Browsing Cities

A blog/photoblog about places I go

Virgin America: It’s the little things December 7, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — katiesmillie @ 4:24 pm

A lot of people talk about how Virgin America is so cool and trendy: The in-seat entertainment make the flight so much better. Ordering food and drinks from your seat anytime is amazing. The mood lighting is so sexy. Oh and the safety video is SO FUNNY.

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I totally agree with all of these things, but no one ever mentions my favorite part: THE BOARDING PASSES

1. The boarding passes that you print on home will print two on one page. AMAZING! Why has no other airline thought of this before? Srsly, it’s not that hard to save some trees.  Sometimes (with other airlines) I even end up printing 2 pages just for one tickets once all the ads and weather forecasts and god knows what else I don’t want, get tacked on to the ticket.

Boarding passes printed at home

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2.  The boarding passes that you get at the airport are about 1/2 the size of a “normal” boarding passes. HOORAY! First let me thank Virgin for saving trees and hopefully cutting costs to make my travel cheaper. But more importantly, is that I can FINALLY slip this into my back pocket (or my boyfriend’s breast pocket) without the fear of losing it or getting half of it ripped off while attempting to get my shoes back on, my laptop secured, and toiletries back in my bag as gracefully and as quickly as possible because GOD FORBID someone mistake me for an unseasoned travel. So thank you Virgin America, thank you for doing the most simple thing that has so vastly improved my air travel experience.

Boarding passes from Virgin

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Chutes and Ladders in San Francisco September 25, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — katiesmillie @ 4:50 pm

If you live in San Francisco and don’t mind a bit of exercise you must get this book:

A few weekends ago we did two neighborhood stairway walks from the book, taking us to beautiful parts of the city with views I never imagined existed.  It was also a great way to get a lot of exercise and do some exploring, without having to drive outside of the city.

First, we started in the Buena Vista Park neighborhood:

East of Buena Vista Park

East of Buena Vista Park

Then we headed through some gorgeous neighborhoods around Upper Market.

Upper Market

Upper Market

Mt. Diablo in the distance

Mt. Diablo in the distance

It still amazes me how many steep streets are converted to stairways like this one:

Hidden stairway

Hidden stairway

This stairway took us to Kite Hill Open Space, which I had never heard of before. We didn’t see any kites but the wind was in full force nonetheless.

View from Kite Hill

View from Kite Hill

Heading south of here we found a stairway route that took us to the Seward Street slides which we were anxiously hunting out after Yelp featured them in their “Staycation” newsletter. As mentioned in the yelp review, there was plenty of  waxed up cardboard awaiting use at the slides.

Sorting through cardboard sleds

Sorting through cardboard "sleds"

It’s hard to capture how extreme the angle is on these slides, but it scared the shit out of me. They are steep and fast, and honestly if I had gone down these as a child I probably would have cried.

Sally and Oliver

Sally and Oliver

Im winning!

I'm winning!

Coming out of the chute with perfect form

Coming out of the chute with perfect form

Later we took Muni west to Golden Gate Heights and hiked up Grand View park (aptly named):

Grand View Park

Grand View Park northeast view

The fog was starting to roll in off the ocean and over Golden Gate Park:

Grand View Park west view

Grand View Park northwest view

Coming down from Grand View Park were the mosaic tiled stairs (as featured on the book cover). Funny enough, we ran into two other groups of people in this area carrying around the same book. One was a couple in their 70’s who had done every walk in the previous edition and were working on the added walks in the newest edition, and doing some favorites again like this one.

Mosaic Stairs

Mosaic Stairs

Otter

Otter

So now we just have to plan our next stairway hike. Any recommendations?

 

Save Fort Ross? September 9, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — katiesmillie @ 12:17 pm
Tags: ,

During my recent trip to Salt Point State Park, which I blogged about here, I also discovered Fort Ross State Historic Park. Prior to this trip, I thought Alaska was the North American trading territory of choice for the Russians in the 19th century. But apparently they snuck all the way down to what is now the coast of Sonoma County and operated their trading post there from 1812 to 1841.

