Behold … the Corpse Flower!

20 Jun

So the San Francisco Conservatory of Flowers has a Titan Arum (known as the Corpse Flower because it smells like rotting flesh when it blooms). The bloom happens every 3-10 years for a couple of days at a time, and last week was its time to shine stink.

It bloomed Thursday, and we went Friday around 6:45pm. This was the line outside to buy tickets:
IMG_20170616_191007It took maybe 20-30 minutes to get to the front counter, and inside there was another line that took maybe 40-60 minutes. By the time we left around 8pm, the outside ticket line was three times as long.

The guy that worked there told us the smell had peaked Thursday night while the conservatory was closed. Even a day later you could see the flower starting to shut:
IMG_20170616_200046Where we took the photo was the place you could smell it the best. I don’t know what rotting flesh smells like, but this smelled like a bag of garbage left in the sun. Apparently at peak bloom you could smell it throughout the greenhouse.
IMG_20170616_200835Even though we didn’t get to see the corpse flower at its stinky bloomiest, it was really cool. I’m glad we got to see it – ticket sales closed at 8:30pm so I’m pretty sure a lot of the people who were in line outside wouldn’t have been able to get in.

We spent 20x longer waiting in line than we did actually looking at the flower, but I guess it’s a fair trade seeing that it took 10 years to bloom. =)

 

2 Days at Universal and Harry Potter World

16 Jun

OK so our next stop was Universal!

In an auspicious start to this part of our holiday, James made a special friend in our hotel elevator on the first night.IMG_20170503_190151 (1)We stayed at one of the Universal hotels, which came with express passes and early entry for both days. Highly recommended!

The main reason we were excited for early entry was because of Harry Potter world. Brian said that last time he went to Universal with his family he couldn’t even get in – they’d stopped letting people into Harry Potter world because it was too crowded.

And it was amazing. So immersive and detailed – James doesn’t even like Harry Potter and even he had a great time wandering around experiencing everything.

Like Hogwarts!
IMG_20170505_065831 In the background you can see one of the Universal employees – she was walking up to offer to take the photo for us, which was super nice. =) And here it is!IMG_20170505_065848We went on the Hogwarts ride once on the first day and once on the second day – we pretty much walked straight through both times, so didn’t get a chance to take many photos inside.

There was a greenhouse, a couple of rooms with talking/moving portraits, the sorting hat, a giant dining room with a dragon skeleton, and probably a bunch of stuff that I’m forgetting now. The lead-up to the ride was better than the ride itself IMO.IMG_20170505_070217Then outside the castle there was Hogsmeade.
IMG_20170505_065716 You could visit Honeydukes! IMG_20170505_073002We also tried butterbeer, which was delicious. Protip: the frozen butterbeer is much better than the regular.

James and I got a photo with the Hogwarts train conductor.
IMG_20170504_093913Here we are waiting for the train to take us to Diagon Alley (some of us were more excited than others).00012IMG_00012_BURST20170504100657And inside the train:
IMG_20170504_100945In the other park you could visit places like Gringotts bank, the Knight Bus (with a shrunken head that had a conversation with us), that joke shop that the Weasley brothers started, and that hardcore forbidden alley that only bad wizards went to.

You may or may not be able to tell that I have only a passing recollection of the books.

Here James is on the bus:
IMG_20170505_081943_1And this was a money exchange where you could buy wizard currency and talk to a goblin: IMG_20170505_082521The coolest (or at least the most photogenic) attraction was the dragon that sits on top of the Gringotts bank. Every so often it would roar and shoot flames out of its mouth.
IMG_20170505_082754Apparently I missed the memo that we were going to be making stupid faces. thought we were taking a nice group picture.
IMG_20170504_102017There were lots of little stores where you could buy souvenirs, but set up like they were actual stores in the Harry Potter universe. Even for non-fans it’s great, so for actual fans it must be mind-blowing.

I enjoyed Universal a lot more than I thought I would! It did lean heavily on the “wear 3D glasses while you sit in a vehicle” type of ride that I’m not all that keen on, but there were lots of other fun rides to make up for it.
IMG_20170504_150515(That one was actually not as bad as it looked!)

