Travel Diary: San Francisco Day 3 (Part 2) - Pier 39 and Musée Mécanique

January 21, 2016 (continued): After my tour of Alcatraz and since I was in the area, I headed down to the nearby tourist mecca Pier 39. I don’t have too many pictures since it was mainly souvenir and tourist-y shops, but have to shout out the left-handed shop I spotted, finally us lefties get some love! The famous sea lions of Pier 39 will be getting it’s own mega post in the next one because I went a bit snap happy with them.

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Of course my main focus was the healthy and nutritious lunch I got consisting of a s'mores filled crepe with a side of fries with a pesto aioli dip. I could feel my arteries hardening just looking at it and was already full after a few bites.

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I decided to walk off my impending food coma and go towards my next destination the Musée Mécanique, which was in the Fisherman’s Wharf. I was stopped while walking through a pedestrian crossing by a guy saying he was going to give me a ticket but then handed me a sticker saying I <3 YOUR SMILE. Then he asked me to write down my details and give a charity donation. I think I gave something like $5 because something didn't feel right and the guy seemed a little disappointed, which even more-so fueled my suspicions . Later googling I found out my instincts were right and they were panhandlers, I feel worse for the other people who had "donated" $20 - $100. So if you’re visiting in that area, beware!

Heading further towards my destination, I was spotted another attempt at some cash - this time, with a little more honesty.

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I discovered the existence of Musée Mécanique when I was researching places to visit in this area. I love pretty much anything vintage and these mechanicals were no exception. They had a range of old, interactive arcade games, fortune tellers, to mechanical scenes that played out various stories. Each game ranged from about $0.25 to $2.00.

I don’t know how the Career Pilot game caught onto the fact that I secretly self diagnose myself by googling symptoms through Web MD and think I have some obscure disease.

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I was also amused by trying out a fortune telling machine that resembled the Bocca della Verità in Rome, the mouth of truth. This game resembled various depictions of this mask where you stick your hand in it’s mouth, here it pops a fortune after, it was funny because I don’t think I realized I pressed another language and my fortune came out in Spanish. I managed to piece together the gist of it though, thanks Google Translate!

The museum is on the small side but I think worth a quick visit if you’re in the area!

Travel Diary: San Francisco Day 3 (Part 1) - Blue Bottle & Alcatraz

January 21, 2016 (continued): Being raised in New Zealand - home of many coffee connoisseurs, my eternal search for a great cup coffee in the States continued with Blue Bottle Coffee. I’d heard good things about it, so I decided to start off my day there with breakfast.

I walked to the cafe from my temporary residence, seeing great little snippets of art and architecture along the way.

I arrived there early, yet a line had already formed out the door - thankfully it moved pretty quickly. I made my order of a eggs and toast with I think was a salsa verde sauce, and a mocha. The meal and coffee were a bit on the higher end of cost, but both were well made so I had no complaints. I also liked watching their cool siphon contraption and watching the barista stir the coffee in a beaker over an open flame, it felt like being in a mad scientist’s laboratory.

Finishing up my meal, I hopped on a tram towards my next locale - Alcatraz! Being a tourist in this city, why not visit the No. 1 tourist destination in the States. I pre-booked my tickets through the official site, before I left for my trip as I read that tours are nearly always sold out on the day.

Going into the tour, I only had a general knowledge of it being the most notoriously inescapable prisons, for the most hard core criminals. My curiosity leaned more towards why everyone who had visited previously, encouraged others to do so fervently.

The line for the ferry was snaked around the lot and I can see why you should definitely pre-book your tickets, we eventually hopped aboard and departed from Pier 33. The ferry consisted of indoor seating but of course, most people chose to wrap themselves around the outside decks. It was definitely a brisk, prickly combination with the mix of San Francisco winter winds and the speed of the boat but the view was worth it. We got to witness views of the Bay Bridge, the iconic Golden Gate Bridge, and the mass of seagulls overhead and diving below - fishing for their next meal.


