A Travellerspoint blog

USA

A Tale of Three Cities Pts 2 & 3: New York and SFO

A Tale of Three Cities... Pt 2: New York

New York 17th – 25th October

Flew into JFK and felt a sense of excitement and relief at being back in a country where I felt at home. This feeling rapidly turned to frustration when I was stuck waiting for an hour and a half in the mile-long immigration queue – "Welcome to America". Why is it that the check in procedure here in the States has become so easy and seamless, but it still takes hours to process you through security and immigration?? At least they let me back in, and my bag (which had made it through much sooner than I had), was waiting for me in baggage reclaim. I took the shuttle to a nearby hotel in a very dodgy area of Queens, but it felt like luxury! I had a big king-size bed to myself, a coffee maker, hot shower and cable TV!

I woke slightly confused the next morning, and greeted the maid with a friendly “Ola!”. Luckily, she appeared to be Spanish anyway and replied with a bemused “Hi!”. I had thought all my language barrier problems were over for a while, but I hadn't bargained for the New York snarl....

Made the most of the breakfast of oatmeal, waffles, orange juice, yoghurt and coffee, before heading off to pick up my car. The drive up to New Paltz, where Joe was at uni, was beautiful once I got out of the city. The colours of the leaves against the brilliant blue sky still took me by surprise, even though I was looking forward to the famous fall views.

The drive took around 2 hours and I arrived on campus around lunchtime, to see Joe walking back to his halls (from where, I never asked!) behind me in the rear-view mirror. It was lovely to see him again, and I realised how much I’d missed him. He showed me his room, which he shared with a Japanese boy, and which looked very much like his room at Kingston – you still couldn’t see the floor. We had lunch at the college canteen which was like a giant food court – although as Joe warned, the food sadly looked better than it tasted.

The town of New Paltz is on the tourist trail between New York and New England, and being such a short drive away from Manhattan was full of day trippers on this sunny Sunday. It was charming though, with lots of little craft shops and cafes, overlooked by wonderfully scenic countryside. It was coming up to Halloween, and all the stores and houses were decorated to the hilt – some even had full scale graveyards in the front gardens! Once I’d checked into my hostel, we took a drive up to the nearby National Park, to see the waterfall, and watch the sunset (one of many pretty spectacular sunsets I’d seen on this trip) over the hillside.

Joe had lectures most of the following day, so I borrowed a bike from campus, and cycled along the Walkill Valley Rail trail, which followed a disused railway track to the nearby village of Gardiner. I don’t think my bottom had quite recovered from the long ride I did in Patagonia, and the return journey became quite painful. I stuck to my healthy new exercise/diet regime, with a pizza that evening (it is SO hard not to eat here, there’s so much food) and a good catch up with Joe.

Joe had a couple of days free, and was desperate to get off campus, so we hit the road to Mystic on the Connecticut coast the next morning, passing by the towns of Brentwood and nearby county of Essex....It all felt strangely familiar, but much more attractive than the British counterparts. If only they played some decent British (or American come to that) music on the radio (and no ads), it would have been perfect. The weather held out and we had a huge plate of fish and chips in the pretty harbour side town and took the obligatory photo outside of the “Mystic Pizza” shop (we couldn’t face another pizza). Watched another stunning sunset over the bay in the nearby typically “New English” town of Stonington.

We decided to head back to New Paltz the scenic way the following day, and passed through tiny villages and homesteads, all dressed up for the Halloween weekend. It is strange how this part of the country has a reputation for being a bit “Christian Right”, yet seems to embrace this festival of the occult so avidly! Again the scenery was awesome (help, I’ve been here too long).

Once back, we tried out the local Thai before turning in to get a good night’s sleep in preparation for our weekend in the Big Apple.

My sat nav let me down the next day when he got us on the route into central Manhattan, instead of back to the airport. One huge traffic jam out of the city later, we dropped the car back at JFK and headed into town to meet up with Alfonso and Bruce (jump back several blogs to Costa Rica when I met Trish, a lovely lady from Washington who had very kindly offered us the use of her brother’s apartment in Chelsea). The studio flat was very bijou but comfortable and in a great neighbourhood and immediately felt like home. Our hosts were driving upstate to their farm for the weekend, so very trustingly handed over the keys and we arranged to have a drink and a proper chat when they returned on Sunday.

