Amsterdam – Netherlands – Europe – 2014 – Day 11-13

111514

The train ride went smoothly but alas it was also raining in Amsterdam upon arrival. The office for tourism was closed so we couldn’t pick up a iamsterdam card for our next two days. We did get a 1 hour ticket for 2,80 euro and hopped on the 13 and got off at the end of the line. About a 20-30 minute tram ride. The tickets are magnetic striped and you need to tap it to get on and off. We are staying at an Airbnb that is pretty big but a little far from everything. We were all starving so we went to the local grocery store Albert Heijn to grab things for breakfast and then saw that there was one restaurant still open. We had Turkish food at Hunkar restaurant (Lambertus Zijlplein, Amsterdam) where the waiter didn’t really understand English so we got the hunkar special plus a Turkish pizza.

Got back and we planned the next day and did laundry. I was about to shower after Ricky who said the shower took a while to drain. I hopped in and turned on the shower to see the drain was backed up and brown and black clumps came up from the drain. The neighbor Victor from below came up to complain about the leaking in his apartment coming from our unit as its the fourth time this week. Good thing about Airbnb is that you can contact the host whenever you need them. Our host was very responsive.

111614

We made sunny side up eggs with bacon and hagelslag which is a Dutch breakfast staple of a slice bread with butter and chocolate sprinkles or flakes. We took the tram back to central to pick up the iamsterdam 48hr city cards which grants us 48 hours unlimited travel as well as admission to certain places and discounts for others. The first thing we did since it wasn’t raining was the canal cruise that took an hour. From there we wandered a bit before hopping onto a tram to Stedelijk Museum which is similar to MOMA.

We caught a late lunch/early dinner at Pompa (Willemsparkweg 6 1071 HD Amsterdam) where I had the fish and chips (14 euro) and a cassis juice (2 euro). The fish was so fresh and the chips were tasty too however took forever to get the table. We went down the street to the iamsterdam sign then hopped back on the tram and venturing the streets and into the red light district. When we originally walked through the red light district it was too early for the prostitutes to be working the windows. We settled for Chipsy King and grabbed a large frites with Belgian mayonnaise. Around 10PM, we went back to the red light and the prostitutes were in full swing working their windows. Prostitution is legal here. For a transaction to go through, the person chooses which woman they want and then open their door. They come to an agreement on what they want and from there pay and finish the transaction. Originally, Aaron wanted Vlaamse Frites but we couldn’t find it until later on and we obviously had to try it.

When we got back to the apartment, Victor the downstairs neighbour had updated us on the status of the apartment and the leaking. There must be a pipe underneath the flooring that had burst because when you step, you can feel how squishy it was and it was the whole apartment. I thought it was the design but each the wood floor paneling has dark marks the edges which is actually water damage. The host whose apartment we rented gave us a full refund as we need to find a new accommodation.

We booked Citizen M for the following night.

111714

We had bought groceries for all three morning so we ended up eating two days worth 14 eggs, bacon and sausage. Then off we went.

Switched over to Citizen M hotel (Prinses Irenestraat 30, 1077 WX Amsterdam) where it’s similar to a capsule hotel but washroom ensuite. It’s tight quarters and no privacy if you are sharing. There is a curtain and cylinder doors to use the toilet or the waterfall shower. We took the 51 train from Guid station and headed over to central and walked to the Library where it has a panoramic view over the harbour. On our way over, the street in front of Central Station was closed off for their Santa Claus parade. Their culture features a blackfaced character. We stopped by the restaurant on the main floor of the Library called Vapiano (Oosterdokskade 145, 1011 DL) where you get a card in the beginning and goto whichever station and tap it. Amsterdam is very tap oriented technology as our bus pass and room key are also tap technology.

After lunch we went across the bridge and went Science Center Nemo. Very kid oriented but interesting to say the least. I prefer Exploratorium in San Francisco much better. It was raining and cold outside so we went back to Citizen M. Mimi and myself watched two movies in the room while the boys took naps. We took the 5 tram back to Chinatown where we ate  at A Fusion (Zeedijk 130, 1012 BC ) run by Cantonese/Dutch/English speaking people. Pineapple fried rice, lamb in black pepper sauce, seafood curry and bubble tea in total around 92 euros.