We arrived at Alcatraz and gathered near the dock where the docent welcomed us in and gave us a little introduction into the history. At the gathering point, you could still see remnants when the Native Americans took over the island. After the introduction we were free to explore on our own, and once inside you could get the guided tour headsets. Walking around the outside, it was a kind of eerie feeling seeing all the abandoned buildings where nature and time had taken over.

In one of the exhibits, they had displayed many of the prisoner’s personal stories of what lead them to be incarcerated. It was incredibly moving and gave you pause to not paint everyone in prison with an “evil” brushstroke. Many of them were in desperate times, stealing to provide for their family, or got caught up with the wrong people and were in the wrong place at the wrong time.

I made my way into the main prison area, where they gave you headsets that guided you through with the corresponding numbers above each area. Seeing it in person you got to see how big the prison really was, with stacks up stacks, and rows upon rows of cells that were so tight you could practically touch each end with arms stretched.

It was also interesting to see remnants of the numerous escape attempts by inmates, from widening bars with a nut and bolt contraption and starving themselves to fit through, to the infamous Battle of Alcatraz where prisoners overpowered officers, and gained control of weapons and the hanging key from the gun gallery. You could still see the damage on the floor where security had dropped grenades through the roof in an attempt to corral the prisoners to a certain area.

Out of the Administration building you could see the skyline of San Francisco as well as the Golden Gate Bridge.

Back inside the Admin building, there was this creepy red handprint above the doorframe that wasn’t mentioned in the tour but through later google research is apparently from the Native American occupation.

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I headed into the prison area where the only successful escape attempt took place. Four inmates were in on the plan and they had sculpted dummy heads in their likeness from soap, toilet paper, hair clippings from the barber and paint from the workshop. These were placed in bed the night of the escape. For 6 months they had widened the hole of the ventilation duct in their cells using various tools found discarded around the prison, this lead to the utility corridor behind the walls that was unguarded. Three of the inmates escaped successfully and their disappearance was only discovered the next morning.

I finished off my tour walking through various parts of the prison including the kitchen and underground where they showed a film on the history of Alcatraz. In the gift shop there was a former inmate there promoting his book on his experience.

I ended my tour and got onto the next ferry heading back towards San Francisco. My overall experience of Alcatraz showed me why many recommend visiting, it is thought-provoking, eye-opening, and you get to see humanity or lack thereof that took place. It is also being able to experience a piece of history that has been frozen in time, and how often do you get to do that?

Travel Diary: San Francisco Day 2 (Part 4) - Legion of Honor

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January 20, 2016 (continued): Taking advantage of my same day, dual admission from the de Young Museum, I caught the bus and headed towards the Legion of Honor - a fine arts museum located near Lands End. I wanted to visit this place because I read that it was one of the locations used in Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo, and I have an affinity for Roman style architecture (even though it is a replica of a French building!).

The exterior of the museum is quite stunning in person, the pictures don’t do it justice. In front, it is flanked by two lion statues and a few sculptures scattered about, including in the parking lot. In the distance next to it, I could see glimpses of the iconic Golden Gate Bridge peeking through the cluster of trees and fog (my first sighting!). The long stretches of the column-lined hallways on the outside created a feeling of elegance.

Below are some of my personal highlights, although it was quite a large museum and it was getting late in the day, so I only caught glimpses of a few exhibitions.

While I would love to have come up with something philosophical when seeing this painting, Samson and the Honeycomb by Guercino - my mind immediately went to those classical art memes. What do you think of my attempt?

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It was cool to see they had a gallery full of Rodin sculptures.

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I toured the restored Salon Doré designed during Louis XVI’s reign for the reception room of the Hôtel de La Trémoille. The grandeur of the gilded panelings and richly upholstered furniture transported you to a time of extravagance and luxury.

I’m no stranger to admiring the constellations and the zodiac, so this antique globe featuring a map of these was another favorite.

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Even though I strongly dislike insects, this study - Peapods and Insects by Jan Van Kessel caught my eye. I was fascinated by the minuscule details of the painting that took me back to art class in school where I would make myself go blind by painting with those one-haired brushes.

The detail in this sculpture is unreal, especially when you see it’s size. I liked how the sculptor managed to capture the emotion and action, that makes you feel like the snake could strike at any second.

