Adventures by Disney: San Francisco

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alicemouse's picture
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Adventures by Disney: San Francisco

Well that came around quick! Apparently I haven't even done a pre-trip and we leave tomorrow. Wow.

So mom and I are headed to San Francisco for the weekend. I don't know if anyone was paying attention, but the price on this one and the New York long weekend dropped like a rock about two months ago. Benn didn't want to push his already-more-than-maxed-out vacation time any farther (plus the cost factor doesn't weigh quite as heavily when the travelers are from two different households), so I talked mom into doing a quick weekend with me.

It's advertised as a 4-day trip, but the content is about 2 1/2 days from what I can see on the itinerary, so we'll see. It's going to take a lot to wow me on this one because of the limited time frame and the awesome splendor of our first AbD. Items on our itinerary include the Walt Disney Family Museum, the LucasFilm campus (though apparently only the lobby), Muir Woods, Angel Island, biking near the Golden Gate Bridge, Silverado Winery (with grape stomping), dinner and a noodle pulling demonstration at M.Y. China, and...um...I think that covers it.

So I have to stop stalling and get to bed, I'm all packed and ready to retrieve mom at early o'clock tomorrow. Have a great weekend. I'll catch ya on the flip side!

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Be good at something. It makes you valuable. Have something to bring to the table because that will make you more welcome. --Randy Pausch

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Trip Reports:
December 2013: 10th Anniversary, 1st DVC Stay | April 2014: Birthday on the Boardwalk | May 2014: Star Wars Weekend, Navigating WDW with a wheelchair | August 2014: Villains Unleashed | September/October 2014: MNSSHP, F&W, Tower of Terror 10-miler | March/April 2015: Disneyland and California Coastal Cruise | November 2015: Wine & Dine Half, Food & Wine, 1st Disney Cruise | February 2016: Presidential Classic Gymnastics Meet | March 2016: "Work" Trip, Tours, F&G Festival | April 2016: Conference at Disneyland | Fall 2016: Festive Fall Fun | January 2017: Festival of the Arts | May 2017: AbD Backstage Magic | July 2017: AbD San Francisco

Kristen K.'s picture
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I LOVE San Fransisco muchlove I spent my summers there growing up and still hold it close at heart. It's been about 20 years since I've been there, so I look forward to hearing about your trip.

Safe Travels!

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Allie's picture
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Hope you're having a great time! I'm following along on Facebook!

alicemouse's picture
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It came around quick and it went in a flash. We're home already. Mom and I had a great time on the trip, but as an AbD, I felt like this itinerary was lacking. I'd read such criticisms of this trip before and I think they were accurate. I'll do a day-by-day, but the main reasons that I feel this way were the price:time ratio, the unbelievable amount of traffic that we wasted time sitting in, and the lack of surprise itinerary elements. We also had one excursion that failed miserably to live up to the hype. That being said, I enjoyed many of the things that we did and saw, but I felt very slightly disappointed with the value that we received on this trip for the cost. That being said, I have not done a breakdown of the retail cost of the trip components yet, so the facts might not ultimately support my initial opinion. On Backstage Magic, the special extras just kept coming. On this trip, I saw several places where the itinerary lagged a bit and I have ideas for what could have been done to spice it up. (Don't worry--I filled out my survey and shared them with AbD. More on the idea later.)

GUIDES
I enjoyed our guides (Eleni and Anne) even though you could tell that they weren't "Disney" guides, they were local experts and they were very attentive to our needs. When I say that they weren't "Disney" guides, I mean that they work as contractors for AbD and they also work for other touring companies. They didn't become guides by working their way up through the Disney organization and you can tell. They had vastly different experiences and personalities that complemented each other perfectly, but there was a quality about the way they conducted the trip that I can't quite pinpoint that was different than the experience that we had with Abby and Michael. This is not in any way a slight against Eleni and Anne. There were times when they took even better care of us than Abby and Michael had as far as anticipating our needs. Their style and their approach to situations was just different and different is okay. If you were the type of guest who travels on tours with many different companies and came to to AbD as one of many companies, you would never notice. But when you spend as much time at Disney as many of us here on this site do, the difference was immediately noticeable. Here's Eleni and apparently I failed to take a picture of just Anne? I was so sure I had one...hopefully they did a few selfies for us when we get our adventure photos. It can take up to 10 business days for the photos to be uploaded. Anyway, the second photo is Eleni and Anne together.

ACCOMMODATIONS
The Omni Hotel was a beautiful accommodation. It was right in the heart of the financial district and at the very edge of Chinatown. It really was a splendid place. Our room was neat, clean, and spacious. I will say that I feel like premium hotels with premium prices really ought to have balconies. Disney has spoiled me in this regard. Though honestly, I looked up the rates and for downtown San Francisco, this hotel is fairly reasonable at $300-450/night given the stories that Eleni told us about rents in the city. While his was a very nice place to stay and had a picturesque lobby, a doorman, and a very friendly and attentive staff, it was not the prime location for this adventure. Many of our activities in the city limits took place at the bay or the Presidio, 2-5 miles from the hotel. Traffic in the evenings was such that making these trips back to the hotel from our activities was sometimes an hour+ ordeal. Over the course of 3 days, traffic accounted for about 4-5 hours of lost touring time. Obviously, some traffic was inevitable, but if we could have minimized it by rearranging the schedule to travel during less peak times, we could have probably saved about 2 hours of time, which could have been enough to add a whole additional activity. On a 4-day trip that was really 2 1/2 days of guiding, adding one more activity would have been a substantial increase in the value of the trip.

TRANSPORTATION
This was the first time that we used the provided AbD airport transfer and it was great. The driver met us right at the entrance to the baggage claim area. He escorted us to the car that was clean and in excellent repair. He had water waiting for us in the car and we had a very safe driving experience to the hotel. Coming home, the experience was exactly the same quality. The drivers were both very professional. Throughout the trip, we used a coach bus with TV's. Our driver on days 1 and 3 was a little heavy on the breaks and I could feel a slight twinge of motion sickness at times, but it wasn't so bad that I couldn't check my phone intermittently. On our second day, we had a different bus and driver, for which I was immensely grateful because the roads were much less friendly and we spent far more time on the bus.

Next up, Day 1!

__________________

Be good at something. It makes you valuable. Have something to bring to the table because that will make you more welcome. --Randy Pausch

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Trip Reports:
December 2013: 10th Anniversary, 1st DVC Stay | April 2014: Birthday on the Boardwalk | May 2014: Star Wars Weekend, Navigating WDW with a wheelchair | August 2014: Villains Unleashed | September/October 2014: MNSSHP, F&W, Tower of Terror 10-miler | March/April 2015: Disneyland and California Coastal Cruise | November 2015: Wine & Dine Half, Food & Wine, 1st Disney Cruise | February 2016: Presidential Classic Gymnastics Meet | March 2016: "Work" Trip, Tours, F&G Festival | April 2016: Conference at Disneyland | Fall 2016: Festive Fall Fun | January 2017: Festival of the Arts | May 2017: AbD Backstage Magic | July 2017: AbD San Francisco

Kristen K.'s picture
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Can't wait to hear about Day 1!

