We drove to Las Vegas on Boxing Day. It should normally take about 4 hours, but it’s holiday season, everyone is going somewhere. The highway gets a little jammed up and I’m not sure how long have we been driving. Stopped by 1 or 2 premium outlets, by the time we reached Vegas, the sun has set.
Vegas is indeed astonishing. Big amazing archietectures, great amount of human traffic, wine & dine, shopping malls and entertainment hub. However, the greatness doesn’t hit me, I guess I’m just too tired travelling on the road. There is one thing for sure: these buildings look extrememly close, but they are deceivingly far away in actual distance.
We shared a room with Lester’s uncle at Monte Carlo in Vegas. It’s on the Strip but towards the end. When you want to walk back after all the shopping, your legs will break. I personally prefer Caesars Palace on our 2nd visit. Room and location are better.
Room at Monte Carlo TV Console & Luggage Area Bathroom Facility Shower Area
We didn’t do much on the day or arrival, except booking our Grand Canyon day trip and planning to scout for wedding chapel for our big day.
Our 8th day in USA is Christmas day. We had a heart warming gathering at Lester’s uncle house with his friends. But preparation starts on the eve of Christmas as businesses are closed on Christmas day itself.
Leaving Ventura Beach, we take an hour drive to Los Angeles. Immediately after we parked our car, we headed out for grocery shopping. To save the food preparation hassle, most people tend to “ta-bao” signature dishes from their favorite restaurants. We did the same.
Went to Porto’s Bakery & Cafe which is famous for their pies and cakes. Queuing alone to collect your reserved order take us 1 hour.
Queue Starts from Porto’s Bakery & Cafe Backdoor Customers Queuing to Collect Orders
Dinner at Din Tai Fung. Gosh~ They taste even better here than any of their Asia branches. They have fish and chicken xiao long bao! There are more dish variety, I am so spoilt with choices here. My revisit to Din Tai Feng in the last few days of my trip, I ate 10 chicken xiao long bao by myself. Blurp~
Ding Tai Feng Dumpling Mascot Dumplings Feast Fish Dumplings Chicken Dumplings Taste Better
We had an early rest on the eve. Christmas decoration is all done up in the house already. I only assist to heat up food and do the dish washing.
Christmas Decoration in the House Busy in the Kitchen Crackers to Munch Before Meal Christmas Dinner Log Cake Pumpkin Pie
We sit around the tv, eat, talk, drink to pass our family time. 🙂
Going to spend the next 4 days 3 nights at Las Vegas, the Wonderland!
We reached in time for the African penguins feeding. Guests are welcomed to sit casually on the floor or go to the glass dome areas to watch these cute penguins eat. Aquarium staff will also explain what they do and observe during each feed.
African Penguins Feeding
Marine organisms are always fascinating. The aquarium has set up several spots for the visiting guests to interact with these marine animals. Timid me, I do not dare.
Touch the Starfish Touch the Crabs Bat Ray Touch Pool
I love this super big panel of water tank view. Time seems to slow down in front of the big blue water.
Big Water Tank Me Dazing Lester Dazing
We dine in the aquarium’s cafeteria. Simple food but delicious. You can also dine outside the aquarium. Before you exit, remember to get a hand stamp, so that your re-entry is valid.
Pizza & Milk Burger & Orange Juice
A 4 hours plus drive brings us to Ventura Beach. We are settling here for a night before heading to Los Angeles.
Comfort Inn at Ventura Beach Room Bathroom Facility Shower Area
Our next base station is Los Angeles where we’ll be staying with Lester’s uncle for the remaining weeks.
We are pretty done with the city and shopping in San Francisco by day 4. Today is like going through the checklist and see what we have left out.
We dined in The Cliff House for brunch. This place is by the coastline. It takes us around 30 minutes Muni ride and 20 minutes walking before we reach. Got lost a little along the way (never forget to use Google Maps), but the view is so nice. Worth it!
