even need to be on a flight as all their history stuff in near the check in desks), no waiting for security AND getting randomly checked for a bag check (seriously, BEST TRIP EVER to get my stuff checked, as I was only going for the night and therefore didn’t have stuff to check and actually had a good conversation with the TSA agent about my trip), the next time I checked my watch, only 45 minutes had passed. Seriously, BEST! AIRPORT! EVER! We used to use Burbank all the time when I was a kid for short-hual flights, but in the last 10 years, the taxes have jumped and it’s easily $10/each way more then LAX. Plus, you can’t fly BUR-SFO on Southwest anymore, so that totally sucks. But between the ease of both BUR and OAK (my sister was laughing on how lame the place was, in a good way), if you can use them, I highly reccomend it. Plus, Burbank is super classic. You walk on the runway and up the stairs on the jet-way, Israel-style, so you board and deplane from both the front and back doors, which is something to take into consideration. Once everyone is on the plane, take off is immediate as unlike LAX, there is no back up of planes, because there are none! Seriously, new best friend alert!

How you get on and off the plane in Burbank

Don't see this too much anymore. I highly recommend SWA if you have bags to check.

My sister actually picked me up at the airport and we went down south to Texas Roadhouse in Union City because she has been talking about it forever, but since it is in East Bay and we rarely go over on that side, I had never been. We grabbed an early dinner, stopped off at the 4th Wal-Mart I had ever been to in my life to get some beer and then headed back to Oakland. Traffic was horrible as always and it took nearly an hour to get off the freeway.

We found the hotel (Quality Inn-Oakland Airport: very nice!) quickly and when I went to check in, asked about parking because originally my sister was just going to go home after the show as in the past when she has been to basketball games (held in an ajcent indoor arena, it hasn’t taken her very long to leave) but even she gasped at the traffic, thankful for a place to crash after the show and the hotel said they provided free parking so we didn’t have to pay for it at the arena but the receptionist said that the lot was full because of the concert, that people fill the rooms with locals and bring more cars then usual (like we were doing) and since we got there so late, the lot was full. Thankfully, there was loads of street parking that had minor parking restrictions that didn’t effect us, so we parked the car and loaded everything up to our top floor room. We pounded two beers quickly and my sister filled a cup to walk to the stadium with. I was in shock by this, I am so not used to drinking on the street as it is kind of illegal in California. The only time I have legally drank on the street is in Las Vegas. But since the cops who were out had their hands full with directing traffic and the people that were out with actual bottles were not causing trouble, no one even questioned it. I am so not used to this! As always with U2 fans, especially in SF, they are so nice! We ended up chatting and walking with a huge group of people and I took a peak in a women’s purse that was FULL of beer that I knew they wouldn’t finish them all by the time we got to the stadium. Drinking on the street and not causing trouble is one thing, but we all knew that there was no way she was getting the beer into the stadium. I jokingly asked for one and she popped one open for my sister and I to share! AWESOME!!!

Check out the date on the bottom left corner: that is the date I bought this ticket! Note original date of show as well, nearly a year wait!

We finally got into the stadium, Lenny Kravitz was still playing (love him in concert!) and we walked around trying to find a good place to stand. We ended up on the side of the stage and while we didn’t get as close as we have been in the past, it was a good angle. We chatted with people around us, how long we have held on to the tickets for the show (my tickets were dated as printed on 3-Nov-2009, originally for the show dated 16-June-2010 and the show was finally taking place on 7-June-2011) and kicking tall people who tried to push their way forward back when the show finally started. SO AWESOME!!!! I love U2 in concert. The show was so much better then the Rose Bowl, they played tons of their old stuff, tons of their hits and hardly anything from their new cd, which no one liked. They could just do a classics and singles tour and it would be the best show ever. I highly reccomend checking them out at least once in your life. Great show, great songs, one of my favorite things EVER. The show ended close to midnight and we just had a 20 minute walk back to the hotel. No traffic!

