Day 593 OUT OF Beijing: Hidden Gems of SF Tourism Tips.


A close up of the Giant Buddha on the second level of the Hua Zang Si Buddhist Temple.

A close up of the Giant Buddha on the second level of the Hua Zang Si Buddhist Temple.


Jill’s site, SF Tourism Tips, is in a never ending process of being updated and improved.  Jill wanted to update her “Hidden Gems” page and so we decided to head into San Francisco for the day.

I really admire Jill’s trait of never being happy with “enough” and always wanting to better her site and the experience for the people that visit it and want to learn more about San Francisco and how to improve their trip to our lovely city.

We went into San Francisco, by Golden Gate Transit from Petaluma, and then walked around the rest of the day.  We did have to catch one bus ($2.25 USD) to the Columbarium in the Richmond District, but otherwise all our travel was on foot and for free.  Since we are car-less, we didn’t have to pay a toll to get into SF ($6 USD on the GG Bridge), parking ($2-3 USD per hour) or deal with worries about car crashes, gas, or tickets.  The cost to get into SF on Golden Gate transit was $10.75 per person.  A very good exchange for comfort, relaxation and 1.75 hours to either talk or check emails as we rode in on a very comfortable and clean bus.

A longer shot of the bridge with the new movable divider on the left.

A longer shot of the bridge with the new movable divider on the left.

This is also part of our frugal living in that we want to see how realistic it is to live car-less and only use mass transit.  We actually really enjoy mass transit and we’ve met some wonderful people who are traveling around the world and living a upwardly mobile vagabond life like we are at the same time.  I also had a great conversation with a bus driver that will be retiring in one year and his hopes to do a ’round-the-world trip right after his job is over.  We talked about where to go, what to see, and I sent him some links on how to get great deals on flights and cruises.  I’m hoping we catch the same bus he drives, again, and we can see how he has progressed on his plans!

Our first stop was the Columbarium and it was magnificent.  It is one grave site in San Francisco that is taking interments and it is kept up beautifully.  Harvey Milk’s memorial is there as is Carlos Santana’s father’s ashes.  There are also many other people, and memorials, that are stunning and touching.  It sounds a bit strange to think of this as a place to visit and enjoy, but it is, and we actually were there during an interment and the family and friends were quite joyous and happy.  If you are interested in seeing it, make sure to call ahead and ask for Emmit to give you a tour.  He has been with the Columbarium for many, many years and knows stories and the history like no one else.  We will have a tour when we go back next time with him to learn more about this amazing structure and final resting place.

We walked over to Pizza Orgasmica and had their lunch special of salad, beer and a pizza for $10.50 each.  It was delicious and utterly filling.  I also was able to check in on one of my favorite apps, Untappd, and add the beers that Jill and I tried for lunch.  It is a fun social app and keeps track of how many beers you’ve had and gives badges for different categories.

Jill's pesto pizza.  Yummy!

Jill’s pesto pizza. Yummy!


We then headed down to Hua Zang Si Buddhist Temple.  This is a Buddhist Temple in the middle of the Mission District.  That, alone, would make sure it is a hidden gem.  It was originally a Lutheran Church and later became a temple.  We were blown away by the two Buddhas, especially that massive one on the second level, and the friendliness of the monks that were at the temple that day.  Most of them didn’t speak a lot of English but they seemed so happy and content that words weren’t needed to express what they were feeling.  As we walked back outside into the Mission District, we saw this gorgeous mural of Carlos Santana.  The cultures are so different and yet they are side by side.


After the temple, we headed down to Southern Pacific Brewery in the SOMA district.  Again, this was all just walking around and seeing the sites so we could experience it as if we were tourists and make sure to give people a “true to life” impression of what they can expect as they cruise around the Streets of San Francisco.  By the way, where are Mike Douglas and Karl Malden when you need them?

Our refreshing beers at Southern Pacific Brewing.

Our refreshing beers at Southern Pacific Brewing.


This brewery is only about 3 years old and it is inside a very cool tin roof hangar type building.  The beer is good and the food seems to be fairly priced.  We didn’t eat any food while we were there but had a great time talking to the bartender and just digging the atmosphere.  It will be added to a new page Jill is writing about all the different brewpubs in San Francisco.  Did you know there are over 15 at this point with 10 more scheduled to open during 2015?

