Another trailer to savour…

On to San Francisco and another video. Again I’ve used an iMovie trailer feature which does allow some creativity and produce a different feel than the normal run-of-the-mill home movie.

Ideally it would be good to spend hours and hours on editing shots to produce a blockbuster but it’s not until you start to review the video footage then you realise much of it is of the same views. I guess I need to train myself to think ‘angles’ and ‘closeups’ when filming but I tend to just point and shoot and therefore get poor results.

Anyway here is the first showing…

Back to reality…

It’s almost a week since we arrived back in the UK from our Californian road trip and I’ve not quite caught up with the change in time zones. It’s been a busy week what with going back to work to over four hundred e-mails to wade through (thank goodness for my Blackberry),  a broken washing machine and washing line to sort and a three day training course to attend in Manchester.

I think two weeks of dirty clothes was the final straw for our Hotpoint machine and rather than try to get it repaired, we agreed to go buy a new one from Curry’s. So Tuesday evening we picked it up and it was soon plumbed in and working hard. The newly purchased washing line was also temporary erected in the garden ready for a more permanent installation this weekend. The training course was really good and I’m glad I decided to stay up in Manchester in a hotel in the end, five hours commuting for three days was just going to kill me.

Anyhow, I thought I’d just do a quick update on our holiday as I have now managed to plot out road trip on a map (courtesy of Google). It’s not until you see how little of the USA you actually can drive in such a short space of time that you realise how big the country is. You could spend months and months over there and still only experience a small amount of what’s there. In total we only drove about 1800 miles as well.

So what was the highlights of the trip?

Well for me it was experiencing the scenery; the Grand Canyon was spectacular and Yosemite National Park was such a beautiful place.

What surprised me?

I really was surprised how I enjoyed Las Vegas; it is a place that unless you see it you really can’t believe a such place could be built. Not so great was San Francisco. Whether it was the colder climate or the high expectation I’m not sure, but neither Tina or I felt it was a place we’d want to return.

The weirdest place by far was Carmel; Tina’s description of it as ‘Creepsville’ really summed it up. Again not a place we will want to go back to.

So where next?

Well actually I have stated that I’m not taking Tina on another plane until she sorts out her fear of flying. She’s resolute that this holiday was not the last one abroad and has vowed to try to get the fear sorted. Anyone know a good hypnotist out there?

If not it looks like I’ll be exploring the USA and beyond on my own in future!

Hollywood, Los Angeles, London and Thrapston…

OK so the title was a bit of a headline grabber but it’s true!

So we arrive at our final day of our holiday, although this is not quite strictly true as we will be travelling from tonight through to tomorrow afternoon UK time so actually it officially finishes on Sunday.

I left Tina in bed as she didn’t get a good nights sleep and had a shave & shower. She soon woke up soon after. We went down for breakfast, which had a good selection, although as usual not much for gluten-free-ites. We returned to our rooms with coffee/tee (yes, very American as you don’t see many without a cup of something in their hands) and finished off packing. We are a bit worried out the amount of weight in our cases but once packed they do seem lighter than when we came over, how can that happen as we have the same amount of clothes?

We checked out of the hotel and agreed that we would return to Hollywood, where our road trip started, for one final look around.

We set off down the I5 towards Los Angeles and in particular Hollywood; the traffic was busy, in particular heading north out of the city, Americans on the way to their holiday weekend breaks no doubt.

We headed for the same area that we stayed at on our first night in California and soon found a car park costing $10 for the day. We then walked the short distance to the Chinese Theatre in Hollywood boulevard. We were surprised how busy the place was compared to last time we were there, although I guessed the Memorial weekend had brought more visitors out. We stopped for a Starbucks coffee and then walked around the shops for a while.

Lunch soon beckoned so we ordered two plates of nachos with the full works. Of course we should have realised by now that American portions are enormous and neither of us could finish the plate full of Mexican food. We then browsed a few more shops before finding a seat close to the water fountains where we sat for an hour or so, people watching. I was then asked by a couple of people whether would take their photos, which of course I obliged. What I should have done was to charge a dollar a time as did the lady at the Las Vegas sign last week. Missed opportunity or what…!