Shortly after our visit, Fort Ross was  featured in an article in the San Francisco Chronicle, describing the Russian Ambassador’s trip to California in protest of the Governor’s proposal to close Fort Ross (among other State Parks bleeding money).

Fort Ross

Fort Ross

After reading the article, I was going through my pictures to use in this blog post and a previously unnoticed theme emerged: abandonment. Truly, it’s as if the park was already shut down. There were a handful of visitors besides us, but most of them got lost in the rolling wisps of fog, and none of them ended up in the photos. So it’s not a stretch the imagination to figure out how the park ends up losing $800,000 a year.

We first walked down to the shore cliff, and ambled down this road, admiring the views, which were mostly shrouded in fog.

Empty Road

Tunnel made of trees

Then we entered the walls of the Fort:

Two lone cannons

Two lone cannons

Fort Ross: Quiet on a Sunday morning

Freshly chopped wood and a flagpole

Cannon

Waiting for battle

The one remaining original structure is dedicated as a National Landmark and is the Commander’s House

Commanders House

Commander's House

National Historic Landmark

National Historic Landmark

I enjoyed the visit, learned some interesting new things, and would be sad to see the place closed, but I have to admit that one of the only reasons we visited in the first place was because our camping reservation at Salt Point State Park gave us free admittance.

So again we are back to the money issue. They either needed to guilt me into making a donation (I did return their shiny brochure for them to reuse), or they needed to sell me something once I was there.  It wasn’t until reading the Chronicle article that I found out the park might be closed. If they had drawn my attention to this I probably would have offered a donation upon my departure.

On the other hand, the Russians aren’t offering to help out either, despite their complaining. A friend of mine who works for the US State Department and is currently living in Moscow explained to me that:

“Russians get very excited about any opportunity to demonstrate that they are a serious player on the world stage – and a big Fort that shows that the Russian military made it deep into California is a good talking point.  Also, even if it weren’t, the government of Russia doesn’t usually pass up a chance to stick it to America.”

So there you have it. My solution? Russian government offers tariff-free cheap imports of Russian vodka to California. Fort Ross sells authentic Russian vodka shots and let’s you keep souvenir shot glass made in China. Win-win-win.The profit margins would be phenomenal

Or they could try to capitalize on the interesting attraction across Highway 1. The San Andres Fault Line:

San Andreas fault line

San Andreas fault line

 

Coastal California Camping: Salt Point State Park September 3, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — katiesmillie @ 2:59 pm
Tags: , ,

For my birthday in August I wanted to go camping  so we planned a weekend trip to Salt Point State Park. When looking for a campground in northern coastal California we chose Salt Point because:

1) it had one available tent campsite left at the time we made reservations in July

and

2) it had good reviews on Yelp (which were very useful when planning our activities).

….

Salt Point State Park

Salt Point State Park

Saturday morning I made a mean breakfast of scrambled eggs, oatmeal, and instant coffee on our killer Coleman camping stove. Needed to have a big breakfast for all the hiking ahead.

Start the day with a hearty breakfast

Start the day with a hearty breakfast

Our campground was just on the other side of Highway 1 opposite the ocean. To get to the beach we hopped across the highway and then hiked about a mile through some dense, but pretty vegetation.

Hike to the beach

Hike to the beach

We ended up at Gerstle Cove where the park had an information center. The park staff was super friendly and answered all our questions about the trails in the area, whale migration patterns, and tidepools. Unfortunately low tide was occurring around 2 am during the weekend we were there so we didn’t get to check out the tide pools at the prime time.

The coolest thing inside the information center was a stuffed osprey (sea hawk) hanging from the ceiling with a fish in its claws. It sounds rather disturbing but the reason it was so cool is that we learned that the osprey is the only bird that carries its prey aerodynamically;  it turns the fish so its head it facing forward when it flies through the air. Like this.

