This backpacking marlarky is easy!! After an upgrade to BA First Class (many thanks to BA overbooking & Caroline, our personal T5 manager) we thoroughly enjoyed our flight to San Francisco, landed safely and smoothly in the heart of the city and WE LOVE SAN FRANCISCO!!!
Our arrival was very smooth, despite Sven trying very hard to refuse the compulsory immigration finger screening. The threat of an impolite, full strip search, persuaded him to leave a full set of dabs just in case he decided to resume his career as a ‘cat’ burglar! The baggage handlers thought they would have a bit of a laugh by unloading bags from steerage first. Some 25 minutes later the appearance of a Louis Vuitton suitcase heralded the arrival of priority baggage including our backpacks! Customs passed us through unmolested. On reaching the doors of the terminal we were meet by a gargantuan pigeon, it was a wide and it was long – so we knew we had landed in the US of A!
The first full day in SFO was an early morning start for Sven who couldn’t sleep, unlike Debbie who is well skilled in sleeping whenever, wherever. The day that dawned was beautiful and we spent it walking around the city seeing sights and negotiating hills, steps, trams and Chinamen – lots of them everywhere. SFO has the largest China town outside of Asia and it occupies a very large area of what is a very small city.
The next day we ventured, as true travellers, onto the SFO tram and metro system to return to the airport and collect our car – the delightful, but totally gutless, Ford Mustang convertible. It’s an absolute joy to ride but don’t try to overtake a heavy slow truck on the upward slope of the many hills in the area because it’ll let you down. We drove out north to the Napa & Sonoma wine regions to do some wine tasting and eat some fine foods. It turns out that, unlike the UK and New Zealand you cannot get lunch in the vineyards – except for one, the champagne yard Domaine Chandon, the brother yard of Moet Chandon. So we just had to drink the champagne!
A drive back over Golden Gate was an absolute priority, stopping at the vista point was a must, climbing out of the car and needing to put on our cold weather gear and jackets to cope with the freezing temperatures was not expected. The weather has really surprised us – the temperature changes in the day and across the bay vary from mid 60’s to high 90’s and trying to keep on top of warmth has been a real challenge. God only knows how we will survive in the Andes.
We enjoyed the city so much we extended our stay and went out cycling, jay walking, shopping, eating (in some fab restaurants recommended by friends and concierges) before starting our slow journey south to Los Angeles. First stop was Silicon Valley and my cousin’s home in Los Gatos.
Our observations from the windy city – American coffee is not great, you need to find a good Italian place and Cafe Trieste near Washington Square – don’t wait for the trams at the start of the routes where the queues are huge, just jump on at the first set of lights where it has to stop – to get the best views of the Golden Gate get up early and catch the morning sun – make an effort to climb 1 or 3 of the steep hills because the views of the bay, from different points at the top, are spectacular.
Most days are foggy, usually in the morning but sometimes all day. Much to our surprise it is very much colder than we expected with the temperature never getting above 16c unless you get inland. As Mark Twain said ‘I have never experienced such a cold winter as summer in California’
We moved onto Los Gatos and Silicone Valley for some family time. I have not seen Helen and the family for a few years, my Aunty Olwen for at least 10 years, nor Frances, my other cousin, for 15 or 16 years, and never meet her children. We caught up, talked late into the night, went to a concert, slept, ate, drank copious quantities of wine and then more talking, just as families do, culminating in a beach picnic eating artichoke everything (a local speciality), whilst covered in clothes peering at the sea through drifting fog. It was fantastic. The kids are at the late teens, young adult stage and just a delight to spend time with. Unfortunately it’ll be a while before we are all together again – but good ol’ facebook will be busy keeping us connected!
Enjoy the photos, time and destination allowing we are aiming to send through a small ditty and pictures weekly. Missing you all, take care Sven & Debbie xxxxxx