Biking the Golden Gate Bridge | Part (IV)

This is the part we say goodbye to an awesome biking expedition:
from stopping at various landmarks at San Francisco bay, to biking till the foot of the bridge, and then across the bridgeto exploring the city of Sausalito, I had so much fun that I forgot to feel tired.

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From the pier at Sausalito, we booked ferry tickets bound for Embarcadero at 10USD each (inclusive of our bikes). The ferry arrives and leaves the pier at frequent designated timings, making it uber convenient to come and go from the island. As we wheeled onto the ferry, I found myself comparing Sausalito’s residential houses to Cinque Terre. So beautiful in the sunset it was!

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Saying goodbye to the Golden Gate! Looking at you from afar once again. The sky was such a lovely addition to this landscape.20140307-164727.jpg

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Ladies and gentlemen, the island behind yours truly is the Alcatraz. This is the closest I’ve ever come to snapping a shot with the prisoner island; I will come back to set foot on it!20140307-164738.jpg

A kind gentlemen took this for us. Alcatraz, here you go.20140307-164747.jpg

A beautiful shot of San Francisco bay – I’m still mesmerised.20140307-164758.jpg

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So we bid farewell to the iconic structure, and to this crazy road trip which was a reckless idea borne from wanting some adventure. We spent a total of 6 hours and in this span of time, covered 8.5miles/13.5km of land on our bikes. I was so tired on the flight from San Francisco to Hong Kong, and my butt/calves/thighs/toes were hurting so bad. Still, I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything ^^ and I strongly urge everyone to go for this bike trail if you’re in San Francisco. You have to, at least once in your life.

xoxo,
Viktoria Jean

Sausalito – Biking the Golden Gate Bridge | Part (III)

Took a snapshot at this lovely residential estate cum diner by the bay! Loving how the baby blues of the house were in perfect pastel harmony with the cloud-streaked blues of the skies and crystal clear turquoise of the sea. We were finally in Sausalito, after biking from the pier, then across the Golden Gate Bridge!

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Insanely steep downhills, narrow roads and strange sudden curves were characteristic of bike paths on Sausalito. The whole wind-whipping-in-face and look-ma-no-hands! as we careened (at times uncontrollably) down the slopes into Sausalito’s town center, felt sooo good! I had my fingers curled around the brakes, all ready to slam it, but we never stopped at the downhills which were the best parts!

This statue of a Marines soldier stands at the gateway into Sausalito, just before the bike trail hits the endlessly steep highways downtown. If you see him, you’re on the right way!

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Sausalito took my breath away, not just from the sheer exertion of biking!! This San Francisco Bay Area city in California stands at an elevation of 13 feet. With a small population of slightly more than 7000, it was once was home to an indigenous settlement known as Liwanelowa before the site was invaded by the Europeans.

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Basking in the afternoon sunshine! That said, the temptation of taking a dip in (the shallow end of) the ocean had to be greatly resisted.

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The whole town was really quiet, except for us biking stragglers who, having reached our intended destination, had our vehicles docked in the bike-parking lots as we settled down for celebratory lunch. At Sausalito, there were a couple of novelty stores and vintage souvenir houses which looked pretty amazing.

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Early dinner at Le Garage Bistro Sausalito, overlooking the bay! We dined to the sounds of lapping waves and seagulls flapping above our heads.

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Some pasta and smoked salmon crepes, anybody? I guess cycling left me famished, I ate in record time.

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Though it’s a tiny town, Sausalito has a myriad of public attractions: the Cazneau Playground, Cloud View Park, Martin Luther King Park Langendorf Park and so many more, as well as  Schoonmaker Beach, Swede’s Beach and Tiffany Beach.

FYI Sausalito is currently home to Darren Hayes (singer-songwriter, and former lead of the awesome band Savage Garden), Amy Tan (novelist who brought us The Joy Luck Club and The Bonesetter’s Daughter), as well as Ken Pontac ( author of the sadistic internet series Happy Tree Friends).