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alicemouse's picture
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Day 1: Golden Gate Galore

We arrived at the Omni around 12:30 and met Anne and Eleni very quickly. There were a few travelers who were having issues with delayed flights and they were trying desperately to deal with that situation as we arrived, so it was a little bit of a scattered arrival. Our room was not ready, but we weren't immediately concerned because we had just enough time to get some lunch, so that was a serious priority after the long flight. To us, it was about 3:30 in the afternoon at this point and I was running on chicken tenders from 7:30 in the morning and a few airplane snacks.

driving from Oakland airport - The Bay Bridge

view of Alcatraz coming across the Bay Bridge

Eleni recommended Super Duper Burger, but knowing that we had a bike ride coming up and a substantial dinner that evening, we were interested in something a little bit lighter. We tried about 6 different restaurants on Kearny Ave., finding them to be almost exclusively walk-up with little or no seating. A few blocks down the street, we found a place called Cocoa & Bread (I think...or maybe it was Bread & Cocoa) that was a little handmade sandwich shop. I had a BLAT (that's a BLT with avocado) and mom had a tuna melt. To drink, I had a jasmine green tea. It was delicious. I would absolutely eat there again.

When we returned to the Omni, our room was almost ready and that gave us a few minutes to change and grab some extra layers for the bike ride along the bay, which was definitely a good idea because San Francisco in July is NOT warm. We sat on the bus for about 20 minutes waiting on the last couple whose flight had been delayed, but they never caught up with us until we were at the bike shop. I'm not sure what the logistics were, but our guides either had their driver bring them to meet us or they got them a cab or something because they last two did turn up at the bike ride eventually.

Street Art

The Cannery down by the bay where they can fish? Nope. Peaches.

The company that did our bike "tour" was called Blazing Saddles and they had a very nice operation. They had adjustable helmets and adjustable bikes that were well maintained and had a nice, smooth ride. The tour was very nice, but there were a few things that could have made the experience more enjoyable. The high points were the information and photo op at the Palace of Fine Arts. This was a large monument in the Presidio that was placed with a dual purpose--to celebrate the revival of the city after the 1906 earthquake and to celebrate the 1915 Pan-Pacific Exposition. (I found that really interesting because Balboa Park in San Diego was also built for the Pan Pacific Exposition and I found the architecture to have some similarities. For 1915, thos two cities are quite a long distance from each other to be participating in the same celebration and have such similar architecture.) The Palace of Fine Arts is also the inspiration for R2D2 and looks eerily similar to Naboo. Funny, LucasFilm is located about 50 yards away... Another high point was the ending at the base of the Golden Gate Bridge where we had our first opportunity to get some bridge photos.

The start of our bike ride

a better view of Alcatraz

See that thing behind the guide? That's a beach. Not sure what you need a beach for in San Francisco.

These pop-up "gyms" are so cool. I wish we had them in our town.

Palace of Fine Arts

It IS Disney. You can tell because there are ducks.

Ice Cream man!

Princess cruise ship leaving. This was cool because the first time I visited SF, it was on a Princess Cruise.

Golden Gate

Criticisms of the bike ride include the initial assent hill. The rise was equivalent to about a 4-story building and the hill rose at about a 30 degree angle. Almost no one attempted to climb it on the bike and even being in reasonably close to ok shape, I was huffing and puffing after hauling my bike to the top. Surely there is a place to rent bikes on the other side of this hill? Another downfall of the bike experience is that visiting the Palace of Fine Arts required riding in traffic during rush hour with folks of questionable bike experience and skill. We could have easily seen the Palace on the day that we went to LucasFilm and then we could have stayed off of the roads for the bike ride. Our route required a substantial amount of mounting and dismounting the bikes--probably 4-5 times in total. For mom, once we got going, she could ride pretty well, but getting on and off the bike was extremely difficult for her. If we had skipped the palace of Fine Arts and started from the other side of the hill, she would have made the ride round trip. Instead, we decided to bail out at the bridge and join the non-riders on the second half of the bus tour. Lastly, if we had biked across the bridge, we could have combined this activity with the bridge activity from day 3 and added a completely different experience instead of doing two different bridge activities.

So at any rate, we met up with the rest of the group and took our first group photo and family unit photos. Then mom & I abandoned our bikes (we told Eleni that we were quitting bike class, but apparently that message didn't make it to the bike guide because I think they were looking for us...oops) and hopped on the bus. Had we known how much time we were about to spend hanging out in traffic, we might have chosen differently. laugh

After a brief tour of the Presidio, we collected the rest of the bikers from the shop and headed towards dinner. I don't know if you've all ever been to San Francisco before, but the actual city is 7 miles by 7 miles. The trip to dinner, that admittedly included a bit of a detour to give us a bus tour of the city, took us 2 hours. In stop & go rush hour traffic. The whole time I kept thinking, 'thank God Benn isn't here. He would be so sick right now.' The tour was exceptionally interesting, but I swear we could have done it faster on foot. Or at least partially on a cable car. We learned about the fact that the financial district would have been Bay-front when the gold rush began. The rest of the city is built on landfill. When the gold rush started, the population of SF rose from 8000 to 300,000 in one year. The 1906 earthquake destroyed 80% of the city and the luxury homes that used to line Van Ness Ave. were bombed by the fire chief to create a fire break and save the remainder of the city. City Hall is built on a system of 200 rollers so that it will "go with the flow" in the event of an earthquake. SF experiences earthquakes daily, but most are too small to be felt. The Twinkie defense was first used in SF in the case of the murder of the city's mayor. We learned early on about Karl the Fog, which is apparently named after the giant in the movie "Big Fish". I think Carl the Fog would be more appropriate because every time I saw it, the Carl Sandburg poem ran through my head..."The fog comes in on little cat feet. It sits looking over harbor and city on silent haunches and then moves on."

More street art

So we finally arrived at the mall/shopping center where we were having dinner at M.Y. China. Apparently there was this guy named Yan who had a show called "Yan Can Cook" that ran for like 5000 episodes and then he opened the restaurant. O-M-Freaking-G this place was AMAZING. I never want to eat Chinese food again because the food here was so perfect that I don't want to spoil my memory of it. We had a 10-course family style meal with wonton soup, seafood dumplings, calamari, duck with hoisin sauce on steamed buns, pork spare ribs, scissor cut noodles, honey glazed walnut shrimp, chicken fried rice, green beans, and cream puffs with raspberry, chocolate, and vanilla creme. It was seriously out of this world.

Dinner and a show

After dinner and our first pin presentation, the bus took us back tot he hotel. It was around 9:00, which to us was midnight, and we had a 7:00am meeting time the following day. I wish I could say that I got a full and restful 8-hours of sleep, but sadly, sleep was not a strong theme during t his trip. I found the pillows to be very squishy and I didn't sleep very well despite being very tired. Luckily mom slept well. She has epilepsy and I'm always very cautious when we're traveling to make sure she is getting enough rest, especially with the time zone change because that really messes her up sometimes. Fortunately, she was right in step with the time change and got plenty of rest thorough the adventure.

__________________

Be good at something. It makes you valuable. Have something to bring to the table because that will make you more welcome. --Randy Pausch

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Trip Reports:
December 2013: 10th Anniversary, 1st DVC Stay | April 2014: Birthday on the Boardwalk | May 2014: Star Wars Weekend, Navigating WDW with a wheelchair | August 2014: Villains Unleashed | September/October 2014: MNSSHP, F&W, Tower of Terror 10-miler | March/April 2015: Disneyland and California Coastal Cruise | November 2015: Wine & Dine Half, Food & Wine, 1st Disney Cruise | February 2016: Presidential Classic Gymnastics Meet | March 2016: "Work" Trip, Tours, F&G Festival | April 2016: Conference at Disneyland | Fall 2016: Festive Fall Fun | January 2017: Festival of the Arts | May 2017: AbD Backstage Magic | July 2017: AbD San Francisco

alicemouse's picture
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Day 2: Vineyard Grapes & Forest Scapes

Today we had a 7am meeting time, which to us was equivalent of 10am. (I love the west coast!!) Unfortunately, I didn't sleep very well, but at least I had ample time to rest. The pillows were really squishy and no matter how I configured them, I couldn't seem to get enough neck support, so I woke up for good around 4am...which is 7am at home, which is when I usually set my alarm for work, so it was as much a time change issue as anything else. The good new was that there was a Starbucks in the same block as our hotel and I had a gift card, so my ability to function for the weekend was courtesy of caffeine.