Joe and I had no firm plans, and having visited New York before we’d done the main tourist attractions. We went on an interesting free walking tour of Greenwich Village the next day, which took us around this bohemian, historic neighbourhood, explaining the sights. Also in our neighbourhood was the English Food Shop “Tea and Sympathy” where Joe stocked up on Marmite, and I treated myself to a bottle of Daddies Sauce (I had embarrassed Joe on Facebook by exclaiming how much I had missed my “Daddies Sauce” and he had to quickly explain to all his American friends that it was in fact A CONDIMENT!).

That evening I’d arranged to meet up with some of my colleagues from the San Fran office who had set up in New York. It was lovely to see them again and catch up on all their news. They took us to this great bar in the Flatiron district called Spin, which consisted of dozens of table tennis tables. Needless to say things got quite chaotic after a few drinks (but I was still terrible!). We ended up having a fairly decent Indian in “Curry Hill”, and promised to keep in touch.

The next morning we tried (but failed miserably) to get up early to go to the half price ticket booth to see if we could get some tickets for a Broadway show. We ended up on the wrong side of the Brooklyn Bridge, but enjoyed the views of the city as we walked back across. Sadly, all the shows were way over our budget, so we cheered ourselves up with another mammoth meal in China Town. My clothes were definitely beginning to feel a bit tight! The afternoon was spent exploring the streets of the East Village, which completely wore Joe out, and he refused to hit the town with me that evening – wuss! His old mum wasn’t going to let a Saturday night in Manhattan go to waste and took the subway up to 42nd Street where I managed to get standing tickets for “Memphis” , one of Broadways hot new shows. It was great and I walked back down 5th Avenue soaking in the sights and sounds of this exhilarating city.

Sunday was our last day together, but the sun was out and after a hefty but delicious brunch, we went for a walk along the “High Line” an unusual new park that had been created on the disused lines of the elevated freight line that used to run the length of the Lower West Side. It was brilliantly landscaped and included art installations and some great views of the Hudson. We sat and watched the musicians and strange cabaret acts performing in Washington Square, before I had to wave Joe off at the bus station. I tried not to think about the 7 long months before I’d see my baby again – still at least we have Skype.

That evening, I enjoyed getting to know Bruce and Alfonso a little better over a bottle of wine and a pizza. What a charming and very generous couple – I hoped they would take me up on my offer to come visit me in London when I get back (at this rate I’m going to need a bigger house!). I really do feel that one of the most rewarding things about travelling is the wonderful and interesting people I have met along the way.

Snuck out very early the next day to catch the train to the airport for the next part of my Stateside re-visit – back “home” to San Francisco.

A Tale of Three Cities... Pt 3: Back in San Francisco

San Francisco 25th – 28th October

It did feel strange taking the train back into the city I had called home for 3 months. I felt like a real local, helping out some new arrivals buy their BART tickets at the station.

My friend Tash met me at the station, and after lunch we settled down for a lazy afternoon in her apartment in the Mission. The next few days comprised of eating, drinking and meeting up with friends and colleagues, catching up on e-mails and trying to plan the next part of my trip in New Zealand.

I was blessed again with good weather, and enjoyed a pleasant morning with my old mate Steve, who had just started building a house in Pacifica (around 20 minutes outside of the city) when I left in June. I was dying to see how it was progressing, and was impressed! He hopes to have it finished early in the New Year, but you could tell that it was going to be spectacular with amazing views of the coast. He seemed in good spirits as his baseball team, The Giants had just qualified for the World Series (in fact the whole of San Francisco seemed to be caught up in the hysteria) AND West Ham had come back from the dead in the Carling Cup to beat Stoke 3-1. And his windows had just arrived! Can’t wait to come back one day and see it finished.

Refreshed and happy after spending a few days in familiar territory with some old friends, I headed off to the airport once again for a shuttle down to LA, and my long flight across the Pacific to New Zealand.

