San Francisco 2018 Day 8 – Golden Gate bridge, Fisherman’s Wharf and Pier 39

We woke up at 8, got dressed and by 10, we were checked out. The reception was pretty closed to the lake and so we decided to go check it out. It was a great decision to take that walk as we were presented a scenic serene view of the area. While K was not able to appreciate the view, he found some pine cones to kick them about. There was a pier that went out into the water. Walking along the wooden walkway, with clear waters reveal the ground meters deep beneath the water (but no fishes). Ducks were seen at the sides of the walkway basking in the morning sun and ignoring us until K got too close and some got in the water. Then a school of geese glided down and landed on water, a majestic sight that I wasn’t able to catch with a camera as I watched in awe. I could just sit there all day to enjoy the peacefulness around but we had to go to San Francisco and it was a tad too chilly. After K had some fun playing with the sand, we walked back to the car, and was surprised to see a wild rabbit and fluffy tail squirrel along the way! (K tried chasing the rabbit as it dashed out of sight)

Our accommodation
Strolling towards the lake
Ducks on very clear water
Basking in the sun
The school of geese after landing on the water
Swimming pool not in use

The road trip to San Francisco was a 4hrs drive, beginning with a nice scenic downhill drive at the start coming out from Lake Tahoe. The tall trees with autumn colors lined the road as the car took the often curvy road but not too uncomfortable to drive. My family were soon off to dreamland while I kept my eyes on the road. I had initially planned a midpoint rest stop at Sacramento Southside Park that had a Farmer’s market nearby but since K was still asleep, I decided to continue the drive straight to San Francisco.

Picturesque drive downhill

The Google maps initial road to our destination were showing intimidating red colours leading into the peninsula, so I decided to take a detour and go through Lafayette instead of Vallejo as there’s were less reds. We crossed the Bay Bridge and paid at the toll counters the bridge toll of USD4. There was a slight jam while in San Francisco but we slowly made our way to the Airbnb.

Overhead signs indicating cash or Fastrak only
Driving on the Bay Bridge

After going through a few streets of the residential area, we turned into a street with a dead end, our Airbnb. We had to carry out the check in ourselves using instructions through the app and it didn’t take long before we unlocked the few doors before finding ourselves at the door to our accommodation inside the garage. It was a small place that came with kitchen place with a portable stove, a small living room and a bedroom and toilet. K settled down to have his lunch while I ventured out onto the streets and found a Burger King a 6mins walk away. Purchased 2 small meals to takeaway for $17. This location had a very Puerto Rican vibe, people were speaking Portuguese, and I heard orders for the meals being conversed in Portuguese.

Colourful buildings reminding me of San Juan
Our ride parked on the street

Finished our lunch at about 315pm and we were out again. I had planned to visit the viewpoint of the Golden Gate bridge, the Battery Spencer fort at the opposite end of the bridge itself. Drove there which was not too difficult with directions along the way. Upon climbing up the hill, we couldn’t see place to park the car and thus proceeded further up where there was another viewpoint (see Google map). I managed to park at that viewpoint and we got out for quick photos before getting back into the car and returned to Battery Spencer. Luckily upon arriving, a car just left and I quickly grab the opportunity slot my car in.

Driving on the Golden Gate bridge

Battery Spencer fort was a fort that was no longer in use, and there weren’t anything much left of the fort. To view the bridge, we walked on the rocky road just next to the fort route all the way till the edge of the knoll. When we arrived, we were greeted by the magnificent view of the Golden Gate Bridge from an elevated view, a location for the best selfies!

Rocky path to the edge
View from the edge
Battery Spencer
Toll for the Golden Gate Bridge, but no counters to pay

Our next location to visit was to go Fisherman’s Wharf. This meant driving back on the Golden Gate Bridge. While there was a need to pay toll, unlike the Bay Bridge, there weren’t any toll stations available. Nevertheless, I had 48 hours to make payment and it wouldn’t be too much of a problem. Googled Northpoint center carpark as the place to go to for a visit to the Fisherman’s Wharf but I was on the opposite side of the road that did not allow for me to turn into the car park. Eventually, we ended up parking at Pier 39 carpark.

Parking at Pier 39

We went to Fisherman’s Wharf to walk around, there were shops and restaurants abound, like a typical tourist area. We walked into a random shop that had souvenirs and bought a musical box in the shape of a cable car and small model of the Golden Gate bridge. We went into CVS to shop too, buying a lip balm and mommy bought her stuff.

