Wednesday, June 25, 2008

What a Trip!

Man, oh man! Fasten your seat-belts, this is gonna be a long blog! San Francisco is an extremely difficult city to navigate. We got turned around and flipped upside-down almost as soon as we stepped outside our hotel. The buses we crowded and hot. There were hundreds of people on the streets, with hundreds of cars passing by. Owning a car in that city means spending more money than is necessary. And it's dirty. The streets are littered and there are pigeons everywhere.

Our hotel, called the Opal, was OLD (built in 1908) and hadn't been updated in a while. The floors and bedspreads were poison. And the room was tiny! Thank goodness for the walk-in closet where we stored all of our crap and changed clothes. There was a freaky painting of some girls moving away from the canvas, with one of the little girls looking back. We decided she was haunting the building and, more specifically, our room. She was a freaky little thing that made the room hotter, as opposed to a typical ghost who would prefer the cold.

Since gay marriage was recently legalized, we saw quite a few gay pride flags (aka The Rainbow). We even saw a newly married homo couple leaving city hall with leis around their necks. We really didn't see too much PDA, thank goodness. There were some obvious couples, but nothing too disgusting.

Having said all that, I loved it. It was so fun to see all the places we've heard about.

We started Friday at Pier 39. It was the hottest day there, at about 95 degrees. They don’t usually get that hot in SF, so no one has air conditioning. We did some window shopping, winding our way down the pier, stopping to take pictures of the noisy sea lions.
We ate at the Crab House, and even I, the seafood-hater, loved it. Heather and I shared crab alfredo and it was delicious!
We went to the aquarium on the pier and saw an octopus, which was hiding at the bottom between the rocks because it was so HOT. We also saw their new seven-gilled shark that weighed about 350 pounds. She was pretty big. They had a jelly fish display that was fun to watch. We got to pet sea anemone and sting rays, too.

Then we went on a little bay cruise that took us out under the bay bridge and then back around The Rock, aka Alcatraz. It was kinda spooky to look at, actually. Or maybe I’m just weird. We then walked down to Fisherman’s Wharf and took a tour of Boudin Bakery, where we sampled some delicious breads and spreads.
And then we went up the hill to Ghirardelli Square. They’ve just released a new chocolate: peanut butter. Oh my goodness, it was delightful! We got a few free samples of that one, cuz they were passing them out at every chocolate shop we went into. We had some cupcakes at this cute little shop called Kara’s Cupcakes. Then it was back to the parking garage that housed Mom’s car and drove to the local Costco, which was in a kind of high-rise building on a street corner. It was totally strange. We got some food for our weekend, then back to the hotel to eat and drop-dead from exhaustion and heat-stroke! Friday was undoubtedly our busiest day.

It cooled off on Saturday, thanks to a few clouds and the wind, and being in the shade of the tall building downtown. We started out at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. There was a Frida Kahlo exhibit that Mom, Marie, and Jana enjoyed (Heather and I didn’t want to pay the extra to see it, but we also got to spend more time looking at the other art). Side note: The art in SF is amazing. There were so many different galleries all over the place! After enjoying the works of Marcel Duchamp, Georgia O'Keeffe, Pablo Picasso, Gerhard Richter, Diego Rivera, Hans Arp, and Andy Warhol, amongst others, we went to a little soup and sandwich shop called Anderson’s Bakery and enjoyed some yummy sandwiches.
Then we hit the shopping district at Union Square. Wow. Talk about up-town: Tiffany & Co., Saks Fifth Ave., Prada, Gucci, mixed in with GAP and Levis Flagship Store. We hit up some art galleries and an antiques shop as well. It was awesome. We ate at the Cheesecake Factory above Macy’s (which had a HUGE underwear ad).
We ran into a companionship of elders on our way up to the restaurant, in an answer to our prayer. We hadn’t figured out where the closest church building or meeting time was before we left. Mom had called Dad, who wasn’t in a position to help us at the time. And BANG! There were the elders. They were the Spanish-speaking elders (both from Utah—Lehi and Sandy), so they did some searching for us and found us a close building and time. They also bought us a slice of strawberry cheesecake. Yum. I think they were just really happy to run into some Utahans, even though we’re Californians, too. Anyway, we went back to the hotel and crashed again after walking around all day (15000 steps!). We got to watch the first day of the women’s gymnastic trials for the Olympics, too!

