06 April 2013

San Francisco - Game Developers Conference 2013

Oh boy! Where do I start? This was our favourite trip so far! We left Stockholm on Friday 22nd of March in the cold and windy afternoon, with a brief mid landing in London and after 11 hours flight (which was also delayed) we arrived in San Francisco. I am always a little bit concerned when it comes to landing and going through the boarder control. It all went smoothly until I wanted to pick up the luggage of the belt.
This had to happen sometime! They lost my luggage somewhere... not only mine tho. There was a line to the airlines representative, so we waited and waited, eventually she said that it is somewhere in transit and will be delivered to our hotel on the next day around 4. It felt like a huge weight off my shoulders cause my camera was in my bag!
Anyway we arrived at our hotel - Parc 55. It looks awesome, but it is a little weird. People mentioned it on the elevator that there is 13th floor - which apparently is a big "no, no" in hotel business. Fortunately for the people who got the room on this floor and complained the hotel staff bumped their rooms to a junior suit!

Another weird thing was - no mini bar, no fridge, free coffee and tea - but no place to store milk!

(If you click on a picture it will open a gallery in full size, or try middle click today!)


Our hotel.
We on the other hand, got a junior suit on 23 floor - which means we had a VIEW! And boy, what a view! Sadly the picture doesn't capture it quite well.

Morning view.
Evening view.
We had two huge bay windows, one by a small couch and the other one right in front of our bed! It was just fantastic to get up in the morning to see how the day is starting. Nathan is a big sleeper but thanks to a jet lag I was up around 6 - 6:30 in the morning.

Since I didn't have my camera I asked Nathan not to do any touristy stuff until I get it back. We decided that on the first day we will just take a small walk to the shore, maybe hit the beach. And we actually ended up walking for over 7 hours!!



This map only shows the way from the hotel to the last interest point - the way back to the hotel is not show cause there was nothing to see really :P The weather was amazing, sun shining and cool breeze, it was very early so not a lot of tourists around when we arrived at Pier 39 which is the most exciting pier of them all!

Pier 39
This is a very special place, and not because of all the shops, restaurants, street performance or the aquarium. When you go to the very end you get an amazing view of  Alcatraz, Golden Gate Bridge, Angel Island and Bay Bridge.

Alcatraz
We were sitting there for a while eating churros and corn dogs, when strange sounds surrounded us... I was convinced it is a weird sound recorded and played over and over to scare the birds off (don't ask me why...) but we decided to investigate... And we found this:

Sea Lions
So apparently at some point Sea Lions felt safer inside the bay. So as you can see they have a little bay there for themselves, where they just sit and swim around, making weird sounds and fighting and loving each other. It was adorable, we watched them for 20 minutes. I think Nathan took 100 photos on his phone! I can't really describe this, but everyone there was mesmerised by them, and you could hear awwws and ohhhs all around :)

Playing...
I think he was the boss.

We left Pier 39 and walked towards USS Pampanito submarine, SS Jeremiah O'Brien-National Liberty Ship Memorial and Fisherman's Wharf.

Fisherman's Wharf
I am sad to admit I didn't try chowder while in San Francisco. I am not a big fan of sea food in general. Whenever I try it, it's never good so now I try to avoid it. It is a shame cause I am very curious and passionate about local cuisine. Apparently not curious enough to eat crabs :(

Poor guys...
We walked around the memorial ship and the submarine, passed arcade museum without realizing it at first, passed cable cars and sat on the beach for a while before deciding what to do next. And of course we made some new friends. Two guys who were speaking Polish, but I didn't react until they made a joke about snow in Warsaw (and we were on a sunny beach), I laughed and we started to talk. They came for Game Connection with their game Bruce, The Game as a Selected Project Finalist (check them out Tabasco Interactive). The game look awesome and I can't wait until it's out. I am a huge supporter of Polish games on the international market, very proud of CDProject RED (which I met at GDC few days later) and I CAN NOT WAIT to play Cyberpunk (cyberpunk.net)

Anyhow we then walked on the last, long pier before Fort Mason and then headed back to the hotel. That was a loooong walk, but nothing interesting happen. San Francisco is pretty much straight lines but it gets really confusing when your map turns with you :P 
Ah... there was a surprise when we got back tho. Not a nice one either. We both got sun burned, and I am talking serious burns which blistered and made us look like zombies with melting faces. That was absolutely the worst part of the entire trip. Also my luggage was still not there!

On Sunday we had breakfast at Denny's and hang around the conference centre and met our friend Offspring aka. Dave. We walked to Chinatown:

Chinatown I

Chinatown II
It is a very busy and colourful district, lots of shops, markets and fortune cookie factory which we didn't see. Offspring suggested then walking to Ghirardelli which is the nomilicious place! 

Nathan being all cool!
Fling books at Broadway and Columbus  Ave
Saints Peter and Paul Chruch
Ah chocolate!
Cable cars at Beach St
The queue at Ghirardelli was insane, it was after all a Sunday and the weather was very nice. We just squeezed through the shop tried some awesome chocolate for free. I took some pictures of the chocolate making process and drooled over other peoples ice cream. 

