Around the World a Bit at a Time

Travels: Past, Present and Future

Archive for the ‘USA’ Category

24 Hours Later…

Posted by Leanne on May 3, 2009

… I arrived at home.

Home

Home

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Crooked Street

Posted by Leanne on May 2, 2009

That morning, I sat at breakfast contemplating my last peanut butter and jelly bagel, knowing full well that next Saturday morning I would probably be sat at a kitchen table in York, eating  peanut butter and jam on toast.

But our flight wasn’t until later that day – still time to take one last stroll down (or up) the dampened and steep streets of San Francisco.  We headed for one particular street which on our map was simply labeled ‘Crooked Street’.

We knew that we had arrived before we could see it, because this ordinary residential street had a crowd of slightly moist tourists standing at the top of it taking photos.  I walked over to them and joined in:

Crooked Street, San Francisco

Crooked Street, San Francisco

Then walked to the bottom of it to take a better photo:

Crooked Street, San Francisco

Crooked Street, San Francisco

And then there was just time for a final slice of cheesecake before heading to the airport…

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Exploring the Exploratorium

Posted by Leanne on May 1, 2009

It was a rainy day, and rainy days on holiday usually mean boring museums.  Luckily for us, San Francisco is home to the Exploratorium which is about as far away from a boring museum as you can get.

I spent the day blinding myself with different coloured lights, working out how to connect the circuit board up so I could turn a lighbulb on, making water rings and bright coloured shadows, talking to computers, playing with mirrors and weird and wonderful musical instruments and elbowing small children out of the way so that I could have a go on the cool ‘surprise machine’.

I’m pleased to announce that I didn’t learn a single thing all day.

Brain Erasers at the Exploratorium, San Francisco

Brain Erasers at the Exploratorium, San Francisco

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How We Escaped from Alcatraz

Posted by Leanne on April 30, 2009

We just got on the ferry.  It was easy.

After spending the day at Golden Gate Park, we got on our pre-booked ferry (apparently it’s very important to book early) to Alcatraz.

It was the first time I have ever been in prison and I was struck by how bleak the whole place was.  Not surprising perhaps, but haunting to stand inside a cell, or ‘the hole’ that had been inhabited by naughty men once upon a time.

Water Tower, Alcatraz Island

Water Tower, Alcatraz Island

The award winning (and deservedly so) audio commentry led us back to a time when the tiny cells were occupied so that, even though there were another hundred or so people moving around in the same space, they were blocked out by the ghosts of the past who lay on the narrow beds, maybe staring at the walls, or the bars, plotting their escapes. Or their next crime…

An Alcatraz Cell

An Alcatraz Cell

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I Like to Ride my Bicycle

Posted by Leanne on April 29, 2009

One thing I knew about San Francisco before I got there (and I didn’t know much.  I didn’t even know it was built on hills), was that it had a big red bridge that people can ride their bikes on.  So naturally that is what we spent the day doing.

After picking up a couple of nifty hybrid bikes at the shop we made our way to the bridge, which only differs from the other bridges you can see in San Francisco (as far as my amateur eye can tell) in that it is painted red…

Biking the Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco

Biking the Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco

An hour or 2 later we arrived in Sausalito, which was full of people eating giant burgers and burritos, but more importantly, giant ice-creams.  Natuarally we stopped for a piece of the giant food action, and sat munching through our take-away meal in the sunshine as fellow cyclists boarded the ferry back to North Beach.

Given the vast amounts of energy we consumed during our break, we decided that it was only right that we should cycle round to Tiburon, the next ferry port.

18 miles of pleasant (hilly) San Francisco suburbs later, we took the ferry back to the other side, as our hands started to glow red from over exposure to the sun and our legs looked forward to a few beers to aid their recovery.

Sunburnt hands

Sunburnt hands

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Cartoons, Sea Lion-ebrities, Arcades and Wicked

Posted by Leanne on April 28, 2009

It was actually quite nice to wake up with nothing inparticular to do, nor any idea of how we were going to fill the next few days.

After a leisurely breakfast we wandered down through Chinatown, amongst the Chinese population of San Francisco and hoards of homeless who were asking for change, or rummaging in bins, mostly being ignored, onto Union square where people in camping chairs were camped outside the Nike store, surely waiting for the moment when they could purchase their limited edition sneakers (trainers).  At the ticketmaster booth, we exchanged vast amounts of Monopoly money for tickets to see Wicked.

After spending a happy hour reading comics in the Cartoon Art Museum we joined the rest of our tourist kind in the delightfully quaint, but somewhat artificial (i.e. just for tourists) Fishermans’ Wharf where we saw the sea lion-ebrities of the bay.

Sea Lion-Ebrities at Pier 39, Fishermans' Wharf

Sea Lion-Ebrities at Pier 39, Fishermans' Wharf

After wandering aimlessly further down the pier, we happened upon the gem which is the Musee Mechanique, an arcade full of antique, but fully operational arcade games and machines where we armwrestled a superhero.  And lost.