By the way, this was also the same day we say the Austin Healey and the Tiny Tesla I’ve just posted about.  There is so much to do in San Francisco when you just walk and observe so check out SF Tourism Tips and find out all the newest information for all your San Francisco tips!

Day 567 OUT OF Beijing: Grace Cathedral Videos


Jill and I think beauty of Grace Cathedral speaks for itself.

To give you another perspective on it, we’d decided to post some videos.  We will be using some of them on our business site, SF Tourism Tips.

Enjoy them and the fact that I’ve now written 567 blog posts over 567 days.

I find it pretty cool that I haven’t missed a day and that the numbers line up as 567.

It is the small things that make me happy.

And large things like Grace Cathedral.




Day 566 OUT OF Beijing: Merry Christmas and Grace Cathedral.


Grace Cathedral in all its glory.

Grace Cathedral in all its glory.


Jill and I love Grace Cathedral.

It is probably the most beautiful Cathedral in San Francisco and it is located on the top of Nob Hill.

It has an amazing view out towards the bay and also back towards Daly City and out towards Ocean Beach.

It has been built out, as needed, through the years and yet the style has never changed.

It is a gothic cathedral and the acoustics are fantastic.

We also needed new pictures for our website and business, SF Tourism Tips.

It just so happened that the Rainbow World Fund Tree of Hope has been located at Grace Cathedral the last two years and we were able to see it this year.

It was located at City Hall last year, but we were both in China and were not able to see it, so it was nice to see it in such a magnificent location this time.

It is based on the 1000 origami cranes that were made by a Japanese survivor of Hiroshima in the belief that if she made 1000 of them she’d be cured of cancer.  She died about 300 cranes short but the legend lives on and this tree is a symbol of that hope.

I actually visited Hiroshima in 1997 and was taken by the Peace Plaza and how many thousands of origami cranes were there.  It was a magical place and it is dedicated to world peace as they have seen the worst humanity could ever do to itself.

This tree has another part of it’s own story that is quite incredible: “The wishes are then printed and folded into origami cranes by a diverse team of volunteers, including members of San Francisco’s LGBT and Japanese American communities, survivors of the Hiroshima atomic bomb, local children, and life-­‐sentence prisoners from San Quentin.  The origami “crane wishes”are then placed on the tree.”  From Grace’s Cathedral’s website.

Jill and I walked around and took a lot of pictures, enjoyed the scenery, and just sat in silence for quite a while.

We really loved looking at the amazing streamers that hung down from the ceiling and probably were over 100 feet in length.  I tried to find out what the represent but was unable to at this time.  I’ll have to ask a docent next time I go.



Day 563 OUT OF Beijing: Greece Comes to San Francisco!


Our first drink at Palia Kameni.

Our first drink at Palia Kameni.


Jill and I spent a few nights in little town of Fira on the island of Santorini, Greece after we got engaged.

We had been to Mykonos, Naxos and Paros and were worried Santorini would be too crowded and expensive.

Imagine our surprise when it was actually about the same price as the lesser known islands and not crowded at all.

We walked around Fira and found this amazing bar named Palia Kameni Cocktail Bar.

It was facing towards the caldera and where the sun would set later that night.

We decided to sit down, have a drink and hang out.

One of the waiters, from the UK, talked to us for a bit and seemed like a nice guy.

After our drinks came, the owner, Vassilias came up to talk to us as the waiter told him we had just come from China and were engaged.

We talked for about 1-2 hours and discussed how he came to own this bar at such a young age (he was 28 years old), how to live the life we want to live, and how to achieve financial freedom as soon as possible to be able to travel and see the world.

Vassilias told us that he took the bar over from his dad and he is slowly making changes. One of the changes was to pay his staff enough that he, and they, could shut down for the 6 month winter break, and be able to live without fear of running out of money.  For Vassilias, that also includes going to visit his girlfriend, Soneth, who is a speech therapist in San Francisco and Los Angeles this winter.  We told him that we will be back in SF and wanted to meet up with him.  He agreed and we came back the next night to watch the sunset again.

We just got back to SF on December 15th and Vassilias told us he was leaving on the 20th for LA and we decided to meet up at the Squat and Gobble in the Castro Area.  We had a wonderful time talking and figuring out future plans and how we can support each other as he builds his business and we build ours.

It is everything we love about owning our own business, being able to travel, and living a life that is less structured and more independent.