We also really liked the Simpsons part of Universal. You could eat at Krusty Burger and drink Duff beer at Moe’s Tavern. The guys said that the Duff beer was quite terrible, but they still drank it for the experience.
IMG_20170504_182328A noble spirit embiggens the smallest man.
IMG_20170504_182513Universal was definitely a lot more relaxed than Disney. We had express passes for everything, so (aside from Harry Potter world) we didn’t have to be strategic about when we went on rides, and there were way fewer crowds.

So yeah, that was our holiday! It was great seeing Brian again – some of the best times we had that week were at dinner, just laughing and drinking and catching up. We’re going to try and figure out another group trip later this year (only with Matt added because we all miss Matt).

And then … the Five Horsemen shall ride again!

5 Days in Disneyworld – The Most Magical Place on Earth

9 Jun

In May this year, James and I went to Disneyworld!

Disney wasn’t really on our radar but Brian (who now lives in Atlanta) suggested it would be a good place for a friend reunion. James and I spent 5 days at Disney and 2 at Universal – we added an extra day at Magic Kingdom since it was our first time.

Day 1 – Magic KingdomPhotoPass_Visiting_MK_402717919769 (1)We got to the Magic Kingdom early and knocked out a bunch of rides before it got too busy. We could walk onto rides that normally had a 60+ minute wait, so it was definitely worth doing.

At 2:30pm we took a break to go back to our hotel and nap, before coming back for our dinner reservation at Be Our Guest.

Here we are outside the castle:
IMG_20170429_164316Seeing inside was cool, but the line to meet The Beast was really long and we paid upscale dining prices for very average food (though it was nice to get out of the heat). Would not recommend. IMG_20170429_181446We went on a few more rides after dinner. The lines definitely got shorter after 8pm.IMG_20170429_201733 (1)But we were pretty knackered from the heat and all the walking and crowds, so went back to our hotel at 10pm.

By then, Brian and Will had arrived and tried to entice us out to drinks with this photo from Downtown Disney:
18216083_10107913183972700_1484057744_o But we were having none of it and sent back this photo from our hotel bed. IMG_20170429_215434It’s basically single vs married life.

We all agreed to meet at Animal Kingdom bright and early the next day. “Tomorrow,” Brian said, “the Four Horsemen shall ride.”

Day 2 – Animal Kingdom

The original plan was to go straight onto Expedition Everest but the ride was down that morning. =( So instead we went to Dinoland and did a few of the rides there.

Will was so jealous that I was the Chosen One.
IMG_20170430_091124(Disney uses the red card to time how long it takes to get through the standby line).

We went on Expedition Everest and Kali River Rapids a few times. Each subsequent ride on KRR got more and more fun. Not everyone would get equally wet, so each time we’d try to predict who would get drenched, and when they did the whole raft would laugh at them.18216344_10107917558980150_264678123_o (1)We did pretty much everything at Animal Kingdom, and it was James’ favourite park. He liked the safari and all the rides and the general theme.

The River of Light show at the end of the night was pretty meh though. I thought the Tree of Life was much cooler.
IMG_20170430_214420Animal Kingdom was by far the walking-est day at 30k+ steps compared to 20k+ at all the other parks. My feet were absolutely killing me, and when we got back to the hotel James gathered some ice to make me an ice pack which really helped. =)

Day 3 – Epcot

The next day was Epcot, which again involved a lot of walking. But this time I was ice-fortified.IMG_20170501_090025There were pretty short lines for everything so between that and strategic fast passes we didn’t have to wait too long for anything.

Here we are about to go on Mission Space: Orange. Notice how careful James was to get the astronaut display in the photo.
IMG_20170501_121458I had voted to go on the wussier Mission Space: Green, but was overruled. Later, everyone was full of regret. It felt like that Gravitron ride where you’d stick to the wall as the ride spun around – I’ve definitely lost my tolerance for that kind of stuff!