A serendipitous moment I happened to snap, while trying to be artsy by framing the Monet painting with the doorways. It amuses me how it looks like the sculpture head is peering over trying to perve on the person nearby.

Ever since I was a kid, I had a love of fantasy and mythical creatures so this painting, Fairies in a Bird’s Nest by John Anster Fitzgerald was definitely a favorite. The darker tone of the fairies in his work gave it an interesting twist to the otherwise glittery portrayal that’s so popular these days.

Taking a moment to observe.

A close-up study of Renoir’s Landscape at Beaulieu. The colors and movement of the strokes give the painting such life!

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Still Life by a young up and comer you might have heard of, Vincent Van Gogh.

Moi, wanting to get up close and personal with Claude Monet’s Water Lilies. There’s nothing like getting near one of the most iconic pieces of art - seeing the ridges of the brushstrokes and smelling the paint. One of my dreams is to visit his home in Giverny, you can still see the garden where he drew inspiration from for his most famous paintings.

I had reached the end of one of the exhibitions and there were locked glass doors leading out to the courtyard, the sun was setting and had lit the sculpture and trees in the most beautiful golden glow.

I was a little obsessed with framing the art in doorways. Couldn’t help but capture this moment as I was making my way out.

I may or may not have been a little excited to see a cast of Rodin’s The Thinker statue in the middle of the courtyard and taken a few ridiculous selfies in front of.

The carving detail under the archway was beautiful and transported me back to Rome.

A couple more sculptures outside the museum.

The sun was setting and I saw a few people heading down a pathway nearby so I thought I’d check it out before I left. I’m glad I did because I got a straight shot of the sunset over the rolling hills of the Land’s End trail. To the right, I spotted the Golden Gate Bridge framed by the tops of the trees, it was a perfect end to my day here.

Catching several buses and walking back to the hotel, I got to see more of the whimsically colored homes and magical little alleyways of San Francisco.

For dinner I went to Super Duper Burgers which I’d heard good things about. I just got a regular cheeseburger, garlic fries, and a chocolate shake. To be honest I was a little disappointed, it was an ok meal and a little soggy. I’d still give them a second chance, maybe it was an off night?


I decided to wash it all down with a delicious horchata boba tea from the Boba Guys to cap off the night (I know, a real party animal).

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Weekend Playlist 🎧 🎶

My job has been non-stop busy lately. The upside to that is I get to listen to a lot of music while I work. So I thought I’d share some things that have been in my playlist rotation recently. I discovered a new-to-me artist, Sevdaliza through those random YouTube recommendations. I’m glad I clicked through because, wow - just love everything about her vibe, aesthetics and of course, sound. Her music has a kind of haunting quality to it with certain beats that gave me tingles when I listened to it through my headphones. Below, are some of my favorites so far. If you like her style, I suggest FKA Twigs as she was burning up my playlist for the past couple years and am so glad to have found similar music.

Now for a TV and music recommendation in one - 3 words, Big Little Lies. At first, I was apprehensive about watching as I heard about some of the grim and difficult to watch storylines but I kept hearing so many great things so I gave in. I binge watched this show in a couple days, I was riveted to say the least. The acting, storylines, and cinematography were outstanding. The characters showed human elements in their flaws, which allowed you to connect with them. This is definitely not light fair, but it left a significant impact and will have you thinking about it after it’s over.

Here is the trailer, but don’t base it off of that as it is so much more.

While watching the show, I fell in love with how a lot of the music was so carefully crafted to help tell the story in the most poignant scenes. It was a fantastic mix of classic and modern, I immediately had to go on Spotify and find the soundtrack.

Here’s some of my personal highlights from it:

What are some of your favorites to listen to at the moment? Hope everyone has a great weekend!

Travel Diary: San Francisco Day 2 (Part 3) - de Young Museum

January 20, 2016 (continued): Inspired by the arts and culture I witnessed at Haight-Ashbury, I ventured to Golden Gate Park where I visited the de Young Museum. Tip: They offer same day admission to the nearby Legion of Honor, to which I took full advantage of because I love me a deal.