It is not for everyone, but there is no way we want to live any other way, at least not at this point in our lives.

I’ve include pictures taken from his restaurant in Fira.  If you ever go to Santorini, please say hello to him and enjoy the sunset from there.  It is life changing.


Day 552 In Beijing: Agzikarahan Caravanserai In Cappadocia.


A bird flying through the skylight.

A bird flying through the skylight.


Jill, our crew, and I hopped back in our little 10 person van and took off down the road.

Driving out of the Ihlara Valley was a nice way to end the trek and just look back on everything we had seen from the valley floor.

We were told we were going to see the Agzikarahan Caravanserai next and I was very excited to see this location.

Agzikarahan is one of many different stops, for the travelers, and their camels, as they crossed Turkey back in the past.  “Agzikarahan” means “Black Mouth” in Turkish and caravanserai means, pretty obviously, “Caravan.”  Agzikarahan is the name of the town where this caravanseri was built.  This was part of the famous “Silk Road” that stretches all the way back through China.

The Agzikarahan caravanserai is amazing.  The walls are incredibly thick, to resist any attack and it is totally imposing to outsiders.  It is actually quite imposing to people inside also as we found out when we went inside.

There are many of these caravanseris in Turkey because the traders would use them, as stops, every 30-40 kilometers as they made their way to and from their destinations.

Why every 30-40 kilometers?  Because that is about as far as a camel could go in one day.  Pretty ingenious if you ask me.

Most of them were built in the 13th Century and many are being refurbished as they are becoming more of a tourist attraction.

Inside of the Agzikarahan caravanserai was a small church.  It later was turned into a mosque, as the Muslims took over Turkey, and is still in very good condition.

We walked around and checked out the no longer used stable and were amazed at the architecture and how they made us of “sunlights” in the ceilings so that rain water, and sun light, could get inside if they needed it.

I love how decorative and beautiful this caravanserai is and would enjoy seeing more of them and doing a trek back to China at some point.

I probably will use a train or car instead of a camel.  Imagine that trip?


Day 547 In Beijing: Daniel Pantonassa Church in the Ihlara Valley.


The dome above the main area in the church.

The dome above the main area in the church.


After Jill and I descended the stairs, Sibel showed us the Daniel Pantonassa Church at starting of the valley.

It was cut into the side of the mountain and the frescoes on the walls were amazing.

Many had been partially destroyed, either by time or by vandalism, but they were still very beautiful and worth seeing.

As we traveled, we noticed that the faces, and eyes, of the figures in many of the faces in the frescoes that we’d seen had been destroyed.

We asked about that and the reason is that in the Muslim religion, idols are illegal and so when the Muslims took over these areas, they specifically destroyed the eyes or faces as per their customs.

Luckily, some went unnoticed and still survive while others have been retouched so that the original portraits are now visible.  Many others will never be fixed because no one knows whose face was destroyed and only the rest of the figure remains.

The Daniel Pantonassa Church was very small, and could only hold about 10-15 people at one time, but that would have been more than enough when it was originally built in the 10th Century.

Think about that: These frescoes have lasted over 1,000 years in this desolate climate and region.  It is absolutely amazing to think of how improbable that is even with today’s paints and knowledge of science to keep artifacts safe.





Day 546 In Beijing: Ihlara Valley in Cappadocia, Turkey.


The Ilhara Canyon and our guide, Sibel.

The Ilhara Canyon and our guide, Sibel.


After we visited Narli Gol, our guide, Sibel, took us to Ihlara Valley.

Entering Ihlara Valley allowed us a 4 kilometer walk through an amazing canyon that was a refreshing break from the heat.

Many people used to live there and it is now a park so we were allowed to walk through and see the ruins from another time.  There are also many abandoned churches scattered around the walls of the valley.

There is only a tiny village, about 1 or 2 kilometers outside of it, and Sibel told us that very few people live there and it would be incredibly cheap to rent an apartment or house if we wanted to stay.

Jill and I are always asking prices because we are interested in where our lives will lead us and how to be less connected to the grid and to the idea of “civilization” if we can manage it.

This may sound strange, since I have this blog and Jill runs, SF Tourism Tips (which, if you haven’t clicked the link, please do and subscribe/like her page as it is our main business at this point), but we actually are very open to disconnecting and just being in the flow of life and not having to work and buy things.