We had lunch at Via Napoli right afterwards, which settled our stomachs. James ordered a Moscow Mule (with Mickey ears!).IMG_20170501_131341This is the huge pizza that I split with Brian. I don’t know why he looks so suspicious of the pizza.IMG_20170501_134304Then we headed to the World Showcase. We tried to drink our way around the world but it was too much booze and instead we settled for taking selfies in every country.

Mexico
IMG_20170501_153124Me and Will after we split a margarita.IMG_20170501_161421(This is why we couldn’t continue with drinking around the world).

Norway
IMG_20170501_163207

China
IMG_20170501_163853

Germany
IMG_20170501_173123

Italy
IMG_20170501_173658

USA IMG_20170501_180915

Japan
IMG_20170501_182643   Morocco IMG_20170501_183138

France
IMG_20170501_184203

United Kingdom IMG_20170501_184731

Canada
IMG_20170501_185220

Then we had dinner at Le Cellier, watched IllumiNations, and headed back to our hotels, ready for the next day.

Day 4 – Magic Kingdom

James and I sprung for Early Morning Magic at Magic Kingdom. This let us in 45 minutes before everyone else and we could ride Seven Dwarfs, Peter Pan and Winnie the Pooh as many times as we wanted, and came with an AYCE breakfast. It was pretty magical being in the park with hardly anyone else there.

Front cart for Seven Dwarfs!
IMG_20170502_080856We tested out a bunch of different cart locations and thought back cart was the most fun.

We went on Seven Dwarfs 4 or 5 times, Winnie the Pooh and Peter Pan once each, then had breakfast before the rest of the park opened.

Then we met up with Brian and Will and went on a bunch of other rides. My favourite thing was seeing talking Mickey Mouse. The talking effect was so realistic and even though I know Mickey isn’t real it was still mind-blowing. Even James was impressed. It was really fun seeing how he interacted with everyone – he did a magic trick for us. =D
PhotoPass_Visiting_MK_402717787521 (1) And of course, the Mickey selfie! IMG_20170502_111057We stayed to watch the fireworks show, which was really lovely, and got a group photo at the end of the night (we’re a little bit wet because we went on Space Mountain again).
PhotoPass_Visiting_MK_402717847017 (1)Splash Mountain was our favourite ride in Magic Kingdom. It was down the first day James and I were in Magic Kingdom so we were very glad that they got it working again. =)

Day 5 – Hollywood Studios

This was our final day at Disneyworld. As soon as we got to the park we went on Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster (front cart again, yay!)

Then we headed to the Star Wars section, which the boys were very excited about.
IMG_20170503_110247Here is Will, butting in on our Star Tours photo:
IMG_20170503_105126(Also, I discovered that I’m not very good at rides where you’re in a moving vehicle while you watch a 3D movie. Brian says he’s the same way, and it’s because your brain detects the slight differences between what you’re seeing and how you’re moving and it messes you up).

But anyway, I got to meet the Mayor of Hollywood! He gave me some mayor money and told me to vote for him.
IMG_20170503_114244

We did all the rides since it wasn’t a very big park. I think theme-wise though, it was my favourite.

We got a group photo in front of the Tower of Terror. =)
PhotoPass_Visiting_STUDIO_402717787543 (1)And a selfie in front of Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster!
IMG_20170503_155501We just kept getting fast passes for Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster and Tower of Terror and walking on with hardly any lines, so that was nice.

The original plan had been to stay for Fantasmic at the end of the night, but we’d done everything we wanted and decided just to head to our Universal hotel early.

So we grabbed our bags, said goodbye to Disney and hello to Universal, ready for two more days of theme parks!

Cat Life

17 May

A few weeks ago James and I were in bed with Kyoto was sitting at our feet. Then Mouse jumped up and started bothering Kyoto, so Kyoto got pissed and left and Mouse chased after him.

*pause*
James: (sounding annoyed) Well now we have no cats

Also have a bonus selfie of James and Mouse.
17218458_10155101221503185_5866052265684692670_o

Ocean Beach Fire Pits

15 May

Just before we left for Disney (a whole bunch of posts about that coming soon!) we hung out with some friends at Ocean Beach. There are 16 fire pits and apparently they go pretty quickly – Patrick showed up at 2pm to claim one and said they were all gone within half an hour.

