Zoo, Golden Gate Bridge & Alcatraz

Getting up at 8am again (this jet lag goes away fairly quickly), I met up with Thomas, Jon and Alex at 10am and we went to the Zoo where there was a distinct lack of animals in most places. Jon went off on his own as he had a flight to catch mid-afternoon. We had lunch (Chicken burger) some time after 1pm at Bill's Place which has a nice outside patio area at the back.

Around 3pm we walked across the Golden Gate Bridge to Marin County and back. It took almost two hours to get from there to Pier 33 where we met up with Jeff, Koen and eventually Colin, Adrian and Crystal to get the ferry across to Alcatraz for the night tour.

They give you headphones for an audio tour which goes very slowly and makes it easy to lose track of where you are on it. Most of us stayed until the last ferry back. Thomas, Colin and I then met up with Jeff, Koen, and some friends of theirs at a place called Mars Bar around 10:30pm until closing time.

Muir Woods Tour

I slept better last night and got up at 8am then met everyone, including Adrian and Crystal, at 10am when we went to Pier 39 via the cable car. We had an early lunch before noon at Wipeout Bar & Grill (Chicken burger) before locating the Muir Woods tour just before 1pm.

First we stopped at the Marin Headlands with a great view of the Golden Gate Bridge before heading on to Muir Woods itself just after 2pm where we were able to walk around for an hour and a half before getting back on the bus to visit the Muir Beach Overlook and then went to Sausalito to catch the ferry back to San Francisco shortly before 5pm.

Dinner was at Asia SF where something of everything on the menu arrived over the course of the evening - this was quite overpriced. We left at 9pm and went to the Union Square Sports Bar for a couple of hours.

I woke up just after 7am still feeling tired and had breakfast (Scrambled eggs, sausage and roast potatoes) at the restaurant next door. I was sitting behind a pillar and eventually noticed Colin and Alex eating breakfast on the other side of it... Thomas appeared after that and we went to the southern start and turning point of the cable cars and headed up north to walk down Lombard Street.

Around noon we arrived at the Exploratorium where Jeff, Koen and Jon were waiting for us. Since it was Thursday there were few kids and we walked around. Eventually we left at 3pm to get some lunch at Johnny Foley's Irish House (Sausage and mash). This free refills concept is bizzare... with 7 of us the waitress gave up trying to replace every empty glass and just brought half a dozen glasses of Coke to the table. It doesn't help that most glasses here come full of ice and don't hold much of the actual drink.

After a brief visit to the Apple Store just before 5pm we arranged to meet at Jeff's Hotel where we then took the metro to Gordon Biersch for 7pm. David and Marie met us there soon after we arrived, I had a Hawaiian pizza with chicken. We then went to Lefty O'Doul's again and I left early to get some more sleep.

Visit to California

With my overfilled suitcase ready, I woke up too early just after 6am and left to get the bus, arriving just in time to see the next bus leave without me at 8am. I got to EDI at 9am and waited for my flight with my $600 in monopoly money (it's just identically sized bits of paper with ink on it).

Arriving at LHR at noon I had some over-priced fish and chips for lunch then tried to miss caught my flight to SFO with plenty of time to spare (it doesn't help that they tell you there's a lack of toilets far far away from the gate). There was less leg room in Economy on this United flight than the BMI flight from Edinburgh. They make you walk from the front of the plane through First Class so you can see what you're missing. Annoyingly we flew over Edinburgh on the way there... Two snack meals later and I'm in San Francisco just before 5pm.

After getting through Homeland Security and collecting my suitcase (which made it all the way here intact), I found my way outside to be greeted by clear skies and the sun directly facing me. The shuttle driver managed to avoid crashing into the highway barrier and then another car in the opposite lane long enough to get me to my hotel. There are far too many streets at 45 degree angles here...

I checked into my room at 7pm, Thomas and Jon appeared two minutes later. We went to Lefty O'Doul's just around the block from the hotel. About an hour later Jeff and his friend Koen arrived, then Colin and Alex later. We stayed until closing time (2am) and I tried to sleep through the heat, jet lag and the continuous noise of the air conditioning from the building opposite.

Very Windy

It's very windy here today... 30mph+ from the east:


I have finally finished uploading to Flickr around 450 of the 750+ photos I took while in London. They're organised into sets by day with subsets of those for particular places. These are then all part of the March 2008: London collection.

Using an Oyster card worked out cheaper than an equivalent 3-day travelcard.

Back home to Fife

I got up at 7:30am and managed to repack my suitcase and check out in time to reach Earl's Court for 9am. The King's Cross St. Pancras tube station was announced as closed due to overcrowing - fortunately it opened up again quickly and I managed to get on the third Piccadilly line train (the first two were too crowded and I couldn't get on while holding a suitcase). I reached the train to Waverley 15 minutes before it was due to leave and finished reading the book I brought and read on the way down.