I’m writing two different ebooks, one on how to change your life and the other on how to minimize your stuff, which ties in directly with our beliefs on how we want to live our lives.  I have also noticed a lot more people talking about minimizing and being more adventurous so hopefully these books will reach a large audience when I publish them.

As for the Ihlara Valley,  we had to walk down a long flight of stairs built into the mountain side and it afforded us a gorgeous view of this valley thriving with flora and fauna.   Compared to the dryness and lack of green outside of the valley, it is a very stark contrast and we could understand why so many people were drawn to live here in this peaceful oasis.



Day 543 In Beijing: Derinkuyu: The Underground City Video.


Jill getting ready to explore Derinkuyu!

Jill getting ready to explore Derinkuyu!


Jill and I wanted you to get a real idea of what climbing down the steps in Derinkuyu was like so we made sure to grab a video of it.

There is about 110 steps, in this one little section, and it was not too tight as we started going down.

However, as you watch the video, you will see that the builders made the hallway become much more closed in and much harder to navigate.

I’m guessing they did this to trick an intruder into thinking it there would be enough room to bring down their people, and their gear, for an attack.

However, as they climbed down the steps, they’d realize, too late, that there is not enough room to even turn around or maneuver at that point.

Essentially, they’d be stuck, easy to kill or capture, and the battle would be over before it even begins.

Also, since the inhabitants would memorize the tunnels and rooms, they would be able to sneak around, from a different location, and attack from behind.

Therefore, the attackers would be defeated easily and have no chance at victory.

The video is about 2 minutes long but it is worth watching it and imagining what it would be like trying to do this in the dark or with gear hundreds of years ago.





Day 542 In Beijing: Derinkuyu: The Underground City, Part 2.


We had a lot of fun underground.

We had a lot of fun underground.


Jill and I continued to explore Derinkuyu and were utterly amazed.

We could not imagine over 20,000 people living in these tight quarters for hundreds of years.

As we walked, we noticed the ground had a lot of small depressions dug into it.

We learned that this was a way of tripping up intruders if they happened to find the underground cities.

Each level had certain depressions, that members had to memorize, so they could run down the hallways in the dark, and not trip over them.

The intruders would not be able to see them and break their ankles as they stepped into them.

If they had torches, they’d see them but be slowed down enough where the city dwellers could kill them before the attackers could do much damage.

If you notice, the tunnels are incredibly tight and very small.

We had to bend over, almost touching our toes, when we went through them.

There are also many stairs and they get quite tiring.  I couldn’t imagine trying to bring any armor or weapons into these cities and mounting an attack.

It would be impossible and the attackers would just have to wait out the people living in the underground cities.

However, the people living there had massive stores of food, and since the people above ground had no idea that these cities were here, there is no reason that they’d even be found!

By the way, the pictures of us were taken by our Colombian friends who we met on the Blue Tour the day before.

They happened to be on this tour with us also so we were able to spend a lot of time with them and it made our tour even more amazing.


Day 541 In Beijing: Derinkuyu: The Underground City.


Jill and me in the opening of Derinkuyu.

Jill and me in the opening room of Derinkuyu.


After we finished up with the balloon ride, Jill and I were picked up for our Red Tour.

There are four main tours, and they are all code named by color: Red, Green, and Blue.

We only did the red and the blue since we were limited to a few days and didn’t want to be totally rushed and busy.

We drove for about 45 minutes until w reached Derinkuyu.

It is an underground cave that housed up to twenty thousand people for a few hundred years.

Let me repeat that:  It is an underground cave that housed up to twenty thousand people for a few hundred years.

These cities were supposedly built in the 7th-8th century by the Phrygians and then later the Greeks inhabited them and turned some of the rooms into chapels as they were Christians.

The Christians stayed underground so they’d be safe from the Muslims during the Arab-Byzantine Wars.

The Christians also used it as protection during the Mongolian invasions in the 14th Century.

The cities are miles long and very deep into the Earth.

Up until the 20th Century, Christians were still using these cities as a refuge against the Muslim leaders and the Ottoman Empire.

There are stories that people would be elected to go outside, once a month, to see what was happening.

They would also have to bring out the dead bodies since no one else was allowed to leave other than during this time.

In 1923, the Christian followers were expelled and the cities were no longer used by inhabitants and seemed to be forgotten.

They were found when a villager was digging out a new room and broke through a wall in the 1960s.

They have now become a major tourist attraction for this area.