At 7:00, we learned that our group was not capable of doing anything on time, which is a huge risk in group travel. We were super fortunate on our first trip that every single person was on time to every single meet up. This time, we were not so fortunate and on such a short itinerary, it really cost us a lot of time. The day before our departure had been delayed from the family from South Dakota whose flight had been delayed 2 hours. Totally not their fault, but still adjusted the schedule. This morning, a family of 5 was 40 minutes late because they just couldn't get ready and get out the door. This cut our time at Muir Woods by 30-40 minutes. We finally left the hotel around 7:40 and arrived at Muir Woods around 8:20.

It was about a 20 minute drive out of the city, over the bridge, and to the entrance of the super duper windy road down to the trees. Then it was an additional 20 minutes of winding down one of those famous western cliff hanger roads. Our guides were amazing though. They kept talking to us the whole time and passed out this delicious anti-nausea ginger candy. I was very concerned about this trip when they mentioned the evening before that if anyone was going to feel ill, it would be on the way to Muir Woods and back. I was picturing these famed California side-of-a-cliff roads, worrying about whether or not that would trigger an anxiety attack for me, worrying about feeling sick on the bus with no relief in site. I was actually very nervous about getting on the bus that morning. That ginger candy was a life saver for me motion-wise. I'll be stocking up on that before our next cruise. And even though I looked out the window a few times and saw cliffs, I had no anxiety issues whatsoever on the bus.

So we arrived at Muir Woods at 8:20. Until we got off the bus, walked to the start of the park, received our maps, and took pictures at the sign, it was 8:40. Our meet-up time was 9:20. At this point, I was pretty mad at the family that had been late. That only gave us 40 minutes to appreciate the wonder that is Muir Woods, check out the gift shop, hit the restroom, and be back on the bus. It was NOT enough time, as evidenced by that fact that we were rushing through the experience, literally spent 2 minutes picking out souvenirs for dad & Benn, and we were still 7 minutes late returning to the bus. The late people in the morning had literally cut our experience in half and this turned out to be a huge trip highlight for me, so I was not very happy with them at this point.

The park itself was absolutely incredible. I'm not much of a nature person. Mosquitos flock to me. I hate/am petrified of snakes. I don't like bugs in general. I'm paranoid about ticks. For this to be a trip highlight for me was a total surprise and the more I reflect back on that morning, the more I love this place and know that I will never go to San Francisco again and willingly miss the opportunity to visit these trees. Did anyone ever read the book Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson? It was one of my favorites when I was a kid and standing among these giant redwoods, I felt like I was standing in Leslie & Jesse's sacred pine grove in Terebithia where the light could just barely reach the ground through the screen of trees. There was a cross section of one of the first trees to fall after the grove had been discovered. The tree had been born in 909 A.D. and fell sometime around 1930. They had highlighted the rings that indicate years of important events like Columbus's first sailing to America and Muir Woods first being discovered. To see this tree's history illustrated this way was incredible. Our guide Anne had described the trees as people and she was right. In our brief gift shop encounter, I found a bracelet made out of wooden beads with a silver charm. The charm has a cut out in the shape of a redwood. On one side, it says "John Muir" and on the other side, "the power of imagination makes us infinite." It was such a perfectly Disney souvenir and I love it. John Muir was an early "tree hugger" and in case you've missed him, he is immortalized in the American Adventure show at Epcot and at Storytellers Cafe at the Grand Californian at Disneyland. John Muir was not involved with the discovery of or the preservation of these Redwoods, but his name is immortalized here because of his passion for preserving the beauty of our national parks.

So I know I hate it when people do this, but we were a few minutes late arriving back at the bus, but the guides had seen us and knew where we were and that we were trying very hard to get back to the bus as quickly as possible. The check-out line in the gift shop was very slow and this was one of my itinerary complaints--this was one of two instances where if you were going to purchase something at the gift shop, you were going to be a few minutes late getting back to the bus. Period. Although, had the family in the morning been on time, we wouldn't have had this problem because we would have had 70 minutes instead of 40 to experience this place and visit the shop.

There were two other people from our party who were also not back yet. We waited for them for about 20 additional minutes. About 5 minutes after we returned to the bus, Anne went back to the gift shop and to the restrooms to try to find them and they were nowhere to be seen. Once we hit 25 minutes past our meeting time, the bus made a lap through the parking lot ever so slowly and at 30 minutes, we left without them. This was worrisome for all of us because there was no cell signal anywhere in the park. In fact, we didn't have service again until 20 minutes later when we reached the top of the hill. The missing people were a mother and her 6-year-old daughter. Anne and Eleni had told us when we arrived that the only option if we missed the bus was a payphone to call a cab and I'm pretty sure that would have been about a $100 cab ride back to the city and probably $150+ to get to Silverado and catch up with the tour. So after we regained cell service, Anne and Eleni started calling their supervisors and the ranger station and trying to figure out what to do next. They have been guides for 7 and 9 years and had never had this situation happen before.

Eventually, the rangers found the mother & daughter who had ventured up a stairway into the canopy and once they realized that the path was not a loop, they didn't have time to backtrack and make it down before the bus left. Once our guides received that information, they pulled off at the nearest car rental. Eleni left the group, rented a car, and went back for them. The trio would have been too late to get anything out of rejoining the group, so Eleni spent the day with them on a private excursion. Unfortunately, I have no idea where they went or what they did. They probably had a great day, but I would have been sad to miss out on Sliverado even though I'm not a wine person. The way that the guides chose to handle the problem did leave the group short one guide for the remainder of the day and eliminate any possibility of the missing people rejoining the group. Had one guide stayed behind and called a cab awhile, they probably could have rejoined us and only missed about 30 minutes of the experience at Silverado. It would have been much more expensive for AbD to fix the problem this way, but it would have preserved the continuity of the trip better for everyone. Even if one of the guides would have just gone to the first car rental location available at the top of the hill, the timing might have worked out that the group could have gotten back together. If one of the other tour companies that had a bus there could have shuttled our lost people to the top of the hill out of the kindness of their hearts, the missing two could have possibly rejoined the group. It's easy to Monday-morning-quarterback the situation. Our guides made the call that they did because they had 29 people on the bus who (mostly) followed the rules and didn't deserve to miss out on the next activity and a cranky vendor at the next tour locale who was not very accommodating with last minute changes. I understand why they made the decision that they did, but I do think there were better options available if they had more thoughtfully considered the logistics of how we would move forward with the day. I will say that they were really good about keeping us informed with what was going on, why the other travelers got lost, and what they were doing to fix the situation.