Next stop was Musée Mécanique at Fisherman's Wharf:

Bang bang!
Huge cupboard with huge music box?!
Horoscope reading by magic typewriter!
AWESOME PLACE! If you have any spare time in San Francisco, just go there! It is this huge space filled with vintage and antique 'arcade games'. They are very, very old and so much fun. It doesn't cost anything to enter but the machines are 25 cents to 1$ (there may be few that are more expensive but not many). I could go on forever about this place and this post it starting to be monstrous anyway. It was definitely worth seeing! We took a cab back with the best cabbie EVER! 

I am sorry - this post is going to be huge, I hope you are still reading!

The next day started with a breakfast at TwichTV - was fun - can't tell you more.

That just says all.
YAY POLSKA!
Now at this point GDC kinda started, so I had to do all the exploring alone. Nathan was busy at talks and company meetings. First I went to see Cartoon Art Museum, not a very big place but showcasing many different types of cartoon and/or comic art. Worth seeing for 7$! 

 Cartoon Art Museum
I will just mention few names here: 
Jon Klassen - I Want My Hat Back - my personal favourite :)

Nom, nom, nom...
Sam Kieth, trust me - it's more than just Batman! 

RAWR!

And the biggest part of the exhibition - Chuck Jones - a guy responsible for Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies - essentially Bugs Bunny guy!


We also visited EA office in Redwood City (Thanks Offy! <3) which was awesome! Their campus is amazing... So many places to just sit down and chill in peace. People get very creative with their office space and some of them fill it up with really geeky stuff from My Little Ponies, mining picks from Minecraft to portal guns and lightsabers!

EA
I don't think anyone survived until here! If you did: I am absolutely grateful and I promise you a beer if we ever meet. There is few more things to report! Keep on reading!

After getting my camera back very late on Saturday night, I had to go revisit some places. Sadly the weather wasn't as awesome as before, but in San Francisco weather changes really fast so by the time I went to Golden Gate it was nice and sunny. 

Coit Tower - we could see this tower from our hotel room so I read up a little bit about it and decided to go check it out. It has quite a story behind it so if you want to read up on that click here!

7$ - not very expensive!
It is a nice treat when the weather is at least good. Sadly the view just from behind the windows, but still quite a treat!
Awesome view of Pier 39, Alcatraz, Bay Bridge and Golden Gate + city.

City View
Bay Bridge
Pier 39
Cute!
Ah and last but not least that day: Golden Gate Bridge! Fantastic from afar and up-close. I am a fan of bridges... go figure. Next time in SF - I am getting a bike!





Alcatraz from GGB!
This guy!
Ah! Again, thanks to Offspring, we were able to go to a baseball game. Now... I met Offy few years ago at MMO-Champion IRC channel! So before we went to USA this time and I knew we are going to meet, I asked him if there will be an opportunity to watch a game. He said the season starts later in the year but after some investigation it turned out, that there will be in fact first friendly, training kind of game, while we are in SF. San Francisco is a home of Giants! We met with our other IRC friends who we also invited to the game. 
And may I just say: IT WAS GREAT! Now this was a double treat for me. I have never been to baseball or any kind of big game before. And I come from a city in Poland that actually has a stadium and a team that is in professional league (ekstraklasa) :(
I must say - they just know how to have fun at the game. It may be a cliché to you but stuff like a wave (Offy told me off for participating in it), kissing camera, half time warm-up or singing a song together during the game is amazing. People were really nice and there was no antagonism between Giants and A's fans. I would love to see such spirit in Poland. I know, I know... there is a lot of normal football fans in Poland, but honestly there is lots of freaks too!

Before the game
Beautiful view of the bay
Go Giants!
The stadium is half open, with the view of the bay, and it looks brilliant when it gets dark. Funny thing is that around half time the seagulls start to circle around the stadium waiting for people to leave so that can eat whatever is left. And it is both funny and scary. Oh and there was a guy on a kayak just outside probably hoping to catch an out ball! Such a devotion, it was really cold! 

There was few other things I would love to mention but I can't and it is killing me! Now it is going to kill you too! 
Anyway thank you very much for reading this. I had so much fun in San Francisco. It was by far the best trip we have ever had with Nathan (beats Paris, no contest). The only thing, except for the sunburn, we both complained about was homelessness. I am sorry if this sounds unkind or insensitive to you, but we have been bugged for money at any given place and time of the day so many times that it actually started to be annoying and scary. I would love to help everyone, but feeling that any amount of money will be spend on drugs or alcohol is just overwhelming. Whenever I have a chance, I try to share food (but got told off few times), and I get scared in a big city when I am alone. Suspended Coffee is a way - but I don't trust coffee places to actually give it out after you leave, so I just prefer to share personally.


And just some random pictures for the end.








I know I promised you a beer! 

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