Trevi Fountain

After grabbing a coffee and a pastry (the Italian breakfast) at the corner cafe, we made our way to Trevi Fountain. Tons of people!!! Could not really get near the fountain itself unfortunately. And I’m already out of patience with the crowds so after a bit of a try to get down to the fountain edge I bailed out.

At this point we are done with the tourist attractions and will be focusing the remainder of our trip either exploring around where it’s not so crazy and spending time with Deniz’ cousins.

I feel like a magnet for the street sellers. They’re like vultures and they’re persistent. And I’ve had enough. At all the attractions as soon as you stop to take a picture we are being approached and chased. They call us “black and white” and call me “Africa”. I have no idea why. But they’re really persistent. They approach talking nice. When you refuse and walk away they will follow trying to break you down. Then they try to get your hand to slip what they’re selling into it. First time I just dropped it and walked away. The rest of the times I was careful to not let them grab my hand again or slip something on me.

At the Spanish Steps, there are many guys trying to sell roses. They were especially persistent to the point where we had to get angry with them. I saw them with other people handing them a rose and letting go. The plan here is that you will catch it but some are smart to just let it fall on the ground. We over heard two girls who first accepted a rose and gave the guy some money. Then, he wanted more. The girl then got mad saying she was not going to give him more because she did not want the rose and did not want to pay anything in the first place.

Then, there are the people trying to sell skip the line tickets and tours. They’re also very persistent. They also don’t take no for answer and follow you. Near the Vatican one guy didn’t like when after he asked what language we speak and Deniz answered “Chinese”. LOL.

I know they’re just trying to make a living but from our point of view, it took away from the enjoyment of the attraction by having to fight these guys off every few minutes. You finally get rid of one and then another has you as a target. It’s ridiculous!To be clear, none of these people I’m complaining about here were Italian. We had to get aggressive back with them and of course they didn’t like it.

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Florence

Today, we went on our day trip to Florence. We started by getting a cab through Free Now app from our hotel to Termini Station. We arrived and waited for our train platform assignment. We made our booking with TrenItalia. Your booking confirmation will include a train number, departure time, car number and seat assignment. On the departures board at the train station look for your train number and departure time. The departures board will note the final destination location so you may not see ‘your’ destination listed. Lastly, keep watch for a platform number. Once you have a platform assignment make your way in. Show the guards your booking confirmation and head towards your platform number. Next, look for the red post tags to find your car number. Once aboard go to your seat. Easy!

The ride itself was really nice. According to the train Frecciarossa (red arrow) the high speed train reaches a top speed of 360km/hr!

The views of the country side en route were really nice. Lots of farm fields of vineyards, sunflowers among other things.

Upon arrival at Firenze Santa Maria Novella station in Florence, we made our way to the various places we had selected. Again the sun was quite hot (30 C). We went through the market – Mercato di San Lorenzo – and towards the main attraction, Piazza del Duomo. There we found an enormous basilica. One of the largest in the world. First, we were met by the Baptistery of Saint John.

Followed by the Florence Cathedral. One of the largest basilicas in the world.

And Giotto’s Campanile.

The structures are enormous by themselves and together they combine to make a huge complex.

Within the Piazza del Duomo we stopped at a place for lunch (Le Botteghe di Donatello). We had a grilled portobello mushroom appetizer and both had fried veal scaloppine with fries. I was not expecting too much but this ended up being our best meal so far. The veal was lightly breaded and cut thin. The fries were crispy and both had a very nice flavour.

We then made our way to the Arno River and Ponte Vecchio.

Finally, it was time to return to Firenze Santa Maria Novella train station to go back to Rome and our hotel room. Another good day completed.

Activity tracker stats….16,239 steps and 9.76kms covered today. Yesterday’s totals were 16,515 steps and 10.07kms covered.

First full day

Today, our first full day started out with breakfast at Maranti Cafe. I started my day with an prosciutto and artichoke panini. I didn’t get a pic as I ate it before I remembered. Oops!

Next, we made our way to the meeting point for our city bus tour. It began near the Vatican, circled down around the Coloseum and back. We sat on a double decker bus on the second level where it was open but with a roof. We didn’t know we were supposed to bring our own headphones so we missed the audio guided tour. Here’s some samples:

Next we walked to the Pantheon. An old church built between 113-125 AD. Incredible and breathtaking is all I can say. Just amazing inside.