De Young has a nice mix of classic and modern art with a range of sculptures scattered about their outdoor area and around Golden Gate Park. See below for my main highlights.

Beethoven’s Fur Elise was one of the first pieces I learned during my piano years from ages 8 - 13, so the replica of the original monument (in Central Park) by Henry Baerer caught my eye.

The Spreckels Temple of Music designed by the Reid Brothers was another favorite since it reminded me of the classic architecture I saw when I visited Rome many years ago.

First view of the de Young Museum welcomed to me by the Roman Gladiator statue by Guillaume Geefs.

The Untitled (Three Dancing Figures) sculpture by Keith Haring located in front of the museum was a favorite not only because of it's color and because Haring is an icon, but the figures also looked like they were replicating some Taekwon-Do moves (which I was a black belt in back in the day.)

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Located at the entrance to the Museum was the Drawn Stone by Andy Goldsworthy, an artist I chose to study for sculpture in high school art class. I loved his use of using natural materials and incorporating the surrounding environment as part of the art. This piece was no different as the cracks in the pavement followed the cracks in the stones. 

Fruit Still Life by Flora C. Mace and Joey Kirkpatrick - I always enjoy novelty size things whether miniature or oversize so this piece definitely ticked the box!

I love the colors in this woven piece, juxtaposing new and old world.

It was cool seeing another Chihuly piece after visiting the museum in Seattle.

I enjoyed this trompe l'oeil-esque chair as it kind of reminded me of my other favorite surrealist, De Chirico.

My inner magpie was definitely attracted to this Nick Cave soundsuit, bejeweled in beads and sequins.

David Hockney had a series of his works on display he created with an iPad. These were some of my favorites because I loved that established artists are into exploring new mediums and what they can do with it.

I love the colorways of the next set of pieces.

This room had a nice view of the courtyard out front.

It was great coming across pieces from my old homeland, New Zealand - interpretations of the Maori cloak, Kakahu. This piece was by Te Rongo Kirkwood in collaboration with Judy Robson-Deane.

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A classic Tiffany lamp.

A life imitating art moment of moi in front of Tulip Culture by George Hitchcock.

Hello Dali!

Seeing a Picasso with my own eyes.

Dropping my next mixtape at the Pool of Enchantment.

The sculpture garden with one of my favorites, the Corridor Safety Pin sculpture by Clase Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen.

Travel Diary: San Francisco Day 2 (Part 2) - Haight-Ashbury

January 20, 2016 (continued): When going to San Francisco, with an interest in the funky and artistic, you must visit the iconic Haight-Ashbury district - birthplace of the hippie movement.

Getting there early, a lot of the shops weren’t open yet so it gave me time to explore the street as a whole. I was instantly attracted to the vibrancy and vibe of the street’s facades, with enough interesting street art to fill my camera roll to my heart’s content, colorful Victorian architecture, and bits and pieces of the weird and wonderful.

Once the shops started opening I visited a few including Wasteland where I found the exact Jean Paul Gaultier jacket Cher wore in Clueless.

Also paid a visit to the original Amoeba Music store, widely known for being one of the biggest independent music chain stores. It felt like they had every music, movie, poster known to man - their catalog was huge and slightly overwhelming!

All images taken by me and opinions are my own.

Travel Diary: San Francisco Day 2 (Part 1) - Union Square

January 20, 2016 (continued): My day started off walking around my temporary neighborhood and seeing it for the first time in daylight. It was just as colorful and vibrant as it was at night. In contrast, one of my favorite buildings I came across was a black and white one that had such a cool graphic quality to it.

I ate breakfast at a nearby restaurant, Sears Fine Food. It was pretty cool as they give you a token to play the slot machine for your next free meal. Unfortunately, it was no dice for me.

After filling up on food, I went down to catch my ride at the tram stop nearby and while I was waiting I got to see a cool mix of old and modern architecture.

All images taken by me and opinions my own.

