A Travellerspoint blog

Entries about glasses

Cable Cars and Bridges in the Bay Area

Los Altos, San Francisco, Pleasanton

sunny 22 °C
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When heading from the coast in Half-Moon-Bay towards Los Altos, we passed a nice forest and a very scenic lake. We only realized a bit later that the scenic lake was in fact the San Andreas fault – another reminder that we’re on dangerous grounds – specifically as scientists are warning that the next big earthquake is long overdue for the bay area.
Our first impression of the bay area was extremely positive. We had expected 5pm traffic towards the southern suburbs to be more than just bad, but realized that traffic was flowing nicely for most parts. So we ended up being too early at Hamish and Elis’ place in Los Altos. While we had pre-warned Hamish a couple of months ago that we’d be coming to the bay area, due to lack of reception around Big Sur, we were only able to firm up our plans that morning. So we were lucky that Hamish and Elis were spontaneous enough to receive us on such short notice.
While we enjoyed a nice BBQ and catching up, Max and Venicious enjoyed playing with each other and specifically riding Venicious’ bikes.

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They continued playing the full morning and Max did not want to leave his new friend at all. Still, we had plans, as we wanted to see San Francisco. We soon realized that we should rather give up on our original plan to park somewhere downtown and headed towards the waterfront at Fisherman’s Wharf.

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After some unexpected excellent food at a street booth, we went for the classic cable car ride We were lucky to be offered half-price day passes from other tourists (which eventually we sold for the same money at the end of our second cable car ride). Max and I sat, while Sam took the classical transportation method standing outside. We all enjoyed the cable car rides and it is simply amazing to see how steep the hills in San Francisco really are.

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After getting off at the final station at Powell / Market, we explored Union Square and Chinatown before taking another cable car back to our car. It was fun!

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Then it was time to approach the next San Francisco classic: The Golden Gate Bridge. Edging our way along the waterfront towards the bridge, already gave some nice opportunities not only of the bridge, but also of famous Alcatraz.

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But we had taken the conscious decision that did not just want to see the bridge, but we also wanted to drive over it. And we’re so happy that we took that decision: to see the bridge up close has just a different feel to it vs. just looking at it.
And best of all: on the north side of the bridge we had the evening light being just perfect and we really enjoyed taking in various viewpoints. To complete the vista, we got to see a couple of container ships and even some whales on both sides of the bridge.

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Considering evening traffic, we rather opted for going north and heading out towards Oakland via the Richmond bridge – which also had the nice side benefit that we did not have to pay any bridge tolls – to reach our next campground in Pleasanton.

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We spent the next morning in the attempt of getting Sam’s glasses fixed. He had realized that his frame had a crack on one of the two sides – the one that had not been changed a couple of months back in Germany. So we tried to locate a Silhouette retailer and at the second attempt even found one. We soon realized that they were only selling frames, but not able to fix the glasses on site. At least they were able to refer us to another store where we were promised that the new frame could be mounted within a couple of minutes.
Perfect! We went there and the guy was in fact very quick in getting Sam’s old glasses taken apart and the new fame mounted. Except that when mounting the first lens, the lens cracked… He had not realized that Sam’s lenses were high index material, which is significantly more brittle than poly-carbonate. Not good…
At least he had lenses on stock for Sam’s prescription and was able to basically make new lenses and fix them into the new frame – and all of that for 15$. Sam is happy with the result and even though this kept us busy until the early afternoon, we are glad to having done the replacement. After all, a journey like that without the proper kind of glasses would be a big miss. And after all: Yosemite was waiting for us!

Posted by dreiumdiewelt 16:48 Archived in USA Tagged car bridge golden san francisco cable bay glasses gate wharf altos Comments (0)

The ugly side of traveling: our journey to Western Australia

From Rarotonga via Auckland and Melbourne to Sydney; from Sydney via Perth to Broome