San Francisco – USA – 2014 – Day 4-5

090514

I woke up early and went to B. Patisserie and grabbed the Kouign Amann & a hot chocolate. We hopped onto public transit to the California Academy of Natural Sciences which is in the same vicinity as the De Young Museum which were both options included in our Citypass but it was either De Young or Natural Science and we chose Natural Science. My favourite exhibit was the earthquake simulator that simulated the huge earthquake of 1906 & 1989 with a magnitude of 7.9. You are told to hold on to something as it recreates a simulated generic townhouse interior that we stood in.

We decided to go into the auditorium to watch the universe film in imax but I guess we were all tired and fell asleep which I am sure many others did too. The butterfly ecosphere takes over a large section as well but is a very nice walk through.

We lined up for the Powell & Hyde street cable car. We waited for one that we could take over the front and I claimed that spot hard right at the front. The streets slope to very steep angles but it was so cool to go up and down the streets on the cable car. We ended up jumping off at the windiest street – Lombard St. Beautiful homes built on this street. And somehow by the end of it, we ended up walking back to Fisherman’s Wharf. We grabbed a clam chowder bread bowl. We also returned to Union Square for some shopping. Union Square had a huge crowd growing and the marching band. It was actually the USC marching band – Prep rally. They were taking a long time warming up and practicing so we left and headed for the shops. Courtney and myself went to Macy’s while the boys went off to Topshop or somewhere. By the time we came out, the commotion was done and they all disbanded.

Our last night here so we decided to sort of meet up with Crystal and her friends. She was eating in Japantown so we got there a little bit after. We ate at Tanpopo where I got the Ramen. It was actually very chilly in the night time but we were determined to find bubble tea / boba or dessert after dinner. Places close relatively early or at least in the area we were situated. We walked a bit following helplessly to yelp directions and our end destination was a Artisanal organic yogurt place called Fraiche. I wanted the acai bowl but they didn’t have any so I settled with the Almond Joy.

090614

The Michael’s and Courtney’s flight were at an earlier time than mine so Cassie & Victor had agreed to drop me off at the airport. But before they did, we had one more stop before I left the Bay area and it was to a Mexican place called Taqueria El Forolito (2779 Mission). The burritos are literally brick sized. I got the super shrimp and I inhaled it. I never leave food behind and washed it down with a Jarritos grapefruit. A great way to end off a trip by seeing old friends while discovering new cities and places.

San Francisco – USA – 2014 – Day 3

090414

We went back to Fisherman’s Wharf for breakfast at Boudin. Fresh bread – what else can you ask for. We got the normal bacon, eggs, potato wedges with toast. After breakfast, we met up with our friends Crystal, Michelle and Joanna to rent bikes just down the street.

We grabbed the bikes and road the coast line towards the Golden Gate bridge. The ride was testing in certain areas. There was one big hill in the beginning by the beach that you need to get up then it’s a nice park you ride through until you hit the main street. Continue biking down the street then onto the boardwalk which leads you to a pier where locals fish. We stopped for a moment then up another hill that I ended up getting off my bike and walking it up the second portion. Taking a breather, we stopped for another split second to take photos by the bridge. On the bridge itself, there is a dedicated lane for bikes and a dedicated lane for pedestrians. The rental place told us that we should make a shortcut at one point so we don’t end up biking on the side of the road after the bridge but apparently I didn’t see it and I was leading but not leading so we ended up going down the side of the road which was really steep and just flew by. Michelle had stopped by a car park because the view was so nice but it was on a turn on the steep hill so I had to backtrack a bit. Since we rode over the bridge, we rode to the town of Sausalito which is a cute little place. We ate at Napa Valley Burger Company where I had the Baker Beach BBQ Turkey Burger in a lettuce Wrap and it was delicious. We then had to make sure we caught the ferry with our bikes that brought us back over to the mainland.

