GenCon & San Francisco: Day 6 – Alcatraz

There are a few things we have planned for while we are in San Francisco and Alcatraz is the first of them. The tickets sell out several weeks in advance, so if you intend to visit you need too get them beforehand. Also this meant we had paid for them a month ago, which always makes me feel like the holiday is less expensive :-)

The night before we had logged onto the San Francisco Muni website http://www.511.org to plan the buses needed too get out to Pier 33, where the ferry goes from. We are having a bit of a confusing time with the buses, so that site is very helpful.

We get to the bus stop early – good thing we did, the bus was early – and arrive at Pier 33 with plenty of time to spare.  The ferry is large, clean and a really smooth ride over to the island. We got some lovely pics of San Francisco from it.

When we arrive on Alcatraz we are given a quick orientation talk by a ranger and then we head off. A lot of areas are blocked off. It looks like they are working on a lot of the prison guard buildings to hopefully open them to the public at some point.

We walk up to the cell block and take the audio tour. Its fun and very informative, covering the living facilities, attempted escapes and the different areas of the cells. We’re there for 3 hours. I think if they do open the other buildings up you be looking at a good 5+ hours to cover the whole place.

We catch the ferry back to the mainland and we are hungry! Rach had already picked out where we were going to eat, spotting it while looking around Pier 39 the day before – the Bubba Gump Shrimp Company. If that sounds familiar, go watch Forrest Gump again :-D The place was great, friendly staff, great food and a really nice view of the bay.

OK peeps, just a quick blog today as I have things to do! ;-)

GenCon & San Francisco: Day 5 – Fisherman’s Wharf

Aaah sleep :-D An early night last night and I was awake by 7am feeling much better. After several cups of coffee and some breakfast we headed off for the day.

We have several things pre-booked this week. Tomorrow we’re off to Alcatraz and the ferry sets off from Pier 33. This is just past Fisherman’s Wharf & Pier 39 a well known tourist attraction, so we decided to walk over to there, look around, then find Pier 33 so we know where we’re going tomorrow.

It’s been cool and cloudy today which made the walk nice (not to hot). We just walked to the Marina front then we worked our way across, passing Fort Mason & Hyde Pier.

At Fisherman’s Wharf we had a look around a WWII submarine, the USS Pampanito. Wow, I have no idea how the guys back then coped living in something that small and cramped!

We had some lunch from one of the takeaways and I had clam chowder in a bread bowl for the first time in years. It turns out I didn’t remember wrong – it’s still bloody lovely :-) After lunch we watched a homeless guy pull food from a trashcan and throw it to the seagulls – right in front of a sign saying “Don’t feed the seagulls” :-\

We moved on to Pier 39, seeing the sea lions that have been ‘living’ there since an earthquake in 1989. Then we spent several hours looking around the stores. There are a lot of stores!

Once we were all shopped out we walked on to Pier 33 just around the corner, found where we pick up tickets for tomorrow then headed back to the apartment.

Alcatraz tomorrow :-D

Oh and no, there are no pictures in any of the blogs. I’ll do an extra blog when I get back with pictures in :-)

GenCon & San Francisco: Day 4 – More Travelling

So, Sunday morning we were meeting John & Ben in the hotel lobby to share a cab to the airport. We were in bed by 12.30 am, after the burlesque show, alarm set for 5 am. Obviously that was the night my brain decided I needed to worry about my alarm not going off :-\

But we got downstairs on time, got to the airport easily (its a pain getting up early but worth it for no traffic!), checked in, then said goodbye to Ben. We were on the same flight as John to Atlanta. In fact he was sat directly behind us on the flight too :-) We arrived at Atlanta 10 minutes earlier than our given time, were off the plane 10 minutes later than our given time :-/ And I’d realised that morning we only had an hour between flights. We head rapidly towards our next gate, in a different terminal. John gives moral support by running with us even though his flight is an hour later and he doesn’t need to rush :-D We make the gate easily but we worry that our luggage won’t be with us when we arrive in San Francisco.

Saying goodbye to John, the last of our GenCon party, we board for San Francisco. It’s a four hour flight and apart from some annoying’neighbours’ the flight is pretty smooth. We land and, with some trepidation, go to baggage claim….. Woohoo our cases are there!

And so we’re now in our apartment for the next week. It’s a nice place, well stocked, we have laundry facilities which has allowed us to pack really light for the trip (too light in my case – I forgot some jeans). We can see the Golden Gate bridge from one window, the Palace of Fine Arts from another. Tonight we are chilling out with a bottle of wine with the intention of an early night. Looking forward to exploring tomorrow :-D

GenCon & San Francisco: Day 3 – Leather, Laughs & Burlesque

We didn’t have to start quite so early on Saturday so we had a few extra hours sleep and walked across to the Convention Centre. We had a class at 9am with Tobril, John & Ben on building a soft leather journal,. This entailed choosing our piece of leather to use, marking where the paper should be attached and sewing it onto the leather. I even managed to cut the leather to make a strap that allowed me to close it by threading it through some slots rather than having to wait until I got home and could fasten a snapper or button to it.