Sunny New Paltz

Sunny New Paltz


In the Woods

In the Woods


Mystic Seaport

Mystic Seaport


New York Apartments

New York Apartments


"Friends"

"Friends"


The High Line

The High Line


Steve's New Gaff

Steve's New Gaff


Old New Paltz

Old New Paltz


My and My Boy

My and My Boy


The Views

The Views


Minnewaska State Park

Minnewaska State Park


Sunset Minnewaska State Park

Sunset Minnewaska State Park


Another Sunset..Mystic, Connecticut

Another Sunset..Mystic, Connecticut


Adams Family Home

Adams Family Home


Connecticut River

Connecticut River


My new bath tub!

My new bath tub!


View from Brooklyn Bridge

View from Brooklyn Bridge


Times Square...Where Else?

Times Square...Where Else?


One Day????

One Day????


The High Line

The High Line


Gay, Wavering, or Swings Both Ways???

Gay, Wavering, or Swings Both Ways???


Our New York Pad

Our New York Pad


San Fran Re-union

San Fran Re-union


Home Sweet Home

Home Sweet Home

Posted by kathystravels 16:00 Archived in USA Comments (0)

I Left My Job In San Francisco

OMG, you know you`ve been in this city too long when you start chatting to random strangers on buses....and Glaswegians at that!!

So this is it...my last day in the Windy City (Chicago can`t possibly hold (or blow out) a candle to San Fran for gale force winds). Walking home from work the other night, struggling to walk upright (battling the wind, not the tequila for a change!), I came to the conclusion that as much as I loved this city, the weather would have defeated me in the end. This is a place where there is no necessity for a winter or summer wardrobe – you just need one big wardrobe (preferably one that you can walk through into a land where it is Summer the whole time). You`re getting the picture.

The other thing I won`t miss about the place is the tragic number of homeless and scarily crazy people here. At times it feels like you`re walking through the set of a zombie movie. I`ve never felt unsafe of threatened – just a bit depressed that a county like the US can allow so many people to end up on the streets.

What I will miss... the "hoods", the people (crazy and otherwise) who have made me, as a stranger, feel so welcome. The culture and the music, the diversity and the food, the freedom and the tolerance. People seem happy or content to be here whatever their circumstances or lifestyle. This is a place where they feel at home, in every sense of the word.

The last few weeks have flown by. After a great couple of weeks with Karen and Ronelle, Dan arrived and it was lovely to see him again. He obviously felt at home, turning my lovely apartment into the set of “The Young Ones “ within a few hours. Obviously having mum around makes you suddenly incapable of making a bed or doing the washing up. That aside, he was great company – he was out exploring during the week while I was at work, but we had two brilliant weekends together.

We drove up to Yosemite with my friend Tash on the first, and I began to understand why many Americans don`t travel abroad much. The range of scenery here is absolutely breathtaking, like something out of a painting – especially as the winter had seen a lot of snow this year and some of it was still lying around. It did feel really odd throwing snowballs when the temperatures were in the 90`s. The snow melt had made the waterfalls and rivers even more torrential than usual, and the highlight of the trip was climbing up this mountain for what felt like miles and getting absolutely soaked, only to be rewarded with the unforgettable sight of a rainbow framing the top of the waterfall like something out of a fairy tale! It really warranted a longer stay than our two days allowed. Next time it would be great to actually stay in the woods (instead of a cabin which turned out to be a mobile home – and turned us into “trailer trash” for the weekend!).

The following weekend, after watch England scrape a draw against the US, we headed down the coast along Pacific Highway One to Monterey. As we drove along by Big Sur, we had the Beach Boys on the radio (this fulfilled one of my all time fantasies!) and would spontaneously burst into tune every time we passed a town or place that was in an Eagles/Springstein/Monkees/Eminem etc. song. This area must be featured in more hits than anywhere else I know!

