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I arrived at Bristol airport hungry and solved the problem by going to a bar to order some food. I sat down at the table and considering I had a large bag and was travelling alone was delighted to see they had an option to order the food from your table. It was not as good as an actual person taking your order but better than taking my bag up to the bar, queuing and then sitting down again.

I sorted the app on my phone and then placed the order enjoying the fact I didn’t have to go up to the bar with my bag; it was so much more convenient as the menu had so politely told me it would be. It was a good start to the holiday.

Your drinks are now ready to be collected at the bar

The app informed me of this after I had ordered. For fuck’s sake… thanks for nothing!

This hiccup was insignificant to the major, major plus point I did receive on this journey. For as anyone that has flown to the USA knows, getting through customs is a right pain in the arse. Steeve who I was meeting there had taken an hour and a half and was expecting to wait that long for me to get out when I landed a couple of hours later. However what I discovered was that by going via Dublin the customs part is done before you board the plane in Ireland; the part where you are waiting for the plane anyway and therefore doesn’t even matter. It only took thirty minutes at most and as I said, I would only have been sitting down in the airport anyway. On arrival to the USA I simply walked off the plane and into the general airport area to meet Steeve within five minutes and without checks. It was awesome and made up for the fact that Air Lingus doesn’t even offer a free drink with your meal! If you want alcohol at any point you have to pay for it. I know I picked the cheapest flights I could because unfortunately I am currently on a very tight budget but not even a free wine with your meal is ridiculous! However now knowing you can skip that customs headache on the US side I would gladly give up my meal too.

Of course seeing Metallica perform with the symphony orchestra was the reason for the trip but seeing my good buddy Steeve who now no longer lives anywhere near me was also a major plus point. We met at the airport and then took the BART to Montgomery and it started off all very Simpsons.

The hotel check-in was pleasant but the host started giving us a history of Hong Kong which would have been very interesting except after ten plus hours of flying the thought of flinging yourself onto the hotel bed and dumping your bags tends to override any pleasure of anything else. Finally he finished and let us go.

Evening One - 04/09

I am going to try and skip the boring stuff so aside from getting a drink in two shit bars (we were knackered after our trip and had no energy to explore too much) all I need to mention for this night was that whilst crème brulee and cheesecake are both awesome desserts if you happen to combine the two you are in heaven! That certainly made up for the shit bars and we went to bed happy.

Day Two - 05/09

Day two was Alcatraz day and I have to say it was well worth a visit. We were shown around the first part by Benny (Steeve’s new hero) and then given a headset that took us round the rest of the site and told us the story of Alcatraz. It was very easy to think that they had a life of luxury as we strolled round, it was a beautiful day and the views were amazing but the headset reminded you this was actually a prison! It is a must do if you are in town.

Dinner compromised a huge sourdough sandwich for me and soup for Steeve that was served inside a huge sourdough roll. American in size and wonderful in taste. This was followed by a Ghirardelli milkshake at the famous chocolatier as the sandwich was just too much for me to fit in one of their world famous sundaes. I would have to come back.

The evening ended with a trip to Tommy’s Joynt (their spelling not mine) and an interesting encounter. The reason we went was because this was the bar where Newsted was invited to join (or should I say joyn) the band and a load of Metallica fans had decided it was a good meet up spot. One guy who spoke to us talked about how emotional it was for him to be at the bar where Jason had joined but for me it was just a bar; a bar that looked like a bar and served beer. The fact that Metallica had been in there a long time ago and after I am guessing at least a few referbs kind of took any magic away, if there was any anyway, of sitting on a seat that someone more famous than you maybe once sat on.

I had after arriving gone to the bar to get some beers and bought back a lady who was sitting at the bar by herself. We had got talking and being the polite guy that I am thought it would be a shame for her to continue sitting by herself. Having introduced her to Steeve and congratulated myself on my good deed I then spent the evening wondering if my good deed had blessed or punished us.

The lady had quite the stories on her and most involved getting stuff for free by taking huge risks. She had decided for instance that she wanted to see Rammstein in Canada as they were banned from the US and so went. She did not have a ticket to either the show or the city it was in but only a coach into Canada. From that point she managed to hitch a ride to the show and then be given a ticket and not without a few scary moments. Somehow she then managed to get back in time for work, this time with a transvestite and a lesbian who hated each other.

Another story involved staying at an Air B&B with a nudist who would reappear every so often with one less item of clothing on and again hitchhiking and being left in the middle of nowhere after asking to leave a vehicle as the driver insisted a sexual experience might be a good idea. Her friend had decided to get the train to Amsterdam and missed all of this but for this lady, the idea of spending money on a train ticket had seemed ridiculous.

At some point she had also been part of a Jewish/Christian cult and had travelled halfway across the country to be with her first love who when she arrived didn’t reciprocate the love he had professed to her online and so instead she slept with the guy who had randomly agreed to put her up whilst she waited to see if the first love would change his mind.

The whole thing was a whirlwind of crazy stories and ended with the reason why she was at the bar; it was in the hope of scoring a free ticket to one of the Metallica shows. I talked with Steeve after she had left and agreed that whilst we were really boring, paying for things actually seemed a lot easier and less dangerous. She certainly had some stories but I didn’t have any desire to have had them myself.

Day Three - 06/09

The next day was the first Metallica show and having come all this way we thought it was worth at least giving it a go to get in to this one as well. We walked down to the Chase Center and asked about any returns and got the answer we were expecting. None.

