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The Travel Map -

Union Square San Francisco

July 7th 2008 06:11
If you love shopping, a visit to Union Square in San Francisco is a must. It has all the big names in fashion as well as great cafes and restaurants all in one area.
Regardless of taste or budget, there is something for everyone here from middle of the road stores such as Macys and Gap, to high-end stores such as Fifth Avenue, Christian Dior and Ralph Lauren.

Located in the centre of Geary, Post, Stockton, and Powell Streets Union Square is San Francisco’s most popular shopping district.

macys union Square
Macys Union Square

One block west of the Square, on Geary Street is San Francisco's main theatre district where you can catch a touring Broadway show or an off Broadway production. There are also many great restaurants nearby where you can have dinner before your show.

Speaking of dining, if you like French Cuisine the French Quarter lies just block north of the Square around Belden Place. The area offers fine French dining in one of the many open-air restaurants.

Two cable car lines service the area (Powell-Hyde and Powell-Mason). Both lines terminate at the end of Powell Street and it is interesting to watch the drivers get out and turn the cable cars around so they are pointing in the opposite direction.

There are some areas and streets around Union Square that should be avoided such as the blocks between Market and Sixth Street. We stayed in a very nice hotel in this area, which I do not want to name because they were fantastic. They were also cheaper than usual for that chain. The reason is the area. We had to walk past several blocks of homeless people on our way to Union Square to catch the cable car every day. We were hassled a lot for money most of the time we could just say “no” and keep our heads down, but one time we had a guy follow us all the way to our hotel. It was the middle of the day but I cannot help thinking that if it were at night we probably would probably have been mugged.

I have travelled a lot around the US and in other countries and this is the only time I have ever felt scared.

Escape to Alcatraz

July 2nd 2008 04:33
A visit to the world famous Alcatraz is like being transported back in time for a day. Alcatraz has a rich history. It started out as home to one of America’s first lighthouses, it then became a military fort in 1853, then a maximum-security prison in the 1930s.

The prison closed in 1963 due to the high running costs. The land was unused until the 1969 when American Indians seized it in a land dispute. Now it is a National Park visited by thousands of tourists every year.

You get to the island by ferry. Make sure you have you camera ready as you get some fantastic views of the city and Golden Gate Bridge from the boat. When you arrive, you have a quarter of a mile hike up the hill to the prison or you could take the shuttle bus that arrives every hour.

Once you get to the island, you can wander freely, or take an audio tour. The audio tour is fascinating and narrated by ex convicts. There are also park wardens that offer extra tours and additional information.

Walking through the prison itself is amazing, you walk around the cells in the main block and get a feeling of what prison life may have been like back then.

Cell at Alcatraz

Home to some of the most notorious criminals such as Al Capone, and Machine Gun Kelly, Alcatraz was one of the most secure prisons in the world. Not only did it have the usual high walls and guard towers, the frigid waters and surrounding sea currents were enough to make escape virtually impossible.


In all 34 convicts attempted to escape over the 29 years the prison was in operation. One attempt was made famous by the 1979 movie, Escape from Alcatraz starring Clint Eastwood. The three prisoners involved in that attempt were never found. Authorities assumed they had drowned in the rough seas that surround the island; however, this has never been proven. In fact, simulated tests over the years have shown that escape may have been possible.

Purchase your tickets well in advance, as we were there in late August and tours out to the Island were completely booked for three days. I can only imagine it would be worse in the height of summer.

Ferries to Alcatraz leave from Pier 41 at Fishermans Wharf. Take something warm to put on even if it is warm in the city is can be cold on the island. Take whatever food you need, as there is nothing available once you get there.

Fishermans Wharf

June 29th 2008 23:37
Fishermans Wharf is one of the most popular tourist spots in San Francisco. The historic waterfront is the home to many seafood restaurants and tourist shops, and offers some of the best views of the bay and Golden Gate Bridge. It is also the spot to pick up a boat tour around the bay or out to the famous Alcatraz.

I enjoyed the atmosphere at the wharf. It was a bright and sunny day, and there were street entertainers were out in force.

There was even a homeless guy with a sense of humor standing with a begging bowl in one hand, and a sign in the other sign that read ‘Why lie? It’s for drugs?’

Most of the action happens at Pier 39, which is home to 110 shops, 12 restaurants, the Aquarium on the Bay, and the Turbo Ride. It is also where you pick up a boat tour around the bay, or to Alcatraz. The best part of Pier 39 though is the sea lions that come in and bask in the sun at the end of the pier.

Sea lions at fishermans wharf San Francisco
Sea lions at Pier 39

If you are a chocoholic, head down to Ghirardelli Square at the western end of Fishermans Wharf. Up until the 1960s, this used to be home to the Ghirardelli chocolate factory. The factory is no longer there but The Ghirardelli chocolate shop remains. You can tour the old chocolate manufactory or just indulge in one of their famous hot fudge sundaes, and get yourself a box of delicious chocolate to take away with you.

Some feel that Fishermans Wharf is a tourist trap, and a rip off. I would say there are better places in San Francisco to eat delicious seafood, which are not as expensive and possibly better quality than the restaurants at Fishermans Wharf.

However, there is a buzzy atmosphere with great street entertainment, and it is almost worth the trip to see the sea lions basking in the sun. My advice would be it is definitely worth a look but keep your money in your pocket there are much better places in San Francisco to eat and shop.

For nearly 100 years, The Gas Lamp District in San Diego was one of the seediest areas in the city, full of brothels and pornographic picture theatres. Then in 1982 the area was redeveloped, all the beautiful Victorian architecture was lovingly restored to make it one of the most vibrant areas in the city today.

The area is now home to many sidewalk cafes, restaurants, bars and jazz clubs, making it one of the most happening nightspots in San Diego

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One of the best San Diego Zoo

June 13th 2008 06:19
San Diego Zoo is known as the best zoo in the US, possibly one of the best in the world. With one of largest selection of animals on display, it is one of the best I have ever visited.

The zoo began with a roar (literally) in 1916, when a number of animals were brought to Balbao Park San Diego to celebrate the opening of the Panama Canal. Local physician Harry Wedgeforth was driving through the park when he heard a roaring lion and thought that it would be great if San Diego had its own zoo. From there the zoo grew into an excellent research facility and home for endangered animals. The zoo tries to create a home that is as close as possible to the animal’s natural habitat

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Venice Beach
Venice Beach

If you fancy doing some serious chilling out and people watching Venice Beach and Santa Monica LA are the best places to be

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LA Story - Part One Hollywood

May 26th 2008 05:55
I had stopped off in LA many times to change planes when travelling between London and Auckland but never really left the airport. Therefore, when my American friend decided to go to LA to see her brother and offered to show me around I decided to add a three-day stopover into my itinerary. I had been to all the amusement parks such as Disneyland etc in Orlando, so I thought a couple of days in LA would be enough to see the sights and visit my favourite shops.
First stop Hollywood, and of course the famous Hollywood sign. Did you know that the Hollywood sign used to read Hollywoodland and was originally for a housing development? The ‘land’ part was removed in 1945. Unfortunately, you cannot actually go up and sit on the sign as you see them do in the movies, but there are some good locations around the city from which to view or take pictures of it. I went to the Hollywood and Highland Centre on the corner of Hollywood Boulevard and Highland Avenue as it is supposed to have one of the best views. Even then, the sign is still miles away, and surrounded by a grey haze of pollution, but they have a telescope in the centre, and for a quarter (25 cents) you can get a closer look and even photograph the sign through it. See my artwork below.

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