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Hiya…

I went to San Francisco again last October to find a rental apartment prior to my permanent move here. At the same time, my husband had a company event to attend to. So, while he was going to the conferences, I explored San Francisco by myself. During my previous visits to SF, I only went to the famous attractions as recommended by TripAdvisor or travel books. This time, I revisited few of the attractions and went to some local yarn shops (I crochet and I need to know where to get my supply when I move here). For a female traveller, SF is generally a safe city to travel alone. There are parts of the city that you want to avoid. For example, I wanted to go to a yarn store in Mission area. I googled the direction and it gave me the BART station where I should get off and the walking direction to the shop. However, when I searched for the corresponding BART station, a lot of locals give bad reviews about the surroundings of the station (their main complaint was that there were a lot of homeless people and drunk people around the area). This made me uncomfortable since I was really new in the city. Fortunately, there is another alternative to get there without getting off at that sketchy station – although it would take a bit longer.  My suggestion is that always do a little research about your destination, especially if it’s a bit off where the people usually go.

When we arrived on Friday morning, me and my husband rented a car to go around the city. We already visited Lombard Street in 2007. However, my husband never actually drove on San Francisco’s most crookedest street. If you want to drive through the eight sharp turns street, go to Russian Hill area between Hyde St. and Leavenworth St or type this address on your GPS: 1018 Lombard Street, San Francisco, California 94109 (ref). This attraction can be very crowded with lots of tourists buses. If you don’t want to drive to the area, you can take Hyde Street cable car to bring you to the upper part of the crooked street. For more information, click here.

Lombart St

Lombard Street

In the evening, we went to San Francisco City Hall. The exterior of this building reminded me of Les Invalides (Napoleon’s tomb) in Paris. The present city hall was actually built 2 blocks away from the original building that was ruined during 1906 earthquake. Across the street, there are California Public Utilities Commission headquarter building, San Francisco Opera, and Louise M. Davies Symphony Hall (the home of San Francisco Symphony).

SF City Hall

San Francisco City Hall

SF Symphony Hall

California Public Utilities Commission (left); San Francisco Opera (mid); Louise M. Davies Symphony Hall (right)

The following day, we decided to explore another side of San Francisco using public transportation. The BART is a rapid transit system connecting the Bay area (north of San Mateo County to San Francisco to East Bay). It has five lines with lots of stations (see here for the list of stations). If you’re using smart phone, google map automatically gives you the BART station names whenever you choose the public transit or you can check its official website to plan your trip. The ticket fare is based on the distance you are going to travel, i.e. which station you’ll be getting off. There are charts of fee on the ticket vending machines to determine how much you should pay. These vending machines accept cash, debit card, or credit card. If you think buying each ticket for each trip is a hassle, you can buy a Clipper card. Clipper is re-loadable card that you can use time over time by tapping the card to the sensor at the entry gates. This way, you don’t have to bother figuring out how much you should pay on your trip. Watch out for the balance of the card every time you scan it on the gate. If you are short of balance prior exiting the station, there will be a vending machine inside to re-fill your card. Clipper card is sold at some BART station and most Walgreens stores.

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Hiya…

So, this would be my last instalment of my San Francisco visit in early 2014. After having an interesting day at The Walt Disney Family Museum the day before, it was my last day in SF. My flight was in the afternoon, so me and my husband decided to visit touristy sites in the morning. First, we headed to the famous red bridge in the world a.k.a The Golden Gate Bridge. The bridge connects San Francisco Peninsula to Marin County. It held the record of the longest suspension bridge in the world until 1964. There are 2 viewing points near the area: Golden Gate Bridge Pavilion on the south side – SF Peninsula (click here for the map) and Vista Point on the north side – Marin County (click here for the map). Both viewing sites have very limited parking spots (Vista Point has more spots but it is usually crowded with tourists’ cars), so be real patient to wait for someone to go out. Another option is using public transport to go here. The official Golden Gate website has direction for the public transit options.

On this trip, me and my husband went to the Golden Gate Pavilion. We visited this very site 7 years ago, so we wanted to have a nostalgic walk around the site. A little touch up had been done around the site. There is a gift shop that wasn’t there before. The bicycle and jogging paths were under construction 7 years ago. There are big posters explaining the history and construction of the bridge. I won’t bore you into details on those ones hehehe… In fact, you can read here for all the informations about the bridge.

We walked on the bridge to take some pictures. At the lower path, you’ll be able to see the big steels foundation of the bridge closest to the land. IMO, this viewing site has the more beautiful shot of the bridge itself. You’ll be able to capture the whole bridge in a great angle. While Vista Point offers you a picturesque shot of San Francisco downtown and a bit of the Golden Gate Bridge on the right. I had a chance to visit Vista Point last October when my brother in-law came to visit us. See the picture for comparison.

