It’s been over a week now since we got back from our 1 month adventure around North America and I still have the post holiday mood going on. I’m almost there in getting over the jetlag and catching up with the much needed rest. Yes we had the let’s-go-everywhere-see-everything-who-need-a-rest kind of trip. Must say we were really pushing ourselves at times nevertheless it was an amazing trip! PS: for trip photos, stories and tips, carry on reading….for just photos taken during the trip, you can go straight to: my SF flickr sets. I personally like flickr gallery carousel especially with its fullscreen viewing feature.
In any case, I’d like to use this instance to talk about our first stop, San Francisco! After over 30 odd hours of gruelling flight (20 hours) and transit (10 hours) from Perth, we landed in San Francisco in the afternoon. After grabbing our luggages, we simply followed the signs to the AirTrain, you can board either the blue or red line to get to the BART station (BART will take you to downtown), but be careful if you miss the BART station stop on the blue line you’ll need to take a trip to the rental car centre. For more detail check out BART website. It costed just over $8 per person to get to our stop Powell St station in downtown. The journey was quite pleasant. The train was quite clean and we felt safe and not out of place at all as there were many other people dragging their bags and luggages onto the train. One thing is if you have rather large luggages like we did, you may need to sit in the priority area as you won’t be able to drag them into the normal sitting area.
Accommodations and locations
Once we arrived at Powell St station, we made our way to our hotel Parc 55 which was located on the corner of Eddy st and Cyril Magnin st. We actually rebooked from another hotel on Sutter st which was going to cost bit less however we switched due to the fact we knew that we would be dragging our luggages and we couldn’t be happier with our decision. If you choose a hotel around that area, you can’t go wrong location wise, it takes only a minute or two to walk to the Powell St station, Market st where there’re tons of transportation options, Westfield, Bloomingdale’s; few minutes to Union Square, and lots eating places in the surrounding.
At the hotel, we were given a corner room on the 5th floor. We were advised that corner rooms are the more spacious ones and must say it was quite large, clean and looks new or recently refurbished. We’re pretty happy with the room, the only one thing is that as the night comes (or could be because we’re mostly at the hotel room at night time) we could hear lots of sirens, people shoutings, car horns (could it also because it was the weekend?). I assume other hotels in the area would probably have the same problem, not sure whether this would help or not, but a tip: try getting higher floors if you can!!
Telecommunication – sim cards
As we were going to be in the USA for around 3 weeks (and roaming charges would be rather painful), I’ve planned to get a local prepaid simcard. My style of traveling, I rely heavily on access to 3G on my phone to find out how to get around using Google map or the local public transportation apps, or even to find out good eating places, chemist, supermarket on Yelp.
So after we rested and freshened up for a bit, we took a walk to Westfield where we found T-Mobile. I’ve heard that AT&T is the best and T-Mobile is the rather cheaper option. They had a number of options I think with $50 you get 500MB, $60 – 2Gb, and unlimited for $70. We picked the unlimited as we thought it’s a good option to be shared between two of us as a number of the hotels (especially the big ones) including Parc 55 do not provide free wifi. We thought this way we will have internet everywhere we need it, to browse, look for things, facetime our families…anytime..anywhere. Sounded like a good idea but I have to say it failed miserably lots of times. We struggled to get signal (especially 3G signal) whenever we’re inside a building: mall, supermarket, restaurants, hotel rooms, you name it! At one stage I couldn’t even have just a phone conversation while we were inside a restaurant, the signal was that bad! When you’re out and about, it’s a hit and miss, at times it’s not bad, other times it could be very slow. When I mentioned this to a friend of mine who lives in San Francisco, he said yes that T-Mobile struggles in downtown likely due to the high rises. If you live in Australia, you probably have heard how people complain how bad 3 or Vodafone network is. I’ve used 3 and Voda, and I tell you T-Mobile was even worse! It performed bit better in other states but I can’t say it was brilliant…so TIP: if you’re after a provider with good/excellent 3G signals everywhere anytime and don’t mind paying more for it, go with AT&T! Another tip if you’re still going ahead with T-Mobile, when I said ok to the $70 option, the salesperson then added $10 connection fee and $7 tax hence asking for $87. When he said that, I asked for the $60 (2GB) option instead, and when I said that he then waived the tax and connection fee and I paid $70 for the $70 option!
Activities, things to do and see..
Ok, enough of me whinging . From here on it’s going to be about how brilliant San Francisco is. We spent our first afternoon walking the downtown. We thought we were going to just explore around Union Square, however after a short rest, freshening up and a first proper meal after 30 odd hours, we ended up walking all the way to the Financial District through the Chinatown and back. It was a pleasant walk and at the same time I think it’s the best way to have a good feel of the downtown area. It’s a nice city – clean, beautiful, and fresh cool air, bit unfortunate though I noticed there’re a large number of homeless people on the street. We saw them almost everywhere. Probably best not to venture into a quite street alone at night, nevertheless we still felt safe considering the number of people around.
The Union Square park itself, there’s really nothing much to see or to talk about. The main attraction would be more of the high end boutique shops surrounding it and this goes few blocks out! So if shopping is your thing you would want to check this area out.