Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Cruise Day Five

I'm writing this blog as if I wrote it the days it all took place when in reality I'm writing this then Monday after the cruise was over. Enjoy...

Got up a little early and had breakfast at the Windjammer with the in-laws. Headed off the ship and stood in line for the bus for the historical excursion. We were herded onto local school buses and introduced to our driver who went by the name Mother Goose. Our tour guide or the voice of the trip was a man named Bill.

We first headed over a low bridge (the small one in the picture of the bridge and mountain), through a neighborhood and down a road to Fort Clatsop and the Lewis & Clark museum in Astoria. We watched a movie on the Clatsop people and their view of Lewis & Clark expedition team and the winter they spent with them.

The ranger there talked a bit and led us out a door, down a trail to a replica of the Fort which was built on the exact spot where the original fort stood. I didn't feel like I got enough time to explore the fort before Victoria and her parents were ready to move on. I shoulda said something. It's not their fault. We just sorta progressed past all that. I just tried taking in as much of the surrounding forest as I could. I love the Northern California/Orgeon coast with all the redwoods and cedars.

We hopped back on the bus and out to the Maritime Museum which was cool. Yet another place I wish we could have had more time. There was a Coast Guard cutter and a ship called the Columbia docked next to the museum. They had a Coast Guard rescue boat and a few other boats on display inside along with all kinds of old nautical stuff along with sheets of labels from Astoria's old canning past and double guns from boats that were running in the world wars.

After an hour or so we hopped BACK on the bus and up a narrow winding road to the top of a hill where we saw the Astoria Column. The hill was high and narrow enough that you could walk around and see the landscape for miles. I tried taking pictures of some of the rolling hills of trees, the river, the flowers, etc and I just couldn't capture it. I can't come up with the proper adjective to describe it. Breath-taking? Awesome? Beautiful? Nothing seems to fit.

On the way back the bus offered to drop us off "downtown". Astoria's downtown district would make Santee look like a large city. Small little shops off the street, narrow streets, hardly any traffic lights, lots of homes and steep hills that reminded me of San Francisco. We walked down 12th to Baked Alaska for lunch. I had fish and chips. WONDERFUL. The service was pretty good too. Victoria seemed to enjoy her sandwich since it was gone nearly as soon as the plate touched the table. Sheesh!

As we walked out of Baked Alaska, we JUST missed the trolley. We could see the ship from where we were so we decided to walk back. Seemed like it was MAYBE a mile away. Took us about 20 minutes to get back so it was probably a little more. We just walked on the trolley tracks, since the trolley was headed in the opposite direction, there's only one of 'em and they don't go very fast at all. The tracks often were on wooden bridges or pier like structures where there was nothing but a single layer of boards and pylons between us and the water which was MAYBE two feet below the wood. I loved that. Victoria did not. She often sped up ahead of us to rush over a bridge because it made her nervous.

When we got back to the boat, I headed up to the top deck to get pictures of downtown and the bridge. My immature side kicked in and I thought it'd be funny to catch a picture of the last people on the boat and even hoped that maybe we'd leave someone behind and I'd catch a picture of them rushing to the boat as we pulled away. I'm a bad person sometimes.

I enjoyed watching the guys untie the mooring lines. Front, then back and then the side. All was going well when they pulled the first line off the side. Then the ship started to naturally pull away from the dock, pulling the last line REALLY tight. I saw them backing away from the line and someone scream out "It's gonna burst!" Then the ship pulled back towards the dock so they ran up real quick and pulled the line off. I just stood there staring and thinking, "I'm gonna see something freaky here." I told you I'm a bad person sometimes.

We did end up leaving a couple people behind but I never got a picture cause they just didn't make it back to the ship. Later that night I stood talking to Lorand about photography and San Francisco, had a few drinks at the Schooner Bar with the family and headed to bed since Victoria was the next day and THAT's the city I was really looking forward to.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Cruise Day Four

I'm writing this blog as if I wrote it the days it all took place when in reality I'm writing this then Monday after the cruise was over. Enjoy...

Woke up late this morning. Got up around 10am after the in-laws had already headed for breakfast. In fact, we caught them as they were finishing up so we sat at their table. Had my usual breakfast which consisted of scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, danish, donut and today it was sausage gravy and biscuits. Other mornings I had no extra except Vancouver when I had a waffle and pancake which were terrible.

