San Francisco - Week #1

The Fillmore

As I sit down to do my laundry at a wireless-enabled laundromat (awesome!), I thought I’d whip up a blog post on my first week in the good ol’ US-of-A.  Starting with my journey from Canada.

TN Visa - No Problems

One thing I was really stressing out about on my way out of Canada was getting my TN Visa.  I had all my proper documentation, but I’ve heard horror stories of people getting to their point-of-entry and being denied.  If you do this, basically all your stuff gets flown down to the US but you have to stay in Canada.

Thankfully, I had lawyers take care of most of my documents.  I was through secondary screening in about 30 minutes, which is pretty short compared to the 2-3 hours I was expecting.  As a bonus, the Vancouver Canucks were en-route to Chicago as I was clearing customs, so getting to chat with a bunch of them was a very surreal experience.  At that point, I hit up the airport bar, had one last caesar and (temporarily) said good-bye to Canada!

If anyone is going to be applying for their TN Visa in the future, be sure to ping me and I’ll give you more details.

San Francisco

I’ve been staying in our corporate housing, which is located on the corner of Turk and Fillmore.  Pretty easy access to groceries, laundry, etc. which makes my life easy.  Especially considering I don’t have a vehicle (not even a bike!) down here.  Public transit is super easy in San Fran, the bus system (Muni) and rapid transit (BART) is very easy to navigate.  I found myself showing up early to view apartments and appointments, as I’d give myself an hour to get somewhere and I’d be there in 20 minutes.

The city itself is very beautiful, for a big city.  I would compare it more to Victoria than Vancouver in terms of culture.  Very laid back atmosphere.  Most of the people are super friendly and are willing to give you directions and opinions on places to eat, etc.

US-only Websites

Two sites that I’ve really utilized here that aren’t available in Canada are Hulu and Mint.  Hulu is an online TV site that allows you to legally watch many shows from NBC, ABC, and other major networks.  This has been a life-saver when it comes to catching up on the final season of LOST, as well as episodes of The Office and 30 Rock.

Mint is a financial tracking software that I’ve started using.  It’s similar to Yodlee (which is available in Canada), but has a much nicer interface and is more feature-rich.  Only time will tell if this is a tool that I will continue using, depending on how much money it saves me!

Cellular Connectivity

I took my Fido iPhone 3G down with me, as I knew I’d be receiving phone calls to my Canada number as I closed out all my services out there.  I was also able to get a travel pack that allowed me to do some voice and data roaming in the US.  For about $45 CAD, I was able to get 70 minutes and a pro-rated data rate of $1/MB (trust me, that’s cheap).  I’m still very frugal when using my 3G data, and trying my best to find wireless networks where possible.

My initial plan was to keep my iPhone 3G until the new iPhone is released next month and switch to AT&T.  However, the AT&T network is very saturated in the Bay Area, with many dropped calls and slow connections.  Because of this, I’ve switched to the brand spankin’ new HTC Incredible from Verizon.  This is an Android powered phone which is something I’m really excited about.  As well, Verizon was the ONLY carrier that would do a Canadian credit check when opening a new account.  Because of this, I didn’t have to put a $500 deposit down on a new phone.  How sweet is that?  Suck it, AT&T!

I’ve also been hooked up with a Google Voice account, which I’m stoked to try out.  I’m planning on only having one phone line, but I’m hoping I can use the account to text message people in Canada without having to pay 20 cents per message.  We’ll see how that goes.

Food

Well I haven’t really had time to check out any restaurants in San Francisco yet, I’ve got a couple of food experiences to share.

First, the KFC Double Down.  I had countless messages on Facebook, text messages, etc. from my Canadian pals to try out this monstrosity of a sandwich.  Basically, it’s a chicken sandwich, where the bread is replaced by two deep-fried chicken breasts.  I’ve got a Flickr set created with my pictures, and I must say that after this beast once, I’ll never have it again!

Also, as this was my first week working for Atlassian, we went out for a welcome lunch yesterday with the support team.  We went to an amazing mexican restaurant called Puerto Alegre, in the heart of the Mission District.  Awesome chips, amazing fajitas and margaritas by the pitcher.  It’s going to be tough to beat that place!

Concerts

As I’m a huge fan of live music, I couldn’t go my first week in San Francisco without going to a live show.  I was lucky enough to catch The Hold Steady at The Fillmore.  The band was louder and harder than I expected, and also played quite a bit more old stuff than I was planning on.  Still an awesome first show to bring me into the city.

The Fillmore is an amazing venue with tons of history.  Very similar to the Commodore Ballroom in Vancouver.  They have photos all over the lobby of bands that have played in the past, including Rage Against the Machine, Radiohead, Cypress Hill.  The venue only held a few thousand people, so these bands played this place before they were very popular.  I’m really looking forward to the next show I get to attend there.

The shear magnitude of acts that come through San Francisco is amazing.  Later this month I’m hoping to get to Nas/Damien Marley, as well as Thrice.

Well, my laundry is done so it’s time to split.  Hopefully I’ll be keeping this blog updated with my adventures through this amazing city!

dilly