The bus ride to Silverado Vineyards was long, but Anne put in Big Hero 6 for us to watch, so it wasn't too bad. There was virtually no traffic at this point. When we arrived at Silverado, we had time to change, which was really nice because we had gone from 40 degrees and damp to 85 degrees and sunny in 2 hours time. It was similar to trying to dress to fly to Florida from Pennsylvania in December. After we changed, we met our guide Rich who was very knowledgeable about the wine making process and a very good storyteller. I'd never toured a winery before so I didn't know what to expect, but I found it quite interesting. Apparently most vineyards use a mobile bottling service, but Silverado is unique in its onsite bottling facility. Our tour included sampling 4 different types of wine. I don't ordinarily drink wine just because I don't really like the taste, but the Rosado was actually not too bad and I managed to finish the entire sample. With lunch, we had a white wine that I managed to make a little bit of a dent in and two red wines that I sipped at a little bit, but didn't prefer. One was called Fantasia, but it has to be pronounced Fanta-see-a for copyright reasons. sarcastic Lunch was fantastic. There was a quinoa salad that I wanted to box up and take home and the vegetarian sandwich was better than both the turkey and the ham.

Lillian Disney's house on the vineyard where she moved not long after Walt passed away

After lunch, we went outside to do the grape stomp. I had pictured the classic scene from I Love Lucy with everyone just smashing grapes for fun. It turns out that grape stomping is a competitive thing! And competitive we were!
The grape stomp was coordinated by an outside company and they had a 3-part challenge setup for us with points assigned at each stage or the game. The first objective was to choose a team name. One of the kids had been assigned to our team, so we decided to name the team after him, so we won for team name. Then we had to develop a team cheer--luckily I was a cheerleader in high school and I retained at least a slight memory of what to do. We won again. Then we had the ritual cleaning of the the team captain's feet. I was chosen as the cleaner for our team and the coordinator announced that the first cleaner to kiss the team captain's feet won 2 bonus points. Well, I wasn't about to lose our team's momentum, so I jumped right in there and got the job done for me team! laugh

The winning team!

Now luckily, none of those early points mattered because not only were we the best and most creative team in the preliminaries, but we also managed to squeeze the most juice out of those little grapes. I think the jug that we were given was about a gallon. We had 8 minutes and apparently at the actual grape stomping competitions, it's pretty typical for a team to fill the jug in 8 minutes or less. They told us that we would be lucky to fill it half way. Well, I'm pleased to report that to my recollection, we filled the jug to nearly 2/3. For our efforts, each member of our team won a bottle of wine. Small problem. Well, several small problems. Neither mom nor I drink enough wine to justify owning an entire bottle. (I know, I know--most of you probably think I'm nuts.) Of course there were people we could give it to, but it was $51 to ship it home and we had not planned to check any bags so it was ship or nothing. I tried to exchange my $60 bottle of wine for a $35 bottle of Olive Oil that was only $21 dollars to ship--no dice. The crazy woman (this was the lady who was the reason that we could NOT be late for this tour because she was a total...um word that is sometimes used to indicated that someone isn't a very nice person) at the winery actually told me that she wouldn't do the exchange because they were trying to promote their wines. I want to give you a product that you can sell retail for $60 in exchange for a product that you would have sold for $35. Someone failed economics. Luckily, several participants had won honorable mention t-shirts, which was really what I wanted and I finally managed to trade my bottle of wine for a really cool grape stomping t-shirt. I did still want a bottle of Olive Oil, but the girl that gave us our sample oil and crackers wandered off and I never saw her again, so I came home with no oil. I could buy it online, but now I'm home from vacation and feeling like I have to spend money rationally, so they missed the sale.

The bus ride back from Silverado was long, but we got to watch Inside Out. I'm really glad that Disney recently made two movies about San Francisco so we could have good entertainment not he bus. I GPS'd the trip and it was supposed to take 45 minutes. With traffic, is was over 2 hours. Once again, there has to be a way to solve this problem. Maybe add a dinner to the trip and stop on the way home, giving the traffic time to clear. Of switch Silverado to the last day and move the farewell dinner closer to the vineyard. We do a live show on Facebook on Friday nights about various aspects of Disney travel, so our first order of business when we arrived back at the hotel was to do a quick show before our evening on our own. Mom wasn't excited about being a guest star on the show at first, but I thought she did a great job. I could not, however, talk into doing a full recap show with me when we got home.

For our "on our own" time, mom wanted to go to Fisherman's Wharf. I made a slight directional error because what she really meant was Pier 39 and I forgot that those two locations are at slightly different places. Not a big deal because we've been to Pier 39, but we hadn't explored much down by the Fisherman's Wharf sign. We chose a restaurant called Alioto's for dinner. It was good, but I was thinking more American style seafood and the restaurant was definitely Italian. While our dish didn't have nearly as much garlic as I imagine it would have at the Stinking Rose, it just wasn't what I was in the mood for. Mom really liked hers, so that's what mattered. For location, we couldn't have gotten any better. We could see the sunset over the bay and it was gorgeous! Also fun, I got to exchange a "look" with our waiter over the people at the next table. The party of 8 was arguing over the 18% gratuity that was automatically added to the bill for parties of 6 or more. So with my eyes, I said to the waiter, 'can you believe that this conversation is actually going down?' He replied in kind, 'I know, right?' We had a good muffled chuckle about it.

After dinner, it was mostly dark. We decided that Friday night on the Pier had a good chance of being rowdy, so we were going to walk to Ghirardelli but mom got uncomfortable because it was dark in that area and didn't seem well traveled. So we ducked into an ice-cream shop instead. The shop had Ube ice cream (purple sweet potato) and desperate to make sweet potato everything happen, I went for it. I had tried the deconstructed sweet potato pie at Festival of the Arts last year and I was disappointed. Again, the same here. Sweet potato is not going to be the next pumpkin. It's just too bland. Even being a fun purple didn't make it more exciting. But it's still a fun San Francisco memory.

We walked back to where it was a little bit more populated and called an uber, mom's first ever uber ride and the first time I ever used an uber pool. It was fun We met a mom and her young daughter who were visiting for mom's work conference. We arrived back at the hotel tired, but fully prepared to make an 8am meet up in the morning.

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December 2013: 10th Anniversary, 1st DVC Stay | April 2014: Birthday on the Boardwalk | May 2014: Star Wars Weekend, Navigating WDW with a wheelchair | August 2014: Villains Unleashed | September/October 2014: MNSSHP, F&W, Tower of Terror 10-miler | March/April 2015: Disneyland and California Coastal Cruise | November 2015: Wine & Dine Half, Food & Wine, 1st Disney Cruise | February 2016: Presidential Classic Gymnastics Meet | March 2016: "Work" Trip, Tours, F&G Festival | April 2016: Conference at Disneyland | Fall 2016: Festive Fall Fun | January 2017: Festival of the Arts | May 2017: AbD Backstage Magic | July 2017: AbD San Francisco

Allie's picture
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UGH! How completely inconsiderate of that family! That really drives me nuts and I would have been less then pleased standing there waiting for them, especially with the price tag on those ABD trips. I'm curious why they wouldn't leave without that family when they were willing to leave without the mother/daughter at the park? If anything I would think they would have been less likely to leave them behind at a stop with no cell service and not many transport options then to leave someone at the comfort of the hotel.

The vineyard looks GORGEOUS and the grape stomping sounds like it was a blast! Besides the feet kissing... laugh way to take one for the team, though!

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Allie wrote:
I'm curious why they wouldn't leave without that family when they were willing to leave without the mother/daughter at the park?

Exactly.