We then took a slow walk back to the car and set the sat nav for the Alamo car rental return depot, that’s close to the airport. Thirty minutes later we were unloading the cases and boarding the bus that would transport us to the terminal. Once in, we dropped our bags off before queuing to get through security. The process is really tight now, with all jewellery and anything metal having to be removed, including Tina’s birthday presents and placed in a tray. I wisely removed all my gadgets and unlike at Heathrow, got through without a bag search this time.

As soon as we were clear, we hit the duty free shop, buying the kids some smellies as prezzies and then grabbed a drink from Starbucks. Unfortunately there was no free wifi within the departure lounge so for the next few hours or so we were without Internet. As we had arrived a few hours before the flight we had wait until 8.30pm before boarding.

The flight boarded quickly and we took off shortly before 9.30 local time or 5.30 UK time and were immediately served dinner and drinks. The flight was a bit turbulent; in fact it was probably the bumpiest time I had in a plane and whilst I was OK with it Tina was in tears. After an hour or so it subsided although there were a few more rough areas during the rest of the flight.

As is normal on these type of planes, I find it very difficult to sleep and only managed to grab a few minutes during the nine hours we were airborne. Towards the end of the flight, we were served breakfast although I skipped it as it was not gluten-free.
After circling Heathrow for 15 minutes we finally touched down around 3.15pm about half an hour earlier than scheduled. We queued for Border Control before collecting our cases and going through customs. We then found the transfer bus to our car and soon were on our way around the M25 and M1. At Junction 14, we swapped drivers and Tina drove the remainder of the journey home.

Heading south towards LA and home (soon)…

Had a broken nights sleep, it was quiet enough but just kept waking up. Perhaps it had something to do with the half a bottle of wine I consumed. Tina said I was snoring so I must have been asleep some of the time. Eventually I gave up at 5.30am when my phone rang. I didn’t recognise the number and as it was still very early I didn’t think Tina would appreciate me speaking to anyone at that time.

I watched a couple of episodes of The Wire before it went off again, this time it was from a different number, but both were from the UK.

Again I let it ring off but this time rang the number back. It was bloody Carphone Warehouse! I know my phone is due for an upgrade so I guess they are trying to get me to sign up for another contract. That is something I will sort out when I return to the UK.

Once Tina was awake, we showered then went downstairs for our final breakfast the Hofsas Hotel before returning to pack and check out. As as happened in all the hotels we have stayed in the price I was quoted was lower than the actual room rate as they always add on tourist and local taxes. Although not a great deal extra it all adds up over the period of two weeks.

We drove down the road to fill the car with petrol before heading south towards Los Angeles. Tina said bye bye to Creepsville, I was pleased I visited but would probably not bother coming back again.

As we left the town, my mobile phone went again; the same number as before but this time I answered it but didn’t speak. They soon hung up. We initially drove the 68 and then joined the Highway 101 which was to take us half of the five hour journey. We stopped at King City to get some lunch and visit the restrooms, before continuing our road trip south, on the 46 and then the Interstate 5, stopping again just before joining for another toilet break at a McDonalds.

Just before we stopped we drove passed fields and fields of ‘donkey’s’ (not sure if that is the right term for them?) which are iconic structures and I believe are used to bring oil up to the surface. Anyhow, we saw loads and loads of them!

No sooner had we started off on the I5 when we suddenly hit a traffic jam, the first major one of the holiday, excepting the rush hour traffic in LA. The cause was the two-lane highway going down to one lane causing a twenty minute delay in getting through. Once we got passed that it was plain sailing from then on although the stops and traffic jam added an extra forty five minutes to our journey time. Just before we arrive my phone rang once more, again a call from the Carphone Warehouse. Persistent or what!

We quickly found our hotel, but for the first time this trip had let us down as the hotel were unaware of our reservation. A quick call to them sorted it out and we were soon in our room. I made a much needed jug of coffee from the room supplies whilst Tina began to empty the cases in preparation for packing them ready for our journey home tomorrow.