My favourite places along the drive – Monterey, Carmel (where they were setting up for the US Open), Hearst Castle (such a stunning house and grounds on top of a hill overlooking the coast), the stunning coastline, Huntington Beach, Newport Beach and finally San Diego where we ended up. We also found the Californian equivalent to Southend-on-Sea (Pismo Beach – what a dump!) closely followed in the “Tackiest Seaside Resort” stakes by Venice Beach. Scary as it was (you try trying to change lanes on an 11 lane highway!), I really enjoyed the drive despite the fog which seemed to follow us along the coast, and we ended up safely back at LA, where I tearfully saw Dan off, and flew back to San Fran.

This weekend was Pride weekend, and we watched the Parade on Sunday, when the weather was hot and sunny (for a change!). Although a little more political than the London event, it was a great tribute to the city to see so many people of all denominations enjoying the spectacle and supporting the gay community (which in turn seems to embrace and involve itself in every good cause from pet adoption to vegetarianism to housing for the elderly). It was a fitting finale to my stay here.

So it`s adios San Francisco.....Hola Mexico.

Me, Kaz and Dan - Lounging in Dolores Park

Me, Kaz and Dan - Lounging in Dolores Park


Somewhere over the Rainbow

Somewhere over the Rainbow


Highway One

Highway One


Pride!

Pride!


Hearst Castle

Hearst Castle


Me and Tash - Yosemite

Me and Tash - Yosemite


Alcatraz

Alcatraz


San Diego Zoo

San Diego Zoo


Highway One - Half Moon Bay

Highway One - Half Moon Bay


Yosemite

Yosemite


Yosemite

Yosemite


Yosemite

Yosemite


Yosemite

Yosemite


Giant Redwoods - Mariposa Grove

Giant Redwoods - Mariposa Grove


Yosemite

Yosemite


Yosemite

Yosemite


Gay Astronaut (Pt 2)

Gay Astronaut (Pt 2)


Gay Astronaut (Pt 1)

Gay Astronaut (Pt 1)


Pride!

Pride!


Pride!

Pride!


Pride!

Pride!


Pride!

Pride!

Posted by kathystravels 16:00 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Leaving (or trying to) Las Vegas

Here I am sitting writing the latest episode of my blog, at McLaren Airport in Las Vegas (not quite gambling capital of the world – Macau in the Philippines lays claim to that title). I`m sure the margaritas there are not up to those here in "Sin City" though... and they don`t have The Strip either do they (well not the kind you can cruise down in a limo anyway - more of that later).

I`ve been here to celebrate the 50th birthday of one of my best mates, Karen, who is visiting me in San Francisco with another good friend, Ronelle. Arriving on Saturday after an hour`s flight from San Fran, there was no confusing where we`d landed - we found ourselves sitting opposite our first huge bank of slot machines, in the arrivals lounge - waiting for Karen`s old school friend, Wendy, who was flying in from Calgary (Yay! here come the (old) girls!).

Watching the huge advertising screens, we quickly worked out that this was where all those pop “stars” of the 70s and 80s wound up! Matt Goss (remember Bros? “When Will I Be Famous?" No? – well apparently he is the “leader of the New Rat Pack” , known to his fans -or should that be “fan” - across the world as “The Voice”) – and there was I thinking he was a washed up, one-hit wonder ... Cue upcoming gigs by those monsters of 80s power ballads: Styx and REO Speedwagon, Queensryche, Foreigner and Pat Benetar, along with Herman`s Hermits with Peter Noone, Don McLean, ZZ Top, Huey Lewis, Blondie and the B52s, Level 42, Cyndi Lauper, Jerry Lee Lewis (blimey, thought those great balls had been extinguished years ago!), to name but a few. There`s a future for all those X Factor and Britain`s got Talent finalists after all – although not quite sure if Las Vegas is quite ready yet for a be-sequinned Susan Boyle. Liberace would be turning in his grave.