After a really short, yet very refreshing and memorable afternoon at Sausalito, we booked a ferry ticket to take us, along with our bikes, across the bay to San Francisco. Was glad for the biking journey to be over, but sad, as that meant we were about to leave Sausalito and San Francisco behind.

xoxo,
Viktoria Jean

Biking the Golden Gate Bridge | Part (II)

Part 1 saw us through the journey from Pier 39, and in Part Deux we finally peddled past the threshold and across 1.7 miles of galvanized steel!

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We did it – was my first thought, taking the first step onto the gate. The 2 of us only just saw the gate from the start-point miles away and then in the span of 2 hours…  Armed with only a map and scattered bike trails, I can’t help feeling this tremendous sense of accomplishment. Cheers to taking a step into the unknown!

Strength in numbers – migration of feathered flock in an orderly formation, with absolute faith in their leader’s ability to lead them to a place where they can call home. As photographed from the bridge where we were standing, there were many many many flocks of birds flying across the bay ocean in similar fashion.20140307-163441.jpg

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The view of San Francisco and Oakland from Golden Gate Bridge is spectacular. You have to be there to feel the grandeur.

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The wind-in-your-hair, sun-in-your-cheeks (and hair-all-over-my-face) sense of liberation cannot be captured in words. At downhill points, the speed is at once within your control and also out of your control. You decide how much control you render to the elements and how much grip you retain. Mostly, I let myself careen downhill and almost threw up both my hands and shouted HURRAY!! It was so amazing.

In the next part, we cross over from San Francisco to Sausalito, with bike trails that were insanely steep yet at the same time liberating ^^ you just let the roads take you where they go.

xoxo,
Viktoria Jean

P.S. I’m glad to have given up my sleep for this biking trip. Post-biking muscle cramps and fatigue was worth it!

Biking the Golden Gate Bridge | Part (I)

Viktoria Jean Li San Francisco

In life sometimes it pays to be a little wild and adventurous. On check-out day, we took an early tram to Fishermen’s Wharf @ Pier 39, rented a pair of bikes and helmets, then peddled for a good half-day from San Francisco to Sausalito via the Golden Gate!

This is where Part 1 begins, from the pier to the foot of the famed San Francisco bridge.

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Step 1: Begin with the end in mind. So we took photos with our final destination!

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This is also where the negative self-doubts kick in…can we reach Sausalito and still make it back by evening to catch the flight to Hong Kong?

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Okay who am I kidding. I was too excited for any of those worries. Golden Gate here we come!

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The terrain from Pier 39 was straightforward and easy for bikers, even for amateurs who haven’t touched a bike for more than a year (me). Right after the photo above was taken, we met with our first terrible uphill climb (there are only two along this bike trail). I can still feel the strain of the burn in my calves and thighs!

We took a couple of scenic detours (including a long stop at the Palace of Fine Arts) and a hell lot of photographs along the way, which I will eventually come around writing about, and progressively we also took shots with the looming Golden Gate as we inched closer and closer…

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Viktoria Jean victory jump at Golden gate Bridge

… and before you know it, you reach this jetty! Beautiful place to put your feet up and watch the seagulls circle overhead whilst waves hit the shores and you get to sip a latte from the cafe by the bay in full view of the San Francisco bridge. We took a short break and grabbed a hot drink. Although sunny, the biting wind sometimes numbed our faces; as I recall it was 3-5 degrees Celcius.

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A semi-victory shot: we’re getting close! If only we could pull the bridge to us.

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Still on the jetty, and guess whose familiar face we saw!?…

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Yep… none other than the urp-urp-urping sealions! This one’s way more active than the lazybums tanning their asses at Pier 39’s Sealion Center. I swear he has a slimmer butt.

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Interesting find: there are so many of these ship anchors along the shores leading to the Golden Gate. In the early days, warships, cargo fleets and passenger boats were tied and docked at these parking area.20140307-133418.jpg

And according to these people, fishing is lucrative along the bay. Perhaps they sell their catch to the restaurants at the wharf? I doubt any of them fish for personal consumption.20140307-133424.jpg

I SEE YOU NOW.
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You ain’t far away no more!20140307-133437.jpg

One last detour: we wanted to enter Fort Point at the foot of the bridge, but all visitors are banned from its premises. Built to protect the San Francisco Bay, the United States Army completed the fort just before the American Civil War, as defence against hostile warships.
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Oh well. At this point, we met the second uphill climb. I gave up and pushed my bike instead. What a loser, I know. Everything was good again when we reached the top, and look what we saw!