overcast 23 °C
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We were in for a big change: leaving the South Pacific headed towards Western Australia. It was approaching midnight when our taxi picked us up and took us to the airport. We had booked the Sunday Nov 6 flight at 2:35am with Jetstar and were planned to reach Sydney on Nov 7 at 9:10am after a short touchdown in Auckland. This sounds like a very long time, but it’s not. Crossing the dateline towards west, we’d lose a full day. But the actual fights should be manageable. We were at the airport early enough to make sure that we’d for sure get seats. We knew that yesterday’s Jetstar flight to Auckland had been cancelled, as the owners of our house were supposed to be on that flight. Therefore, we were weary that in addition to our flight, there will also be yesterday’s passengers hoping to get a seat.
Our shock was significant when check-in did not work as smoothly as usual. The lady at our check in desk started checking with a colleague first in order to then have a chat with her supervisor. After a couple of minutes, we learned that our flight had in fact been cancelled and our flight was now supposed to leave on Tuesday Nov 9. Even though we had not received a message in that respect, the ground staff was clear that they could not do anything at this stage, but that’s something we’d need to work out directly with Jetstar. We were told that the flight was fully booked and only in the event of several people not turning up for the flight, we might be admitted. So, this meant taking all of our stuff and waiting in the hope of few people turning up for the flight.
We were shocked, but at the same time tried to remain positively minded. Up to now everything on our trip had somehow worked out and this time we hoped that this would be true once more. It’d better be: if we’d be able to fly only on Tuesday, we’d miss our flights to Broome, which had been fairly expensive due to the remote location.
While we played all kinds of scenarios in our mind, more and more people kept turning up at the airport and I got significantly more nervous about our prospects. As it turned out, the ladies behind the desk somehow made it possible for us to check in after all.
They told us that the journey might not be pleasant, but only once we checked the details on our boarding passes, we realized how bad it would be: we’d arrive in Auckland, wait there for 15 hours, fly to Melbourne, stay overnight at the airport there for another 7 hours and then arrive in Sydney about 23 hours later vs. what we had booked.
Already at that stage, Sam asked me not to book Jetstar anymore. He enforced that statement once he saw the leg space in the plane and the lack of any kind of entertainment or in-flight services. Not even water was offered on the five-hour flight to Auckland.
At least Max slept all the way to Auckland. Once there, we realized that there is no Jetstar desk to complain or see if our connection might be improved, nor is there a playground. On the pro side, there was a nice and quiet lounge that allowed us to stretch out and have a good afternoon sleep. And while we slept, Max kept making somersaults.

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Unfortunately, I had not been cautious enough where I put my glasses while sleeping. By the time I woke up, I had to realize that the frame was broken at one side. I could still use them, but they kept hanging there so lopsided that it felt very awkward.
When we finally got to board our plane to Melbourne, we had to realize that our spell of bad luck had not been broken quite yet. It was already a bit strange that when scanning our boarding passes, there was a beep and the Jetstar lady had to somehow override the system to let us in. We were almost the first people on the plane, but when getting there we realized that our seats were already taken.
The head stewardess checked her paperwork and eventually told us that we were not supposed to be on that plane. After some further checks, we were told that we should have taken a direct Qantas flight to Sydney earlier in the afternoon and not this one. It felt like people were mocking us: we would have loved to take a direct flight to Sydney. But we simply did not know and had no way of finding out about it. Still, as the plane still had three empty seats, the ground staff managed to get us admitted on the flight and once everyone had boarded, we were given new boarding passes and were fine to go to our seats.
When arriving in Melbourne around midnight local time, we were not too surprised when our luggage did not turn up on the baggage belt. After all, we had not been supposed to be on that flight, so our baggage was not there either (even though it had been tagged for that flight).
After everything that had happened so far, we found some comfort in black humor. At least, we realized that without big bags in tow, it was much easier to get through Australian customs inspections.
At the Jetstar baggage service desk, Renee was extremely helpful. After listening to our story, she filed the lost baggage claim. She also made sure we were booked on the morning flight to Sydney (which once again we were not on) and checked us in already. She also gave us a stack of food vouchers worth over 50 AUD to at least compensate us a bit for our troubles. So at least, we were sorted.
By the time we were done at the baggage service desk, it was already past 1am and we were supposed to be at security for our next flight around 5:30am. In other words: we had four and a half hours ahead of us. A hotel at the airport would have cost more than 200 AUD and anything further away would have reduced the time at the place such that it was not worth it. So, we’d spend the short night at the airport.
Unfortunately, Melbourne airport does not feature a lounge as nice as the one in Auckland, so we ended up staying on the floor in a dead-end hallway that featured at least carpet flooring. Max slept fine, Sam slept a bit in a chair, but eventually was freezing too much just in his T-Shirt, and I stayed awake. When deciding to stay at the airport, we had factored in that we’d just get our sleeping bags and fleece jackets out of the checked baggage in Melbourne. With the baggage not arriving, this plan did just not work out as intended.