Sunday was a little slower. We went to church in the Bay Ward. I’m glad we decided to start our Sunday the right way. We went back to the hotel for lunch and then headed down to Golden Gate Park. Apparently it used to be this beautifully kept area with a ton of green grass and pretty flowers and trees. Now the grass is browning and the flowers have disappeared, I’m guessing due to budget cuts. There was a kind of community band festival going on in the park, so we got to hear some fun band music.

We really enjoyed the de Young Museum with all of its art and history. Mom and Heather went in to the Dale Chihuly exhibit, which was basically a ton of beautiful glass art.

Then we went and explored the Japanese Tea Gardens. The flowers and leaves were all so small and delicate. It was serene and beautiful.
After our relaxing walk through the gardens, we headed up to Haight Ashbury. Wow, that was interesting! There were a ton of vintage/second-hand stores, so Marie was very excited. She ended up buying this really pretty, old-style blouse and a dress. We went into a couple of “organic” food stores just to explore and see what they had. They carried a lot of the same things that World Market or Trader Joe’s carries.

Side note: there are street musicians everywhere in SF! We heard a full-on band (well, guitarist/singer with a bassist and a drummer) on one of the corners at Haight Ashbury, plus there were sax players, trumpeters, guitarist, and a guy playing some kind of Chinese string instrument in China Town. It was awesome. After exploring Haight Ashbury for a while, we headed back uphill—and I mean UPHILL!!—and the cruised over to the Fisherman’s Wharf area where we found a pizza place to have dinner. The pizza was OK, but the onion rings were amazing! Then back to the hotel to crash. Again. We watched the second day of the women’s gymnastic trials as we ate our strawberry cheesecake, and then fell asleep to Mr. and Mrs. Smith.

Monday morning we woke up to a phone call from Dad. And then another phone call from Dad. And then to the fire alarm in the hotel. We all hurried to get decent and then the alarm stopped. But we heard sirens soon afterward, so, since I was the most dressed, I went downstairs to the front desk to see what was going on. There were firemen all over the lobby in their full-fire gear with the big silver tanks on their backs. The people at the front desk said it was all due to a burnt piece of toast. Thank goodness, cuz if that building had caught fire, we all would have been dead, I swear! Anyway, we went to breakfast at Mel’s Drive-In Diner (which isn’t a drive-in anymore, but is a mini-chain in SF, and there was one right next to our hotel—there was even a door directly from the hotel into the diner). After our yummy breakfast, we headed up to China Town.

The shops up there were SO fun! Mom bought a beautiful table cloth (for when she puts out her china) and Heather bought her daughter and very pretty China doll. I bought a jade ring and a few beads. The buildings were so amazing, and there were lamps strung across the streets. It was really a lot of fun. Then we went exploring. We wanted to go to the Exploratorium, but it was closed. Sad. Instead we took a drive over the Golden Gate Bridge, taking pictures along the way. It was very foggy above the city, so we couldn't even see the top of the bridge.

We stopped on the north side and took in the foggy sight. We had an officer watching us try to balance the camera on a rock wall to get a timed picture with all of us in it…and after getting a good laugh at us when someone walked in front of the camera, he offered to take the picture for us. Good times. Anyway, we got back in the car and drove around the north side of the bridge, passed through some of the smaller areas and took in the view. It was gorgeous.

And then it was off to the airport. We were very late getting there, and Heavenly Father answered our prayers—we thought we’d miss our flight. The flight was delayed by a half hour! We got there an hour early after the delay, and then they actually didn’t get off until 15 minutes after that, so we were very blessed!

Talk about a jam-packed four days! We did a ton of sight seeing and walking and driving and picture-taking. It was a lot of fun to be with my sisters and my mom. I’m so grateful that we were able to spend this time together! What a fun, fun weekend!!

Monday, June 9, 2008

Random things that probably won't interest anyone but me!