When we returned to the main pier, Crystal, Joanna & Michelle parted ways with us and we decided to head to the Exploratorium and it was so much fun. Unfortunately timing wise we only had maybe an hour to go through the whole place and we went reverse way. It’s similar to the Toronto Science Centre and I love going through these types of places. They also do late night at the Exploritorium similar to Toronto’s late night at the ROM where it’s adults only but we skipped it. We had enough time to head to Union Square and goto Uniqlo. Right across the street was a restaurant I was told I need to goto called King of Thai Noodle (184 Farrell St) and man it was so delicious. I got the pad see ew and it was heaven on a plate.

San Francisco – USA – 2014 – Day 1 & 2

San Francisco – 0902-0614

I travelled with 3 friends (Michael H, Michael Y & Courtney) to San Francisco for 5 days and also met up with a few friends (Michael T, Cassie (who now resides in SF), Victor, Crystal, Michelle & Joanna). There was no real itinerary made for this trip however we did purchase the CityPass which is a great solution for first timers who want to see what attractions the city has to offer on a short period of time including unlimited access to buses and streetcars.

NOTE: If you want to goto Alcatraz – BOOK IN ADVANCED!

090214

We flew from Las Vegas to San Francisco after a volleyball tournament. We grabbed a SUV taxi and headed for Japantown. The trio booked a really cool little hotel on Sutter St called Hotel Tomo (1800 Sutter St). Originally when Courtney booked this incredible flight and hotel deal for her and Michael H, it was for a single bed so I had messaged Cassie who had just recently moved there for work and coincidently she lives not even a full block away which made my decision to goto SF finalized because she said I could stay with her.

After settling in and me leaving my stuff in their hotel room, we decided to walk from our location through to Chinatown and find some dinner. We first stopped by a place that sold $1 bubbletea. I had asked Cassie for a recommendation and she mentioned Great Eastern Restaurant (649 Jackson St). The food was good but I think we ordered items off the menu that the restaurant wasn’t known for looking at surrounding tables. We walked back from Chinatown to Japantown which was a decent 30-40 minute walk each way. Good thing the Bay area is a 4×4 grid where everything is relatively close. When we returned to the hotel, I grabbed my things and walked over to Cassie’s. The trio (Cassie, Victor & Michael T) had spent the day doing touristy things when I finally met up with them. We all jumped in and headed out for late night bubble tea at Little Sweet Café (3836 Geary Blvd) and I must say bubble tea aka boba is so cheap in SF! I got the Tie Kuan Yin milk tea which was a little too sweet but it was under $5USD.

 

090314

Michael T and myself woke up early so we went for a stroll while the couple slept. I was also giving my group ample time to get ready. Cassie recommended Sweet Maple (2101 Sutter St) for breakfast. They have millionaire bacon which is a cured bacon that is featured on “United States of Bacon” of Discovery Network. Thick, free range bacon, baked with brown sugar, cayenne, red and black pepper. I got the Eggs Benedict with maple bacon. We grabbed a taxi right outside the door and off we went to Pier 38. At the pier we also grabbed our Citypass which gave us unlimited bus, free entrance into museums and attractions etc. The Alcatraz audio walking tour was really good as it leads you all the way around with informative stories of the history behind this prison and the life of inmates. Remember to book early if you want to do this tour as it fills up quickly. Alcatraz at night tours fill up months in advance.

We came back to shore and took the old school streetcar to Fisherman’s Wharf and grabbed In-N-Out for lunch. A double double with animal style fries yes please! The aquarium was our next calling. It actually wasn’t the warmest day in San Fran and very windy especially near the pier. We also went the tourist route and went to Pier 39 to see the sea lions. We walked around killing time at the pier as we were meeting Courtney’s uncle and his friend for dinner. We settled on Scoma’s for fresh seafood. Too bad we ate a late lunch at In-N-Out that we weren’t hungry enough to order full meals.

After dinner we parted ways from Courtney’s uncle and friends and followed the light; the lights of the Ghiradelli sign that is. It is pronounced gear-ar-delly. We got ice cream and hot chocolate with sea salt in it at the main store and it was delicious plus chocolate to go!