Paul paid 25c to check out a lady at her dressing table.  Apparently it was pretty hot…

At the Musee Mechanique

At the Musee Mechanique

To finish the evening off, we joined San Francisco’s middle classes at the Orpheum theatre to see Wicked – a more traditional musical than Avenue  Q, but enjoyable non-the-less.

I wasn’t too keen on the pointless dragon, but the show itself, including the special effects was wicked!

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San Francisco

Posted by Leanne on April 27, 2009

Road Trip Day 11: Midpines – San Francisco

Miles Travelled: 168

As we drove over the Bay Bridge, we caught our first glimpse of the San Francisco skyline: a modest cluster of buildings that looked like they had been freshly constructed from lego.

We found the hostel easily and I had taken care to draw a map of where the Hertz office, and a gast station were in relation to the hostel meaning that nothing could go wrong…

'Excellent' map of San Francisco

'Excellent' map of San Francisco

…1.5 hours of driving up and down steep streets, trying to work out how to get to the street we were looking for via the tangled sloping one way streets we found the Hertz office where we obtained directions to one of the elusive gas stations which I was beginning to doubt existed. 2 hours later the car was full of fuel and we said our goodbyes in a multistory carpark on Fishermans’ Wharf before venturing out into the windy streets of San Francisco. And I thought that Chicago was meant to be the windy city.

On every street we saw signs telling us that there was no parking, no stopping, no skating, no cycling, no skateboarding, no smoking, no drinking, no sleeping, no camping, no dumping, no littering…

In spite of this, it still managed to send out a welcoming and friendly vibe as we walked down the clean streets looking out for things to do for the rest of the week.

Later, a bartender told us that San Francisco is the most ‘European’ city you can find in the states. I looked forward to exploring more to see if she was right.

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Giant Sequoias of Yosemite

Posted by Leanne on April 26, 2009

On our second and final day in the park, we drove a little further (and higher) to the Tuolumne Grove of Giant Sequoias where we got to walk through some snow and see some giant trees, some of which were 3000 years old. They were big and tall and leafy, except for the dead ones, which were horizontal and unleafy.

At my request, Paul made a rubbish snowman:

Miniature Snowman

Miniature Snowman

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Vernal Falls

Posted by Leanne on April 25, 2009

As we drove into Yosemite country the previous day, it became obvious that we had left the desert behind us. For one thing it was raining, but mainly, the scenery started to change from arid sandy rocks, to green vine-covered flatlands, and finally into the big lumps of conifer and sequoia covered granite , host to coursing waterfalls and varied wldlife that is Yosemite National Park.

Yosemite is more how I imagnine National Parks to be. Green. Squirrelly. Bursting with life. You even had to look quite hard to find a list of ways in which you could die in the park!

Since the light rain of the previous day had cleared up, and the park wasn’t yet fully open for summer (no exciting activities to partake in), we decided to spend the day exploring along some of the more popular trails in the park.

The first was Vernal Falls: A 3 mile uphill climb, quite warm to begin with, but as you climb higher, the waterfall spray soaks through your clothes and the vegetation in the area adds to the chilly feeling with it’s icicle covered leaves. Climb about 1000 more slippery, narrow steps and eventually you emerge into the sunlight at the top of the falls, where you can look down on tonnes of water roaring over the edge of the cliff face falling 317ft to the river below.

It was crowded up there, but relaxing enough to lie back and wait for the sun to gently dry us, and our clothes off while I closed my eyes and listened to the sounds around me. The chatter of the people around, and the constant roar of the water reminded me a bit of being on an aeroplane. I only hope that when I lie back in my seat on the flight home, the chatter of people around me and the constant roar of the engines will remind me of lying in the sun on a rock in Yoesmite National Park…

Vernal Falls, Yosemite National Park

Vernal Falls, Yosemite National Park

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Rustic Lodging in Yosemite

Posted by Leanne on April 24, 2009

Road Trip day 9: Bakersfield – Midpines – Yosemite – Midpines

Miles Travelled: 230

I can’t say I learned much about Bakersfield while I was there, but I was pleased to find that we weren’t charged for the international call I made in order to cancel my debit card. Whether that was intentional or not, I couldn’t say…

Our accommodation for the next 3 nights was to be in an ‘unheated tent cabin (with real beds!)’ at the Yosemite Bug in Midpines. It seemed like a really good (and cheap) idea when we booked it whilst sheltering from the 25C heat in Grand Canyon.

When we checked in, the receptionist enquired “Do you guys have sleeping bags with you?”, and then in response to our “No”:

“You’ll probably be OK – it’s just been a little cold lately.”

Reassuring.

Fortunately, it was a 4 bed tent cabin that we had booked for ourselves, so we were able to pilfer the blankets from the spare beds to huddle under, so apart from the (slightly exaggerated) 1/2 mile distance from the bathroom, it wasn’t too bad! I knew there was a reason I’d been carrying round a travel towel and torch (flashlight). At some point the fluffy toweled, hotel/motel dream had to end!

Queenie in Yosemite National Park, California

Queenie in Yosemite National Park, California

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