The taxi ride from the airport proved a moving experience in more ways than one. Chatting to the driver, I established that he was Cambodian, and explaining that I had visited his country last year, he divulged his fascinating and tragic life story. He was around my age, and had lived through and survived the Killing Fields era in the 70`s. Having lost his entire family to the Khmer Rouge`s brutal regime, through starvation or murder, he managed to flee to Thailand by foot (avoiding the major roads for fear of capture), it must have taken months. He lived off whatever he could scavenge – even eating the huge centipedes found in the jungle. Once across the Thai border, he spent months in refugee camps where he witnessed appalling treatment by the Thais – torture and rape were commonplace. At least his story had a happy ending - he sought asylum in the States and has lived here since – educating himself and learning English. Listening to this story, while riding in his cab through the hedonistic capital of the US, felt very strange and humbling. Nonetheless, what a great tribute to a very brave man and a country which certainly has it`s faults, but which took him in and gave him his life and freedom. He got a big tip.

Settled into our corner suite at the Trump Hotel, we hit the town and so begun a great weekend of good fun, good friends, good food and good frozen margaritas. As they say “what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas”, but highlights were... strutting our funky stuff at the 80`s disco at Caesars Palace, watching Karen`s face when the limo turned up to pick us up for a champagne-fuelled trip along The Strip, the very hot waiter in the Indian, the amazing Bellagio Fountains, and last night`s drunken but hilarious attempts to catch a moth that was terrorising Ronelle in the bedroom.

And in case you were wondering, I only put $1 in the slots, and won nothing, so I won`t be completing my trip in First Class. I`m glad I didn`t bet on the estimated departure time of this plane though – it`s already been delayed 2 hours and counting . Ah well, back soon to (not so) sunny San Francisco....

Next episode: The Prodigal arrives for a visit....

Las Vegas Sign

Las Vegas Sign


The Venetian

The Venetian


The Bellagio Fountains

The Bellagio Fountains


The Bellagio Fountains (at night!)

The Bellagio Fountains (at night!)


Flat on my back by the pool!

Flat on my back by the pool!


Well gone here...as if you couldn`t tell...

Well gone here...as if you couldn`t tell...


Planet Hollywood

Planet Hollywood


The Four Queens

The Four Queens


Birthday Girl

Birthday Girl


Caesars Divas

Caesars Divas


Karen`s Limo

Karen`s Limo

Posted by kathystravels 16:00 Archived in USA Comments (0)

San Fran Pt 2 - Settling In

Almost at the end of my first month here. I do feel like I`ve been here months rather than weeks. I catch glimpses of myself as I walk past shop windows and keep trying to work out if I look like a local or a tourist. People keep asking me for directions or where the nearest Bank of America is, so I guess I`m beginning to blend in! Can`t bring myself to start walking along the road talking to myself though, which would really complete the transformation. Maybe I should get myself a supermarket trolley??

I`ve started the intense physical training required for the rest of my round the world trip – I was persuaded to go to Pilates AND kickboxing in the same week. So I can now defend myself if I get mugged, as well as keeping my body in perfect alignment. My body is now defending itself from me and is refusing to do anymore exercise for at least 2 weeks.

The Spanish lessons are going "muy bueno". Our teacher is a very cute Spanish guy called (I kid you not) “Nacho”. Yes, cheesy jokes on a postcard.... I try to do some homework in my lunch breaks at the very pretty Yerba Buena Gardens across the road from the office. It`s kind of nice to have such a lovely environment where you can sit and have your lunch and watch the world go by, in the midst of an urban landscape. I`ve been very fortunate with the weather – although it`s much cooler than I imagined it would be, it seems to be the reverse of London, in that we get the best weather at the weekends.

I`ve gotten into the habit of going out for very long walks each weekend. This way, I`ve explored some really interesting neighbourhoods and parts of the city that I might otherwise have missed. My first foray led me to Ocean Beach, a very large expanse of coast where the locals congregate to play beach games (well I think that`s what they were doing), barbecue, play music, fly kites (it`s very breezy). Sunbathing was definitely out of the question the day I visited! The next beach up the coast is Baker Beach, which apparently is a nudist beach. You`d have to be a very serious exhibitionist to take anything off in this weather. Unfortunately there does seem to be a quite a lot of those here...

Out of the breeze, the sunshine is glorious, and I`ve spent a couple very pleasant Saturday afternoons discovering Golden Gate Park, the largest man made park in the world. Haven`t made it around the Botonical Gardens or the Japanese Tea Gardens yet, but the Aids Memorial Grove is stunning (you really wouldn`t believe that you were in the middle of one of America`s major cities) and it really is a very peaceful and moving memorial.

