I know I’ve been absent from blogosphere for a really long time. Its just that I’ve been really busy travelling here and there 😬, that I forgot that I have a blog that I maintain every now and then. Anyways, I would like to blog about one of my travels this time. I just got back from a trip to NYC, but I’m not so sure if its worth blogging at all. It had a lot of touristy spots and interesting places yes, but frankly, I do not see myself returning in the next couple of years. I am honestly more interested and inspired with my trip to the West Coast, in California.
It was my husband and I’s first trip ever without the little one. It was an anniversary getaway, after all. And since its our first time in the US, we made the most out of it and squeezed in San Fo and LA in just 6 days. Disclaimer though, we are not budget travellers but not business class type either. But we tend to splurge most of the time. As long as we like it and convenient for us, then we’re game.
I booked our return SFO flight during an online seat sale of PAL back in March. Had I known that time that we would be going to LA, I should have booked a flight out of LA to Manila. But oh well, at least we would be wiser the next time around.
Upon our arrival at SFO International Airport, we went straight to the counter of Hertz Car Rental. Hubby said it will cost us less to rent a car than take a taxi going to and from the airport. We were a bit excited (and nervous at the same time!) to try driving in the US. We rented a small car, a Nissan Versa. Good thing we only had 2 luggages coz only 1 luggage fit in the compartment and the other 1 at the back passenger.
Aahh, the highways of California are the best! Even though there are tons of cars, their highways are so wide and well planned out to accommodate hundreds and hundreds of speeding cars. I heard about their speed limit on highways, but wondered why no one is following them. They are all literally fast and furious. And we like it all the more of course. 😂
We checked in that night at Omni Hotel San Francisco. We heard about this hotel at OTWOL, a local soap starring the loveteam Jadine, and I never looked for other hotels in SanFo other than Omni. Hahaha. Anyway, they do not have guest parking but valet parking is available and included in our room. The hotel is a bit dated, but is spacious and classic looking. We were starving when we arrived, and nearby restaurants were closed since it was so late, so we ordered burgers in room service. The burgers were huge! We should have ordered just one for the 2 of us. Anyways, as we go along our trip we discovered that everything here is supersized. The burgers, the drinks, ice creams, one serving can serve up to 3 persons. American sizing is huge, for real.
We didn’t have time for a jetlag because we were early the next day for our early access tour to Alcatraz and city tour. Our meetup place was in Union Square, and it was then that we realized that Omni was not a good idea. We had a good 30 minute walk going to downtown.
We rode a private tour motorized cable car. If it had not been too cold, it would be the best way to go around the city. Everyone loved our cable car, whenever we stop by somewhere, everyone was asking where it would go and wanted to have a ride, or simply have a photo with it.
Touring the Alcatraz Island is also easy esp. because we’re early and there’s not much queue around. Being the non-history buff that I am, I also appreciated it because it provided insights about the lives of the prisoners inside this maximum security prison, even some of the escape attempts a few organized.
After our lunch of (huge) sandwiches, we toured around the city. We stopped by to several photo taking spots of the iconic Golden Gate Bridge. It was cold and foggy that time, and only half of the bridge was visible.
We also stopped by the Palace of Fine Arts, to take photos and marvelled at its architecture.
The tour finished at around 3PM, and after then we met up with a family friend and godparent at our wedding, Ninong Noel. He has been living in SanFo since 2009, and we both couldn’t be any happier seeing each other for such a long time.
We drove to the best spot for photo taking of the Golden Gate, in Battery Spencer. I had to make sure the next time I go here to bring complete gear for wind and cold. It seemed like there was a typhoon with the kind of winds this spot has.
We also drove to the famous Lombard Street, the world’s crookedest street!
Afterwhich we had an early dinner in Franciscan Crab restaurant in Fisherman’s Wharf, and even though the huge garlic crabs were so-so, the clam chowder in sauerkraut bread was amazing!