By the Coastline Sunny & Beautiful Day The Cliff House The Cliff House Interior
Despite this is so out of the way, the reservation queue is close to an hour wait. We are served with a basket of special bread once seated. They are warm, hallowed and light. Doesn’t have much taste but they go well with soup and whipped butter. We each had a breakfast main course. Blurp full~ Ambience is excellent especially if you get to sit beside the windows, food is terrifically good!
Special Bread Famous Cliff House Clam Chowder Amercian Breakfast Seafood Omelet
We then spend the rest of the day in Legion of Honor museum. This museum has more galleries than de Young museum, hosting galleries after galleries of artifacts and paintings. The collection is magnificent. Wish we have a whole day there. We stayed through till the sunset, overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge.
Legion of Honor Legion of Honor Entrance Sunset at Legion of Honor
This is our last night in San Francisco. We’ll be visiting Monterary Bay Aquarium, then takes another 4 hours long drive to Ventura Beach and stay over for a night.
Today is sightseeing day. We are travelled by Muni bus, bringing us to Chinatown, Golden Gate Bridge, Golden Gate Park, these places of interest without a hassle.
After 3 days of western cuisine, we decide to eat Asian food. Took a Muni to Chinatown in San Francisco, it is a total different world. I would say it resembles streets of Hong Kong, a little old, dirty, cluttered and pack with Chinese.
We picked a dining place which labelled itself as Hong Kong cafe, pinning hopes for some good Hong Kong food. Everything we ordered goes wrong, service sucks, we don’t even feel like tipping and probably not even worth mentioning.
We then embark on our Golden Gate Bridge walkathon. One end of the bridge provides the bicycle renting service, the other end provides open top bus tour service. We did a miscalculation thinking that both ends have the bicycle renting services. And we walked to and fro the bridge. Hectic. The return journey took us 30min walk, only if you walk at Lester’s speed. Restrooms are available on both ends. Sun is pretty strong, windy on the bridge. Do put on sun block, sun glasses and a coat. View is magnificent. Definitely a must visit
Specifications of Golden Gate Bridge Golden Gate Bridge “Happy” Walking
Took a Muni to Lincoln Street where Golden Gate Park is. It is probably a 10 minutes bus ride, but you need to walk into the park to the other attractions.
Golden Gate Park One of the Entrances
I actually love Golden Gate Park the most. You can practically spend your whole day there. There are Japanese Tea House, Botanical Garden, de Young Museum, Academy of Science… You would want to come here early in the day. Most of these attractions close promptly at 6pm and admission fees are sold separately.
For museum lovers, additional USD 2 discount for museum admission tickets if you keep and show them a Muni ticket. For students with student ID, do produce them upon ticket purchase, you’ll get admission tickets at student price. International student ID is also welcomed. We visited de Young Museum, hosting the exhibition “Masters of Venice”.
de Young Fine Arts Museum Golden Gate Bridge Masters of Venice Tickets at Student Price
Lester researched a Japanese ramen restaurant for dinner, Katana-ya, near our hotel through yelp.com. The restaurant might not have a reception area, but you can help yourself by writing your name, number of people on the waiting list. Wait for your call when the table is ready.
Katana-ya Self-help Waiting List
They serve pretty decent ramen, exactly what you’ll crave for on cold winter nights. They also serve sushi and other rice options.
Day 05 is arranged just for me. We are going to The Cliff House to have a wonderful breakfast and then head on to Legion of Honor museum.
Travelling to geek’s land: Google HQ and Apple The Company Store!
Rented Nissan Sentra from Hertz before hitting the highway. To “perform” Lester’s virgin left-hand drive, we got ourselves a Garmin Nüvi GPS to guide us around. Satellite signals are not as good within the San Francisco city, we only feel more relieve after travelling on to the highway. I cannot resist not falling into sleep in any car ride. I guess I didn’t give much help to him. Opps~
Hertz Office at San Francisco Our Nissan Sentra Bad Satellite Reception within City
It’s not difficult to locate Google HQ, but there are many Google buildings. Be sure to park your vehicle near the mascots and parking is free. Set tripod and you are ready to snap.
Google HQ All Android Mascots
We also planned Apple’s The Company Store on the same day. It’s about 15 min drive from Google HQ. You can find a parking lot in their big open space carpark. Parking is free.
