The Grand Trip to West Coast USA – Part 1

It’s been a while since I can say I have taken any holidays for more than 9 days at a time, since I moved to Singapore (being a contractor). So this holiday is probably one of the more “special” holiday in that it’s 3 weeks long, and going to a destination I haven’t been for over 5 years – The US of A (America)! The flight was booked before President Donald Trump won the election, and I must admit I was banking on US dollar going down if he wins (except that never happened).

The plan involved taking a direct flight into San Francisco, followed by a drive down towards Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and finally a flight to Reno for a ski trip at Lake Tahoe. Yes, it’s an all west USA affair, given my last trip trip was partly work and primarily on the east side of USA (Boston). The intent was to spend Christmas there, as we arrive on the morning of the eve of Christmas (24th Dec) and departing on the 14th Jan post new year celebration. I only gotten around to write this blog post a few weeks after the trip and can only summarise the the trip as ‘average’ and ‘rushed’! Let me take my time to explain.. and begin with the flight to San Francisco..

Singapore Airline Premium Economy

Our trip kicked off with a flight on Premium Economy flight on a brand new Airbus A350 that Singapore just started flying a few months back. Yes I am a sucker for new planes, and probably went out of the way to book a flight that allowed me to get on one…

First time on a A350 plane

Must admit, we were slightly worried flying on 14.5 hours flight with a soon to be 2.5 years old, given our last experience on a slightly shorter flight. Except we are much better prepared this time, and it turned out to be a non-issue. Yes, I downloaded quite a large collection of short animation clips, games and movies.. yes we did the “taboo” and he probably shouldn’t be in front of his iPad for so long.. but we got through the flight! As a side effect, Ethan became pretty damn good at playing Minions Rush by the end of the flight! Not sure if I should be proud of that. Secretly I am! But in case readers of this blog out there really think all he did was staring at a screen, here’s a photo of him having fun in the cubicle!


In terms of the flight itself, it was better than the Economy, if you appreciate such things as noise cancelling headphones, a little bit of extra leg room, nicer meal, and perhaps a little extra recline. Yes, people say it’s the little things that count, and I’m certainly not complaining. They are definitely nice to have!


It’s a bonus that we were also given the front row with extra room. It didn’t turn out to be useful for us, given Ethan was too heavy for a bassinet and he’s not allowed to sleep on the floor anyway. But he did at least have a bit of room to wander about the extra space.


In summary, Premium Economy is “Economy”.. just with little extra bells and whistles that probably isn’t worth paying that much extra for. Thank god we used points for this flight.

Arriving in San Francisco

It’s kind of a strange feeling to depart at 9am, only to arrive around 7am on the same day, gaining a couple of hours! But hey, we weren’t all that happy with the massive crowd that ended up taking us at least 2 hours to get out of the airport. I was quick to jump onto Uber app and got a car to take  us to our hotel! Yeap, the homeland of Uber.. why not?

Wifey had never actually been to the USA before, and given she’s a big fan of a lot of western shows like Law & Order, Hawaii Five O’ and just about any Hollywood movies, she’s built up a hell of a lot of expectations of what USA looked like. But her expectations were soon to be shattered…

Our first hotel stay was at Westin in front of Union Square. They’ve put up a nice and BIG Christmas tree right in the middle of the square, along with an ice skating rink. Our hotel room even has a view of the square and skating rink. The intent was that we can all ice skate under Christmas lights, except it never happened. Let’s not get into that. The tree was nice.. 🙂


Hotel itself was quite nice, though probably a bit old. It was nice and central which is how we liked it. We really didn’t get to enjoy much of the hotel itself given we were out most of the time. One recurring theme that we were about to encounter over and over again was just how hard it is to get a damn kettle to boil hot water! Normally we wouldn’t care, but we do have a 2.5 years old travelling us, who drinks warm milk to sleep. Thought it was just Westin, but it was every hotel we went to for the entire trip! It must be pretty common for parents to bring their own kettle everywhere to travel in the USA?

Tram Ride       

The first 2 days were mostly spent near the hotel where we were battling jet lag. Wifey did a little bit of shopping at Macy’s, while I visited the Apple Store that apparently opened not that long ago. We did take a day to hop on the ‘must ride’ tram towards Pier 39.


Being jet lagged, it did mean that I spent quite a bit of time carrying Ethan around sleeping!


Fortunately, he was awake to look at a couple of seals hanging around the wharf as well.



Bike Ride over Golden Gate Bridge

With jet lag and all, it wasn’t till the third day that we got a chance to go out without falling asleep during the day. Like any typical tour to San Francisco, you’ve got to include cycling across the Golden Gate Bridge, even if it is winter! We chose a pretty decent company called “Blazing Saddles” (which is probably one of the more reputable ones) and off we went on our own. We were able to get a ‘family bike’ so that Ethan gets to join us.