I also have to say that the guys surprised me with their sewing skills – so much tidier than mine! :P

We spent a few hours looking around the booths before heading off for lunch. From there we decided to go get a random board game as we all had a few hours spare. Tobril chose the worst board game ever (yes you did, don’t be blaming it on Ben!) called “The Worst Case Scenario” (or something like that) where you were asked a question about how to cope with various events i.e. bitten by a snake, trapped in an avalanche etc. Unfortunately the game was a bit old and some of the answers offered on the multiple choice were bizarre! Also, Tobril skipped reading the rules & just made it up as we went along :D

The guys had an event after that so Rach & I went back to the hotel to pack up ready for leaving the next morning. We hadn’t seen Samius & Torrance all day and checking the groups schedule we could see that they had a few hours free that evening where we thought it would be nice to meet up and all eat together before we all went our separate ways, after tweeting them, I hastily passed Torrance the star to get her to organise everyone :D

We had a lovely Italian, more laughs, then decided to try and find somewhere in the Convention Centre to play “Are you a werewolf?”. We ended up finding a large corridor and just claimed it by sitting down. We were joined by Lessah and her daughter giving us a group of 11 with Tobril DM’ing. Its the first time Rach & I have played this so it took a few rounds to get the hang of it. If you’ve never played the game, you have a werewolf in a group of villagers (more if you have a larger group) and you have to work out who the werewolf is. The werewolf, if not found, kills a villager each round. Basically its a game of bluff, deception and outright accusations of guilt :D it was really fun and we must have looked to be enjoying ourselves as we were joined by fellow gamers at GenCon.

Samius’ son, Remy, is bloody good at it too!!

At 10pm myself, Rach, Tobril, Aldrac, John & Lessah were off to the D20 Burlesque show. We said goodbye to Torrance & Samius, as we wouldn’t be seeing them again before leaving :-(

As for the burlesque show itself…. It was different! All the women did their spots with a geeky theme (the dragon costume used by one was great) and there was a great deal of humour involved :) The show finished at midnight and we said our goodbyes to Tobril (Lessah disappeared and we didn’t get a chance to say “bye” :-\ )

GenCon & San Francisco: Day 2 – Dungeons & Teddy Bears

Day 2 was an early start with Teddy Bear Chainmailing at 8am. We met up with Torrance and stopped off to grab some breakfast before trying to find where the class was. Which, after we had walked over to the Convention Centre, we realised was taking place in a hotel back near where we were staying :-/ Well the walk gave me time to eat my muffin :-)

The class was fun. We were given a teddy, a bag of chain links and 2 pairs of pliers (unfortunately we couldn’t keep those) and instructed to start by getting a pile of open links (twist slightly with the pliers) and closed links. From there we were shown how to start putting these together, basically building a strip to go around the chest of the bear. Once I had the pattern down it was fairly easy. Then I had to create two smaller strips which were added above my original section, front and back, and connected over the shoulder. My bear looked like he had a chainmail halter top :D

Rach decided to go for a bondage/thing look and Torrance had the best looking bear IMHO with a chainmail bikini!!

After the class finished we wandered back to the Convention Centre to cheer Aldrac on in his foam fighting event. Tobril, Ben & John also joined in and it looked like they had a lot of fun. Though Aldrac was walking with a limp later :P

Leaving the guys to their fighting, Rach & I decided to have a look around. There were a lot of games being played, most of which I’ve never heard of. We also checked out the D&D section, where we may have upset a guy doing a demo for the new Neverwinter Nights expansion pack when we told him we played DDO instead :P

There was also a massive area of booths selling every geeky thing you possibly imagine! We didn’t get chance to cover the whole thing and I suspect I’ll be dragging Rachel back on Saturday. But we did pick up some lovely playing cards from the Albino Dragon stall, a company I follow on Twitter, illustrated with Goonies & Princess
Bride art.

That afternoon was our main event – all of us were running a True Dungeon. If you haven’t heard of this before, it’s a LARP adventure where you have to solve puzzles, ‘fight’ enemies, in the style of a D&D campaign, with tokens being randomly handed out as equipment & gear. Having never done this before I felt a bit out of my depth – until we hit a room with a 5×5 light puzzle! It felt really good actually knowing what to do!

The hours flew by and it was fun. But I don’t think I would have enjoyed it as much without the guild being there.

That evening we had the DDO party that Samius & Lessah had arranged. Tolero from Turbine was there with swag, including signed art work of the new raid boss – and he looks awesome! We had a fun few hours meeting other DDO players as well as having a giggle with Lessah.

GenCon & San Francisco: Day 1 – Travelling

Day 1 was spent mainly travelling. We were up at 5am, leaving the house just after 6am for Manchester airport. The SatNav battery ran out while still on the motorway resulting in several minutes of swearing about the loss of the charger while moving house last week. But we found the car park we’d booked into and checked in without any trouble.
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Pirates & Airships & Swashes of Buckles – Oh My!

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock for the last week, you’ll know that U22 Pirates of the Thunder Sea was released on Wednesday for DDO. I’m not going to go into lots of details. Geoff covered a lot of the issues with the new release really well in his blog earlier today – go read that. (There’s even an amusing anecdote about a dog)

But here are my general thoughts on it:-
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