It didn’t take long to pack them both back up again, there seems more space in them yet we haven’t really discarded much during our stay. After a short rest we decided to go for some dinner. As it happens there was an Aussie Outlook restaurant right next door to the hotel, and although I had vowed we wouldn’t go back to another, we did!

Again, the food was excellent and really good value. I had the BBQ ribs with a salad whilst Tina had chicken. The restaurant was very crowded, we suspect many people stopping there on the way to their holiday destinations (it’s Memorial Day on Monday so this weekend, like ours is a holiday weekend).

We returned to the hotel where we watched some TV and planned what we were going to do on our last day in California tomorrow. The car has to be returned by 5pm so we have pretty much a whole day to spend in Los Angeles, although I have suggested we go visit Malibu Beach.

Birthday girl…

Our hotel room is away from the road so we had a good nights sleep, although the neighbours next door were loud till late. Tina thought the reason why they were so loud was the thin walls. I tended to agree!

Today was Tina’s birthday so when she woke up she opened the cards that I brought over with us. I’m glad she had some cards as otherwise it would have been a pretty boring birthday and eventually when we got home it would seem a bit flat opening them a week later. Anyhow, she got quite a few cards; in fact more than I would when I’m at home.

We had just finished getting showered when there was a knock at the door and it was the cleaner wanting to ‘do’ our room. As we were about to go down to breakfast then we agreed and left her to it, not feeling guilty of the mess we had left it.

Breakfast was a continental affair, as we’d had at previous hotels and so I took some of my gluten-free biscuits and ate them whilst Tina had croissants and a cup of tea. The room where the breakfast was being served was very small and so we had to stand whilst we consumed our food and drinks. Back up to the room where the cleaner was just finishing up.

Although I had bought Tina a birthday present last week at the Pandora shop in Las Vegas, I wanted to also get her something from the Tiffany & Sons store in Carmel. I had researched before booking the hotel and once I found out that Carmel had Tina’s favourite jewellers just up the road, I knew that would be our first stop on her birthday morning.

The shop was empty of other customers and so she had the pick of the glittering jewellery and picked a small pearl bracelet. We then walked down to the beach for a better view now that the weather had improved. In fact it was beautiful morning.

As we walked down the hill, we remarked on some of the houses we saw; some were very odd and a bit ‘Hansel and Gretel’. Not sure what makes someone want to stay in that type of house; I guess American’s love that sort of thing I suppose?. We also spotted a number of large squirrels running across the road into the back garden of a house. The behaviour of these creatures was very odd, making loud noises as they ran to and fro across the road and up the trees. We suspected the owners may possibly feed them regularly. We then passed another very strange looking property with black crows or rooks outside in the trees making a hell of a racket. Again it felt very odd and all very creepy.

We arrived at the beach and had a sit down watching the beach start to fill up. One thing we were surprised about was the fact that dogs were allowed on the beach; in fact Carmel is supposed to be one of the most dog friendly towns in the United States. There certainly seemed to be plenty of people walking them. Anyhow, there were only a few people actually in the sea; the pacific being bit too cold this time of year.

We left the beach and headend inland to find somewhere to have a coffee then returned to the hotel. We had agreed we would drive into Monterey again so we left shortly after.

We firstly stopped at Cannery Row, an area that was converted into shops and restaurants now that the fishing industry no longer sustained the working population. We then drove the short distance to the Fisherman’s Wharf and had lunch at the London Bridge Pub. It was a themed public house and the food was OK. There was something a bit odd in the gents restroom though; a urinal ‘trough’ full of ice cubes. You actually peed on the cubes and they melted as you emptied your bladder. I don’t recall seeing one of those in any London pubs I’e frequented!

Fully fed, we then revisited the Del Monte Center where I had decided to be a bit indulgent and buy a Macbook Air. I had been thinking about getting one for a while as my laptop at home is a bit slow, but just couldn’t justify spending the money. Of course in the USA, prices are much cheaper and I believe I saved a couple of hundred quid by getting it here. I am now typing my blog on the new toy, and who’s birthday was it today?

