We got the flight from Orlando to Atlanta and literally had enough time to go to the bathroom and walk to the other end of the terminal to get our connecting flight so that was exciting. Got on the second plane and were pretty exhausted so I napped most of the flight. We were on the type of plane where there was only two seats each side and three in the middle so we had our own two seat "row" to ourselves which was nice. We landed in San Francisco at about 10.30am PST (Pacific Standard Time - 3 hours behind Florida and therefore 8 hours behind the UK) and got our bag before getting the slightly ghetto BART train into the city. Getting the ticket proved a little tricky because we had to use a machine and it was a bit complicated... felt like when we were in Paris doing the same thing but at least without the language problem! Once we emerged into the city I realised it was pretty cold so had to rummage around for my jacket which I pretty much didn't take off for the next 48 hours! Going from 95 degrees in Florida to 60 in SF was a bit of a shock haha!
We set off to find our hotel with a 49-pound suitcase and laptop bag in tow... and didn't quite realise how many hills we'd have to climb to get to the hotel. So it took us about 45 minutes of walking and a short stint in a streetcar to get there but we made it eventually! It was too early to check in so we left our bags there and then set off to explore!! We decided to go to the Coit Tower which is the highest point in SF so we could get a view of the city... a few hills later we got there and had to line up to go to the top of the tower which was good. Amazing views. It was sunny and quite warm when you were sheltered but the wind was cold! Afterwards, we headed down to Fisherman's Wharf to see what was there and ended up making a spur of the moment decision to go on a Bay Cruise under the Golden Gate bridge. Oh my... I've never been so COLD IN MY LIFE!!!! It was super windy! However, got some good albeit foggy views of the bridge and the bay, it was fun. Afterwards we got soup (much needed) before heading to the hotel to check in. We were so exhausted by only having 3 hours napping/sleep in about 36 hours that we both crashed out at about 8pm!
We had a good solid 13 hours sleep before getting up for our full day in SF. We left the hotel and walked down to the Bay (about 15 minutes walk) for our trip to Alcatraz! This is what I was most excited about seeing in SF... and probably the whole trip actually. We got the boat over there and had a 5 minute introductory talk before watching a 15 minute film about the history of the place. Then we walked up the massive hill to the prison where we got given a headset... then you did a tour of the prison which was about 45 minutes and lead by the audio track. It was a really good way of doing it because it kept everyone moving around and gave you loads of useful information... you could always pause it to stop and see something in more detail or to have a break. We spent about 2 hours on Alcatraz Island in all. You could go inside the cells and stuff which was super CREEPY! I loved it. Definitely do it if you go to SF... but book in advance because it was sold out when we got there had we not bought our tickets online!
Upon returning to dry land we got lunch in 'Little Italy'... I had delicious pasta. Afterwards, we got the bus to the other side of SF, the Presido Park (sp?) to see the Walt Disney Family Museum. This took a little bit of persuading with Nick because he wasn't too keen but I think he enjoyed it in the end! I loved it - SO INTERESTING. It isn't owned by the company, it's owned by the family of the man himself so you get a different angle. The best part for me was seeing one of the very first original drawings of Mickey Mouse which was soooo cool as well as the Christian Louboutin 'Cinderella' shoes in real life...
There's only like 10 pairs in existence or something so that was cool and I wish I could have some!! The whole place was just really interesting for a Disney Keeno like me. Afterwards, we headed back to the city for some ice cream at the original Ghirardelli's - yum. Then we were pretty tired and cold so we headed back to the hotel to chill out and sleep again.
Friday 28th: We had to be up bright and early at 6am again. We had the hotel breakfast (meh) and then set off with the suitcase up another hill to the bus stop to get the bus to the BART stop again back to the airport. This time we did a direct route with little problem so a pity we hadn't figured that one out on Wednesday! Haha! Anyways, we got to the airport and headed to the car rental facility to pick up our car. After a small set back involving having to pay an additional $191 (ugh) we finally got the car which was a nice Toyota Corolla. We drove out of SF and got to a toll bridge which we didn't realise... asked them if we could pay it later (like you can in Florida via the post) because I didn't think I had enough cash and they didn't accept cards. Well, he handed us this piece of paper and we drove on... until I looked at it - it was a Toll Violation!!! Cheeky! So now I've landed myself with a $25-50 fine for crossing a bridge which should have been about $5. Annoying much. I also have to wait for it to come in the post via Hertz as it was a rental car so that's just irritating.
Anyway, we drove on and were headed to Lake Tahoe. We got a McDonald's breakfast on the way and eventually arrived. It was pretty there. Nick wanted to get a gondola ride up to a high point but we couldn't find it and it was expensive... so we gave up and took photos of the lake instead. Then we got back in the car and drove to Yosemite which was another 2.5 hours drive because Nick wanted to see this famous rock called the Half Dome. We managed to get there just in time for sunset so we got some awesome pictures and saw the prettiness of the national park. Would love to go back there one day.
Then it was time to drive on and back to just south of SF for our hotel that night. After an endless drive in which I fell asleep several times we got to our Hilton hotel (bargain at $110 by the way!) and checked in and went straight to bed!