Today was totally lazy day. We had three days left and we wanted to be sure and get as much relaxation in as possible so we'd be ready for it. So Victoria napped in the afternoon and then we headed out to Latte-tudes, a Seattle's Best Coffee stand on deck 5 and tried reading for a while before getting ready for our second formal night and dinner.

Before dinner, as was becoming tradition, we headed to the Schooner Bar for a round of drinks : a Mango Flow or Lava Flow for Victoria, Diet Coke for Teresa and a Dewars 12 and Coke for Bart and I. I took some of the pictures you see at the entrance to the Colony Club which turned out to be a bad idea. Teresa's dress blended too much with the mural behind us and the lighting was all wrong for pictures so most of the shots either had us too dark to see or overexposed our faces.

We crashed early and waited for Astoria to come the next morning.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Cruise Day Three

I'm writing this blog as if I wrote it the days it all took place when in reality I'm writing this then Monday after the cruise was over. Enjoy...

Our first day at port. I got up early to shoot some pictures of our entry into San Francisco Bay. I pulled on my 70-300mm lens and headed up to deck 12. When I got there we were far too close to get any decent shots so I ran back to the room for my 18-55mm lens. By the time I got back we had passed the bridge and I missed my shot. Took some pics of the shoreline and Alcatraz Island before heading back to the stateroom where Victoria was already awake and getting ready for breakfast. We met in the dining room for breakfast and then disembarked to enjoy San Francisco until midnight.

We started out walking along Fisherman's Wharf to Powell Street. I caught a picture of our restaurant for dinner, a streetcar, a sign for the wax museum where I also caught a pic of a dude dressed as a sub sandwich crossing the street. Walking down Powell, we stopped in at Highway 66 where Victoria got a keychain and I figured we'd return to get me a flag for $10 and maybe a funny sign or ten. We never made it back.

We walked down to the north end of the cable car line and caught the cable car all the way down to Union Square and Market Street. It was fun to say I've ridden one but it was pretty jerky, uncomfortable and loud.

We immediately headed for the Virgin Megastore where Victoria picked up three CDs for $10 a piece: The Best of Bowie, Bob Marley & The Wailers Legend, and Amy Winehouse Back to Black. From there we headed up to Citizen Cupcake on the third floor. They were doing renovations and we read a sign posted that said it was only going to be closed the day we were there. Suck.

After this Teresa was thirsty and Victoria had to pee so we headed to Macy's up the street. This Macy's is huge with it's own food court and everything! We noticed an iPod vending machine so I took a picture. Victoria bought us cookies and soda to sustain me for the long walk we were about to take. The walk turned out to not be so long after all.

We reached the Chinatown gate and from here Victoria and Teresa stopped into nearly every store on both sides of the street for about three blocks. We ended up with another buddha for our living room, a couple lucky cats and a gift for Becky. We were all hungry so we headed out for dim sum at the Four Seas Restaurant. We couldn't have made a better choice I think. They have some really good dim sum there. BBQ Pork Buns and Shu Mai and spring rolls OH MY!

From Chinatown we headed to the City Lights bookstore. I really wish we had spent more time and cash here. Lots of cool books. I did pick up a little something that might turn into a gift. From the bookstore we grabbed a taxi and headed back up to Pier 35. The in-laws headed back to the boat for a nap while Victoria and I headed out to the Ripley's museum for a cheesy good time. Turned out to be more than I thought. Maybe not worth the admission but then again few things geared towards tourists are. We walked back down Powell and over to Barnes & Noble to rest and read a bit before heading out to meet the parents at Buena Vista Cafe at 4pm.

As we got to The Buena Vista, the wind picked up A LOT and it got really cold. This was perfect because the Irish Coffee we got warmed me up pretty good. They say this is where the drink was developed and that it's still the best place to get an Irish Coffee. I won't dispute it as it was the best I've ever had.

As we left The Buena Vista, I mentioned that I wanted to get to the ballpark to take some pictures. The Giants weren't in town but I wanted to see it in person. Victoria was tired and cranky and decided not to join me so I hopped a rusted out streetcar with a cranky ticket guy in it. His job was to lift the bar, check tickets and alert the driver on when to stop and when to get going again. Fascist Bastard is what he'll always be to me.

