The plane trip
Travelling in economy class is quite obviously the worst possible way to get anywhere. Being in a cramped metal tube whilst screaming through the air in the worst possible seats sounds bad from the start, but actually having to experience it is a new kind of hell. Throw in the tail end of a cold (including free sinus slaw) and we’re talking pretty unenjoyable stuff.
Starting in Brisbane, my brother (Stick) and I went through Auckland, which involved a boring hour-long stopover. After that, the lengthy 10-12 hour flight (lost track of the time), which involved us watching four movies which were obviously carefully hand-picked by Qantas staff to try and reduce us to unconsciousness in as short a time as possible. Fortunately, I removed the headphones and jerked my eyes away before becoming catatonic, and starting reading my new book (Darwin’s Radio, by Greg Bear). About 4 hours later, I’d finished it, and then slept for a few hours.
Eventually, we arrived at LAX, which then involved the usual pain-in-the-ass immigration thing where we had to line up and go through customs. Fortunately, the canned passionfruit we had in my brother’s bag wasn’t deemed worthy of requiring an additional cavity search (“no, the guy with the rubber glove was suprisingly gentle”) and we fought our way though thousands of other Christmas holidayers through the major west coast entrypoint to the USA.
Found our way to American Airlines, then an hour or so later, we were on our way to San Francisco. I promptly passed out on the flight, then awoke just before we started descent into SF. By this time I was fairly dehydrated, my sinus were about to cause my head to explode in style, I was cramped and sore and I was already counting my pennies to try and organise business class on the way back.
Touched down in SF, did the bags thing and luckily my parents were at the right airport, so we then drove back to my uncle/aunt’s place in Pacifica (about 40 minutes drive south of the city on the coast).
Sunday: Day 1:
A lot of Day 1 was spent recovering and chilling out, but we also had a trip into the Golden Gate Park, a giant splotch of greenery in the middle of the inner Bay Area. We drove around for a while and sussed out some of the old family haunting grounds like Spreckles Lake (where a lot of SF’ers go of a weekend to take their remote control boats for a spin). Basically, we spent the time doing a bit of recon as we tried to decide which places we wanted to heavily strafe with our tourism cannon, which worked out well – got a glimpse of everything to whet the appetite and also planned future parts of the trip.
During this time, I’d been catching tantalising glimpses of what I really wanted to see on this trip – the Golden Gate Bridge. Teasingly visible from high points on the freeway, the giant gaudy structure stands out as a major attraction for me and many others. Its often seen on promotional stuff for the USA – just like the Statue of Liberty, its was quite often the first thing people saw when they came to this country.
Though it was getting dark and cold, we decided to head over for a pre-emptive look at the bridge. Heading down to Baker’s Beach and watching the Bridge swing into focus for the first time in its entirety is a pretty awesome site. Open since 1937, the 1.2km-long bridge is painted in “International Orange” as a complement to its surrounding environment and also to provide greater visibility through San Francisco’s famous soup-like fogs that frequently roll in from the Pacific Ocean to coat the city and Bay in a visually impenetrable white.
The Bridge is one of the few places that I can go to and just sit there and look at it and be happy for no other reason that being there. The scenery is stunning from any angle. I’ve tried to take some good photos of it, but I fear nothing on the screen or on paper will ever do it justice. I’m insanely jealous of the people that live here and have it as just part of their surroundings.
The rest of the scenery is pretty spectacular as well – driving home along the Great Highway, you’re driving practically along a stretch of beach looking out over the Pacific. Watching the sun set through the fine fog gives amazing sunsets with really rich colours. And its just interesting to watch the sun set over the ocean – not something you see very often in east coast Australia.
Another phenomenon over here which is somewhat more consumer-oriented is the Safeway miracle. If you’re in Melbourne or maybe Sydney (one of those heather mexican states in .au) you’ll know what they are, but for the QLD’ers, Safeway is basically a Coles/Woolworths thing. However, over here, its been shot up with steroids to the point where its busting at the seams. The one we went to, randomly chosen out of the sample population was awesome. Included in the actual shop is a bank – open til 7pm EVERY NIGHT OF THE WEEK. Oh, the shop itself is open incredibly long hours (still trying to find out if its 24hours or not).
The range of stuff in there is amazing. They sell alcohol, as well – not just Bud, either – they probably had a bigger range of beer than most bottleshops in .au – including the obligatory box of Fosters. The range of icecream and cookies is awesome as well – two things that you seriously can’t get good implementations of over in Australia.
More to come!