My next outing was through the Haight (the neighbourhood which was the centre of the Hippy movement in the 60`s). It`s quirky shops and cafes (including what must be one of the biggest and coolest record shops in the world – Amoeba Records), along with the incredible graffiti which decorates the sides of the colourful Victorian houses and the parking lots give it so much character. Not to mention the real “characters” you come across on every street corner, selling everything from dodgy cigarettes to dodgy poems!

My third weekend was spent walking the length of the Embarcadero, the promenade that lines the harbour from The Ferry Building to Fisherman`s Wharf. Full of shops, restaurants and history, as well as the obligatory “crazies” including a guy dressed from head to toe in silver, cruising along in on his silver dream machine (see photo) playing Motown at full blast, and another who seemed intent on entertaining himself, by jumping out from behind his home made “bush” and scaring the tourists.

This weekend`s trip was a guided walking tour of the Castro , the centre of San Fran`s Gay District. Having recently seen the brilliant movie “Milk” starring Sean Penn, about the first openly gay man to be elected to public office in the US, it brought the area where he lived and worked to life. Apart from being an interesting and lively part of the city with a fascinating history, it houses a huge selection of stunning, Victorian and Edwardian houses, all painted in a rainbow of colours. It looked as though they had worked their way through the entire Dulux colour chart in one neighbourhood.

Other highlights of the last few weeks (there have been so many!) include finally going to see Vampire Weekend (one of my fav bands) play at the Fox Theatre in Oakland. What an amazing theatre – it`s beautifully restored 1930`s decor put me in mind of the old Rainbow Theatre in Finsbury Park – lavish frescos and lots of gold paint. VW were brilliant and exceeded my expectations. Hopefully, going to fit in another visit before I leave, to see Goldfrapp.

Last Friday `s obligatory visit to the stunning AT & T Park to see the San Francisco Giants play baseball was an interesting experience. Let me put it this way, the actual game was overshadowed firstly by the views – I`ve never been to a stadium with such an amazing outlook. 2 sides of the park overlook San Francisco Bay, and the sight of the boats, the bridge and the lights of Oakland and Berkeley as the sun went down was more memorable than the 9 blokes playing rounders could ever aspire to. And then when a fight broke out in the stand behind us, well it brought back warm memories of the North Bank, Upton Park...

Next on my list of must do`s include finding a decent Indian Restaurant (the one I found by Golden Gate Park run bizarrely by a guy from San Salvador was friendly but not overly authentic – masala burritos anyone??). I`ve also taken it upon myself to arrange site visits of all the top hotels in San Fran while I`m here (for research purposes of course). Looking forward to impending visits from my mates Karen and Ronelle, my number one son, and a trip to Vegas... watch this space.

Observations (and a really bad poem): “San Francisco, San Francisco – the city on the Bay Life is good, drinks are cheap, all the good looking men are gay....”

What I miss most about home Part 1: Shops: Marks and Spencer`s for sandwiches and knickers, Boots for cheap make up and drugs (obviously haven`t found the right dealer yet), Millets (you just can`t find a mosquito net or a sleeping bag liner in San Fran when you need one), Tesco Metro for everyday provisions and Clubcard points. At least there`s H & M (not to be confused with S & M, although this season`s rubber wear is quite stylish).

This is a place with one of the highest populations of homeless and hungry, yet has hardly any supermarkets but, go figure.....an art supply shop on almost every block??? If you`re going to live on the street and starve, why not do it through the medium of watercolour? Hmm.

And finally, an observation from your Fashion Correspondent: Talking of bums hanging out everywhere....what is it with this low slung baggy jean look here? One of the worse fashions ever, and so 2008. San Fran homies....get some skinny jeans, for heaven`s sake!

