America · Arizona · California · Food · Travelling

Post-Flight Jet Lag

I’m back in England now and suffering from the curse of flying west to east – Jet lag! I tried to avoid the worst of it – I slept about four hours on the plane (discovering that eye masks are actually a massive help in sleeping was a game changer!), stayed up until the evening and tried to keep to as normal a routine as possible, but it’s not completely worked, so I’m going to be productive and use this time to write about a few of the final thing we have done, places we saw and food we ate in our final days in Phoenix and San Francisco.

On the final Sunday we all went out for brunch at the Biltmore hotel, which was undergoing HUGE renovations at the time – it looked unrecognisable inside from our previous visits! All the interiors were halfway through being repaired, the main entrance in particular was being redone at the time! However, brunch at Frank and Albert’s was still delicious. I decided on the huevos rancheros, which featured a lot of guacamole, cheese and the most delicious chorizo, all with added black bean purée which is always a bonus!


The Biltmore is also the only place where meat and cheese is a necessary addition to a Bloody Mary. This wasn’t my drink so I can’t vouch for if it added to the flavour, but it definitely added interest!


After brunch we took a wander around some of the grounds of the hotel, Nathaniel did some painting and we enjoyed the sunshine for a short while. The hotel has some beautiful features to it and I can only imagine it must be a lovely place to stay! 





In the afternoon, Chloe and I tried to replicate the Arizona baking-cookies-outside challenge, however we chose the wrong week in which to visit for that! Despite earlier in the year having been unbearable for Phoenix, we hit right in the middle of monsoon season. Thunderstorms, yes. Humidity – oh yes! But temperatures hot enough to bake cookies on the hood of your car? Not so much. We nearly made it with one set on the hood of the car inside the garage, but the heat just wasn’t there (and the batter was disposed of before the experiment could be finished…)


Test site one – by the swimming pool. (The shadow is me – they weren’t in the shade). These were not a success – they were disposed of after being eaten by ants and stood on… 


On the car bonnet in the garage – the one closest to working!


On the car bonnet outside – much cooler than in the garage so not a real success either…

The final evening in Phoenix was completed by night swimming (after a steak barbecue and many cakes!) and water balloons- the perfect way to cool down.


If only this was appropriate in England!

The next day (Monday) we flew back to San Francisco, just for one night. Landing in the late afternoon we arrived at our hotel, checked in for our flight the next day and also realised we had got there just in time for cookies – you know it’s a good hotel when they give you tea and cookies/brownies at 4pm! We then headed out to Chinatown and enjoyed a massive Chinese Szechuan banquet for our final meal (we hadn’t eaten yet!)


Chicken and lemongrass potstickers and fried wontons


Spicy beef and vegetables

Apparently I failed to take pictures of the rest but it also included hot and sour soup, cashew chicken and mixed fried rice – alongside the fortune cookies and tea! Absolutely delicious, particularly the beef, but I definitely don’t feel the need to eat Chinese food again for a while!


San Francisco in the evening

The next morning we walked around through the districts of Mission in order to prepare for the long flight ahead, particularly with regard to food – I do not have faith in airline meals! We started with breakfast at Hayes Valley Bakeworks with this wonder:


Maple-bacon-cinnamon rolls – whoever invented this is a genius. I’m a sucker for that flavour combination anyway and this was simply divine!

After walking through from our hotel to Mission and around the surrounding areas for a few hours, we broke for lunch/brunch at about 11 at El Taqueria Farolito, a recommendation which proved to be an amazing find. Absolutely huge burritos – I had the regular and I dread to think what the large would have been like! We made the rookie mistake of ordering chips as well – not a plan! The proteins were also hugely varied – we went for the safer options of carne asada (steak) and chorizo but we could have had beef tongue, beef head or beef brains! Maybe next time!


Finally to complete I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to visit Bi-Rite Creamery (also in Mission) – another recommendation which I was happy to receive! After vacillating between flavours such as peach cobbler, basil and watermelon-coconut I finally decided to go with the black sesame and strawberry balsamic combination. Definitely a good final dessert in San Francisco.

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America · Travelling

San Francisco- Day Two

So this was meant to be one post about San Francisco, but it took far to long to write the first one – we clearly do a lot! This is now day two – our only full day.

The hotel we stayed in provided us with muffins and coffee for breakfast- I discovered that ‘half and half’ does not make nice coffee… 

Next we started walking through some of the districts including Mission, Castro and Japantown before heading towards the Golden Gate Park. 



(No guesses as to what Castro is known for!)


This is called ‘Alpine Street’ – well named!

Starting at the conservatory we then walked through the Memorial Gardens and towards the lily pond (weirdly foul-smelling) and the Japanese Tea Garden (expensive – $8 dollars if you wanted to go in!)