Golden Gate-1

Golden Gate Bridge Pavilion where you can get a great shot of the Golden Gate Bridge

Golden Gate-2

Posters about the Golden Gate Bridge information

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Hiya…

If you read my previous post, welcome back! Sorry it took me months to finish the second post of my SF trip. This time I have a legit excuse 😛 Me and my hubby is relocating our family down south to U.S.A! *details will follow…* Long story short, me and my hubby is finally settling down at our destination in California. My hubby drove for literally 1000 miles from BC to California over 4 days! But we did enjoy the trip and saw beautiful things along the way *wink… another blog post 😛 Okay okay… back to the blog post….

After having a satisfying breakfast, we decided to visit The Walt Disney Family Museum in Presidio area. At first, I was a bit hesitant to visit when I saw this small museum on the internet. Since I visited most of SF attraction in 2007, I decided to give it a try. To my surprise, this museum is pretty big and it contains lots of Walt Disney memorabilia as well as lots of stories behind the Mickey Mouse creator. The museum does provide the visitor with lots of information from the creation of each character, the construction of Disney World, how Walt revolutionized animation in television, the biography of the famous ‘father of fun’ himself,  and various awards given to Walt Disney movies. It truly is the place where Disney fans can enjoy!

There is a lot of paid parking near the museum. We arrived there at around noon and the line up for admission ticket was quite long. The ticket for museum only is $20; while the museum & special exhibit combo ticket is $25. The special exhibit changes regularly. When we were there, it was “Water to Paper, Paint to Sky: The Art of Tyrus Wong” (ref). If you want to avoid the crowd, you can buy the ticket online and redeem it at a special desk. We opted to buy the museum ticket only since my hubby is not a fan of paintings.

Walt-1

The Walt Disney Family Museum in Presidio

Behind the ticket desk, there are glass cases containing various awards given to Walt Disney production. This includes Oscar, Emmy, and other prestigious awards. At one tiny corner, there was a picture of Diane Disney Miller, the oldest and only biological daughter of Walt Disney (later, Walt and Lilian Disney adopted Sharon Mae Disney). This little shrine is dedicated to Diane who passed away on November 19, 2013.

Walt-2

Glass cases with the awards & me acting like an award recipient 😛

The first part of the museum is the biography room of Walter Elias Disney and his family. It was started by a story about how his mom and dad met for the first time. There is also an interactive display telling how Disney family moved from one city to another in a hope for a better life. There are also authentic pictures of  Walt, his parents, and his siblings on the wall. The last part of the display tells how young Walt Disney faked his age to be able to participate in the war.

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Hiya….

I am supposed to post this entry before my Banff road trip since the actual trip was in January. The reason I delayed posting this is because I was back into crocheting and making amigurumi earlier this year (see my other blog Crafty Peachy Bunny). I am blessed that I actually sold some of my amigurumi and crochet baby booties to my friends. So far, the feedbacks were good and hopefully, I can have a small business on my own in the near future 🙂 *cross my fingers*

My trip to San Francisco wasn’t really a vacation. My hubby had to attend a training at his company HQ in San Francisco for about 4 weeks! Drat… it sure was super long and I missed him so bad… So, that’s why at the weekend of the 2nd week after he left Vancouver, I flew to SF to spend time with him and explore the city a bit. This wasn’t my first time visiting San Francisco. Back in 2007, me, my-now-hubby, and his friend had a road trip to San Francisco, LA, and Las Vegas. Ah… I was a fun memory! For this trip, I didn’t really plan to visit too much attractions since I only had 3 days to explore and I already visited most of the attractions back in 2007. Hence, I felt more relaxed this time and my main goal was to spend as much time with my dearest hubby 🙂

My flight departed at 6 AM! Yes, very very early and it was still winter time so it was still dark outside. The direct flight  from Vancouver to San Francisco took about 2.5 hours. I slept  soundly throughout the flight until the stewardess announced that we would arrived in SFO shortly. YAY! My husband already gave me a SIM card for a US cell phone provider but *silly me* I forgot to bring a pin to open the sim card slot on my iPhone. DUH!  So, I reluctantly had to sacrifice $1 to text him from my Canadian provider :S My husband booked a car online but then when we were about to pick up the car, he forgot to bring his driver licence!!!! Luckily, I brought mine and our GPS! So, I braved myself to drive from the airport to my hubby’s temporary apartment. Pfuhhh…