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So, this is how our November 8th, 2016 started. With such a bad start in Australia for us, we figured that at least in the US, things would be going well – after all it was the election day for the 45th president of the USA – Hillary Clinton vs. Donald Trump.
And also our luck turned a bit: The remainder of our day went as planned. So we took the morning flight from Melbourne to Sydney. We even enjoyed the fact that we were traveling so lightly without any heavy baggage.

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From the airport in Sydney it was just a 15-min taxi drive to our Airbnb place in St. Peters where we should have arrived already the morning before. The place was nice and the comfortable beds were really tempting us. But despite our aggregated lack of sleep from two nights in planes of airports, we were fit enough to head off shopping. After all, we had quite a list of things we needed to get done before heading out to Broome the next morning.
Max had the luxury of being able to borrow a balancing bike and enjoyed the ride to the nearby shopping mall. He was rewarded for his patience and for being so good in adverse situations with a fire brigade set from Lego.
But the most important thing was to get my glasses fixed. Luckily enough, there was an optometrist in the mall carrying the brand of my rimless frames. And contrary to Sam’s experience in the US, this optometrist was not only selling the frames, but also able to assemble glasses or cut new lenses. And I was really lucky: they had on stock almost exactly the part which I needed and fixed that on my glasses within two minutes! Wow – it felt great again having my glasses fully functional again!
And the mall also had everything else we needed: a food court with excellent food. And it was really cheap. But let me make a disclaimer: after five weeks in French Polynesia, the Cook Island and at airports, everything seemed to be extremely cheap in comparison. We also went food shopping at ALDI and just barely resisted stocking up on German Christstollen and other typical Christmas sweets.
Once done with shopping, we had a quiet and relaxing rest of the afternoon, a good shower and nice dinner. And yes, we went to bed really early trying to make up for the lost sleep of the last couple of days.
The next morning, it was time to go to the airport again – not even 24 hours after we had last been there. As we were anyhow at the airport, we used the opportunity to get a status update from baggage services. We were told that our bags had made it already to Melbourne. They’d still need to be custom cleared and should then be sent via Perth to Broome. At that stage, there was no telling, when they’d arrive there though.
After our rather ugly experience with Jetstar, we were thrilled about Virgin Australia. We had nice seats with sufficient leg space, individual entertainment screens with a huge and excellent choice of movies, music and games and there was good food. I watched ‘Bad Moms’ and had so much fun that I recommended Sam to watch it as well.

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In Perth, we used our three hours waiting time to get a bit of exercise. Watching TV at the other terminal, we were shocked to see that Trump was leading Clinton in the race to 270 by 236 to 208 votes. And on the flight to Broome in a Fokker 100 with as much leg space as you’d usually not even get in an exit row, the pilot ended his usual speech with the update that Donald Trump had been elected president of the USA. This is not what we had hoped for. But as usual, my friend Susan had consolation. Back in Perth I had seen her Facebook post, reminding us that despair will not help, but rather accepting the situation and seeing how to make the best of it.
In light of the bad news, we resorted to looking outside and marveling at the nice views of the outback and the Great Sandy Desert.

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Once we arrived, we moved directly to the taxi stands and were taken to our home for the next two nights, the ‘Beaches of Broome’ backpackers in Cable Beach. Soon after arriving there, we received a call that our baggage had arrived in Broome on the Qantas flight. Contrary to what we had been promised, we’d not get the baggage delivered, but would need to pick it up at the airport ourselves. I took a taxi back to the airport where I was able to take over our three big pieces of baggage. Unfortunately, Max’ car seat was missing.
So after checking in our bags on November 6 at 2am in the morning, we finally received most of them on November 9 at 7pm in the evening. Even though this is pretty awful, we were relieved to have the bags in the end.
After all, tropical Broome at the start of the wet season greeted us at 30 °C and all three of us were wearing long pants. Consequently, we were thrilled being able to change into clean shorts and to have luxuries like bathing costumes or toys again.
We were happy with the outlook not having to take any flight for the next two months. Sitting in the outside lounge area at our hostel, enjoying a cold beer (and non-alcoholic ginger beer for Max), suddenly provided us again with a pleasant outlook on life.

Posted by dreiumdiewelt 18:17 Archived in Australia Tagged night flight airport glasses seat luggage lounge cancel awful Comments (1)

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