James and I rocked up around 2:30pm to keep him company. It was an intermittently overcast day and for awhile the clouds made this cool shape.
IMG_20170422_150443As we waited, people kept walking around and eyeing the pits hopefully – maybe 4 or 5 groups came up to us to ask if we were going to use the one we were sitting around. So yeah, arrive at/before 2pm if you want one. Probably even earlier during summer – an article I read recommended 11am!

The Safeway near Ocean Beach sells firewood and we used 3 boxes, plus a whole bunch of firewood scavenged from old illegal fires that people had made in the sand.

We were by far the least prepared group on the beach. Everyone else had chairs, tents and food. The group next to us were chopping vegetables, making salads and had brought a portable Weber to grill. We … we had to ask to borrow their lighter to start our fire.

Here is a photo of our initial attempts (in the background you can see the superior group).
IMG_20170422_170609Success!
IMG_20170422_172026 For a long time it was just the kindling that burned and we couldn’t get the logs to catch. We babied that fire like crazy to make sure it didn’t go out. I was pretty proud of us for not using lighter fluid like most of the other groups. Look at our magnificent fire!
IMG_20170422_175421We didn’t bring a corkscrew, so James hacked at the wine cork with his leatherman to mixed results.IMG_20170422_173317When Patrick’s girlfriend arrived she brought a dog that she was dogsitting (apparently it was half coyote?). James was instantly overjoyed by the dog but the dog didn’t quite know what to make of James.
IMG_20170422_195552It got cold very quickly once the sun went down. I was wearing a fleece jacket and regretted not bringing an additional layer. The (magnificent) fire helped but I was definitely on the chillier side of comfortable.

Patrick’s girlfriend also brought ingredients for s’mores. What a champion! Yes, until she arrived we didn’t have s’mores ingredients. I told you we were unprepared. Here is the exhaustive list of the things we brought:

  • football
  • guitar
  • Jelly Bellies
  • Malteasers
  • Funions
  • almonds
  • wine-with-no-corkscrew
  • beer
  • cider
  • wood-with-no-lighter
  • supermarket sushi for one

We made it work, but as you can imagine the s’mores were very well-received.
IMG_20170422_202903 (1)The lighter embers from the fire kept getting blown out by the wind. They look like yellow streaks in the photos which I think is pretty cool.
IMG_20170422_202323So yeah, that was a fun evening. =) Until the next day when we woke up and realised that all our clothes smelled like smoke and there was sand everywhere. Ah well, such is (fire pit) life.

A Pre-Birthday Celebration: Liholiho Yacht Club and Into the Woods

13 Apr

The Saturday before my birthday James and I had a fancy(ish) night out. I’d gotten rush tickets for Into the Woods that morning, so it was a bit of a last minute decision to move my birthday celebration a couple of days earlier.

We started with dinner/drinks at Liholiho Yacht Club – an upscale Hawaiian restaurant in Nob Hill. We arrived about 10 minutes before it opened and the line was already around 20 people long. Luckily we were among the last people who were able to get a seat at the bar.

I should have taken a photo because the restaurant interior was gorgeous (and super spacious!). Have some entrance floor tiles instead.
IMG_20170318_190135We only saw them on the way out, and James sagely (and somewhat drunkenly) said “it means hello and goodbye”. Thanks James, for that piece of information that LITERALLY EVERYBODY ALREADY KNOWS.

We ordered a couple of cocktails before dinner (and then during dinner). Unfortunately a lot of them were rum-based, which James is historically not a fan of. I liked them though! No photos, but my favourite was the Coconut Telegraph ($13).

We started off with the Tuna Poke ($17.50). It was small but delicious.IMG_20170318_173230Poke seems to be everywhere these days.

Anyway, next we had fried oysters and beef carpaccio ($14.25).
IMG_20170318_174047
Then some duck liver toast with jalapeno and pickled pineapples ($11). IMG_20170318_174622
I was worried James wouldn’t like it because he doesn’t really like pineapples but he did!