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Hi there, so much closer now!20140307-133510.jpg

Before you hit the actual bridge path, an exhibit shows you the entire history of who, how and why the iconic structure came about. This fascinating board shows you the timeline of San Francisco bay: you just need to walk from left to right, and TA-DA – watch the Bridge appear!!

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If you’re wondering whose smart idea it was to build this bridge, in 1872, a self-proclaimed Emperor Norton (highly eccentric citizen of San Francisco) decreed that a suspension bridge was to be constructed connecting Oakland to San Francisco. On July 9, 1933 – construction began on the longest bridge in the world at that time. It took three years and five months to complete the Bay Bridge. The final bridge cost was approximately $77 million, $6 million under the estimated cost.

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Time for a little fun hands-on! You get to experiment why the bridge is of this length and height – everything was engineered and calculated to maximise efficiency of construction, stability and the ease of raising the columns to its desired positions.

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The Bay Bridge opened to traffic on November 12, 1936 at 12:30 p.m. A chain cutting ceremony took place where former San Francisco Mayor Angelo Rossi, former President Herbert Hoover and Chief Engineer C. H. Purcell looked on while former California Governor Frank Merriam opened the Bay Bridge. When the ceremonies were completed, President Roosevelt telephoned workers on two sides of the bridge to flash a green light to signal the bridge was officially open. Everything you wish to know can be found on the information boards.

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WE MADE IT!! I’ve always pictured the Golden Gate enshrouded in fog , and as it was a clear day, nothing was hiddenViktoria Jean in San Francisco travels.jpg

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Two hours and we made it from Pier 39 to the beginning of the bridge! Honestly, it wasn’t tiring because I had great company and an awesome view of the sea. It was a good 2 hours and a few hundred calories well-burnt.

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I’ll let Part (II) show you the next part of our biking journey…across the Golden Gate!!!

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xoxo,
Viktoria Jean

P.S. A full day rental of the bike costs around USD30, inclusive of helmets, without a safety insurance which you have to pay an extra 4 dollars for. There’re many bike rental places along Pier 39: Blazing Saddles, Bay City Bike Trails etc.

Food for Not-Skinny People

Found myself a new love: Kahlua Cocoa Coffee Cheesecake!
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Whenever I find myself in the States, cheesecake factory is the ultimate go-to for comfort food. We also shared the Fresh Strawberry Cheesecake and the classic Red Velvet.

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Satisfaction is eating good food in the company of people you’re happy to share a meal with.
What in hell’s name is a diet?

xoxo,
Viktoria Jean

Lori’s Diner, San Francisco

Breakfast at Lori’s Diner on Mason Street, a ’50s-style rock’n’roll American bistro. For the all-American oldies experience, this is the place to be! Love their classic red booths, checkered tiles and memorabilia of Coca-Cola, Elvis Presley and various cars of the era. 20140223-040311.jpg

All of Lori’s Diners are open 24 hours daily; the Lori’s on Powell Street used to house pre-war airplanes, a Chevy Bel Air, a Chrysler, a vintage Indian motorcycle and a pinball arcade. The place was packed and the 9 of us had to wait for seats.
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What the 3 of us shared so we could try everything: The Heart Breaker Sandwich (barbecued chicken breast with sautéed mushrooms on wheat bun), Strawberry Buttermilk Pancakes, and the classic Eggs Benedict.

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Famished from lack of sleep and jet lag, I was so excited for breakfast that I’d even googled Lori’s menu and decided on what to eat way before we met to have a meal. The food, and the atmosphere, met my expectations of an American breakfast joint, and I was pretty satisfied!

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I’m always saying ‘I need to come back again’ for good food at decent locations, but I have no real desire to return for another meal at Lori’s Diner. Not for the food, though the portion was huge it wasn’t that fantastic. Plus I hate bland and diluted coffee! This is one of those interesting places to have a meal at whereby once is enough (for me).