Then it was time to say goodbye for our short but meaningful reunion. Ninong Noel had a tough life in the US, it was even his first time to go to the Golden Gate and Lombard Street, even though he’s been here for 7 years. It made me appreciate more the fortunate lives that we have, being we can travel in the US for just a vacation, and not worry about anything when we go back home.
The next day we’re not too early with the tour, so we had time for our breakfast at the next door’s Bob’s Steak and Chop House. Food was amazing and certainly worth the $30 vouchers.
We had a half day city tour again, but with a bus this time. Went to see the Golden Gate bridge again, Land’s End lookout, the Presidio and finally at the Fisherman’s Wharf. We’re supposed to go up the Twin Peaks but the guide said it would be worthless due to fog. Had lunch at the wharf with clam chowders and lobster rolls.
We had a flight to LA by 4:30PM, and even though the tour ended at 12:30 we waited for another bus to take us back to the hotel. It was already 2PM when we left Fisherman’s Wharf, and we were already wondering if we can make it to our flight, since we still had to return our rented car at the airport. We only had about 30mins before the flight, and thank goodness, no sh*t happened on our way to checking in. It was seriously an amazing race. If we were in Manila, we would not make it for sure.
We had an hour and 20 min flight to LA via Virgin America. Upon our arrival we went to Hertz again for our rented car, a bigger Kia Optima. The staff in Hertz LA are more kupal, they charged us several insurances without asking us first. And our booked car was supposed to be a Chrysler 200, but was “unavailable” and gave us the Optima. We should be wary of them next time.
Our first stop in LA was what else? In-N-Out Burgers! We’re a bit disappointed with it though, Shake Shack is a whole lotta better, imho. We also dropped by at the Best Buy because hubby wanted to check some tech stuff.
We checked in at The Georgian Hotel in Santa Monica. It was a simple and quaint hotel by the beach, and maybe the priciest of the 3 hotels we checked in, as per its location. It was already late and we just rested for tomorrow’s activities. The next day, we had our breakfast at the balcony of The Georgian. Having breakfast at the hotel’s balcony in Santa Monica beach sure has a different feel, like its once in a lifetime, y’know.
Our tour for today is called A Day in LA whole day city tour. Meetup for the bus is just 2 mins walk from The Georgian, that’s why I chose this hotel. Our bus has an old Californian theme, a Rasta Bus.
Our first stop was Venice Beach, located on the other side of Santa Monica. It was famous for its arts and entertainment and the muscle beach, where muscled men workout by the beach.
Next stop was Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, the most expensive shopping street in the world, where designer brands line up the street.
We had lunch at The Farmer’s Market. Hubby couldn’t forget his lunch at the Pampas Grill, and talked about it all the time, even after our vacation. I, on the other hand, couldn’t forget the Rocky Road caramel apple I bought. It had the thickest chocolate topping, and was so big that I ate it for 3 days. Our short time at The Farmer’s Market brings so much fond memories for the both of us.
Our next stop was the Griffith Observatory. I wasn’t so much with the observatory, but it has a beautiful view of the city, and the Hollywood sign is visible, though small. The James Dean bust is the best spot for the Hollywood sign photo op.
Our last stop was the Hollywood Walk of Fame. It was crowded and crazy, and good thing I didn’t book a hotel here, though I did consider at some point. There were famous theaters here like the TCL Chinese and Dolby Theaters. And lots of famous names on the walk of fame.
After Rasta Bus dropped us again at Santa Monica, we walked to the pier and just enjoyed the sunset. It had gotten so cold, and even though its cold people flocked to the beach. The pier was jampacked. It had different restaurants and food stalls, games and entertainment, rides, souvenir shops. There was an art lettering stall there and we had Sophie’s name done for $1 each letter.
After our stroll we ate at a famous restaurant called The Lobster. They couldn’t have given themselves a more appropriate name, their lobster really IS the lobster, its the bomb!
We called it a night after such a long day. The following day, we checked out early and travelled to Universal Studios, around 45mins drive from Santa Monica. We spent our whole day here. We purchased front of line tickets, so we didn’t have to fall in line every single time.