Travel Diary: San Francisco Day 1 - Late Night Arrival

January 19, 2016 (continued): Flying into San Francisco, I was greeted by the most stunning sunset I’ve ever witnessed - the sky was filled with bands of blood red and baby pink (the photos don’t do it justice!). I took this as a good omen for my next set of adventures here.

Landing in SFO, I hitched ride on the BART to my hotel. To lessen any stress, I like to be prepared and as hassle free as possible when traveling so I pre-booked my round trip ticket. I pre-printed the ticket before my trip so I could directly board the train without waiting in any lines. I was also fortunate enough that one of the stations was only a couple blocks walk to my stay for the next few days, Kensington Park Hotel.

 Walking to my hotel in Union Square, I was in the thick of the buzzing night life and I was intoxicated. The lights, the crowd, all the sights to see within a few blocks, I couldn’t get enough and it put an extra pep in my step - which helped when I had to drag my suitcase and thick winter coats uphill! I got to my destination and found it to be a charming, boutique hotel. Built in the 1920s, it had kept a lot of what I loved aesthetically about that era, the vintage fixtures, tiled floor, etc. My room was a nice size with a luxe feel to it. The only drawback was my window looked directly at another building’s wall, which is why I probably got it for a deal!

After freshening up and settling in, my buzz was still going so I ventured out to explore the area nearby. My first stop of course was for dessert at a nearby Ghirardelli. So many choices but I went classic with a scoop each of chocolate and cookies ‘n’ cream. They were a perfectly delicious nightcap and they gave you a couple squares of their signature chocolate as a bonus!

To walk off my dessert, I explored a little more near my hotel. I found a ton of high end shops and the Dewey Monument only about a block away. Just outside the Monuments square, was a man playing a jazzy tune on his trumpet and it set the mood for a kind of lovely, romantic introduction to this city.

Apologies for the phone quality photos as I didn’t feel like dragging out my big camera after I arrived. But I promise I have a whole slew of goodies coming up next!

All photos taken by me and opinions are my own.

Travel Diary: Seattle Day 5 - Bits 'n Pieces Travel Day

January 18, 2016 (continued): For this day, my visual documentation was limited due to a mixture of being burnt out from the previous day’s adventures and it being a traveling to the next leg of my tour day.

Below are just some random photos from my phone that I did manage to capture for that day.

I started off with breakfast at The Crumpet Shop since I was craving something pretty light from all the heavy eating I was doing the past few days and it was in walking distance from my hotel which was a bonus. It kind of amused me that such a “posh and proper” cuisine as tea and crumpets was right across from a Showgirls - I guess that’s the diversity of Seattle for you!

The Crumpet Shop makes crumpets from scratch so I was eager to indulge - I ordered the Pesto Tomato Parmesan and a Lemon Curd Ricotta flavors. The crumpets were fluffy, soft pillows of goodness, and the ingredients tasted fresh. I highly recommend stopping over their for breakfast or a snack if you’re in the area.

I had some time to kill before my flight, so I explored a little more of Pike Place Market. I was finally early enough to witness the famous fish tossing amongst the vendors. Got another fortune from the Zoltar outside the magic shop.

I walked around the nearby area and saw some cool street art along the way. Stopped off in the flagship Nordstrom store, where there was a Diptyque candle the size of my head -the photo doesn’t do the size justice.

I walked around the nearby area and saw some cool street art along the way. Stopped off in the flagship Nordstrom store, where there was a Diptyque candle the size of my head -the photo doesn’t do the size justice.

On my way to the airport, I spotted a cool mural. It’s funny, as I was taking this photo, a girl who was standing near me for a while also decided to take a photo. Is this like yawning, you see someone do it so you’re also compelled to do so?

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Finally reached my destination at the airport where I waited to board for the next leg of my adventure, San Francisco.

All images taken by me via iPhone6.

Travel Diary: Seattle Day 4 - Belltown

January 18, 2016 (continued): Walking back to my hotel from my day about town, I got to go through the trendy Belltown neighborhood. I enjoyed the colorful (literally and metaphorically) stores, restaurants, architecture, and art. Below, are some of the highlights of my walk through, including a mannequin sporting a new clothing trend perhaps? ;)