Wednesday, September 23, 2009

San Francisco--two short days

Day one in SF--After getting some

more sleep (after getting the LARGE van exchanged for a car); went to THE tourist destination: Fisherman’s Wharf and Ghirardelli Square. Crowds, shops, street performers, crowds, sea lions, crowds, expensive parking.

Day two in SF--Mass Transit to the California Academy of Science in Golden Gate Park. BART from the end of the line to City Center, transfer to Muni street-car (light rail) N-Judah line. This

Muni line runs under Market Street and then through another tunnel on its way to the south side of Golden Gate Park. Total travel time about 1.5 hours (it would have been faster by car but not as interesting).

California Academy of Science is in a brand new building. Inside is very industrial with a very cold/hard feel. The exhibits were great. Started with the aquarium, went through the Africa hall, the Galapagos and climate change exhibits--all great. The Rainforest was the best. Didn’t have time for the planetarium. Did get up to see the green roof--they had a docent explaining it (That is something the Minneapolis Central Library should do--maybe at least once a week tours of the green roof.) I was kind of expecting fore physics and technology. Except for the planetarium, this science museum clearly focuses on biology and does it extremely well.

On the way back, we went up to the

surface when we got off the Muni at City Center, walked around Civic Center (clearly influenced by the City Beautiful movement), walked along the Tenderloin part of Market street to Powell, had some coffee and people watched (the lines for the Powell Street Cable Car were amazing--looked like all tourists--I wonder if SF natives ever take it as transit). BART back to the hotel.

Traveling is a hassle--SFO Version,

The flight to San Francisco when fine. In fact, SunCountry seems to have more room between rows than NorthWest and pretty comfortable seats. The flight was about half full so we also had the middle seat free. Landed early--about 11 PM.

The hassle came at the rental car. Took AirTrain from SFO terminal to their rental car facility. We had pre-registered online so we should have been able to walk right up to a car and drive off. Walked into the garage as the online instructions and directed. There were NO cars. NONE. (Remember that ad about just going to the lot and picking the car you want--It doesn't work when there are NO cars.) Went back to the counter. One person was still there.

Now the fun began. The counter person had us go through the registration procedure all over and told us to go out to the National part of the garage and there would be a short wait.

Got out to the garage. the attendant said they were bringing up cars one at a time. after about 45 minutes, they directed the people were were in front of us in the line to take the last VIP car that was in the garage. After another 15 minutes, the attendant said there were no more cars. If we wanted to, we could drive one of the 10 passenger vans to our hotel and return it in the morning for a car. Since we were only about five miles way, we took it.

Got to the hotel and the key cards didn’t work--back down to the desk for new cards.

Went back to Alamo about 6 hours latter (7 AM) and complained to a manager--got about a 25% reduction on our rate (a little over $100). This was also the first time anyone at Alamo or National said “I’m sorry” or explained what happened (a big conference had come in over the weekend and they rented more cars than they should have.)

Travel plusses:

  • Plane left early and got in early
  • Plain seats were comfortable
  • Baggage showed up at baggage claim fast
  • Hotel was close
  • Two people at National finally said “I’m sorry” the next morning
  • Saved over $100 on the car rental

Travel minuses:

  • Red-eye flight
  • Trying to sleep on the plane (although this plane was more comfortable than the Egypt Air flight to Cairo)
  • No car in garage
  • Had to go through rental car registration twice
  • No one at Alamo or National were honest when we got there (they clearly knew there were no cars available when we got their--wasted an hour of our time). No one at Alamo or National Car Rental said “I’m sorry.”
  • Key card (minor)
  • Had to go back to SFO at 7 AM instead of sleeping after a red-eye flight