Feeling incredibly hungry, we tried to find the famous In-N-Out restaurant ahhahaa…. Unfortunately, it wasn’t open until later, so we stopped at Panera bread to have a quick breakfast. After resting a bit in the apartment and picked up my hubby’s driving license, we decided to go explore suburb neighborhood. To my surprise, SF traffic was way more jammed than Vancouver. We stuck in the traffic jam for about an hour and it wasn’t the peak hour! Thank God that our rental car has AC otherwise I would be toasted… and this was in January!!! When we saw In-N-Out sign near the highway exit, we immediately drove toward it to have a late lunch. Finally, my 7 years of craving was satisfied! *Okay… I might exaggerate a bit. IMO, the burger is good – better than McD – but the only thing that I truly craved for was the milkshake! I LOVE the thick-creamy-delicious milkshake!* We drove around a bit to the direction toward downtown SF. We arrived at the apartment quite late and we were already hungry again.

 

In n Out

In-N-Out Burger

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Hiya,

On my last Kelowna trip, I didn’t have time to do winery tour. Five years ago, me, my family from Indonesia, and my-now-husband were in Kelowna visiting some of the well known wineries. So, I decided to make a post about my Kelowna winery tour experience to you all 🙂 I know that some of the pictures maybe out dated. Nevertheless, the number of wineries in Okanagan Valley keeps growing every year. As I’m working in wine industry, I have a chance to have basic knowledge about wine and have an opportunity to taste a lot of different varieties. I must say that BC wine has become more popular than its competitor from California and other countries.

There are over 200 wineries scattered around Okanagan Valley (ref). If you are overwhelmed with the number, don’t fret! Here are some useful websites that you can use to plan your visits:

  • Tourism Kewlona has an online guide to help you plan your route
  • Okanagan Wines provides easy to browse list for all the wineries around Okanagan Valley area.
  • WineBC provides greater list of the wineries available in British Columbia.

Or if you don’t want the hassle arranging your own tour, you can join one of these Wine Tours that will guide you through certain wineries while enjoying some glasses of good BC wine.

If you have the freedom to explore the winery by yourself, there are 5 areas around Kelowna itself according to Kelowna Wine Trails guide. They are known as Westside Wine Trail, Lakeshore Wine Route (South of Kelowna), Downtown Kelowna, Kelowna Fab Five (East of Kelowna), and Lake Country (North of Kelowna). You can also explore more wineries in Summerland, Naramata, and Penticton (south of Kelowna) and even more wineries in Oliver and Osoyoos that is near Canada-USA border. For this entry, I will focus on the winery around Kelowna that we visited. It takes about 4 hours drive from Vancouver to Kelowna. The drive wasn’t too bad since halfway to Kelowna, you’ll see beautiful Rocky mountain surrounding the area as well as some gorgeous lakes. If you prefer to get here fast for a weekend gateway, you can fly to Kelowna International airport (YLW) that is not too far from Downtown Kelowna (20 minutes drive).

1 On the way to Kelowna

1. Mission Hill Winery (Westside Wine Trail)

The Mission Hill Family Estate Winery is so far the most scenic winery I’ve ever visited. Established in 1996, Mission Hill wines have gained popularity in Canada and worldwide. There are two in-house winery tours available: Heritage Tour ($12) and Discovery Tour ($22). Both tours are 60 minutes each and will have a wine tasting & food pairing at the end (ref). In addition, there are three longer sommelier guided tours: Legacy Tasting Experience (90 mins for $55), A Vineyard Lunch & Tour (2 hours for $95), and The Connoisseur (75 minutes for $50). All charges are based on adult price. It is recommended to book the tour online beforehand as limited time and space are available – click here for the website. If you just simply want a wine tasting, go to the wine boutique. For $8, you will be able to taste some of their delicious wines.

On the west side of the winery ground, there is the Terrace Restaurant with beautiful background of Okanagan Lake. Again, reservation is recommended as the space filled up pretty fast during lunch and dinner (website). Aside from their great wine, I absolutely love the architecture around the ground. Tom Kundig, the architect, did a great job on creating a detailed yet beautiful design (ref). From the entry gate, the keystone, the courtyard, the terrace, the bell tower, the loggia, and the amphitheatre (ref), I felt like I’m walking into an European village.

2 Mission Hill Entrance

TOP: Entry gate, the keystone, Mission Hill barrel
MIDDLE: the vineyard, the amphitheatre
BOTTOM: The Terrace, the Loggia and Bell Tower at the back

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DAY 4 – Banff Downtown and Revelstoke

 

This was the much less hectic day for us as we woke up a bit later and spent a day exploring other side of Banff. After we checked out from the hotel, we went to Banff Centre. My husband recommended it since he went there years ago. When we arrived there, it looked like a ghost town. It reminded me of a university campus with lots of big arts building. We decided to leave after only spending 10 minutes there hahaha… Maybe if there was an event, we would love to stay longer and explore more.