Yerba Buena Gardens

Yerba Buena Gardens


Golden Gate Park

Golden Gate Park


Funk Moped

Funk Moped


Vampire Weekend Oakland

Vampire Weekend Oakland


Giants Stadium

Giants Stadium


Tash, Steve and Me

Tash, Steve and Me


Tash Gets invited out clubbing

Tash Gets invited out clubbing


Harvey Milk Plaza, Castro

Harvey Milk Plaza, Castro


Views from the Castro

Views from the Castro


Haight

Haight


Sonoma Vineyard

Sonoma Vineyard


Ocean Beach

Ocean Beach


Streetcar Named D-Line

Streetcar Named D-Line


Fit Rollerblader

Fit Rollerblader


Golden Gate Bridge from the Presidio

Golden Gate Bridge from the Presidio

Posted by kathystravels 16:00 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Home from Home

I made it! After a very stressful couple of weeks of last minute planning (highlights of which included moving out of my house, a manic trip to the Indian Embassy when I was incorrectly told I would have to get my Indian Visa before I left, a worrying moment when I tried to check my flights on-line, only to discover I didn`t have any booked under the reference they`d given me, and various problems with bank accounts and credit cards not arriving), I finally made it to my new home in San Francisco and have settled in to my lovely apartment.

I felt a little sad to be leaving friends and family behind, but the internet and Skype make keeping in touch so much easier. Plus, arriving in a city with an instant network of friends is very comforting. I soon met up with the colleagues I had previously worked with in London at their new office – soon to be my workplace. And the new US recruits all seem very nice – and at least 2 of them have names I can pronounce...

My apartment is next door to my mate Steve, who I`ve known for nearly 30 years and has his own martial arts studio here. Steve is a massive Hammers fan, and I promised to watch the last few remaining matches of the season with him. What I`d forgotten (other than how bad they could be) is that the match is on here at 7am on the Saturday morning. This all seemed perfectly feasible until I came home at God knows when the night before and woke up with the hangover from hell (well I had been invited out for a "welcome to San Fran" drink, or six). And with margheritas at only $3 a shot, it would have been rude to refuse.

So after being here 2 days, I feel totally at home and it seems more like I`ve been here for weeks. I`ve managed to work out how to get back to the apartment (even when very drunk in the early hours of the morning!), have found Safeway, have been asked out on a date outside Safeway(!), have checked out where I can go for Spanish and Pilates classes, which I hope to sign up for next week, and have used the MUNI and the BART (the underground/bus/tram/trolley combo – they certainly like their transport to be varied here – I keep looking out for the stop n` ride horse and carts).

Sadly, I seem to have left the good weather back home – and after a couple of Okish days, the weather has turned very wet and stormy. Of course, I packed my flip flops and vest tops, and left out my boots and sweaters. So, I have had to postpone my plans to explore the city for the next few days, which is a shame as I just love walking around the different neighbourhoods. San Francisco must be one of my most favourite American cities – it`s so funky (for want of a better word), although it has most homeless people I`ve ever encountered anywhere. I guess they come here for the climate- and the shopping trolleys??? (although I think they`d be better off in Miami on a day like today).

So, I`m looking forward to starting work next week (something I never thought I`d hear myself say!), and becoming a real Californian girl (not sure I`ll be wearing flowers in my hair any time soon though).

Next stop: Napa Valley (to admire the beautiful scenery of course....)

Observations:

1. The people here are so friendly – on my first walk down Market Street, I had greetings and comments from no less than 4 guys (granted 3 of them were hobos, and the other one had no teeth, but the sentiments were appreciated).

2. I`d forgotten how much the Americans love their food. It is almost certainly cheaper to eat out than buy food to eat in. The number and variety of food outlets: restaurants, the ubiquitous fast food joints, bars, cafes, bistros is astonishing. Obviously the quality varies, but the quantity is always overwhelming for most of us Europeans, and it isn`t difficult to understand surrounded by a ready supply of cheap and accessible food at their disposal, that so many people are obese – even in relatively healthy California. It is disturbing, however, when they actively seem to be encouraging it (see photo) – only in America!

3. The TV is still crap!

Big Is Beautiful!

Big Is Beautiful!


My Apartment

My Apartment

Posted by kathystravels 16:00 Archived in USA Comments (0)

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