Having returned from my Britain / Germany / Australia trip, I embarked on a weekend jaunt to San Francisco to visit a friend. But first, I just want to say that I ended up booking my trip through Airtreks.com, as recommended by "ray" in my previous entry. I ended up getting my trip for around $3,300, which was more expensive than the horrible double-return-flight ticket, but more than a thousand dollars cheaper than what Expedia was giving me. So if you have some non-trivial travelling to do, try dropping Greg a line at Airtreks and see what they can do for you.
The weather in San Francisco was absolutely gorgeous (and, come to mention it, it's been mighty hot here in Seattle the last few days... and last night we had the biggest thunderstorm I've seen since I moved here), the atmosphere was fun and lively, and there were street cafes everywhere :-).
One of the fun things we did in San Fran was to take a trail / beach ride with Friendly Acres Ranch at Half-Moon Bay. The great thing about riding there was that you could choose to ride with or without a guide (usually you have to go in groups with a guide) so you can go off at your own pace and have some degree of privacy while you're walking down the trail or cantering along the beach. It's highly recommended! Afterwards we had dinner at Alioto's restaurant; the crab was very nice (if a little messy :-) ) and the views of the harbour were nice, but the salad and the shrimp cocktail left a lot to be desired. Worth checking out if you like seafood, I guess.
On Sunday morning, my friend convinced me to go to the Glide church to listen to the singing. Now as I've probably mentioned before, I am in no way religious, and I'm not going to get religious on you now or anything, but it was actually a fun time. The "Glide Ensemble" (band and choir) were fantastic, and it really was uplifting to hear them signing. You don't have to believe in a god of any sort to feel inspired by religious music (much as you don't need to be religious to be inspired by the great works of art or architecture that were crafted by those who did believe in a god). The "sermon" (if you can really call it that) was about "recovery," and how places like AA actually do a better job than most churches in supporting people who need help getting through tough times in their lives. No heavy-handed religious preaching. There was very little mention of "god" (and even then, it was acknowledged as an abstract concept that different people interpret in different ways), and the group were actively welcoming of people from any and all religious persuasions. The performance was very animated and quite funny at times. Anyways, if you're in San Francisco and you're free on a Sunday morning, I recommend you check it out, no matter what religion you are (or are not).
After Glide, we were lucky enough to have Sunday brunch at the Top of the Mark restaurant because my friend knew the Director of Food and Beverages there (being Australian sometimes has its privileges ;-) ). Oh wow, you have to check this out if you're in San Francisco and have some money to burn as the wide selection of food was absolutely delicious ;-). Going on a day with clear weather is a bonus, as you get stunning views from the 19th floor restaurant.
Anyway... I should post something useful in the next few days. It's been a while :-(