I talked to one of the other participants from our trip today who had gone on to do Backstage Magic directly after San Francisco and she told me that two of the family members didn't intend to go to Muir Woods. The other three family members were like 10 minutes late and instead of telling the guides not to wait, they called the room to tell the girls to hurry up and get to the bus. Apparently they hadn't even gotten dressed yet! I'm still annoyed by the situation. sarcastic

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Be good at something. It makes you valuable. Have something to bring to the table because that will make you more welcome. --Randy Pausch

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Trip Reports:
December 2013: 10th Anniversary, 1st DVC Stay | April 2014: Birthday on the Boardwalk | May 2014: Star Wars Weekend, Navigating WDW with a wheelchair | August 2014: Villains Unleashed | September/October 2014: MNSSHP, F&W, Tower of Terror 10-miler | March/April 2015: Disneyland and California Coastal Cruise | November 2015: Wine & Dine Half, Food & Wine, 1st Disney Cruise | February 2016: Presidential Classic Gymnastics Meet | March 2016: "Work" Trip, Tours, F&G Festival | April 2016: Conference at Disneyland | Fall 2016: Festive Fall Fun | January 2017: Festival of the Arts | May 2017: AbD Backstage Magic | July 2017: AbD San Francisco

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alicemouse wrote:

So we finally arrived at the mall/shopping center where we were having dinner at M.Y. China. Apparently there was this guy named Yan who had a show called "Yan Can Cook" that ran for like 5000 episodes and then he opened the restaurant. O-M-Freaking-G this place was AMAZING. I never want to eat Chinese food again because the food here was so perfect that I don't want to spoil my memory of it. We had a 10-course family style meal with wonton soup, seafood dumplings, calamari, duck with hoisin sauce on steamed buns, pork spare ribs, scissor cut noodles, honey glazed walnut shrimp, chicken fried rice, green beans, and cream puffs with raspberry, chocolate, and vanilla creme. It was seriously out of this world.

I use to LOVE that show! How cool that you ate at his restaurant, even cooler that it was amazing.

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Kristen K. wrote:
alicemouse wrote:

So we finally arrived at the mall/shopping center where we were having dinner at M.Y. China. Apparently there was this guy named Yan who had a show called "Yan Can Cook" that ran for like 5000 episodes and then he opened the restaurant. O-M-Freaking-G this place was AMAZING. I never want to eat Chinese food again because the food here was so perfect that I don't want to spoil my memory of it. We had a 10-course family style meal with wonton soup, seafood dumplings, calamari, duck with hoisin sauce on steamed buns, pork spare ribs, scissor cut noodles, honey glazed walnut shrimp, chicken fried rice, green beans, and cream puffs with raspberry, chocolate, and vanilla creme. It was seriously out of this world.

I use to LOVE that show! How cool that you ate at his restaurant, even cooler that it was amazing.

Me too

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DAY 3 - Family Heritage

Before we left the room, I was scrolling though Facebook and I came across a Disney podcaster from a series that I listen to religiously who had an extra ticket for the Eyvind Earle event at the museum at 1:00. Based on my perception of the timeline, we would probably arrive at the museum at 12:00, but knowing the nature of group touring, our group's track record for punctuality, and the fact that he only had one ticket, I declined. But still, I was hoping to have an opportunity to at least meet him...

This morning's meeting was a leisurely 8am and finally everyone was on time. We did a little bit more city touring by bus. This was one place where I think AbD really missed an opportunity. There is a cable car line that runs California to Van Ness. I think they should have gathered us at a cable car stop and transported us to Van Ness that way and then grabbed the bus. I feel like cable cars are such an integral part of what makes San Francisco awesome and this would have been an appropriate time to add them to our trip without really sacrificing anything, even if we would have met at 7:30 to accommodate for the extra time it would have taken.

Regardless, one of the topics of conversation this morning was "Summer of Love", which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, so that was a fun coincidence. Anne and Eleni had gotten each of us a ring of flowers for our hair! And of course the morning's music was all 60's all the time. It was most enjoyable. This little side show happened on our way to the Golden Gate Bridge, where this time, Karl the Fog was snuggling up to the bridge, so it's very cool that we got some close up photos that were both fog-free and fog-full.

On our arrival at the Golden Gate Bridge, we learned that this was also an anniversary year for the iconic structure and that 2017 marks the 80th year of the bridges operation. I love opportunities to think back on historical projects like this. 1937. The same year that the first animated feature film was released, this engineering marvel welcomed its first guest across. This was before we had built any sort of reasonable computer. It was before automobiles were commonplace in every American household. It was before we attempted to launch things into space. Some guys with a whole lot of guts decided to risk life and limb to string metal pieces together in arrangement that was strong enough for vehicles to cross. Unbelievable. In fact, here's a cool thing. Cars drive over the bridge every day with no thought to whether or not the bridge can sustain the load. For a celebration (I forget which one), the bridge was closed to vehicular traffic and the density of the pedestrian traffic was so great, that the weight of the people standing on the bridge caused it to bow in the center. I don't think this is a unique phenomenon because i feel like I've heard this about other bridges, too, but it's really cool to think about the fact that massive vehicles can traverse the bridge safely and mere people can actually change the shape of the structure. Amazing.

From the bridge

Anyway, we got to walk across the bridge. We didn't walk to far because I was taking pictures and live streaming the experience. Also, it was cold again and we wanted to reserve some time for the gift shop. The shopping experience was frustrating once again. We have 15 minutes after the visitor's center opened until we had to be back on the bus. There were only 2 cashiers and a bus full of 31 people plus other visitors trying to purchase their tchotchkes. The first cashier was held up by members of our group for almost 10 minutes (I have no idea what they were doing), leaving only one cashier working on the rest of the line and then that cashier got someone who was doing something complicated. *sigh* Eleni was there telling everyone to have their payment ready and be prepared to run back to the bus because the ferry at our next stop would not wait for us! Fortunately, we were finally all able to check out and we made it back to the bus, but I lost my flowers in the process. sad

We were only about 5 minutes late leaving and we literally had 15 minutes at Tiburon before we even boarded the ferry, so I'm not sure what all of the panic was about. Anyway, Tiburon was a cute little village with a nice row of shops and restaurants. It reminded me a little bit of the area near the Menemsha Fish Market on Martha's Vineyard. Tiburon was in better repair and much fancier, but it had that same kind of vibe to me. We had an opportunity to meet Maggie, the owner of the Tiburon to Angel Island Ferry who was a 4th generation ferry boat captain. She told us a story about how Al Capone ended up spending some time on Tiburon. He had been running alcohol on a nearby island that was very affluent and the law enforcement on that island had informed him that while they didn't intend to prosecute him, his type of "enterprise" was not acceptable on their land, so he suggested that he move the enterprise to Tiburon. silly

That's a roll of stickers that Maggie is holding--not a roll of toilet paper silly

Maggie's house on the dock

The ferry ride was chilly and uneventful. I really wanted to go up on the deck, but since I figured that we wouldn't be in cold conditions for too long this morning, I gambled and wore shorts. That was a mistake for sure. We reached the Angel Island where is was about 10 degrees colder than Tiburon had been...and Tiburon wasn't having any sort of heat wave. Fortunately, Anne and Eleni, being their amazing selves, had blankets for everyone! We boarded the tram with our blankets, prepared to be wowed by an amazing story of the triumph of a plucky group of immigrants.

Well, that's what I like to think that the story was about. I have no idea what the real story was because the tram was loud; the audio was not. The speakers were crackling and you couldn't begin to hear the story. So not only were we all freezing to death, but we didn't even know why! Mom and I were sitting with the other mom & daughter on the trip who were from Miami and they looked like they were about to start losing toes to frostbite! laugh Poor dear girls. You know that scene in Christmas Vacation where Audrey can't see the tree because her eyes are frozen. Yep. That was our friends from Miami. We finally arrived at the "monument", half of which was burned by a movie production company who had been filming on the island, the other half of which was outdoors. The tram driver told us that a museum would soon be open in the last remaining structure, which didn't do us a lot of good. There was a bell and some plaques and from reading the plaques, I started to at least get some idea about the struggles of (particularly Asian) immigrants who were processed through this island, especially during WWII. Then the tram driver took us back to the dock and we took the ferry back to Tiburon. While it wasn't the best tour experience, I am glad that we had an opportunity to stand on the island because actually being in such a cold, desolate place definitely gave you a sense of what the immigrants who were detained on the island--some for years--must have gone through.