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Lori’s Diner
336 Mason St
San Francisco, CA, United States
+1 415-392-8646

President’s Day at Pier 39, San Francisco

Day after we touched down on San Francisco was the United States’ President’s Day on February 17th. We took a tram from Parc 55 Wyndham Hotel to Pier 39 aka Fishermen’s Wharf, which was mad crowded. That island on the other side in the picture below, by the way, is Alcatraz!

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We were just in time to catch Tulipmania! PIER 39 is in full bloom with thousands of tulips in all possible shades, and seasonal garden favorites decking the walkways on both levels of the pier.

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Taking a shot with the pier! Although it’s my second time at Fishermen’s Wharf, previously it was late evening when I arrived. Sunny afternoons really bring out the vibrance of the wharf.

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Some of my travel buddies this trip: Sam and Brown! Thanks for the great company, the heart-to-heart talks and the spontaneity.20140223-022825.jpg

The pier is double-decked, so from the upper deck this is basically what the lower deck looks like. It’s pretty much the same everywhere around the pier, except with different shops or diners. And if you’re a shopaholic there’s soooo many shopping to do: a crazy variety of gift shops, Candy Baron, Zip It, Sunglass Hut, Shirtique, SF Underground and so much more.

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Fulfilling our fascination with carousels. The pier’s central carousel is one of their main photographic attractions and kids line up for it everyday.

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Giving the teddy a HIGH FIVE ^^ he’s like a club bouncer outside the souvenir shop. Sad teddy needed some lovin’.

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A cupcake patisserie along the second deck. Cannot resist pretty cupcakes! They smelt so good too.20140223-022940.jpg

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A senior colleague who brought us here was telling us something about this building…not with the sharp pointed head but that one on the left. I cannot remember now!! Something about its resemblance to something…can somebody refresh my memory?
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Will be posting up more snapshots in a while. There are too many food pictures!! This place is known for crabs, clam chowders, and seafood in general. I’m not entirely a fan of seafood but I had some crabs and fish & chips anyway. You have to, it’s Fishermen’s Wharf!

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Coming to San Francisco for work purposes isn’t the same as travelling on holiday, but I’m glad for friends who brave through jet lags and fatigue with me!! Despite the worsening eyebags, I had a helluva great time. Can’t imagine lazing around in my hotel room all day!! I’ll be like these fat ass sea lions on the wharf. They stink, so bad.

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Beach Street & The Embarcadero,
San Francisco, CA 94133, United States

xoxo,
Viktoria Jean

Sea Lion Center, Fishermen’s Wharf

At Fishermen’s Wharf on a crowded National Holiday afternoon, we braved the smell of bumming sea lions and watched them laze around the harbour decks as they tanned their already brown skins and accumulated fats on their flabby bodies.

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You know what the ironic thing is? There were so many of us watching them, it dawned on me that this whole situation could be turned around. This could be HUMAN BEINGS CENTER, and the sea lions are actually observing us.

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The Sea Lion Center is a hub for all things sea lion – interactive displays, educational videos etc. You can touch a sea lion pelt, feel the difference between a Californian sea lion and others within the same family. Sadly I think sea lions lead such a boring life here. I wonder if any of them managed to escape to Alcatraz.

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Beach Street & The Embarcadero,
San Francisco, CA 94133, United States

xoxo,
Viktoria Jean

Maui Wowi a taste of Hawaii

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Taking a break while exploring Pier 39, we ended up at this small coffee-house along the lower deck. It strong Holiday-in-Hawaii influence makes people very, very happy.

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The entire store is operated by a single person who does the orders, the cashier, and mixes the drinks. The wait was entirely worth it though!

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Ordered the Cappucino Honu with caramel, coconut and espresso shots and it’s hands down one of the best coffee ice-blended drinks I’ve ever had!!

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Tourists from all over the world donated their currencies to decorate this pillar.
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While waiting for my cappucino honu, I took pictures with my senior colleague. Really friendly supervisor with loads of experience! ^^ He brought us to have breakfast at Lori’s Diner, and then to have crabs at Joe’s Shack, to visit the sea lions and then walk around the pier. It was a long tiring day but kinda fulfilling in a way.

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Pier 39, Space H-01,
San Francisco, CA 94133, United States

xoxo,
Viktoria Jean