We then decided to drive the famous 17 Mile Drive, a stretch of private road that travels through some of the most scenic and jaw-dropping coastline you could imagine. The drive costs $9.50 but it was money well spent. The area is famous also for the many golf courses including a USA Open Golf championship one, Pebble Beach Golf Course, the last being held there in 2010.

We stopped at many of the viewing points, watching seals, big fat squirrels that were fed by the tourists and the Lone Cypress Tree, that the Pebble Beach Golf Course logo is derived from.

We then drove back to the hotel to relax before going out for a birthday celebration meal. We found a nice restaurant off of Ocean Avenue in Carmel called The Grill, which served some lovely food. Tina had pasta with chicken whilst I had duck breast with rice and vegetables. We both had creme brulee for sweet. I also ordered a bottle of red wine (not realising it was red wine) as Tina doesn’t drink red wine so I ended up drinking most of it.

We walked back to the hotel and watched some more TV. Tomorrow we leave Creepsville, as Tina affectionally now calls Carmel and drive south towards Los Angeles again.

Bye bye big city, hello pacific coast and quaintness….

Another good nights sleep, the earplugs really do work.

Last night Tina and I watched a movie I had downloaded onto my iPad prior to travelling. We had firstly started watching American TV but it’s not very good, although there are channels to choose from. Actually it’s all crap! Anyhow we watched Sherlock Holmes starring Robert Downey Jnr.

Today was moving on day and so after breakfast we packed our cases up again and checked out, not before I retrieved the car from the car park. We agreed to take scenic route down to our next stop, Carmel-by-the-sea via Highway 1. This road takes the pacific coast road along some beautiful stretches of countryside, but as the weather was poor, wet and misty it was difficult to see much at times. The pacific ocean didn’t look too inviting either with Tina remarking that it looked like the sea does at Hunstanton, brown and murky!

Still it was a nice change from driving the main highways and not too busy with traffic. There are also some pretty remote beaches along the stretch but not many people were using them, understandably.

We stopped briefly at lunchtime for a coffee and comfort break and at the same time used an ATM to get out some more dollars as we were getting short of cash. Once back on the road it wasn’t long before we reached our hotel, The Hofsus House, which was number six on our road trip.
Carmel-by-the-sea is very quaint, as is the hotel, with views looking out onto the Pacific Ocean, although when we arrived it was raining so not a lot could be seen. The town is a load of boutique shops, restaurants and hotels all crammed into a space of about a mile square, with a beach on the edge. All a bit strange really.

We rested and then took a short walk around Carmel, but the rain started again so we abandoned the exploring and instead drove to nearby Monterey to an outlet shopping mall, the Del Monte Center. We bought a couple more presents before stopping for a Starbucks cafe latte. We then drove back to the hotel.

Tina had a bit of a kip then we decided to walk back into Carmel to find somewhere to eat. We’d see a place called the Hogs Breath Inn in the maps we’d been given and apparently it had been previously owned by former mayor Clint Eastwood.

As it happened it was the first restaurant we came across so we thought we’d give it a go. Tina ordered mushroom soup and I had steamed artichoke, the only gluten-free option and too be fair it was OK, as this sort of starter would not have been my first choice. For our main courses Tina ordered a Dirty Harry burger whilst I plumped for a New York Steak, which was much better than last nights Hard Rock Cafe effort. Anyhow, I vowed that was going to be my last steak as I’d eaten far too much red meat whilst on this holiday.

We then strolled down to the beach, where with lots of others, watched the sun go down over the pacific ocean. Tina was not very impressed, as she said it goes down every night! She can be so unromantic sometimes!

We walked back up the hill to our hotel to retire for the rest the evening.

The crooked road, one way streets and a parking citation…

A good nights sleep for both of us; this blog is becoming a bit of a tale of our sleeping habits!
Tina had a good nights sleep and didn’t wake up until just before 9am, allowing me time to watch a couple of episodes of Wired which I’d copied onto my iPad for just such occasion. Up to now I hadn’t needed to watch as she’s been getting up fairly early. Anyhow, after showering (again, divulging our morning routines), we went next door to have breakfast.