I lost my way, missed my stop (though I didn't know it until later) and got off at 3rd Avenue. I went into Kinko's to get some bubble wrap and tape to wrap the scotch bottles since I'd have to put them in the suitcase for the flight home. Then I walked to Geary and Market and took another streetcar back up to Fisherman's Wharf to meet the family for dinner at The Franciscan.

A couple stops after I got on, a group of young black teens got on and headed to the back. Just before we got to Pier 35, a group of Hispanic kids got on. One of the kids must have said something to the teens because the teens started barking, challenging them to fight, etc. I'm so glad this didn't start any sooner. I got off on the next stop and walked the rest of the way. No way I need to get in the middle of a fight while I'm on vacation.

At The Franciscan I had their Surf and Turf dinner where I learned from the waitress how to crack a crab leg properly. The food was OK but not worth the price. The calamari appetizer I got was some of the worst calamari I've ever eaten. I appreciate the educational experience though.

After dinner we headed to Pier 39 to see the fairy store Teresa wanted to go to. It was the only thing she'd been looking forward to in San Francisco and it was nearly the last thing we did. My legs were sore, back hurt and I was pretty cranky by the time we reached the boat. I rested a bit, then we hit up the Schooner bar for more drinks before heading up to the top deck with my camera to watch the boat leave and take some night shots of the skyline and the Golden Gate Bridge.

Never in my life have I dealt with winds so fierce or air so cold as the forward side of deck 12 was on that trip out of the bay. It was tough to keep the camera still due to all my shivering, the wind and the movement of the ship. Still, as you can see above, I got some great shots. Headed over to the Thirst Quencher area outside of the Windjammer for some Hot Chocolate and to the stateroom to sleep.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Cruise Day Two

I'm writing this blog as if I wrote it the days it all took place when in reality I'm writing this then Monday after the cruise was over. Enjoy...

This was a sea day. Still getting our sea legs when we woke up, every time the ship moved we thought it was an earthquake before quickly remembering we were on a ship and such a thing was impossible. We met the in-laws for breakfast at the Windjammer and headed over to the solarium to hang out and chat. Bart and Teresa told us about some of their other cruises and some of their initial impressions about this one.

Before lunch, we headed to the store and I found alcohol is VERY cheap on cruises. Duty free and tax free. The bottles are bigger too, full liter bottles instead of the 750mL bottles you get on shore. In San Diego, a bottle of Dewar's 12 year is about $45. On the ship, I got TWO liter sized bottles for $39.95 total. I figure I'll take one until I give up alcohol forever at the end of June and I'll find something to do with the other. After Victoria found a sweater and shawl to help keep her warm, I headed back to the stateroom for some rest while Victoria headed out to the art auction which she only attended for the free champagne.

We hit up the dining room for lunch and had the only bad meal I would have on the ship. I ordered a buffalo chicken sandwich which came with grilled peppers. I asked for white onions instead. The waiter didn't hear me and said they didn't have grilled onions and asked if I wanted onion rings instead. I just wanted raw white onions but I got onion rings because I was still too shy to just bluntly tell the staff what I wanted.

After lunch, Victoria headed out for her hair styling appointment. She got her hair straightened for our first formal night of the cruise. Meanwhile I stayed in the stateroom and watched some ESPN before getting ready for dinner.

I put on my newly purchased black suit, black dress shirt and red tie and we headed out to the Schooner Bar to wait for our seating time. Meanwhile we attended the Captain's Welcome Aboard Reception where we got free drinks and listened to the captain introduce himself and the staff to us. After this we headed to the dining room for dinner. Lobster bisque, caesar salad and fillet of beef. I tried some of Victoria's escargot and loved it. Tonight's wine was a merlot from Chile.

After dinner they had photographers with backdrops around the ship taking formal pictures that we could purchase later for $19.95 per 8x10. Kinda pricy I thought but we weren't sure yet when we'd do this again and it was our first cruise so we ended up buying three of them.

At night it was back to the Schooner bar for drinks and off to bed. We'd be pulling into San Francisco early and I wanted to be there to take pictures of the bridge as we pulled in. Victoria and her mom headed out to the theatre to watch the Adult comedy show with Louis Johnson.