Restaurants at Fisherman’s Wharf
Fisherman’s Wharf
There must be boats in a Wharf
A modern cable car
One of the chocolate store at Fisherman’s Wharf

For dinner, we left Fisherman’s Wharf and walked to Pier 39 where there were plenty of restaurants to choose from. We thought of getting some seafood and Fog Harbour fish house seemed to tell us that but there were too many people queuing to get in so we went further down and entered the Crab House. Ordered Cioppino seafood tomato soup and fish and chips for K. It was pretty tasty but the quantity was surprisingly small. Decided to add another half a crab in their special sauce. In total, we paid slightly less than USD100 for dinner. Since we ate at a restaurant in Pier 39, we had our carpark ticket validated too, to save some costs. Spent the night walking around Pier 39, enjoying the sights of lights and a carousel that was closed for the night. However, many shops remained opened while we were there.

Sealion statues at Pier 39
Restaurants galore
Fog Harbor is full
Crab House
Fish and Chips
Half a crab
Inside Crab House
Carousel closed for the day
Many stores still in operation
Hard Rock Cafe just next to Pier 39

Carpark fees were still a hefty USD30 by the time we were leaving. It was a 30mins back to the apartment where we passed by the Bay Bridge that was lighted up with running lights. I thought that parking at the Airbnb would be easy since I could just parked on the road as the schedule for road cleaning wasn’t during our stay. When I arrived, I saw a street full of cars, it was like everyone had thought that it was a good idea to park there. I managed to just park in front of the building, with the risk of blocking the car that was in the garage, but figured that the owner could just call me to move if it was a problem.

Bay Bridge lighted up

I started TV that came with Amazon Firestick for K to catch some familiar cartoons before bath time. Tried to fix K’s sports car luggage with superglue bought from CVS too before finally going to bed.

Lake Tahoe 2018 Day 7 – Lake Tahoe

Woke up late at 9am, not sure if that was due to fatigue or if the bed was too comfortable. After I managed to get out of bed to check the breakfast timing, I was shocked to find that the buffet was ending in the next 30mins. I quickly brushed my teeth, and went down to the ground level after turning on the tv for K. It was a small buffet section tucked at a small section away from sight. I asked one of the staff there if I could bring up the food to consume them in the room and was quite surprised that it was possible! (never tried that before) I filled 2 empty plates with whatever I think my family wanted to eat and brought them to the room. One of the plate had a waffle that I had to grill myself right from the batter and I found it interesting as this was the first time I was doing this. We had out breakfast in bed.

Small breakfast section
Waffle making machine



Breakfast back at the room

After getting dressed, we left for the drive to Lake Tahoe, about 1hr drive away. The most part of the drive was the expressway and nearer to Lake Tahoe, the many lanes converted to smaller roads. Our first visit was to the Heavenly gondola. The google maps brought us to somewhere mid-hill near residential areas which was not correct. Then when we finally arrived at the carpark just behind Heavenly Resort, we found the gondola stationary – Not in operations yet! Frustrated about the time wasted efforts of driving around, we next drove to Eagle falls in search for a picnic area some 30mins away.

Farms along the way to Lake Tahoe
Smaller roads to Lake Tahoe
Road next to the giant lake.

The road brought us through a town and then back to curvy mountainous roads as we got closer to our destination. I wasn’t really sure where it was and after passing through a view point, I parked my car at a location where there was a parking lot. We got off to explore but the temperature didn’t felt like what it seemed in the sunny day – it was bitter cold! We thought that maybe if we could get a spot under the sun to sit it would warm off but we couldn’t make it to the location before calling off the idea and returning to the car as the wind was mercilessly blowing continuously. While doing so, K took interest in the giant size pine cones which he would pick up from the road and throw them towards the grass.

South Tahoe town
Hanging gondolas overhead…
…but they were not in operations.
View at the carpark of Eagle falls

I drove down to Emerald bay viewpoint called Inspiration point, the place where we passed by while on the way to Eagle falls. There was a car park that was tiny and very full but fortunately we were able to get one slot after going around once. K ate lunch in the car  to stay away from the cold while I went outside to take photos of the beautiful bay view with the island in the middle. After my short walk about, I returned to join them in the car where I finished up the remainders (of K’s lunch) for my lunch while mommy ate last night’s sandwich, toughing it out due to laziness to find some decent place to have lunch. We all got off to check out the view and to walk off the lunch. Though it was still cold but it was much better without the wind that we encountered at Eagle falls. There was a restroom without water that K used, a first introduction to the concept of what we ate returns to nature.

Inspiration point

Since there was time, we decided to just drove around the huge lake in a clockwise direction, during this time, K fell asleep. We went past a few towns before arriving at Incline village and drove to town center to explore a bit. Unfortunately, it was small and had nothing much so we proceeded on to drive to Sand Harbour.