Since my sister didn’t have to be at work until later, I said I would take the hotel shuttle to the airport, so I got up at 6am for the hotel breakfast (hot too!) and hopped the shuttle back to OAK. OAK is a little bigger then BUR and I have been stuck in the worst security lines there, and since it is such a commuter airport and I was taking a morning flight (not the first, or even second, I think to BUR alone) I had no idea on security, so I got there a little earlier then normal. Once again, NO LINES! But at least I wasn’t waiting for like 2 hours like I was in BUR the day before, only about an hour this time. The plane going back to BUR was packed but it was 75% business, so it was a really quiet ride, no kids screaming and I slept the entire time. Quick transfer back to my car, a stop at my apartment to clean up, dress up and have a coffee and I still made it back to my office before my boss! Only by like 2 minutes, but I said I would be in 10-10:30ish and I was in by 10am because everything was just so fast. He was like, you must be tired today, what time did you get up today? And when I thought about it, I was like, “Actually, probably the same as you, 6am!” I just happen to have an extra long distance commute that morning. How crazy is that?! I was gone and back in less then 16 hours which is the closest I’ll ever get to “Lunch in San Francisco” (and it’s probably a good thing).

Moral: I love combining travel and music. Except when it comes to sitting in my car, in traffic, which is why I am skipping the “technically” LA shows which are being held in Orange County (ew). Yes, it cost more then if I had just driven to OC, but since everything was spread out over like nearly 2 years, I hardly noticed the cost. The amount of time it took me to do the whole airport thing and fly to OAK, it would take pretty much the same time (or longer) to drive from where I live to Anaheim. I’d rather fly then drive for that amount of time any day. I also had no one to go to the LA shows with this time and the type of ticket I would have gotten would have been shit compared to SF. Plus it makes things more interesting! And I got to see my sister! I see zero downsides to what I did last week! Good times!

*Sorry for my lack of pictures in this post! There wouldn’t be any from the concert anyway, as I never shoot during a show as I like to concentrate on the show rather then care about pictures that will turn out like shit anyway. When I turned my camera on in the BUR airport, I saw that my battery was pretty much dead! That’s what happens when you go on a quick turn around trip. You are hardly prepare for anything! I forgot my hair brush as well.*

Used: 2002, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010

Virgin Airlines in its many forms. I have flown with three of their services. The first was with VirginAtlantic back in 2002, during my first trip to London. A friend of mine suggested them and told me they were awesome, so when it came to book my flight and they were on par with being as cheap as any airline, I picked them. Yeah, kind of a disappointment. The seats were super tiny and on my flight from LAX to LHR, none of the entertainment consoles worked. Granted it was the overnight flight and you were supposed to sleep anyway, but a total dissapointment! Luckily, they worked on the way back. Good things: I liked the little bag of goodies you got when you got to your seat. I loved the pen that came in the bag and used it for years. I just liked the way it wrote. Also, I did like the funkyness of it all, but would have gladly changed to blah to get the entertainment working. That was the biggest disappointment. Otherwise, don’t really remember much else about them. Haven’t flown with them since.

Funny enough, I totally forgot about flying on Pacific Blue until this week when I was reading about the change in name to Virgin Australia (from Virgin Blue, see below) to include Virgin’s services in the pacific, outside of Australia. This service started within New Zealand in 2007, when I was living in Auckland, and to promote the new services, the fares were dirt cheap, so I bought some for my family when they came and we had to fly from AKL to CHC. 4 one-way tickets for US$114! But you pay for what you get. They only flew back and forth from AKL, WLG and CHC on various routes a few times a day. It seemed they only had a two or three planes that flew back and forth, granted distances aren’t very far and you can get from AKL to CHC and back in less then 4 hours. But if one flight was delayed, the whole schedule for the day was thrown off. I booked the last flight of the day from AKL to CHC, just in case of any delay and by the time we left AKL, we were about 4 hours delayed and finally left AKL about an hour after we were supposed to land in CHC. It sucked, but it was supposed to be a rest day anyway. So we ended up “resting” in the airport instead of the hotel. Oh well. I was just looking at the PacBlue website and it appears that they do not fly within NZ anymore, just from NZ over to Australia. So I guess those routes didn’t last long the way they were booking them. Oy.

When I was in Australia, they have a low cost airline called VirginBlue. I flew with them from Brisbane up to Cairns. The airline was pleasent enough. At the time I flew with them (October 2008) they allowed one checked bag, so I sent my bag through and there was no problem. You had to pay for all entertainment (though ads screened non-stop on your personal screen for all those that didn’t pay, thankgod, no sound) and the worst part for me was no free drinks, not even water! I almost shat my pants when I heard that. The only water they had was bottled and you had to buy it. I was so mad. I depend on water when I fly and I stupidly forgot my bottle (hell, you can even bring FULL bottles through security when you fly domestically in Australia) but still. We might charge you for every little thing on American airlines, but I would hate to see the day when they won’t even give you water for free with no warning. That is the day, I’ll start to fight.