On the way however we spotted a mini golf course that was fun. I was leading at one point and then forgot to keep score which may or may not have had anything to do with the fact I was not winning anymore! The highlight of the course was each hole had a button to press that gave you a musical accompaniment that matched the theme of the hole. After a beer to celebrate the ‘draw’ we went back to the hotel for our final attempt at getting into the show.

The next hour was spent hitting refresh on Ticketmaster and getting nowhere. The tickets that had reduced in price on the resale site were snapped up in a millisecond and we couldn’t afford to buy the £4k ones, ones that incidentally would be left empty for the show and a waste of everybody’s time. We cheered ourselves up by going to the Cheesecake Factory.

Day Four - 07/09

Today was the day of walking as we set off from Chinatown to the Golden Gate Bridge and then onto Sausalito, a town on the other side of the water and a good three hour walk. We picked up some food from Safeway and I mention this only because I was informed it was the first Safeway ever opened and two because I like to moan and wonder why Americaland shop prices are always listed before tax so as a foreigner you never know how much you are actually spending! Surely our way of listing the actual cost of the product is more beneficial?

Having walked most of the way we then seemed to get stuck on a main road and took a bus for the last twenty minutes of the walk. I don’t need to tell you the bridge was impressive and Sausalito was pretty with stunning views back towards San Francisco. It was one of those towns that are full of independent shops and my favourite was a shop that sold Xmas stuff all year round. It even had a tree that constantly snowed.

We had already decided against walking back so took the boat and then after a little relaxation went to a local bar. It was here that we bumped into our new friends for the rest of the trip. Having tried to order some food, ‘I’ll just go and get the waiter’ was the reply but without the person actually doing that, we started talking to two ladies in Metallica shirts who had the same problem. They turned out to be very cool and we accidentally had a few more drinks than we imagined we would and woke up the next day with a hangover but also with drinking buddies for after the show the next day.

Day Five - 08/09

Of course the highlight of today was going to see Metallica and that can be read in all its glory in the two reviews listed on the side. Before that however we took a long walk to the famous Amoeba record store and it was a walk that seemed even further than the one we did yesterday. It also included being told we had nice bottoms by a lady sitting outside her house and an offer of mushrooms for the show which we declined as as Steeve pointed out, you can get them in a restaurant and they would then come with other food too, making it more of a meal!

The record shop contained just about everything apart from the few CDs I was looking for but I did end up with three Sharon Jones posters that should look good on my wall.

After the show we hooked up with our new friends, had some beers and celebrated the wonderful show. I also managed to not eat some spicy chicken things because I am a wimp.

Day Six – 09/09

Today I don’t remember doing too much during the day. As we had done a few times on this trip we took breakfast in Sears which came recommended and was very good. Both I and Steeve had our same breakfast each time which is a fact that I am sure will never leave you.

The evening took us to the Raiders game and it was fantastic to watch a game in the US with a home support as opposed to Wembley where there isn’t. In case we weren’t aware Antonio Brown is not too popular in this region and the polite instruction of no profanity to be uttered was ignored as ‘FUCK A.B.’ reverberated constantly through the arena. The game was good but you can see why they are moving. The stadium was old and the food stands took about an hour to get through the queue and give us a shit hotdog/nachos.

It was though a good experience and we trained it back out of Oakland and into the safety of San Francisco.

Day Seven – 10/09

Today would have been a one paragraph entry of returning to Ghirardelli for an amazing sundae (it was ridiculous and I couldn’t finish it), followed by Izzy’s for a great steak and ending up back at the Taproom for some last night beers and reflections on an amazing week, however the last part didn’t quite turn out as simply reflecting on a great week.

Having gone to the bathroom I returned to see Steeve talking to someone. The talker was part of a group that had won some business prize and so they had been rewarded with a trip to San Francisco from their home country of Australia. Apparently he had spotted Steeve’s shoes and decided to talk to him about them. I know nothing about shoes but apparently they are a good make or something.

Having chatted to us for a bit he then spotted a lady at the bar that was quite clearly by herself. However unlike the lady I had chatted to at the bar and asked to join us at Tommy’s, she was here for a different reason. Having beckoned her over he then started to ask her about her life.

He didn’t discover what her actual name was but did discover she went by the name of Candy Apple. He also did not discover why she had come to San Francisco but did learn that her lips needed softening up with a drink if she were to give a good blowjob. I had already thought he was a bit of a dick (married man with children and all) but wondered if he was going to go all out dick and use this opportunity to (re?)cheat on his wife. It turned out he did something much worse…

He left for the bar, not offering to buy us a drink and did not return. Therefore myself and Steeve were left with a prostitute we did not ask for and had no intention of enjoying, Steeve because he was married and I because for some reason haven’t got past the idea that paying for sex isn’t something I am comfortable with or wanting to do which is surprising considering how long I have not had it for (I should point out that if Steeve wasn’t married I am not saying he would of taken a different course of action)!

So the day ended with us sheepishly leaving the bar having been the only two people in the history of the world to have chatted to a prostitute for over ten minutes with no intention of procuring sex.

Day Eight – 11/09

After another lovely breakfast it was time to travel home and reminisce on a wonderful week of hanging out with my best mate, meeting some cool people, meeting some interesting people, seeing some sights, witnessing a fantastic gig and not sleeping with a prostitute.

Hopefully this has been a good warm up and now you can go and read the main event of this trip, the gig reviews. I would have kept it to just the concert reviews but then you wouldn’t have had the prostitute story and you wouldn’t have wanted to miss out on that would you?

Metallica & San Fran Orch - 08/09/19

The Chase Center - San Francisco

Part I: Tales Around San Francisco