Beef tongue in a poppy seed bun ($14)
IMG_20170318_173801Our main (to share) was grilled shortribs ($42.75)
IMG_20170318_180036The marrow was amazing – it was very cheesy but lactose-intolerant James had a bite anyway and started laughing because of how incredibly full of cheese it was. I had major food envy when I saw the rib-eye that the couple next to us had ordered – maybe next time!

James wasn’t quite full yet so he ordered some sashimi ($17.50).
IMG_20170318_182102 (1)And I had dessert (that James couldn’t share because of the ice cream). It was a Baked Hawaii ($11).
IMG_20170318_183450Isn’t it pretty? It looked like a little beehive. =) It was so densely packed with ice cream that it tipped me from “pleasantly” into “roll me out the door” full. No regrets.

Afterwards we made our way to the theatre to see Into the Woods. The seats were pretty good – here was our view:
IMG_20170318_193845

We both enjoyed it but felt the second half dragged a bit. It was supposed to be a stripped down/minimalist production but the concept was more clever than effective I think.

We were both super exhausted afterwards (because we’re both so very old now), got a car home, and pretty much went straight to bed. It was fun to do a full night out – dinner, drinks and a show to herald in my 34th. =)

Hamilton!!

16 Mar

Like much of the US I’ve been obsessed with the Hamilton soundtrack. And also like much of the US I’ve been unable to see the Broadway show because tickets are freaking impossible to get.

I was briefly excited to find out that Hamilton was coming to San Francisco (from March until early August) but almost all the (regularly priced?) tickets sold out to theatre members before they were released to the public. Our friend’s girlfriend actually became a member just so she would have guaranteed early access to Hamilton tickets.

The venue released some $850+ premium tickets, but ugh. I didn’t want to pay that when we’d paid $200 for similar seats for Book of Mormon and Jersey Boys.

Not really expecting much, I entered the Hamilton lottery … and won it on my second try! When I collected our tickets the guy at the box office told me that over 27k people had entered! James called me his lucky cricket. =)

(He actually calls me that more than you might assume)

IMG_20170312_130222Yes, tickets were $10! Alexander Hamilton is on the $10 note – that’s why it says Ham4Ham. I saw on the venue website that shitty partial-view seats  were $200 (I checked out the vantage point after the show – those seats were terrible) so this was an absolute bargain.

We arrived early to take in the atmosphere and take photos outside. (It was sunny and 24C that day – James said he had intense jacket regret).
IMG_20170312_120152This spot on Market street was in great demand for photo taking (also note James’ lack of jacket in this later photo).
IMG_20170312_121017It was at the Orpheum Theatre, which isn’t too far from our place. You can kind of get an idea of the crowd about 30 minutes before the show.
Burst_Cover_GIF_Action_20170312120722And here was our view!
IMG_20170312_124054I think the best seats would probably be 10-15 rows back. But for $10 I had been expecting the aforementioned shitty, partial-view seats, so the seats we got – 2nd row and right in the middle – were amazing and far exceeded my expectations.

It was interesting being up close. You could see the performers sweating and, at the emotional parts you could see the tears in their eyes. I didn’t realise that the singers wear microphones – I’d always assumed they were just amazing at projecting their voices!

This was part of the orchestra pit – I’ve never thought to look in before and it was really cool.
IMG_20170312_125509The performance was sooo much better than just listening to the soundtrack. Honestly, if I’d bought the $850 tickets I don’t think I would have been disappointed. The choreography added so much to the music, and I was enthralled during songs I know word for word. During Satisfied I think my mouth was open the whole time. I’ve seen a fair few Broadway musicals and this blew them all away.

The stage had a giant lazy susan that they used a lot during the songs. James and I had both thought the performers were just really good at walking on the spot.
IMG_20170312_144444The atmosphere was really great – everyone there was obviously a huge fan, and we were all so excited to be there. Every song got huge cheers (except It’s Quiet Uptown but I think that’s because everyone was too busy crying to cheer).

It was such a memorable show. It was sad, funny, witty, wise – just an incredible performance and I feel so fortunate we were able to experience it. Best $20 I ever spent!