Eventually it arrived at Edinburgh early in plenty of time to catch the train to Dalgety Bay where I arrived just after 3pm. Unfortunately it was pouring with rain and there was no 1524 bus on the route I needed, so I had to wait at the stop for 45 minutes or get myself and the suitcase soaking wet trying to walk home. I got back just after 4pm and started waiting for ASDA to deliver food.

London Tourism & Tiroler Hut Restaurant

I woke up fairly early and had the usual breakfast, then went down to Peter and Alex's room around 11am then joined them for a visit to the British Musem. Thomas had went home the previous night to sort out his lost wallet. Pierre joined Peter and I in visiting the Imperial War Museum in the afternoon followed by a visit to Speakers' Corner for a while.

The weather today wasn't great but mostly it only rained while we were indoors. Peter left then Jeff, Colin and Joe joined us and we then headed off to Harrods for a short visit (it closed 10 minutes after we arrived at 6pm). Then we headed off towards tonight's restaurant booking but the tube was extremely busy and we had to take a bus instead.

We arrived at the Tiroler Hut Restaurant for 7pm and met up with Gavin and Peter again along with Andrew and Marek. Eventually we gave up waiting for Alex to arrive and sat down to order dinner by 8pm. I had the steak with mashed and sautéed potatoes, which was ok but not great. The atmosphere of the place more than makes up for any shortcomings of the food. Alex managed to find us eventually with the help of Thomas.

There was a guy in a box playing music and singing, and the owner played the clarinet, saxophone and accordian for us. We then had a performance from a yodelling goat and very impressive playing of cowbell music. For dessert I had sorbet again, while enjoying some music that most people knew and were singing along to. A good time was definitely had by all and it's unfortunate that Thomas wasn't able to be with us.

Monopoly Pub Crawl

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Everyone else except me planned to visit 26 pubs around London - the Monopoly Pub Crawl, but I went to meet some other people instead. I woke up at 7:30am thinking I'd slept in and then again at 9am... which appears to be too late to get hot water for the shower - so I had a cold shower and later complained and got a free breakfast. I passed Thomas at Earl's Court just after 10am - he was waiting for everyone else but they hadn't shown up yet. Peter and Alex missed the group completely somehow and didn't turn up until later in the day.

I went the wrong way on the District line (there are too many branches of this all sharing the same name) and then took the Circle line to Tower Hill/Tower Gateway and went on the DLR to Canary Wharf where Tom managed to find me. We visited the Redbus and Telehouse datacentres and then went to a Pizza Hut. I was hoping we could meet with some other people for dinner, probably at the Lotus but they weren't in London that weekend.

Instead we joined the pub crawl in the afternoon at King's Cross, after contacting Peter to help him find the rest of the group. Colin left for his hotel as soon as I arrived, and both Gavin and Tom left soon after. Almost every pub was quite crowded with people watching sports on TV. Thomas kept leading us around in circles despite having directions between every pub...

Eventually we had dinner at a Japenese restaurant called Wagamama. I'm not that interested in eating noodles but I had some salmon ramen which was floating... eating it with chopsticks wasn't too hard although I cheated by not splitting the two sticks up (they were joined at one end). I had a combination of mango and lychee with lime zest sorbet for dessert which was very nice.

Afterwards we went to next pub on the list - The Comedy - and waited for Alex (who was going around London on his own without a phone...), Andrew and Marek to show up. We quickly gave up on continuing the rest of the pub crawl and ended up at a pub right next to Leicester Square tube station. Here, Thomas managed to smash two glasses and lost his wallet (but not his iPhone). Andrew and Marek left some time after 10pm and then myself, Alex, Peter and Joe left shortly after 11pm leaving Jeff, Pierre, Thomas and Svend behind to stay out until early morning.

London Tourism

We had a booking at the London Eye for 10am so everyone had to get up early to meet at Earl's Court for 8:15am (at Gavin's suggestion, which turned out to be far too early... and he wasn't even going with us). The hotel charges an extortionate £9.95 for an English breakfast (self-serve). Arriving at Westminster Bridge around 8:45am - the weather was awful, overcast sky and constant rain showers - we waited around for the ticket office to open.

The weather started to improve from 9am onwards and we soon had clear skies and sunshine - which lasted all day! Just before 10am we got on the second London Eye capsule of the day and had the whole capsule to ourselves. We then walked around London visiting St. James's Park, Trafalgar Square, Downing Street, and stumbled across the changing of the guard around 11am - and then again at Buckingham Palace, without even trying. Lunch was at The Shipwrights Arms (Scampi & Chips).

Some of us visited the Tower of London (the rest didn't want to pay to get in) for an hour, and then we went to the Apple store in Regent Street via Bank - which has far too many tube lines and stairs, we must have walked at least a mile. After that we split up (going back to the hotel to rest) until 6pm when we went to Preem for dinner, an Indian restaurant in Brick Lane where Andrew and Marek joined us for a bit - the food was great and very good value. We then wandered around London for the rest of the night on and off the tube trying to find a bar that was still open.

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