The US Bonanza – Day 4

Honolulu – Los Angeles in American Airlines First Class

At 5:30am we checked out of our hotel, and drove back to the airport to return our car to Avis, and then took the courtesy bus to the main terminal.

To be honest, the time wasn’t really a problem because of the time difference… in fact, by this point in the trip, there was no real concept of early or late… we just got into the habit of working out when to go for flights, when to explore, and then fit sleep around that.

On check in, our boarding passes were stamped with “Gold Line” for fast tracking through security. In many ways, this made the journey through security longer as we held back for a couple of minutes while we tried to find the Gold Line. In the end we gave up… and as we went through security and they checked our boarding passes they said “You’ve gotta laugh – there’s no such thing as a Gold Line – never has been! Doesn’t stop them using the stamp though.”

Unfortunately the Admirals Club wouldn’t be open until 11am (well after our flight), so we got out our Priority Pass directory to see which lounges we could use. Only one lounge was open at that time (despite what our directory said), and that was the United lounge right at the other end of the terminal (a good 10 minutes walk). With the thought of caffeine driving us on, we eventually arrived at the lounge and made ourselves at home… for a good 5 minutes before it was time to head back for our flight! The coffee machine didn’t work properly, but my hot chocolate was well worth the trip (the trip to the lounge I mean – not Hawaii – that would be just silly :\ )

As we reached the gate (right at the other end of the terminal) our flight was starting to board, so we went straight down the jetty and took our seats on the plane. We were in 1A and 1B this time (as dictated by the FEBO system) and we were pleased to see decent pillows had been restored to the flight.

Due to the staff rotation on the flights, we had exactly the same crew as had flown us out to Honolulu. They recognised us as soon as we sat down, and were keen to find out what else we had planned for our trip.

We took off on time, and it wasn’t long before breakfast was served. This time it was a scrambled egg quesadilla, which tasted ok. Not great, but at least it was cooked this time. Fortunately this was followed later in the flight by the on-board cookies – possibly the highlight of the flight. We also made our way through the sparkling wine, but I was a bit sick of the taste by now, so only had 3 or 4 glasses during the whole flight.

The service was again very friendly and efficient, and it was nice to have chats with the crew throughout the flight to Los Angeles.

We landed on time, which was lucky as we had a fairly tight connection time of 75 minutes.

Los Angeles – San Francisco in American Airlines First Class

There was however still time to re-visit the Flagship lounge for a few glasses of bubbles and some nibbles. Phil thought he saw Billy Connolly in the lounge, but after a few walk-bys we concluded it was just an old person with a beard and silly hair.

We were soon on our way back to the departure gate, and we then boarded and took our seats in 3A and 3B.

The flight was almost identical to the flight from San Francisco to LA. There was again no food, just a beverage service.

It was a quick back to San Francisco, but it was pretty full. The crew got quite irritated with on family that only spoke Spanish, and that insisted that their huge suitcase had to go in the overhead lockers, even though they were the last to board, and even if there was space there was just no way it was going to fit. In the end they finally submitted to having the bag tagged and placed in the hold.

When we landed the dad in the Spanish family jumped up from his seat and shoved passed us to get to a the only bag that he’d been able to put in the overhead lockers a few rows back. I was just happy that I was able to put my limited vocabulary of Spanish semi-insults to good use (which I’d learnt while working in Madrid for a year). I felt that my use of “numpty” was particularly well suited, as I didn’t feel he’d quite earned the harsher terms.

As we left the aeroplane, we made our way out to the taxi rank, and soon we were driving through the streets of San Francisco. It was roughly then that I realised that San Franciscan cars were slightly different to normal cars. It seemed they’d had their shock absorbers removed and replaced with pogo-sticks. We spent the whole journey to the hotel bouncing up and down like top-heavy gymnast on a trampoline during the great sports-bra-crisis of 1997.

As we neared our hotel we drove up the streets San Francisco is well known for – the steep 45 degree inclines and traffic lights every few blocks meant our taxi was wheel spinning more often than not.

The Mark Hopkins InterContinental, San Francisco

The Mark Hopkins, at the chuckle-worthy address of “One Nob Hill”, would be our hotel for the night. As it’s an InterContinental I receive my Royal Ambassador privileges, but as RAs in the past have noted, this hotel dilutes the upgrade benefit.

I was upgraded from a cheap-as-chips standard room to a Business Room. I’d been warned that this was just a standard room with a fax machine (whoopee-do), but when I went into my room I was pleasantly surprised. It wasn’t a suite, but it was a corner room of a decent size and a good view as the hotel right at the top of one of the cities hills.

Lounge access was offered at some silly rate ($100 a day I think) which I was happy to reject. I wouldn’t be spending much time in the hotel anyway.

To make up for the lack of suite, I relieved my mini bar of a few beers while watching a Montel-Williams-esque show with the heart-breaking topic “Strippers who are too sexy!”

Free Internet access was also being offered at the time, but I didn‚Äôt make use of it. The bed was very comfortable, and because the time zone had changed yet again (for the fourth time in as many days) it looked quite inviting… but I thought I‚Äôd make the effort to head out and see the city.

Out in San Francisco

As Phil was going out to see a lady-friend that lived in the area, I headed out into town all on my lonesome. I hadn’t been to San Francisco since I was 8 years old – I used to live in nearby San Jose, which incidentally is very well sign posted – and I wasn’t so up on the area’s night life back then.

I’d been recommended to go to Fisherman’s Wharf by Phil – a 5 minute taxi ride or a 40 minute walk. Since it was early-ish (7pm) and still light I decided to walk to get some fresh air and see the city.

As can be seen from the above photograph, San Francisco is built right down a hillside – fortunately the walk into town was downhill!

Fisherman’s Wharf was, in a word, lame. It had all the night life appeal of a morgue, although there were a fair number of Japanese tourists with cameras (a rare sight indeed). I did find one bar that was open and even had some music playing – I think it was called Boudin. I decided to bribe the young barman with a beer order and two dollar tip into showing me on my not-touristy-at-all hotel street map where I might be able to find some signs of life on a Tuesday evening. His suggestion was the North Beach area, around Grant and Green streets, which was a 15 minute walk.

I finished my Anchor Steam Beer (their local – and very nice – offering) and headed off to what I hoped would offer a venue with food, beer, and the art of friendly conversation.

Having had a good look around the area, I settled upon a fantastic bar called “Sodini’s Trattoria”. It’s a small Italian bar/restaurant, and since there was a wait for a table, I decided to have a few drinks and eat at the bar.

A few faces lit up around the bar when they heard my English accent ‚Äì Anna the barmaid even phoned a friend and asked me to say ‚Äúcheers‚Äù to them in exchange for a free pint! I liked this place 🙂

I had a New York Steak with “Fries” (actually chunky chips) and it was cooked perfectly. It was also pretty well priced as I stayed there the whole evening drinking, and the pre-tip bill only came to $40.

Sometime before midnight I decided to call it quits and begin the hike back up to the hotel, which was ideal to work off a bit of the booze.