Saturday 29th: This was the day of the drive down Pacific Highway 1... Nick was particularly excited by this. We stopped in Monteray Bay first... it was VERY foggy. So much so that we couldn't really see the coast which was sad. So we drove on to Carmel-By-The-Sea which was beautiful! Still a bit foggy but we got an amazing lunch at an Italian place... it was SO good. The pizza took a while to come out of the kitchen (about 25 minutes) but the waitress gave us a free glass of wine on top of the one we'd already had so that was pretty awesome :D I stopped at a sweet shop that advertised selling 'English candy' so I purchased a mint Aero and a Boost bar! Yay! After lunch we got back into the car and drove on as we had a lot of miles to cover and it was already about 3pm by this point! We stopped to see a lovely waterfall and cove... and lots of viewpoints. It varied between really foggy and really sunny it was weird.
Eventually we reached the Malibu area of LA and this was where we checked into our next hotel. Nick had some homework he had to finish and I washed my hair, thrilling stuff then I went to bed.
Sunday 30th: We had breakfast at the hotel (was good...) and then drove into downtown LA (bit scary!!). Found this great big multistorey car park at Hollywood & Highland which was only $2 to park at if you got your ticket validated by one of the restaurants or shops in the shopping center attached. Seen as we had lunch there that worked! We saw the Hollywood sign again, some of the walk of fame stars and the outside of the Chinese Theatre. It was cool but a complete tourist trap. We escaped after a couple of hours and went to Disneyland where we had reservations at California Adventure. We did Soarin' and saw the Aladdin show (REALLY GOOD!) before having our dinner. We had a World of Color package so we got a set 3-course menu for $40 and fastpasses for the show in the VIP viewing area... soooo good! The show itself was incredible, I've never seen anything like it! Then Disneyland Park was open til midnight so we headed over there and queued for the Halloween-ified Space Mountain which was genuinely scary!! We finally left and went to our last hotel of the trip which was just down the road from the park thank goodness.
Monday 1st: Happy 30th Birthday EPCOT!! I was sad to miss the celebrations at my current park but I can watch the fireworks on YouTube right? ;)
Instead, we had a lie-in (much needed) and didn't check out of the hotel until midday. We got lunch at the Downtown Disney area which was okay (hoping for an Earl of Sandwich but it wasn't open! Sad times!) and then hit the road for a little adventure into the Anza-Borrego desert. We had two entertaining events happen... firstly we were driving along through an endless sea of the colour brown when we saw a bright blue lake! It was massive! Upon looking at the map, it actually was the Salton Sea which was formed by earthquakes and lay directly on the San Andreas Fault Line (I got a Geography GCSE-related thrill from this!) so we thought we'd take a detour to explore this. We drove down a random road past some orange groves until we got to the edge of the lake... it looked pretty! We got out of the car to be hit by the most awful stink of sewage and flies!!! EWWWWW!!!! We jumped back in the car and drove off with all the windows down trying to swat the flies out of the car and spray body spray in an attempt to get rid of the smell! Not quite what I'd pictures but hilarious.
Secondly, we got to the viewpoint which Nick wanted to see - Font's Point. It was a sand road but it looked pretty packed in sand and to begin with it was fine to drive on... for about 10 minutes until it turned to soft sand and we very nearly got stuck in the middle of the 100 degree desert with no mobile phone signal! I'll remind you we were in a 2-wheel drive Toyota Corolla... the desert won that one. We managed to reverse and swerve (A LOT) but get out of there in one piece. Poor car. We drove on and out of the desert until we eventually hit back to the LA area and managed to get some fast food as we were pretty hungry. We then returned the rental car and went to the airport to check in for the awful red-eye overnight flight back to Orlando.
Tuesday 2nd: I actually managed to sleep most of the flight amazingly. Still felt rough as hell when I got back though! Nick dropped me back at the Commons at about 8am and I went to bed until 1pm when I had to get up for work. I was training the PM with Luke and we were KD which was joyful haha. He was actually an amazing trainee to the point where I had 2 of my own tables and didn't need to worry about him at all! His test is today but I'm sure he'll pass with flying colours.
Wednesday 3rd: We've finally caught up! Yesterday I had picked up an AM shift because I had too many days off recently and no money after this trip! It was okay. I was in dart room until I was cut at 2.15pm as I had to go to a F&B 'Safety Meeting' with my manager. I was the token gesture from the UK lol. It was okay but boring. Afterwards, I got changed and clocked out before meeting all the rest of my arrival group (minus Steffie who was on a cruise) and we went to Raglan Road for dinner! It was great! SO MUCH FUN to hang out with them all again... albeit for a sad occasion as it was Tyler's last day of work and he flies home tomorrow. We managed to make it to Magic Kingdom with 5 minutes to spare before the fireworks and legged it up Main Street to stand in front of the castle. Tears were shed and mass group hugs occurred. It was a bit sad... and I'm gonna be so upset to say goodbye to these guys in 3 weeks time. It will be weird to be here without them. We went and did Thunder Mountain (at the back - so awesome!) and then Jungle Cruise which was hilarious before we headed back to housing.
Today I'm about to get ready to go to the Outlets and EPCOT with Tyler as it's his last day in Orlando ;( I'll be so upset to say goodbye to him. Although I called immigration this morning and verified I can go to Canada at the end of my program and come back to Orlando on an ESTA before I go home... so I'll be seeing him in a couple of months I guess. He's been one of my best friends here for the last year and I'll miss him. It's also the first goodbye of my arrival group which is sad. Okay, gonna stop typing before I start crying now!!