The conservatory at Golden Gate Park


The less-than-fragrant lily (never saw any…) pond

We then wandered down by the lake where I was surprised to find turtles! I didn’t even think about seeing them in the wild but was struck by how still they were – sat on sticks in the middle of the lake!




Afterwards we caught a bus back to the centre and walked back to Little Saigon to get a Bahn Mi from Saigon Sandwich – definitely the best roast pork sandwich I’ve had for a long time!


Then we walked back to the Piers, heading for Pier 43 and a half, and our boat tour! This took us out to the Golden Gate Bridge, around past Alcatraz and back to the mainland, but was very interesting. After a dodgy start the audio guide was fascinating – very well ordered and gave a good balance of information throughout. The weather was sunny but hugely windy – I was trying to take pictures and several times nearly fell over whilst balancing against the rail with the camera in my hand. I was struck with two things about the bridge – firstly it’s sheer size, and secondly the colour. It’s orange apparently. My whole understanding of San Francisco architecture is a lie.



I was excited to go around Alcatraz- I had wanted to go on a tour but they were all booked up. The boat trip though was great in this respect – it gave a lot of information, slowed down as you went past and circled the island almost completely. The stories of the children who lived in Alcatraz, going to school on the same ferry as the criminals coming to the island and the interviews with people on it were very interesting and I do want to find out more. They also talked about Angel Island (the Ellis Island of the West) and again, being something I knew nothing about did make me want to learn more about it. 


After the cruise we walked back through Chinatown, before aiming to find some supper! One of the most famous Chinatowns in the world, this clearly gave off the impression of being a living district, rather than one created for tourists. We went to a bakery where Max had a Chinese custard tart and I tried an unusual delicacy of a puff pastry filled with a mixture of ginger, yellow soy bean paste and preserved egg – unlike anything I’ve had before but very tasty!


Fisherman’s Wharf – reminds me s bit of Brighton



We then tried to find tea, which turned out to feature a LOT of walking – we had bookmarked several places, most of which were either closed, expensive or not what we wanted at the time. However, our last choice struck gold and we ended up at the Capital Restaurant which served huge portions or delicious food for good prices. If we were hungrier, they had a deal for $15 of spring rolls, egg fried rice, beef and broccoli, sweet and sour chicken, tea and fortune cookies. If the portion sizes were anything to go by, that was probably a week’s worth of food in one meal! Maybe next time!


Thick noodles with cabbage and pork – not the most attractive looking plate of food but very tasty!

America · Travelling

A Few Days in San Francisco 

Before heading onto Phoenix (our main destination) we decided to spend a few days in San Francisco. There are two reasons for this:

  1. I have wanted to go for a long time 
  2. Plane tickets to Phoenix were very expensive! 

However the end result is positive – we got to spend some time there and it didn’t disappoint! As I’m now waiting in the airport for the Phoenix flight it’s time to fill you in on what we’ve been doing!

So on our first evening we were very tired but still decided to go out and explore a little bit, particularly as I had my eye on a specific ice cream sundae shop… We planned to head on the cable cars to go to Fisherman’s Wharf and Ghiradelli Square, however we accidentally got on the historical Streetcars by mistake. However, the conductor was lovely and allowed us to carry on and refused to take any money, despite us trying to pay him – instead Max got instructions to buy me flowers! 



Next we headed past the Fisherman’s Wharf to Ghiradelli Square and walked up through the shops. Passing the improvising violinist we went into the chocolate and coffee shop for our sundae – only to find that the new rules say that calorie counts have to be added to menus.

I don’t want to know the number of calories in this one.


(We did share this one)

Afterwards we walked up some of San Francisco’s massive hills and went to the top of Lombard Street (calling itself the windiest street in the world). The pictures are not great due to light, but the road is extreme- speed limit of 5mph! (Dad would like it!)



We then wandered back to the bay front and caught out first glimpse of the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz in the early evening, before catching the cable car back to the centre – there was a bit of a ‘Knight Bus’ (Harry Potter link!) feel to this, from the old cable car with huge metal leavers to the screaming driver! I joked on the way up that it looked a little like a really slow rollercoaster going up to the top and when we got to the top of the hill it definitely felt a bit like that!





We then went for some food which weirdly was quite hard to find at 8.30-9pm. San Francisco apparently has the most restaurants of any American city, but they all seemed to be closed! After walking through Little Saigon and the Tenderloin District, past the theatre (where I was hugely excited to find that it was showing ‘Hamilton’) and bypassing a pikachu giving directions (!) we gave it up as a bad job, and went back to the hotel. However en route we passed the ever-open Chipotle! Though disappointed to find that it is $2 more in San Francisco than in Washington DC or other more eastern US cities (they are NOT exaggerating about how expensive San Francisco is!), we got a huge plate of food and learnt what Sofritas is! (Tofu rice bowl for Max). At this point we were definitely ready to collapse (6am English time!) and were definitely ready for bed!