On the way back, we decided to stop at a viewing area. It overlooked The Fairmont Banff Spring hotel. It really looked like a castle in the middle of an enchanted forest! So pretty! We decided to went to Fairmont Banff to check out the hotel like we did in Lake Louise hehehe… Fairmont Banff Spring Hotel has a castle themed inside and outside. The exterior of the hotel is made of big brick like European castle. The lobby is decorated with shield and beautiful chandeliers! There is a display of knight armor as well as gothic wooden chair. I really love the atmosphere there!

22 Fairmont Banff

The Fairmont Banff Spring Hotel

Our next destination was Banff Indian Trading Post (it was recommended by the hotel clerk). I thought this is an Indian museum but it is actually a shop where you can buy crafts made by Indian people, such as moccasins, leather bags, hats from real fox and rabbit fur, etc. They have a display of a mermaid skeleton believed to live in Lake Minnewanka. I curiously asked the lady on the cashier if the mermaid is real and she said that nobody knows but she believed so. I guess it’s part of the mystery of Lake Minnewanka. There is also a display of fake trout fish that was claimed to be the biggest trout (38 lbs!) to be caught in Lake Minnewanka. After browsing for a while, my husband picked up a dream-catcher and I bought a real rabbit fur that reminded me of my last rabbit, Honey.

23 Indian trading post

Banff Indian Trading Post

Next to Banff Indian Trading Post, there is the Buffalo Nations Luxton Museum. We took a peak of the exhibit from the shop and it contains a lot of artifacts from First Nations People of the Northern Plains and Canadian Rockies, such as their traditional costume, hunting equipment, arts & crafts, etc. We didn’t go into the museum and browsed the shop a little bit. The most interesting part about this museum was the animal head hung on the wall around the museum shop. There are buffalo, bison, deer, and moose – all in various sizes.

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DAY 3 – Jasper National Park (Glacier Adventure & Glacier Skywalk) and Banff Gondola

 

The third day of our trip filled with lots of sight seeing and a bit of driving. In order to do the glacier adventure and see the skywalk, we had to go to The Columbia Icefield Glacier Discovery Centre which is located in Jasper National Park. It took us about 2.5 hours drive from Banff downtown and this time was my turn to drive. The road leading to the Discovery Centre is actually inside the Banff National Park which later will turn into Jasper National Park. Before entering the park, we had to pay for entrance fee. The cashier asked us about our destination, where do we stay for the night, and how long we would be in the park. The one-day pass (good until 4pm the next day) for group (2-7 people) and a vehicle is Cad$19.60. Not bad… Along the way, there were so many beautiful mountainous sceneries as well as gorgeous lakes. If you have time, you can stop at one of the following: Herbert Lake, Hector Lake, Mosquito Creek, Helen Lake, Crowfoot Glacier, Bow Lake, Bow Glacier, Peyto Lake, Waterfowl Lake, Glacier Lake, Nigel Lake, and Parker Ridge. From my research, Peyto Lake is very beautiful. We actually turned into the small road toward the lake on our way back to Banff. However, we decided not walk down to the lake since it would be a small hike and we were super tired from the tour. We did stop at 2 of the lakes – I forgot which ones – where there were designated viewing areas. Looking at the gorgeous turquoise lake with snowy mountain at the background was just breath taking! It was also an interesting drive in this area. The shape of the mountains differs from one to another as if it has its own character. Some are very pointy, some have flat top, and some are covered with patchy snow looking like a dalmatian or an orca.

13 Otw Icefield

Highway prior entering Banff National Park

14 Banff National Park

Beautiful Rocky Mountain scenery along the way to the Discovery Centre

We finally arrived at the Discovery Centre. There is a spacious parking lot on the west side of the centre. We immediately went to the ticket booth to redeem our real ticket for both glacier adventure and the skywalk. Luckily, we didn’t have to wait long for the glacier adventure. As soon as we got our ticket, we lined up for the shuttle bus. I was a bit shocked since I thought that we were going to ride the big bus with the huge wheels up to the mountain. It turns out that the shuttle bus took us to the Ice Explorer station at the foot of the mountain. *I was super excited!!!* The Ice Explorer bus moved pretty slow – well, it’s better to be safe than sorry when driving on icy path, right?! At one point, the driver warned us that we were about to going down a very steep hill. As you can see in my picture below, we were almost 45° downward angle relative to the ground! It was like riding a super slow roller coaster hahaha…. Once we passed the steep hill, there was a pool of water before we continued to the icy path. The driver said that the water pool is used to wash the Ice Explorer’s wheels so that the bus won’t slip.

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