Buildings at Incline village

There was a road before the actual road that I thought led to the Sand Harbour but it was meant for those who would be releasing their boats. Backed out and turned into the actual entrance to find that there was a need to pay for parking. There was some instructions about putting the sum into somewhere since there weren’t any personnel manning the counter so I thought it was too difficult and just went into the car park. It was almost empty parking place and after stopping the car at one of the slot, I got out quickly to take a few shots of photos before returning to the car and driving off to our next destination, the Safeway supermarket.

View of lake at a certain spot. Waves created by wind.
Welcome to Sand Harbour
Sand Harbour panoramic view

The Safeway supermarket was a huge supermarket at the South Tahoe town that was also closed to where we were staying. After about a 30mins from Sand Harbour, we arrived at the carpark of Safeway with K waking up coincidentally. Mommy spent some time to buy groceries to make dinner that night. While I pushed K around in the trolley, K met a 2year old baby boy and was having a little chat with him (which he enjoyed talking to other kids around his age) and was trying to find him while we go around the different lanes. After an hour  in the supermarket spent on shopping and kiddy talks, we left with 50ish foodstuff.

Safeway supermarket
Inside the supermarket

Our accommodation for the night was booked from Airbnb but located at Lakeland Village which was managed like a resort management. I carried out the checked in while the family stayed in the car and was given a Townhouse facing road. I didn’t realised under I checked with mommy whom had booked this accommodation because it was supposed to be facing the lake, as per the description from the Airbnb. I called to clarify with the reception but they mentioned that it must have been a wrong description because for Townhouses, there weren’t any around that had lake views, only the bigger 3 to 4 bedders had. Disappointed but there wasn’t much we could do even when mommy tried to message the Airbnb owner, there was no reply.

The accommodation however was pretty nice, 3 stories including the loft with a beds. I entered the apartment first to turn up heat and also the electric fireplace before having the family come in. We spent most of the time in front of the TV especially K, while mommy cooked dinner that was made up of pasta, egg omelette and salmon teriyaki, in which salmon fillet had to be recooked as it was too thick!

Ground floor bedroom
Separated bath and sink
A spare toilet
Huge living room
Dining area
Loft beds

The bath was on the first floor but the entire place had their own and good heating so we didn’t have to rush to get dressed or else catch a cold. Then when we were finally done with TV, it was lights off as we huddled at the loft to sleep. I shared the single size bed with K as he had the inspiration to sleep on another bed from mommy but was too afraid to sleep alone, while mommy enjoyed the entire Queen bed to herself.

Escape Plan to West USA November 2018

A brief summary on the itinerary

Escape Plan to West USA:

Total duration 15D14N
Singapore is 12hr ahead of California, USA.
Flight time is 15hrs on Singapore Airlines from Singapore to Los Angeles and return flight is 17hrs on Singapore Airlines from Los Angeles to Singapore.

Friday evening flight on 2nd Nov at 845pm and arrival in Los Angeles in the evening of the 2nd Nov at 855pm. Return flight from Los Angeles on the 16th Nov at 1025pm and arrival in Singapore at 815am on the 18th Nov

Day 1 Flight and Arrival at Los Angeles
Day 2 Venice Beach, Venice Broadwalk and Santa Monica Pier
Day 3 LA, Hollywood and Griffith Observatory
Day 4 Las Vegas and Helicopter ride to Grand Canyon
Day 5 Drive to Grand Canyon and glamping under the stars
Day 6 From Grand Canyon to Reno
Day 7 Lake Tahoe
Day 8 San Francisco Golden Gate bridge, Fisherman’s Wharf and Pier 39
Day 9 Alcatraz cruise, Academy of Science and Powell Street
Day 10 San Francisco Premium Outlets
Day 11 Coastal drive to Prismo beach
Day 12 Detour to Camarillo Premium Outlets and Disneyland Pier Hotel
Day 13 Disney California Adventure Park
Day 14 San Diego Sea World and Gasclamp Quarters
Day 15 Citadel Premium Outlets and Home Sweet Home

This escape plan was an impromptu due to the availability of good deals. Singapore Airlines announced the revival of the direct long distance flight to Los Angeles and with premium economy seats going at just $1328, only $200 more than the economy seats, it would be a sin to miss!

Budget nature: Budget buster 

It wasn’t a fantastic time to be spending USD as SGD was weak near the end of the year compared to the earlier months. The savings from the tickets were gone in a flash due to travelling in the state with the highest costs of living in the USA, lots of shopping and Disneyland.

Complexity: Easy

Driving around was not difficult even in multiple lanes highways. Tolls can be a little tricky but reading it up on Google helped. Jams were common in cities but with patience, you would still reached your destination, albeit in the dark. Google maps worked like a charm and pulling to the side of the road by the police for speeding wasn’t too daunting too!