We then walked the short distance to retrieve our car from the car park. I was a bit concerned as to how much the overnight stay was going to cost as I’d misread the charges and it actually cost between $2 and $2.50 per hour to park the car there. The total charge for the night was $22. I really must find a free parking spot on the roads tonight.

We set off for the day heading back down to Fisherman’s Wharf and Pier 39 but beforehand we decided to drive down the crooked or wobbly road, Lombard Street. Luckily there was no queue but there were lots of people blocking the road. Eventually they cleared and we did a leisurely drive down to the bottom. I wonder how many peoples photos we were in by the time we got to the bottom as it’s quite a tourist spot.

We then found a free parking space close to the wharf and walked down to take another look around. It was at Pier 39 that we bought some prezzies and had a coffee before Tina spotted the famous sea-lions next to the pier. A couple more presents bought, we the found the Hot Spud place again and had lunch before walking back to the car. As we were limited to only two hours parking we didn’t bother with riding the famous cable car, although it would have been an ideal time as the queues were really short for a change.

We then decided to drive to Chinatown to take a look around, but the place was very busy, with lots of roadworks and few places to park. It was here that I made my first major mistake driving when I drove through a stop sign and upset a lorry driver who’s turn it was to pull out. I must say most people obey the courteous system of first come-first served at the junctions; it seems to work well and everyone seems quite content to wait their turn.

It just doesn’t help when tourists ignore the rules!

We left the area and drove to the other side of San Francisco to the Golden Gate Park, which we’d been through on the tour bus. Today we decided to walk around instead. After finding a free parking space, we walked through a rhodendrun garden before finding the main area.

We strolled around this area before walking to the large glass conservatory that was donated to the park. I bet Nick, our next door neighbour would love to get a contract to build on as big as the one in the park, but I think he’d struggle building it on his own!

We agreed then to drive back to the hotel not before some serious bad driving by me. On trying to locate the correct road to get back, I inadvertently drove down the wrong direction of a way street, to the dismay of a drive coming the right way. I quickly pulled over only to see loads of cars behind him. I managed to turn around. We decided that the American roads are very poorly sign written and we are surprised there are not more accidents.

The above blog was typed whilst we were back at the hotel, getting ready to go out for another drive.

THE NEXT SECTION I AM SHOUTING AS I AM BLOODY FUMING (although I will type it in lowercase for ease of reading).

Whilst Tina was in the bathroom, I glanced out of our bedroom window to see a traffic warden placing a ticket on the windscreen of our hire car. As previously stated, parking restrictions are crazy here. As parking is at such a premium, most of the properties have garages and in order to prevent people parking outside them, residents can apply for paint to be applied on each side of the dropped kerb indicating you cannot encroach the gap. I parked in a space which I thought gave the owner plenty of room to get their car in and out of their garage. Obviously the owner did not think so and reported us!

The ticket citation stated ‘In violation of driveway’ Fine amount includes state surcharges – COMPLAINT and this misdemeanour will cost me At least $90.

We drove off and I was in angry mode…

“what a crap city, the sooner we leave tomorrow the better” I said!

We drove along the west coast of the city, observing the Golden Gate Bridge from the not-so-often-viewed side and then downtown back to the Bay area. We walked along for a short while before stopping at the Hard Rock Cafe at Pier 39 for dinner. We ordered Nachos and main courses but when the nachos arrived the plate was huge. We tucked in but almost immediately the main courses arrived. I think they wanted to get us done and out before the rush happened later in the evening. Anyhow we ate what we could and left.

We drove back to the hotel on the hunt for an illusive parking space. And we drove around and around. And around again. But we couldn’t find any so we ended up parking in the municipal garage again. Bye bye to another $22.

Back to the hotel to chill out for the remainder of the evening, me hammering away of the keyboard typing out this angry blog and Tina reading a book she downloaded on my kindle.

We know how to have a good time!

San Fran…

Not the greatest of sleeps either of us had; Tina got up at 4am to take pills for a headache, I just kept waking up throughout the night. I also snored throughout the night which didn’t go down too well with Tina and I should have the bruises on my legs to prove it.