Somewhere on these brown hills is Skywalker Ranch.

Back in Tiburon, we had lunch at a Mexican restaurant whose name I can't remember. If you go there, it's the only one, so it isn't hard to find and the food was really good. I had the flautas and mom had the taco salad. We got a group of about 10 people together and one of our group mates picked up the tab for lunch! I was glad I hadn't ordered something super expensive because it was so sweet of him--I'd have hate to have felt like I was taking advantage. As we left the restaurant, we learned that it had been a popular choice. More than half of our group was in the restaurant! This was a place where we actually had too much time. I would have preferred to have had a lunch together with a set menu and have gotten out of Tiburon an hour earlier so we would have had more time for the afternoon activities. After lunch, we found a candy store and the Asian influence on Tiburon became clear because the one aisle looked like it was straight out of the candy store in the Japan pavilion at Epcot. Hi-Chew, Pocky, etc.

On the bus ride to Lucasfilm, Anne fabricated a story that she needed to stop by her houseboat because she had forgotten to pack her underwear for the following day. In reality, it was a ruse to give us an opportunity to see the houseboats up close and get better pictures than we could get from the bus window. It also bought Anne some time to stop and pick up the "real San Francisco treat" for everyone--It's It ice cream sandwiches. It's a disc of ice cream sandwiched between two oatmeal cookies and coated in chocolate and it is amazing. We had the vanilla, but it also comes in strawberry, pumpkin, green tea, chocolate...and a few other flavors. I enjoyed this treat so much that when I got home, I tried to figure out how I could buy a box and have it shipped. I thought the $22 for a box of 24 was pretty fair, but the $65 shipping stopped me in my tracks. But then I thought about it and the ingredient list didn't seem too complicated, so last week I made a prototype and it turned out pretty tasty. I currently have a new batch of cookies baked and waiting for assembly.

After Sausalito, we boarded the bus for the Presidio. When we arrived, we went directly to the Letterman building where Industrial Light & Magic is housed. After group photos at the Yoda fountain, we were allowed to enter the lobby of Lucasfilm. I've heard mixed information about this. Some people have said that if you go on your own, the only thing you can see is the fountain. Other people claim that they have been allowed into the lobby. Our group was allowed into the lobby and this is billed as one of the AbD exclusive experiences. Now I'm not the world's biggest Star Wars fan, but over time, I have developed an appreciation and, dare I say it, a love for this franchise that is the center of Benn's universe. I was excited to see Lucasfilm and I was tremendously underwhelmed by this experience. Relative to Walt's Apartment on the Backstage Magic trip, this experience doesn't hold a candle. It doesn't even hold a match. The figures were cool and everything and we did get to access an auxiliary area that had statues of Boba Fett and one of the Michael Bay style Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Woo freaking hoo. This would be a cool experience if it was connected to a character meet & greet. It just has no life. I guess in a way, you could compare it to the statue room at Imagineering, but there were no stories connected with any of the figures here. There wasn't anything that is inherently better than what you can see at Star Wars Launch Bay. It just felt...dead. And maybe there were cool stories behind the figures or the books on the shelves...but if there were, Anne & Eleni missed the boat on sharing them. We did get our choice of several different styles of Lucasfilm hats as a free gift, so mom & I picked out two different ones for Benn.

The back side of Yoda!!!

Next stop: Walt Disney Family Museum!!!!!!! yay muchlove clapping yeah banana It turns out that my instinct to not take Michael up on his ticket offer was the right one because it was now 2:45, BUT the Eyvind Earle thing had just finished up, so I got to meet Michael!! I had tried to arrange to meet him at Disneyland when Benn and I were there in May, but he was actually at WDW that week, so it was an awesome and unexpected treat that I got to meet him at the museum. Totally not AbD related, but it was a big trip highlight for me.

So the museum is absolutely beautiful. The building is gorgeous. The content is amazing. The organization and documentation is superb. Surely I'm biased as a Disney fan and I haven't been to every museum, but it is my favorite museum in America. Some of the highlights are the original furniture from Walt's apartment, the Snow White Oscar (and others), the wall of every single cell necessary for like 10 seconds of animation or something ridiculous, the original menus from the commissary, the family photos pulled from Diane Disney Miller's personal albums, the interactive voice recordings, the model of Disneyland, the Griffith Park bench with a view of the Golden Gate Bridge, the Olympic torch from the Squaw Valley Olympics, Walt's miniatures collection, one of the three real multi-plane cameras, the film posters from the WWII propaganda films...there are so many wonderful stories presented within these walls and the family did such an unbelievable job of using a variety of mediums to tell the story that they wanted to tell. It is such a treasure.


This is stretch & squish, the exact principle that we worked on at Animation 101 earlier in the year at Festival of the Arts

The finale room is very moving

We had a guided tour of the museum, which was very nice, but the guide was moving far too quickly and I really struggled to keep up. Once again, I was here in this fabulous museum and I was rushed through. At the end, we had 45 extra minutes and I was torn between going back through the museum, checking out the special villains exhibition by Andreas Deja, or shopping. Sadly, our tickets did not include access to the special Eyvind Earle exhibit. Since 45 minutes would not have been enough time to see EVERYTHING in detail, I opted for the villains (about a 5 minute experience--no photos allowed) and the shopping. In addition to some dear pins (Carolwood Pacific, a Merryweather, and the third pin of my 3-pin set from Once Upon a Wintertime that I had found at D-Pins and Collectables in Anaheim!!), I found a new obsession in back issues of E-Ticket Magazine. Each issue features the back story on a different Disneyland attraction. I picked up the one on Alice in Wonderland and the one on King Arthur's Carousel. The detail is fantastic! I also picked up two videos on Bob Gurr that I enjoyed rather well. Mom got a biopic on Walt Disney for dad, but she isn't giving it to him until Christmas, so I guess I have to wait until then to see it... Sad( laugh

We boarded the bus and returned to the hotel before dinner. I wish we could have stayed at the museum for longer, but it was closing. Still, how cool would it have been to clear out the day guests and let us enjoy some extra time at the museum or give us access to the Eyvind Earle exhibit after closing time. This is supposed to be an exclusive experience, right? Plus it would have shaved some time off of our total bus riding time. sarcastic On the way to our hotel break, we received our departure information for the following day. After our break, we boarded the bus (again) for dinner at One Market. Walking into the restaurant, I was pretty jazzed up. There was a chef's table and everything smelled great. We were seated in a private room, which was very nice. We started with bread and salad of course and both were quite good. The waiter took the order for our table and made a remark to the effect that the chef was going to love our table because no one ordered their steak overcooked. Yet somehow, when our meals were served, there was a mix-up. The steaks were all mixed up! We sorted it out amongst ourselves, but that's not a mistake that a restaurant like this should be making. Next problem. The food quality was below average. The steaks had little flavor and they were tough. I had ordered my steak rare, but it was also cold--not cool, red center--cold. The mashed potatoes tasted instant and the spinach was just boiled. No seasoning, no creative presentation. Just boiled. For dessert, we had cheesecake and this was my fault, but I failed to request that mine be served plain. Instead, I forgot that I had read that we were having blueberry cheesecake. The "raspberry and chocolate sauce" that I took a bite of with my cheesecake was NOT chocolate. Gross. So not my ideal meal. I wish we had gone back to M.Y. China instead!

