Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The AGU report

We set off on Saturday afternoon, arriving early the same morning in San Francisco. After checking in at the hotel, we stumbled around town trying to ward off sleep for as long as possible.

We had the one disastrous culinary experience of the week, a truly awful sandwich in Lefty O'Doul's just off Union Square - a monstrous wedge of cold, virtually raw (and definitely unchewable) beef between a couple of doorstops of bread made soggy with a smear of cold gravy (to be fair, my pastrami, beans and mash was just about ok, but still rather tepid). Things could only get better...and after a ride home on the California Street cable car, they did, with a tasty snack in the hotel restaurant before an early night.

On Sunday, we found a tandem to rent on Fisherman's Wharf - nothing special, but perfectly serviceable and just about large enough for me. So we cycled over the Golden Gate bridge in brilliant sunshine, and caught a ferry back after an ice cream in Sausalito.

What a great way to spend a sunny day in San Francisco. Monday night's treat was dinner in the much-hyped "Slanted Door" restaurant - it was good, but probably not really worth all the fuss. Tuesday featured a few beers in the Thirsty Bear followed by a curry with a group of friends. On Wednesday we were back in the TB for lunch, crashing a private Texas University party (no, we were invited by mt, honest) and then off to the circus in the evening. We were going to get a taxi there, but Dan decided we should travel in style and flagged down a stretch limo instead.

On Thursday we had a quiet night back at the hotel, in preparation for an early start on Friday - did I mention we were at a conference? - and on Friday afternoon we celebrated the end of the week with another trip to the Thirsty Bear followed by a rather good Asian-stylee "fusion" meal at a nearby restaurant. You might notice a bit of a theme here in our choice of watering hole - we were a little disappointed in the local beer, which (as it had recently in Colorado/Utah) mostly seemed about on a par with my mediocre home-brew, but the Thirsty Bear was exceptional.

Saturday saw us enjoying 12h of stress positions in a Japanese-sized airplane seat (would be illegal in Guantanamo Bay) which made the trip feel like 29h but we eventually got back to Japan by Sunday afternoon.

Overall it was a fun trip, I'm not sure whether we'll be back next time but San Francisco is a great place to visit. I'll not fly ANA though if I can help it. Many carriers these days sell the exit row seats for a modest premium, and sometimes I get one for free if I turn up early enough and ask nicely. ANA just sat random midgets in them, even though their feet barely reached the ground. The food was awful, and they even woke us up a full 3h before landing. On an 8h flight that doesn't leave much time to sleep!

(We managed to fit in some science too, which will follow...)


skanky said...

"On Sunday, we found a tandem to rent on Fisherman's Wharf - nothing special, but perfectly serviceable and just about large enough for me. So we cycled over the Golden Gate bridge in brilliant sunshine, and caught a ferry back after an ice cream in Sausalito."

Did very similar the one time I've been to SF. Not a tandem (two bikes), and we did go up into the hills above Sausalito looking for redwoods. Didn't find any (ran up against time of last ferry) but did end up amongst old-style houses dotted within tall, straight pines that would have done well for a horror film (it was Halloween) somewhere up above Old Mill Park. Back via I think the Tiburon ferry via the bird sanctuaries & parks on the water's edge. Navigating using the bike-rental's leaflet. As you say, a great way to spend an afternoon in SF.

BrianR said...

Lefty O'Douls is awful...please don't judge SF by that place. I like Thirsty Bear's beers as well. Next time you are in town, go to the Magnolia micro-brewery in The Haight.

EliRabett said...

We need a climate scientist's Zagat. In SF, my favorites near the convention center are Yank Sing for dim sum (better than in Hong Kong IEHO), the Samovar Tea Room right across the street, John's Grill for steaks (traditional SF place), but the best of all is the Educated Palate run by the catering program at the City College of San Francisco, inexpensive, BYOB, and VERY good food.

Of course there is always Japan Town, but you didn't need that (BTW the best Chinese restaurants are not in Chinatown)

Sorry for being late with this.

Dr. Lemming said...

The last time we took the SF-SYD flight, Mrs. Lemming and I found that United had an economy+ upgrade available at check-in for about 60 bucks, which gave us an extra 6 inches each (our combined height is about 3.7m).

James Annan said...

Thanks Eli, there's always next year. To be honest we just relied on the AGU's suggestions most of the time, which were pretty good (including TB and another dim sum place that was fine). To a certain extent it's a case of getting in and out in time when surrounded by 10,000 like-minded souls :-)

I'm actually surprised that Lefty O'Doul's wasn't mentioned in our Lonely Planet guide as a place to avoid. We were otherwise very impressed with SF food - even our hotel (Cathedral Hill) was good.