Although the hotel room is not on a busy road, there are still lots of city noises that wake you; sirens and car doors etc. Still the ear plugs helped a bit.

We showered then went to the room next door for the complementary breakfast; croissant for Tina, coffee and juice for me, then we drove a short distance to park the car for the day in a municipal garage. The reason we had to park the car in a car park rather than leave it parked outside the hotel is because during the day there are parking restrictions everywhere allowing only a maximum of two hours parking in one spot. Whilst parking this way is free, it does restrict you if you want to spend the day without using your car. Parking in the car park costs around $12 per day.

Once parked, we then walked downtown Lombard Street towards the city bus tour stop. We like using these tour buses as not only do they give you a guided commentary of the places you are passing, but also you can hop on and off at any point, using them as a taxi.
Before arriving at the stop we visited the famous Lombard Street winding road, that descends down a steep hill and is decorated with flowers, trees and bushes. This road attracts many visitors, both on foot and cars and in fact can take up to a couple of hours to queue to drive down it at times. It was fairly quiet when we walked down it. At the top of the road we also saw our first San Francisco cable car, with people hanging on like you see in the movies. It really does happen.

We boarded the tour bus and started on the two hour ride around the city sights. Firstly we were driven through the Fisherman’s Wharf area, which is now mainly made up of small shops and restaurants. Then we drove down Lombard Street towards the Golden Gate Bridge. The tour guide gave lots of useful information and played songs as we continued our journey.

As we left the Bridge area he said the ride may become a bit more windy for a few minutes. He wasn’t wrong as we had to ride through a tunnel, which was extremely blowy. We then headed for the Golden Gate Park, a large expanse of trees and shrubs that was designed and built by a Scotsman in the last century. The area was just sand dunes prior his vision, but somehow he managed to create an amazing parkland area that would be worth visiting again sometime.

The tour bus then took us through the area, Haight Ashbury which was famous for the hippy invasion of the 1960’s; too young for us to remember but we recognised some of the names he was stating that had lived there including Bob Dylan and Janice Joplin.

As we drove on we then saw the magnificent City Hall, with gold adorn decoration atop the dome, Apparently this building was rebuilt after the 1989 earthquake that devastated much of San Francisco and now sits on rollers that will move the complete building by about 10 feet if another earthquake hits.

The bus then headed towards the dodgy Mission Street area of the city, which the guide suggested not to walk, especially at night and then the financial district where there are many taller buildings. Shortly after we passed the famous Chinatown before heading back towards Pier 39 and Fisherman’s Wharf where we got off.

As we passed through the Pier 39 area, we spotted a cafe called ‘Hot Spud’ so we made a beeline for there and enjoyed some lovely jacket potatoes, topped with all gluten-free bits as well. They even sold gluten-free sweet potato cheesecake so we bought a couple of slices to take out.
We walked the short distance to the pier area and sat an ate our cakes before strolling around the shops on Pier 39. After buying myself a San Francisco t-shirt we walked for a while before rejoining the bus to take us back to the car and hotel.

I then suggested we drive over the Golden Gate Bridge again and take a look around Sausalito. Unfortunately I parked in the wrong place and we didn’t discover the main area until we left the town and as we had little change for the parking meter, we headed back towards San Francisco. We paid our bridge toll fee and then parked up at the vista point on the south side of the bridge. Here I took a walk half way across the bridge, leaving Tina back in the car. The views were fantastic; the bay was clear and you could see all of the city and Alcatraz Island.

In the middle of the bridge there is a sign stating not to jump or else it would result in death. Your not kidding, it is miles down to the water. They stuck a telephone next to the sign offering counselling, I wonder how many people have been saved from jumping?

We left the vista area and parked further down along the bay to get some further shots of the bridge before driving back to the hotel. Unfortunately we arrived there before the free street parking starts, so I had to go and find a space after the period began at six.

As had been warned in the hotel writen reviews, parking in this area is at a premium and after driving for about half an hour with out success, I eventually parked the car back in the car park we had used earlier. It cost over $13 for a few hours earlier in the day, I dread to think what it will cost overnight! When I got back to the hotel Tina was about to leave a note and go and look for me as she was wondering where I had got to. I must remember to ensure any future hotels have parking on site.