Sadly, this looks much better than it tasted.

On our first trip, we recognized all of the birthdays, anniversaries, and repeat visitors at the welcome dinner. This time, we did all of the pin recognitions at the farewell dinner. So I got my Adventure #2 pin! Yay!!! In May we'll be celebrating my birthday, so I'll get a birthday pin for that one and then when we eventually do the Danube River Cruise, we will hopefully do it near our anniversary.

After dinner, we had one more stop before returning home. We took the bus over the Bay Bridge so we could get pictures of the illuminated bridge at night. It was really beautiful, but it was getting pretty chilly again, so most people didn't hang out for very long taking pictures. On our way back to the hotel, Eleni passed out Ghirardelli chocolate squares. muchlove That was the end of the organized portion of our trip. We met Anne & Eleni in the lobby the following morning to receive our last pin and then we were on our own. More about our last day, journey home, and value analysis next time.

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Be good at something. It makes you valuable. Have something to bring to the table because that will make you more welcome. --Randy Pausch

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Trip Reports:
December 2013: 10th Anniversary, 1st DVC Stay | April 2014: Birthday on the Boardwalk | May 2014: Star Wars Weekend, Navigating WDW with a wheelchair | August 2014: Villains Unleashed | September/October 2014: MNSSHP, F&W, Tower of Terror 10-miler | March/April 2015: Disneyland and California Coastal Cruise | November 2015: Wine & Dine Half, Food & Wine, 1st Disney Cruise | February 2016: Presidential Classic Gymnastics Meet | March 2016: "Work" Trip, Tours, F&G Festival | April 2016: Conference at Disneyland | Fall 2016: Festive Fall Fun | January 2017: Festival of the Arts | May 2017: AbD Backstage Magic | July 2017: AbD San Francisco

alicemouse's picture
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Day 4: Bye Bye Bay

I do like that despite not having any group activities scheduled for today, our guides did personally see each family off and give us a pin for the day. I think a group breakfast would have still been appropriate and if people choose to leave before breakfast or to not attend, then that would be on them. There was a restaurant in the hotel, so it would have been easy for the guides to still see everyone off even if they weren't having breakfast. I also think that since a cable car ride hadn't been part of our trip that a nice parting gift (or a magical extra at the previous "on our own time") would have been free cable car passes.

We met Anne & Eleni around 7:00am because we had to be back to meet our airport driver by 1:30 and we had a fairly full morning planned. Our first task was in fact to ride a cable car. This was mom's 3rd or 4th trip to San Francisco and my second. Thus far, most of our activities had been center around the bay and we had succeeded in riding a cable car for exactly one block. Fortunately that ride was comped by the ticket taker because it was so short. Our goal this morning was to climb the hill up California Ave. to get to the Hyde & Mason line so we could get down close to Fisherman's Wharf. About halfway to our destination on California, mom decided that she didn't want to climb the hill anymore. So we stopped at a cable car stop to get a ride for the last two blocks. The ticket taker comped our ride since it was a short distance and we were getting right back on another cable car. For our next car, we actually got on the wrong line, but it doesn't really matter because both lines to roughly the same area and we were planning to walk along the bay anyway. This time, the cable car was PACKED. In fact, we were the only two who were allowed on. Another pair had arrived after us and they tried to cut in front of us. I was having none of it. Mom had intended to pay, but she couldn't understand what the ticket taker was shouting. So we just got on. I think he wanted us to walk through the car and pay him at the back after we boarded, but that was not physically possible. I asked her if she was just going to pay when we got off and she said no! I had no idea that my mother was such a hardened criminal. At any rate, we are now 3 for 3 on free cable car rides. Also, I finally got a good look at the curvy section of Lombard Street from the cable car, so I was thrilled.

The top of Lombard St.

For breakfast, we stopped at this little place called The Crepe Cafe. It was so good! I love crepes and they really stuff them full here at a decent price. I had the strawberry banana nutella and it was stuffed and doubled over with powdered sugar on top. Delicious.

We continued on to Pier 39, not really expecting anything to be open, but the shops were up and running by the time we arrived! We picked up some Alcatraz stuff for dad and some goofy socks for my assistant and then headed over to watch the sea lions. We must have watched them for about 45 minutes. They're one of my favorite things about San Francisco. For out own-our-own dinner, I had kind of regretted not just getting something from the fish market, so that's where we went for lunch. Huge mistake. I wish we had gone back to The Crepe Cafe. Mom got lobster bisque in a bread bowl, forgetting that bisque in California is different than bisque in Pennsylvania. It's thinner and spicier. It was ok, but not great. She did enjoy feeding the birds with the remainder of her bread bowl. I had a lobster roll. Again, we were not in New England and I'm not sure what in the world I was thinking. Instead of being a toasted roll topped with lobster and melted butter drizzle, I got a whipped lobster and MAYONNAISE concoction. It was straight up gross. Not different than what I expected yet still interesting in its own right. Gross. I did manage to choke most of it down, but I was so very disappointed.

The Alcatraz store

Double Decker carousel - I wish I had ridden this, but mom can't ride the carousel because literally any circular motion will at best make her sick and at worst trigger her epilepsy

They had these socks in LA, too, but my picture didn't turn out. Funniest socks I've ever seen.

Can't wait to get to New England next month and replace the taste of this lobster roll in my brain with that of a real lobster roll

By now it was time to start back to the hotel so we could take our time meandering through Chinatown on the way. San Francisco's Chinatown had the largest Chinese population outside of mainland China and the most common dialect spoken there is Cantonese. I had been searching for decent gelato all weekend and we no more than set foot in Chinatown and I saw a sign for a shop. I was skeptical because if it hadn't looked good at any of the little Italian shops, what was the chance that it would be better in Chinatown. I looked in the case and to my delight, I saw beautiful creamy gelato with no signs of water!! It was a really nice end to our culinary experience because the mint gelato did a great job of erasing the lingering taste of mayonnaise from the lobster roll. We strolled down the street, which was decorated beautifully with lanterns strung across the street to the various shopping complexes. We went into one store with a lot of jade and marble pieces. That was a pretty unique place. They had a lot of cool stuff.

In front of the store with all of the cool offbeat stuff

We had about 30 minutes until our pickup when we arrived at the hotel, so we tried to go across the street to the Wells Fargo Museum. Sadly, it was closed on Saturdays. But I did get a decent picture of the stagecoach in the lobby by putting my phone against the screen and using the pano camera. I always thought that the stagecoach was just a random logo, but it turns out that Wells Fargo used to run a stagecoach service from New York to San Francisco and that they also had a pony express route! I've hold this to several people and apparently it's common knowledge? Oh well. I was unaware.

We changed for the plane ride while we waited for our driver and on the way out, we ran into Eleni who airdropped some of our pictures to us and gave us the code to retrieve the others from adventuresbydisneyphotos.com. It's so great that they do this, but let me tell you, waiting to receive them for up to 10 business days after you return is torture! Our ride back to the airport was just as nice as our ride from the airport had been. We were using Oakland because of using Southwest, so our ride was nearly an hour.