Next, we walked to the Spanish Steps, Piazza di Spagna. We walked all the way up. The steps are slanted downward after the centuries of use. Nice to be able to walk up now that sitting on the steps are forbidden.

We then walked to the Villa Borghese since we were close. But being late in the day I was not up for renting a bike or electric buggy to tour the park. We watched the amazing sunset and then made our way back down to street level to find somewhere to eat. Being in a touristy area, none of the places looked very good. But we chose a Pizza place to have a salad and water to tie us over. We wanted to try a place near our hotel. That was ‘ok’. We then grabbed a cab back to our area via a ride sharing app (Freenow – nothing free about it though).

Dinner is late here in Italy. The place, L’antica Fraschetta was packed. We ordered a house red, with calamari appetizer. I ordered spaghetti with clams and Deniz ordered Rigatoni Carbonara. Both our entrees were delicious! Better than last nights dinner.

Now, we are re-charging for our day trip to Florence tomorrow. Stay tuned……

Dinner

Being tired from the journey to get here we decided to just walk out and see what’s near to our hotel. While we wanted to try and eat at places local Romans would and try and avoid the touristy places, for this meal it didn’t matter. We looked at a couple of places and settled on Il nido del Pettirosso. A nice little cozy place showcasing Trip Advisor and Roma awards. It’s gotta be good right?

We both ordered pasta dishes with a vegetable starter to share.

Tuna starter. Delicious!!

Vegetable starter. Nice pesto sauce. Everything was delicious!!

My main plate which is another starter. Homemade pasta with pecorino cheese, almonds and dried apricots.

Food was pretty decent but the presentation and service was excellent. Upon leaving the host ran to hold the door open for us. Certainly don’t see this kind of service around much.

Good service, cozy atmosphere and a decent menu make this a good consideration .

Rome

We have arrived! Customs is quite impressive here. Scan of passport, take picture, then proceed to get your passport stamped. Oh, and there are strict instructions to open passport to a blank page so the officers can quickly stamp it. They do a good job in keeping the lines moving.

It’s incredible the amount of pushiness and selfishness at the airport. Around the carousel to pick up bags people think nothing of it to go in front of you. At the bus terminal, it starts as a single line but as soon as the bus arrives and it’s chaos. Everyone swarms the bus! LOL!

After our bus ride to Termini station we then made our way on foot to our hotel. I think on our way out we will take a taxi. Navigating cobblestones with luggage was challenging.

We are freshening up and will head out to look around and find somewhere to eat dinner.

Ciao

Trip Summary

Reflecting back on our time in San Francisco we had a great time. While Deniz had been there before years ago it was my first time. It was great to see somewhere new and experience new things. For the most part everyone we met from servers at restaurants to Uber drivers to store clerks were all very friendly. We had some nice conversations with some of our Uber drivers.

We stayed at the Chancellor Hotel which is an old family run hotel. Great service and very clean. It was also pretty cool staying in an old rustic hotel. The rooms were a good size complete with walk in closet! During our travels in Japan we didn’t even have a closet so this was very nice.

What we liked.

We really enjoyed visiting Sausalito. The views of the bay were amazing. While very touristy it was also quite nice and clean. Lots of nice looking places to eat and many shops to pick up some souvenirs. We also enjoyed all of our tours starting with the city tour by Painted Ladies Tour Company. Getting a tour while riding in a cool vintage Volkswagen van was awesome! Our driver, Mike was a wealth of information despite being on the job for just two months.

Next was our Bridge 2 Bridge tour by Red and White Fleet. We had a nice sunny day for it (and paid a little through some minor facial sun burns). After departing we made our way along the coast towards the Golden Gate Bridge, passed through under it, turned around, passed back under it and towards the Oakland Bay Bridge. We passed close to Alcatraz Island on our way by. We then passed under the Oakland Bay Bridge, turned around and passed back. We then made our way back to our port. This was a 90 minute tour with headsets providing audio history from start to finish. Fabulous tour!!!

Last but not least was our tour of Alcatraz Island. For this tour you need to book at least three months in advance through Alcatraz Cruises which is the only website authorized to sell tickets. After booking your tickets and departure time, you need to arrive at least 30 minutes ahead of your departure time. Once you are on the island you can stay as long as you like. There is a ferry back to San Francisco every half hour and you can take whichever one back that suits your schedule. The cell house was a guided audio tour with headsets to guide you through and provide history and stories. The audio included narrative from some of the inmates themselves. It was so cool to walk down the cell block and hear some of the stories and events that happened right where we were standing.