After a short rest we then went in search of some dinner, Tina had spotted an Indian restaurant just up the road so we strolled up for some eastern fayre.

Whilst enjoying our curry, we discussed what we thought of San Francisco and whilst we liked what we saw, neither of feel that it’s a place we’d like to come back to. Yes, it’s good to see the cable cars, the wibbly wobbly road, the golden gate bridge and the famous hilly roads but we both felt that’s it not enough to revisit. Still we’re here for another day tomorrow so we’ll see how that pans out.

“If you are going to San Francisco”…

“be sure to wear flowers in your hair”. OK no flowers to hand but that’s where we headed off to on our road trip.

For the first time this holiday I slept beyond six o clock; no alarms going off, police sirens in the background or noisy neighbours. I still had to wait until eight o clock before Tina woke before getting up for a shower though as we were in no hurry to get moving.

We went down for breakfast and I was pleased to find that they provided bacon today rather than sausages, although I’m not certain how they manage to get the bacon to look the way it does (we suspect it is deep fried!). Coffee and juice to follow, then back to the room to pack and soon we checked out.

Once we topped up the fuel tank we headed off on the planned three hour journey to San Fran (as the Californian’s like to call it), priming the sat nav with the next hotels address. We started off going north on the Interstate 99 for a few miles before turning off across country before joining the Interstate 5. The countryside between the two main roads was extremely rural and flat, with miles and miles of farms, mainly wheat and fruit.

Once we joined the I5, after I had ignored the sat nav instructions, the scenery changed again to extremely dry & arid landscape; it’s amazing anything can grow in those conditions. Running pretty much parallel to this main road was a new canal system which I assumed helped irrigate the land. It certainly needed it. On the left side of the road was a ridge of hills that extended for the length of the highway north. The hills were again very dry, with the occasional cows or two grazing on the straw-like pasture.

From the I5 we joined the 580 towards San Francisco crossing the Altamond Pass, a valley where there were high crosswinds and hundreds and hundreds of windmills installed on the hillsides. I suspect the amount of electricity that is generated from those mills would be enough to power SF itself!.

We continued following the sat nav and the journey seemed to be taking ages, I guess I should have stuck to the planned route. Eventually we arrived at our destination about an hour later than expected, but bang on time to check in at hotel number five. The Mariner Inn was situated close to Fisherman’s Wharf, the Marina and the Golden Gate Bridge.

On driving towards the hotel I remarked to Tina as to how many TV programmes had been made in San Francisco using the streets as a backdrop.

“I remember Quincy MD was made here but what was that other famous cop show?”

“That’ll be The Streets of San Francisco” Tina replied.

“Oh yeah” I replied.

We unpacked and then decided to go for a walk to find somewhere to eat, having asked Yolanda on reception the best place to go. We headed off in the general direction she told us, but struggled to find anywhere that was not full or suitable for my diet. In the end we found a supermarket and bought a salad each and took it back to the hotel room.

Whilst out walking we noted how windy the place was; the stiff breeze made it quite chilly. Whilst looking for food we stumbled across the bay and the Golden Gate Bridge. We also spotted Alcatraz perched on top of the island in the middle of the bay. It was a lot bigger and closer to the shoreline than I’d expected, I’m surprised not many more prisoners escaped other than Clint Eastwood.

We decided to drive over the Golden Gate Bridge in the evening to get to a restaurant where both had steak before driving back over it, paying a $6 toll fee for the privilege. I then intended to go back to the bay area to park up to take some photos but missed the turn and ended up driving through a tunnel south. Luckily the city grid system came to the rescue as it’s normally easy to find your way back once you work out which direction you need to go. The sat nav was switched on just help help matters. We found the hotel and retired for the evening.

Both Tina and my feelings were mixed of what we’d seen so far in SF; yeah it was great to see the GG bridge and the steep streets that make the place famous, but the city didn’t spark any yearning to want to explore.

Maybe tomorrow would bring a bit more enthusiasm?