Gerstle Cove

Gerstle Cove

We hiked the Salt Point Trail from Gerstle Cove to Stump Beach Cove along the sea cliff.

Stump Beach Cove

Stump Beach Cove

After lunch we headed the other direction from our campground (east) to hike to the prairie and pygmy forest which were in the state park. After hiking over a mile up to about a 1,000 feet above sea level we came to the prairie. With the sudden change of vegetation,  there was no way we were going to to miss “the prairie”, but just in case, there was a nice sign letting us know.

The Prairie

The Prairie

Then we continued on to the pygmy forest, thus named for its miniature trees. The trees don’t grow to normal heights due to a lack of soil nutrients and a hard ground layer. Personally, the pygmy forest was a bit of a let down for me. Maybe since I’m already short the impact was less. 🙂

Pygmy Forest

Pygmy Forest

Nothing like roughing it in the wilderness with a nice bright lantern, a bottle of wine, and some card games.

Campsite fire

Camp fire

We were lucky enough not to see any fog all weekend until we started to head home on Highway 1 Sunday afternoon. On our way we also stopped at Fort Ross State Historic Park which I wrote a separate blog post about here.

Fog creeping up Highway 1

Fog creeping up Highway 1

We stopped at this taffy shop in Bodega Bay and purchased a pound of the best salt water taffy I’ve ever had. This led me to wonder why it’s called salt water taffy, clearly it’s not made with salt water right?

Wikipedia reveals that no one exactly knows why: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salt_water_taffy.

Particks Salt Water Taffy

Patrick's Salt Water Taffy

Salt water taffy

Salt water taffy

 

A photo journey through coney island August 26, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — katiesmillie @ 3:29 pm
Tags:

After Vermont we drove down to New York City and I visited Coney Island for the first time. The pictures really tell it all…

Soaking it all in

The boys, just soaking it all in

Is this even legal?

Is this even legal?

This roller coaster will blow your mind

This roller coaster will blow your mind

Do I have to?

Uh.. um

...as opposed to dead pony rides?

...as opposed to dead pony rides?

Holy smokes. I never use that phrase yet deemed it as the most appropriate response.

 

An ice cool summer breeze and abraham lincoln’s stovepipe hat August 20, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — katiesmillie @ 2:55 pm
Tags: ,

For Colin’s family reunion we took a trip to Ludlow, Vermont a few weeks ago.

One of the first things we did was a short hike. We chose the White Rocks recreation area near East Wallingford, VT.

White Rocks, Ice Beds Hike

White Rocks, Ice Beds Hike

The coolest part about the hike was reaching the ice beds. It’s pretty much a big rock slide under which ice forms during the winter. It stays cool enough under the rocks that it doesn’t melt in the summer. As soon as we stepped in front of the rocks there was an ice cool breeze. The temperature went from feeling like it was 85 degrees to about 65 degrees.

Colin, cooling off

Colin, cooling off

OMG its bigfoot1!!

OMG its bigfoot1!!

View of the valley and rocks

View of the valley and rocks

The next day we visited Hildene, the summer home of Robert Todd Lincoln. Very pretty, very east coast.

Hildene, view from the gardens

Hildene, view from the gardens

The best part about it, was one of Abraham Lincoln’s stovepipe hats. Of his seven hats, I believe it’s one of two left remaining.

Lincolns stovepipe hat

Lincoln's stovepipe hat

Another highlight of the trip was riding on an alpine slide for the first time.

I probably looked exactly like this (only female and a  bit older), but with the same confused look of fun and fear of losing my life:

Alpine slide

Weeeeeeeee

 

A subjective comparison of public transportation in three cities August 11, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — katiesmillie @ 10:55 am
Tags: ,

I love public transportation — usually it’s cheap, good for the environment, and offers a safe ride home when imbibing delicious adult beverages.