We got to ride several rides like The Hogwarts ride, The Mummy, Jurassic Park. We also saw the Studio Tour, Waterworld and its behind the scenes, and Animal Actors. We got to take photo with minions Kevin and Jerry, and my childhood fave, Betty Boop.
We had lunch in Hogsmeade called The Three Broomsticks, and had (huge) ice creams at Phineas Butterfat.
After our tiring day, we walked to the City Walk and had early dinner at Johnny Rockets. We were kinda scammed here, with a photo worth $15. Anyway, charged to our experience again.
We checked in at Residence Inn Beverly Hills by Marriott. Their breakfast was buffet, parking was self-park, room was spacious (and had free popcorns!). It even had reasonable rates. It was the most ideal accommodation really, though the location was kinda off. It was about 30mins away from Universal Studios.
The next morning we’re off to Disneyland and Disney California Adventure (DCA). Disney is in Anaheim and a long one hour drive away from Beverly Hills. We bought the park hopper tickets so we can hop to and fro each park. Since we’ve been to a couple of Disneylands, we spent most of the day in DCA. The Radiator Springs ride is the best! We queued for an hour, since they do not have front of line tickets and we did not know about the Fast Pass. I also had a photo op with Minnie ❤️.
For lunch we dined at fine dining restaurant Carthay Circle. The Carthay had an exclusive spot for viewing of the World of Color fountain show, which was a fantastic show to end our day.
And since I missed going to the Ghirardelli House in SanFo, I made sure I didn’t miss it in DCA.
Before calling it a night we drove to Pink’s Hotdogs, which is only about 10mins from our hotel. We wouldn’t want to leave LA without eating at the original Pink’s.
On our last day we planned on going to Rodeo Drive and just have lunch again at the Farmer’s Market, but an old friend wanted to meetup with us. So we went to The Grove and had lunch at The Cheesecake Factory instead.
We were chatting for so long that we kinda lost track of the time. Our flight to Manila was in SanFo and we still had to take a domestic flight. Thank heavens again the US Airports are so efficient, (we love the Air Train!) that after returning our rented car at Hertz, we went straight to checking in and boarding. We had a good experience flying with Virgin America, and I know for sure it won’t be the last.
The weather in LA for a September was good. We expected it to be too hot unlike in SanFo but it was good enough. The sun was always up there in LA but the wind was cold. It was ideal for travelling too, since we didn’t need bulky clothes that take up most of the luggage space.
Maybe the best thing about California (or maybe US in general) is the food! We can eat everything here, and we always joked that we cannot live here because we will die young. Hubby always has steaks and I always have chocolates! And like I said, the servings were huge and sometimes I didn’t get to finish a sandwich and had to pack and eat later. But it never happened because I had to eat another one again!
We also loved driving here! Almost all of the drivers are disciplined, pedestrians and cyclists are priority, and they hate being honked at.
Maybe the very thing that turned us off a little was the Tipping. Every service has a corresponding tip. Even though our valet was free in Omni and The Georgian, every getting of the car has $2 tip. Every luggage put inside the car has $1 tip. The restaurants even has tip suggestions, 15%, 18% or 20% if you find the services exemplary. In fairness, the services in the restaurants were excellent though, maybe because they are expecting large tips. In Franciscan Crab, I tipped a whopping $40 for a $200+ meal! Americans are so used to tipping, a whole opposite of the Japanese. Mind you, it is required, and it definitely ruins the budget.
And oh yeah, the parking fees anywhere in SanFo and LA were outrageous! Imagine paying 27 friggin dollars for just 3 hours at the Fisherman’s Wharf!
But man, we had such an amazing time in California! It was probably our greatest trip ever. I don’t know, maybe because we’re not stressed with the time because we made our own itinerary? Or maybe because we drove our own car? Or because it was our first time, perhaps? Or maybe, it was just the 2 of us? If hubby had his way, we would have gone to Vegas on this trip. But 6 days is so little to squeeze everything in. And we haven’t been to Yosemite or Napa Valley, too. At least there’s so much more to look forward to next time. I know for sure I will be California dreamin’ until I get back here again. ❤️