On this lap, we were flying Spirit for the first time, which had me very nervous because I've heard so many horror stories about them. We had checked in earlier in the morning and we had reserved upgraded seats ahead of time, hoping for an opportunity to sleep on the way home. We got pre-check (YAY!), so we proceeded directly to the EMPTY security check thinking that we would be through security and sitting in the terminal in about 3 minutes. Not so much. The TSA guy scanned our mobile boarding passes and explained that Spirit was having an issue with boarding passes reading and we would have to go back to the kiosk that we had passed five minutes earlier when we entered the airport ( gaah ) to get a real boarding pass. This was only a big deal because I had decided to use my hip, cool AbD duffle bag as my carry on instead of a wheeled suitcase and it was heavy and I was tired. I joked with the TSA guy (who actually had a sense of humor eek ) that I wondered if a company who couldn't master mobile boarding pass technology should be trusted to fly airplanes and I hoped that they didn't try to fly by flapping the wings up and down like a bird.

So we returned, scanned, lovely. Now of course since we were pre-check, we didn't remove liquids or shoes and sent our bags straight through. We got to use the regular metal detectors instead of the cancer scanners. (I can't back that up, but those things freak out my inner conspiracy theorist.) The scanner guy pulls my bag out. Great. There is literally no one else anywhere near the security area and I seriously think he's just board. He tells me that there are liquids detected in my bag, I try to explain to him that of course there are--I had pre-check, so I wasn't required to take them out. Then he says that even though I have pre-check I still have to follow the liquids rule. No crap, Sherlock. It wasn't a huge deal because my one 1-quart bag with 3.4 oz. or smaller containers was right on top, but I'm so against the fact that TSA exists, so I was so not in the mood for a rash of static. Especially in this suuuuuper busy airport where this guy seriously just had nothing better to do. So we got through the security ordeal and got to our gate where is was HOT. It felt like someone had installed sunlamps instead of lightbulbs. The next gate over, fine. Our gate, surface of the sun. Whatever. We got dinner and waited to board.

I have to say, for all of the stories that I've heard about Spirit being awful, our flight experience was anything but. We had a hilarious flight attendant with an awesome safety spiel. Our seats were comfy. There was no cabin service, but I wanted to sleep anyway and had brought my own drink and snacks just in case, so no big deal. If you're not planning to be awake on the plane, it's a good option. There was some lady in the next aisle who put some sort of smelly goop on her hair and mom must have been allergic to something that was in it because her eyes got kind of watery and she got a little bit stuffed up on the way home, but as soon as we got off the plane, she was fine. The seats were not as comfortable as other carriers. The padding on them was very thin, especially the coach seats, but ours were decent enough. I'd still be nervous about using Spirit when I have a deadline because their reputation for being on time is terrible, but if I'm not in a hurry, I'd fly with them again. We got some great pics of the landscape on the way home, too.

So that concludes our very short trip. We had a great time and the suggestions and complaints offered herein are the same ones that I offered to AbD for constructive purposes. The value on this trip was definitely not as good as it was on Backstage Magic. If you're thinking about doing this itinerary, I would seriously consider pairing it with Backstage Magic so it doesn't seem so short, especially if you're coming from the east coast. One of the families on our trip did just that and I talked to them after they returned home. They felt like it was too much altogether, but I would guess them to be late-60's with low to moderate energy levels. The wife had some minor mobility challenges and difficulty standing for extended periods. They actually preferred the San Francisco trip because it was less walking and standing. As far as value, I came up with the following costs if I were to try to replicate this trip on my own, bearing in mind of course that some costs might vary seasonally and some experiences are not available to the general public or are available in a different format.

3 night stay at the Omni: $1400
Gratuities for hotel staff: $40
30 hours bus transportation: $200
30 hours of guiding: $400
private airport transportation with tip: $120
dinner for 2 at M.Y. China: $150
dinner for 2 at One Market: $200
lunch for 2 with unlimited tastings and winery tour at Silverado: $200
Grape stomp activity: $150
Muir Woods: $40
Angel Island ferry and tour: $60
Walt Disney family museum admission and guided tour: $70
Blazing Saddles bike tour: $110
4 pins each: $65
Lucasfilm hats: $50
Bus snacks, It's It, ghirardelli squares: $30
Photography services: $170 (based on MemoryMaker cost)
Miscellaneous items: $20
Gratuities for step-on guides: $80
gift bags: $50

Total Value: $3605
Total Cost: $3598

So even on sale, this trip was just barely a break even in value. My expectation is that the markup on the shorter trips is higher because surely there are fixed costs associated with running any trip and with a shorter trip, there are fewer places to hide those costs or to make up the extra. I learned a lot on this trip. I enjoyed myself and had fun hanging out with mom. It was a lot of fun to see San Francisco again and to see it from a different angle. Especially in light of the fact that this itinerary doesn't ge t a lot of love from guests who have tried it, I am not put off of the experience at all. If anything, it will help keep my expectations in check for England & France next year. If you are thinking about trying AbD and want to do a long weekend first to see how you like it, I would recommend doing the New York trip instead. Even though we haven't done that one, the itinerary looks better from a standpoint of including more premium experiences and they were almost the same price. The excursions don't have to be expensive to be enjoyable and memorable. The least expensive thing that we did in San Francisco was Muir Woods and it is an experience that will stay with me forever. Still, when I am paying a premium price for my experience, I do expect to see a return on that investment.

Thanks for reading!!

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Trip Reports:
December 2013: 10th Anniversary, 1st DVC Stay | April 2014: Birthday on the Boardwalk | May 2014: Star Wars Weekend, Navigating WDW with a wheelchair | August 2014: Villains Unleashed | September/October 2014: MNSSHP, F&W, Tower of Terror 10-miler | March/April 2015: Disneyland and California Coastal Cruise | November 2015: Wine & Dine Half, Food & Wine, 1st Disney Cruise | February 2016: Presidential Classic Gymnastics Meet | March 2016: "Work" Trip, Tours, F&G Festival | April 2016: Conference at Disneyland | Fall 2016: Festive Fall Fun | January 2017: Festival of the Arts | May 2017: AbD Backstage Magic | July 2017: AbD San Francisco

Allie's picture
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Joined: 06/26/2012
Posts: 4923

As always, excellent information! I love seeing the breakdown in the value!

Kristen K.'s picture
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Joined: 09/01/2011
Posts: 17866

Great review, and I loved loved loved seeing all your pictures of my old stomping grounds. The picture of you on the GG Bridge, the seaside cliffs over your left shoulders are ones my Dad and I used to go climbing on when I was a kid. So many great memories. I totally need to take my family to San Fransisco.

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Joined: 10/22/2013
Posts: 2801

Kristen K. wrote:
Great review, and I loved loved loved seeing all your pictures of my old stomping grounds. The picture of you on the GG Bridge, the seaside cliffs over your left shoulders are ones my Dad and I used to go climbing on when I was a kid. So many great memories. I totally need to take my family to San Fransisco.

How cool! And you certainly do! I love how diverse this area is--in population, landscape, variety of activities, you name it. There really is something for everyone in San Francisco.

__________________

Be good at something. It makes you valuable. Have something to bring to the table because that will make you more welcome. --Randy Pausch

Find me on Facebook

Trip Reports:
December 2013: 10th Anniversary, 1st DVC Stay | April 2014: Birthday on the Boardwalk | May 2014: Star Wars Weekend, Navigating WDW with a wheelchair | August 2014: Villains Unleashed | September/October 2014: MNSSHP, F&W, Tower of Terror 10-miler | March/April 2015: Disneyland and California Coastal Cruise | November 2015: Wine & Dine Half, Food & Wine, 1st Disney Cruise | February 2016: Presidential Classic Gymnastics Meet | March 2016: "Work" Trip, Tours, F&G Festival | April 2016: Conference at Disneyland | Fall 2016: Festive Fall Fun | January 2017: Festival of the Arts | May 2017: AbD Backstage Magic | July 2017: AbD San Francisco