While I was away, Virgin America started up. One of there big routes that I have taken many times since being home in the LAX-SFO route. They are usually on par with Soutwest when it comes to everyday price, so for the most part, why fly SWA when you can fly Virgin? They are located in Terminal 3 at LAX and Terminal 2 at SFO (having moved recently from the International Terminal). My only recc for the LAX terminal is not to take the last flight of the day, as that is when ALL their flights leave, including some jumbo jets to Australia on VAustralia. The security line is forever (compared to other parts of the day) and it sucks. I have never really had a bad experience on VA. Some flights have been delayed for mechanical and weather issues, but I have always been kept up to date on delays. Since they know that everyone carrys on their luggage now, sometimes you’ll get a message on the overcome, asking people to check their luggage at the gate for free and I almost always do that. Unfortunatly, you have already come through security at that point, but still, it’s one less thing to carry about the terminal. And last time I did that, they let everyone with no luggage, no matter what row you were in to board early and get a jump on watching the tv that they provide on individual screens for everyone for free! That is the best part of Virgin is the entertainment and I always have a hard time choosing what to watch or listen to when I fly them. Their planes are clean and attendents are very nice. I always look forward to flying with them.

Moral: Virgin as an airline brand seems to be hit or miss. All the low cost carriers in Australia have different issues, so VirginBlue having issues is of no surprise. I just got a crap flight on VirginAtlantic. I don’t hold it against them, just everytime I have gone back, they haven’t been the cheapest, so I’ll pass. But I highly reccomend VirginAmerica for all those in the US, if they happen to be going your way.

I go to San Francisco pretty often because my sister lives there. It’s a cheap and easy escape from Los Angeles and every time I find a good deal on flights, I am there, even if it’s just for 2 days. I go often enough that 2 days is all I really need.

San Francisco is a city of many many bars. These three just happen to be my favorites. Hell, I don’t even have 3 favorite bars in Los Angeles!

The View: Located in the Marriott Marquee Hotel near Union Square. A bit expensive for drink and food, but the view, totally worth it! There are loads of tables next to the full floor to ceiling windows that make the views over the Bay Bridge to die for. Even when it’s overcast and/or foggy (most days) I still love it. The atmosphere of being up that high, is so lovely, to be up in the clouds. For some reason lately, loads of hotels in the city have been shutting down their rooftop bars in favor of more cash flowing meeting rooms. The View is still there and lovely! Plus, not as stodgy as some of the other fancy rooftop bars in the city. Even if you are in jeans and t-shirts and you aren’t staying at the hotel, you don’t feel self-concious at all treking through the lobby and up to the 39th floor.

Thirsty Bear: Not too far from the Marriott is this local restaurant and bar. I don’t remember what I had to eat here, but the beer here is excellent as so is the service and atmostphere! The last time I was here, was St. Patricks day week/end last year and the place was crawling with firemen from all over Northern California. HELL-LO! It’s a typical city packed restaurant and bar and can get crowded and loud, but it’s far off the normal tourist trail so that it’s nearly always filled with locals. But still close to most of the central hotels and a worth while easy walk.

Public House: Another townie favorite. This place is attached to AT&T Park, where the San Francisco Giants play, so that you can buy awesomely good, awesomely priced beer and they serve it in plastic cups so you can take them to go into the park on game days. I was so spoiled after this place! After we had a few and took some into the park, I wanted more, but our seats were about as far from the bar as possible, so we just bought some twice as expensive piss in the park and I took one sip and couldn’t drink anymore. It was so gross, I could only drink what I had at Public House and after the game we went back for more. This place is open all the time and the general public can go, but it gets extra crowded on game days, just FYI. I always forget what I order, but I think it’s Marin Brewing Company Tibouron Blonde, which is on the lighter side. I love this place.

Moral: When it comes to great bars in general, there is nothing spectacular about any of these places, these are just places I always somehow end up for one reason or another and always have a good time at for various reasons. So next time you are in town and you can’t decide where to go, check out one of these three!

One of my artsy-fartsy shots of the Golden Gate Bridge