So, here's the thing: I don't really have anything to new blog about, I'm just very bored. OK, maybe bored is the wrong word. It's the word I use to describe the fact that I'm not doing anything truly worth-while. I could find something to do if I really wanted. But I don't. Instead, I'd rather waste my time blogging.

I'm going on a trip to San Fransisco this month, along with my sisters and my mom! We leave next Thursday. I'm really excited! Not only do I get to escape from the mundane routine of my humdrum life, I get to go with some of my favorite people! And we get to see an area of California that is foreign to us. Yeah, I'm a native Californian who has never been to San Fransisco! I'm way excited. I keep looking up places to visit and what we might see and I must say that Haight Ashbury looks the most exciting to me. I can't wait to explore! And Chinatown should be way fun, too. Yay for fun vacations. If anyone has any advice about what we should do/see while we're there, please feel free to offer it!

I finished reading Atonement by Ian McEwan about a week ago. It was very interesting, a little depressing, had beautiful imagery, and was overall a good read. The movie follows the book extremely well. Caution: if you do decide to watch the rated-R film, there is some swearing (it takes place during WWII--soldiers have dirty mouths) and you should just skip the library scene. Trust me. Last night I finished reading Princess Academy by Shannon Hale. Wow, what a contrast to Atonement!! It was such a great story: true love between girl and boy, girl and family, girl and friends; accepting oneself for who and what one is; the importance of community, communication, education. It was a very good book, geared toward young girls, but is a great read for anyone! Now I'm on to "Autobiography of a Face" by Lucy Grealy (since it's the next book for our Naked Soul book club).

Some good movies I've recently seen (quotes taken from Netflix):
Sweet Land (PG), and independent movie about "how love triumphs over ignorance... German immigrant Inge tells her life story...beginning her tale in 1920, when she's just become a mail-order bride to Norwegian-American farmer Olaf. Discovering that Inge's heritage is actually German, both Olaf and the community struggle to overcome years of anti-German propaganda and prejudice." It's seriously a wonderful movie. It begins with the quote: "Let us hope that we are all preceded in this world by a love story." Stars Elizabeth Reaser and Tim Guinee with Alan Cumming, John Heard, and Alex Kingston.
American Splendor (R), "Harvey Pekar was a working-class stiff, a file clerk who found an outlet for his creativity by chronicling every minutia of his life in Cleveland for more than 20 years in a comic-book series called American Splendor." Don't let the R rating scare you. The content and very mild language is what earned it the R rating, and really it's just an adult's movie. Kids wouldn't get too much of an education watching it, but they wouldn't like it, either. I personally loved it. It's a very interesting way of telling Pekar's tale. Stars Paul Giamatti and Hope Davis.
Starter for Ten (PG-13), "As student Brian Jackson navigates through his freshman year at England's prestigious Bristol University, he develops a crush on winsome coed Alice Harbinson in this comical coming-of-age tale. After several romantic gaffes, Brian changes tactics, concluding that an impressive victory on the "University Challenge" quiz show is the way to capture Alice's heart." So, yeah, it's a teen-ish movie (only they're college students in the 80's). And it ends just like you want it to, but the ride there is very funny. Stars James McAvoy, Rebecca Hall, and Alice Eve.
Danny Deckchair (PG-13), "Australian...Danny hatches a novel way to escape his drab life after a fight with his girlfriend: He ties large helium-filled balloons to his deckchair and floats away into the sky. But a violent thunderstorm sends him hurtling out over the Outback, where he lands in a small town where no one knows him." Funny and clever are the words that come to mind. I don't want to give too much away here. Stars Rhys Ifans and Miranda Otto.
21 (PG-13), "Struggling to come up with his tuition, Ben Campbell turns to one of his professor, who trains him and four fellow students to become card-counting experts, with the intent of swindling millions of dollars out of Vegas casinos." I can't say too much here without giving anything away. I liked it a lot. It's one of those fun, rooting-for-the-bad-guy (but only cuz the bad guy is a good guy caught up in bad stuff) kind of movies. Stars Jim Sturgess, Kevin Spacey, Laurence Fishburne, and Kate Bosworth.