Just for the record, it took a bit of convincing to get Ethan onto that child seat. Like anything new that he has tried, he would whinge and cry before finally settle in it. Once settled, he was nice and quiet in there though. Admittedly, all of us were underdressed for the weather. The biggest sufferer was Ethan who didn’t have appropriate gloves and his pants were too short to cover the entire length of his leg. Poor baby..


The ride itself was definitely scenic. It was mostly flat except the part approaching the bridge where it took quite a bit of effort to get up to the bridge itself.


We did take a break at a coffee shop just before going onto the bridge. It was nice that the bicycles get their own lane on the bridge itself. We probably rushed it a little, and only stopped once/twice to take photos.


The whole experience was probably dampened a bit due to us still adjusting to the cold. By afternoon, we made it to Sausalito where we had a bit of late lunch, and a bit of walking around the neighbourhood shops. Then it was a ferry ride back to Embarcadero.


By late evening, we just couldn’t wait to get off our bikes and hurry to find a warm heated Uber to get back to our hotel.

California Academy of Science

The following day was spent at California Academy of Science where Ethan had a bit of fun checking out the aquarium, and saw some animals. I thought I’ll do something he might like.


We didn’t take a whole lot of photos here though. And it’s quite apparent that he’s caught a cold from the bike ride the day before.

Silicon Valley & The Drive to LA

On the last day, checking out of Westin, we picked up our SUV from Hertz, and off we went the our next destination. I wanted a Jeep or Ford (something American) but ended up with a Korean car, a Kia Sportage. It was a nice car, however.


Ethan even had his own baby seat which we ordered on Amazon a couple of days earlier. Being difficult as usual, it took a while before he agreed to sit in it. But once he did, he was definitely very comfortable in it.


Silicon Valley wasn’t all that far from San Francisco itself. Being an IT geek myself, I just couldn’t help checking out a couple headquarters of some big names like Apple, Google and Facebook. Yes it included taking pictures in front of the big sign in front of Facebook headquarter.


Google’s headquarter was pretty impressive..


We ended up spending the most time there. How can you not, when you get to take photos with giant Android icons and hang around the visitor store? 😉 Even Ethan got himself a t-shirt which I thought was pretty appropriate for him.. a ‘Youtuber’ t-shirt!!


And of course, you can’t miss the Apple Store as well, where I left with a souvenir (apparently exclusive) Apple t-shirt. Ethan of course had to check out a MacBook Pro..


We ended up spending too much time there, which meant we had to pass driving on highway “1”. Instead of we drove on the freeway (Highway 101) to get to our hotel at Pismo beach before dark. Now everytime I talk to people about our west coast trip, we have to say “we didn’t do Highway 1″…. and then put up with everyone going on about how great it is. Grrr…

Anyway, Pismo beach probably isn’t on most people itinerary on a West Coast Drive. We chose it because it’s half way down to LA, and gives us a chance to break up the long drive. We did discover a damn good Japanese restaurant though (called “Kanpai Sushi”, which was worth mentioning. It’s by far the best Japanese sushi we had for the entire trip!


Santa Barbara, Shopping, Space Shuttle and Arriving into LA

Next morning, it was up and away back on the highway for the drive towards LA. It felt like an instant before we arrived at Santa Barbara. It’s one of those places where it didn’t actually look at all that glamorous, though the TV shows would have you think otherwise. It was relatively early so  I went on a quick search for good coffee. Lucky I did, because I probably had one of the best brioche I’ve ever had!! Definitely check out “Bree’osh Cafe Montecito” if you’re in Santa Barbara!

By about lunch time, we stopped by Camarillo Premium outlet that wifey wanted to pay a visit. It’s one of those that is quite spread out, and given that we only scheduled about 1.5 hours for it, we had no chance covering the whole place. We did leave with a new Spyder ski jacket each though. Ethan refused to come out of the car to walk around the shops that day. But a bag of popcorns managed to convince him to at least come out for a little bit of ‘cold’ sun.


Later on in the afternoon, we finally arrived in Los Angeles, and wasted no time heading towards California Science Museum. We had a scheduled visit to see the Space Shuttle.


This was suppose to be for Ethan, but thinking back, at 2.5 years old, he didn’t give a hoot about the space shuttle. It was more a thing for me in the end. I had to admit I was quite awed by the sight of the real thing. Yes it’s that thing that flew to space numerous times and I am looking at it within touching distance! As you can imagine, it was a pretty ‘busy’ exhibit, so we got out of there not too long after.

Our next stop is LA city itself and Disneyland. For now.. what a nice way to conclude the drive down the west coast! The adventure continues…


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