The steep streets were astonishing. We thank one of our Uber drivers for providing us with a “San Francisco” experience. After asking him where some of the streets were where that cool chase scene in Bullit was, he took us to one that was close. The intersections are all flat but passing downhill through a steep hill makes you feel like your driving off a cliff. You see nothing and then the front nose drops! Quite the experience and we are thankful to our Uber driver that evening for giving us this.

The seafood is amazing. More selection and fresh seafood was so delicious. Being able to order crab and get real crab meat instead of imitation crab meat was a real treat.

The calamari and pizza at Tony’s Pizza Napoletana was amazing! Our leftover slices were breakfast two days later and still delicious.

Maru Sushi was so good that after opening our trip there, we returned to close off our trip.

What we did not like.

The homeless situation is a big problem. I am still shocked by the numbers (140,000 people). I am also still shocked of seeing a couple of homeless men urinating right on a busy street with crowds of people around. I still can’t get over how they don’t even try to conceal themselves. Of course this leads to the other problem, the smell. Everywhere we walked smelled like urine. It was so bad some days I started to call the place San Franpissco. This leads to yet another problem. Almost every store had either a security guard or police officer. These people go on the streets because stores don’t want them using their washrooms. At Macy’s department store the washrooms have a combo lock on it. You need to obtain the code from a sales representative. Jeez!

The cost of eating is also quite expensive there and our low Canadian dollar does not help. A simple breakfast with eggs, bacon, hash browns, orange juice and coffee for both of us was over $50 Cdn. Every meal ended up being between $50-100 for the two of us. This compared to having a top quality sushi meal in Tokyo for around just $30 for both of us. Incredibly, it is easier to eat well and much affordably in Tokyo.

What we missed.

In a week it is obviously difficult to accomplish everything so not surprising that we missed some things on our list. First, we never did ride those cool streetcars. As mentioned earlier it was simply more cost effective to take an Uber pool ride. Unlike public transit that does not go everywhere, Uber pool pretty much picks you up and drops you off where you want. Too convenient. Considering the cable car is $7 per person compared to an average cost of $8-10 for both of us in an Uber pool ride, the decision was easy.

We also did not get to Amoeba Records. It was close to Golden Gate Park when we were there but everything adds up and we scratched it off our list in order to save some money.

While we saw Coit Tower, we did not get to it. Lack of time and again trying to budget the cost of getting around.

We also made it to the top of Twin Peaks on our city tour but it was an extremely foggy day and we saw nothing unfortunately.

Some final thoughts.

We thoroughly enjoyed this trip. We met some really nice people and enjoyed some really nice tours. I am so thankful for seeing the many places around San Francisco. While the food was expensive it was delicious! So glad to have had their famous clam chowder at a couple of places.

Would I go back? Perhaps. But at the moment I am quite content with our trip and have no current interest in going back. There’s no negative feelings behind this. It’s simply that we’ve been there, done that and happy with the outcome. I would though, like to see more of California. Somewhere different. It’s all good! 👍

Last Afternoon/Evening in San Francisco

After leaving Golden Gate Park we made our way to the Mission District to Taqueria Cancun. On our city tour the guide mentioned this was one of the best Mexican restaurants. We decided to stop by to try. We both ordered a chicken taco.

Deniz also ordered a Seafood Ceviche.

The taco was delicious! Both were pretty spicy for us, though. The Ceviche was really spicy and we were not able to finish it, unfortunately. There were many awards hanging in the walls. Definitely a good place! Just a bit too spicy for us. I remembered this area was were Carlos Santana grew up and looked up where his mural was. Fortunately it was right at the corner near to us. I didn’t get a chance to take a picture while on our city tour.

We then returned to our hotel to change a rest a bit before heading back to Maru Japanese Restaurant for our last supper there. We opened our trip by having dinner at Maru and wanted to return. Figured it was nice to close out the trip there too. This time I ordered sashimi. This was delicious but I preferred the chirashi I had the first time as it had more variety. I got the 9 piece but perhaps should have gone with the 12 or 15 piece to get more variety.

Delicious meal again. Best part is being able to get actual kani (crab) sushi instead of imitation stuff we get here.