Apple Campus Apple The Company Store Welcome & *Kaching*
We bought a number of their tee-shirts for friends. The Company Store sells mainly Apple’s souvenirs which you can’t get from any other Apple retails, together with other Apple products.
Part of the store sells souvenirs The other part sells Apple products
An unplanned visit to Gilroy Premium Outlets, our first outlet visit. We had a quick bite in In-N-Out Burger before shopping. Not the best outlet store but it is enough for us to pass time.
Gilroy Premium Outlets In-N-Out Burger First In-N-Out Burger
Dinner in San Francisco is always a reservation plus at least 1 hour wait in the queue. We dine in Burger Bar at Macy’s where Lester challenges the World’s Hottest Burger. The restaurant needs him to sign a declaration form to declare that the company will not be responsible to any health treats should one consume this burger.
Burger Bar at Macy’s Signing Health Declaration Form World Hottest Burger is HOT!
Next up, Day 04 at Golden Gate Bridge, Golden Gate Park & de Young Museum.
No jet lag but was too tired to wake up in the morning. Mess up a little of our planning.
Lester embarks his journey of worship to Timbuk2 shop at Hayes Street with Muni bus. An adult requires to pay USD 2 for Muni, regardless of the number of stations you are going to travel. Within the time frame given on the ticket, you can transfer and hop on to another Muni without paying (we only get to understand this on day 03).
Muni ticket states between now to 4:30pm, your transfer to another Muni is FREE!
Loves Hayes Street! It is very quiet town with blooming creative boutique shops.
Dinner at Blue Mermaid restaurant at Fisherman Wharf. But of course, there are a lot more dining choices available. Probably the 1 and only 1 meal for the day, we ordered 1 sample soups (select 3 soups), Seafood Trio with shrimps, crab cake, salmon and seasonal vegetable. I chose garlic parmesan french fries while Lester chooses mashed potato.
Took a stroll along Fisherman Wharf. Hmm… Can’t see much as the night has fall pretty early. We get to pop in and out souvenir shops. Ghirardeli Square is another must visit place. Architecture is romantic, especially with Christmas lightings, very much like Singapore’s Boat Quay. Ghirardeli is a famous chocolate brand in San Francisco, and so we went to its cafe for chocolate drinks.
One of the Ghirardeli stores at Ghirardeli Square
As Fisherman Wharf is one of the terminals of the cable car, we decided to take a ride back to our hotel. Each ride cost USD 6 for each passenger, regardless where you alight.
Cable Car Ticket Cable Car Terminal at Fisherman Wharf Cable Car Ride
Slightly into shopping mood, bought some sleeping pants from Old Navy for me and my sister.
Day 03, Lester will be driving to geek’s paradise: Google HQ and Apple company store. Night!
My first extremely long flight to a faraway Christmas land, USA. Will be staying there for close to a month long.
My flight from Singapore is transited at Incheon International Airport, Korea, after a flight time of 6 hours. Then another 12 hours flight to San Francisco International Airport. I thought my power of sleeping anywhere should make sleeping on jet painless. But my sleep is repeatedly disturbed by meal serving, noise around me, inadequate leg space and uncomfortable head rest. Nah~~~
Transit at Incheon International Airport Reached San Francisco
We finally reached San Francisco and co-shared a van to shuffle us to Chancellor Hotel near Union Square. Rooms are not ready before 2pm. We walked around to get our prepaid SIM card from T-Mobile (with unlimited local calls, texts and data) and Garmin’s GPS. Lethargically, I have to take 5 (actually close to 1 hour) in the room after we’ve checked-in.
Co-Shared Van from San Francisco Airport Chancellor Hotel
Dragging my feet, we shopped around Union Square and had The Cheesecake Factory for dinner. Food is no doubt GREAT! We have to share our main dish though. I didn’t make much purchases except a Forever 21 bathroom slipper. Still adapting to the cold weather, tiredness and environment.
The Cheesecake Factory’s reservation counter. Always packed. Whoo~ Cheesecakes!