Unfortunately it’s never perfect. Just for fun I made a quick and completely subjective comparison of public transportation among the three cities I’m most familiar with. These comments are my opinions, based on my personal experience only.

muni_logoMBTA%20Logoslut


San Francisco

Boston

Seattle

Reliability of service Muni only seems to stick to the published schedule in off peak hours. But as long as you use www.nextmuni.com which tracks each bus using a GPS you’ll always know when the next one is coming. It’s truly the best part about Muni.  Every once in awhile this website lists a bus that never shows up. You’re lucky if an MBTA bus comes within a 30 minute margin of the published schedule and no website or advanced technology is available to let you know if buses are running late. Subway trains are reliable but only get you certain places. Commuter rail is notoriously unreliable with late trains, missed runs, broken air conditioning, you name it. King Country Metro Transit runs closest to its published schedule of the three cities. They also offer a website that alerts you if a bus is running late, but I’m not sure if this is based on GPS and from what I hear there isn’t’ always info for each bus.
Affordability Muni buses and light rail are$2 all the time, which is a bit pricey. Muni needs to spend more time enforcing the thousands of people who jump on without paying. Boston comes close to winning this category with buses at $1.25 with a Charlie card and $1.50 with cash but given the reliability of the buses this may still be overpriced. Trains are on par with the other cities at $1.70 with a Charlie Card and $2 in cash. If you are a visitor they don’t make it easy to get a Charlie Card – they are only available at certain locations, and definitely not at the airport. $2 during peak, $1.75 off-peak, and free in the downtown area. I like their flexible pricing model but it can get confusing, especially when you are on a bus that enters and leaves downtown.
Coverage Muni light rail, bus, BART, Caltrain, and ferry offer very extensive coverage. You can get anywhere on public transit. But because they are all run by separate orgs you have to buy a separate ticket which is a pain and means more transferring and longer commute times.  In fact to certain locations it’s often more expensive than driving. Translink helps with the multi-agency problem but not the price. The coverage is only good if you are going somewhere near a T line. If you live more than 1 mile from the subway you might want a car as the buses don’t run that often and are spread far apart. I don’t have much experience with many bus lines in Seattle but it seemed like pretty extensive coverage to me just from looking at the map. There are many buses within the city and a decent number to suburban areas. However, lack of a major light rail system means longer commute times.
Friendliness of operators The SF operators are not quite friendly as in Seattle, but most have a great take charge, can-do attitude that is really what I prefer on a day-to-day basis when I’m trying to get somewhere. They don’t put up with crap, but they don’t slam the door in your face either. MBTA bus drivers and the green line subway operators always seemed to love to drive away and/or slam the door in my face when I was running to catch a train/bus. When I did manage to get on it was pretty much no-nonsense attitude, not welcoming but not overly rude. I recently had a very friendly experience with two different drivers. One went out of their way to help tourists find where they were going and another told us we didn’t have to pay when we didn’t have exact change. They both had positive attitudes and seem to enjoy their job.
Getting to the airport BART is a great way to get to the airport but expect to pay an arm and a leg. With the latest price increase it $8.10 to get to SFO from downtown. Another $2 to add a bus for me to get to a BART station. Might as well try Super Shuttle for that price. Or use an airport parking service (~$13/day) for a short trip, especially if you are traveling with more than one person. The price point is the best at $1.70-$2.00 for a ride on the T, but expect to take 2 lines if you are getting on near the red line and switch to the silver. If you are coming from anywhere else you’ll most likely have to take 3 different lines to get there. Lugging around suitcases while switching to all the lines can be a headache, especially at rush hour if the trains are full and people see you coming with a suitcase you might not get on. Cabs are a huge rip off too so either way it’s a pain in the ass. They newly built light rail (SoundTransit) is a great price at $2.50 to get to the airport. But it’s not connected all the way yet so you’ll have to take a shuttle from the last stop to the airport until December 2009 (so they say). Add a bus to get to the light rail station downtown and it took us an hour and 30 minutes total. But can’t complain much when it was only $2.50.