After an uneven night’s sleep we were up and off, eager to trek up and down San Francisco’s sloping streets and angled avenues. First we headed to the sea where the girls had a dip with Alcatraz in the background, and we met some of SF’s colourful population – a woman with a shopping cart went past ringing little bells and an ageing rock star stopped to chat – he said he’d spent 20 years on the road but now didn’t want to move more than half an hour from his house. He told us about the SF fog – at this time of year it sits over the city in the morning before retreating to drape over the Golden Gate Bridge by lunchtime, leaving the city in sunshine and the bridge a rather misty grey.
We then did some touristy things like visiting the piers (full of shops), going up Coit Tower and zigzagging up Crookedest Street. We got talking to a guy in the lift up the tower who was laughing at us calling it a lift – we pointed out how daft it was to have restrooms when the last thing you would want to do was rest in a toilet: I think our point was made.
San Francisco is a very groovy place and one of those cities you could imagine living in; however it’s certainly not cheap and the next day we had to pick up our hire car and head out on the highway, pausing for a quick look at the amazing graffiti in the Mission district. Driving around a hectic city, on the wrong side of the road and befuddled by jetlag was a little stressful but the artwork was worth seeing and is famous for it’s political and social slant.
Where do you head next then, when you have the whole of the States at your feet? Of course, you head to the Jelly Belly jelly bean factory to put on a silly hat and learn all about gourmet confectionary! However it was all free and the girls loved it, though they were less keen on the mammoth drive south to Monterey for our next stop.
We thought it seemed like a good idea to go whale watching, seeing one of nature’s most majestic creatures blowing and diving, while we bobbed gently on the waves, the sea breeze easing our weary souls. Three hours of pitching and rolling later, with only a distant glimpse of what we were reliably informed was a whale, and we were questioning our decision. If I’d wanted to spend a fortune to spend 3 hours feeling slightly sick I could have watched Latics twice. However Monterey is very pleasant and has an excellent Dennis the Menace playground, though Dennis has been Americanized and Gnasher was nowhere to be seen (or heard).
From Monterey we drove down the Big Sur which comes with a big reputation as one of the world’s great drives. It’s all very scenic and impressive, and there’s a waterfall that drops right onto a beach but we thought Cornwall, Wales or the Amalfi coast could give it a good ride for it’s money.
Several hundred miles and many hours later we arrived in Los Angeles just in time to see the fireworks over Disneyland. They really were amazing, and gave us a foretaste of what was in store the next day as we headed into Walt’s wonderful world. Say what you like about Disney but they do know how to put on a spectacle and we did have a really good day, though they were taking the mickey with the prices. We spent a fairly hefty sum but most people seemed to spend a king’s ransom on their little princes and princesses, buying mousey merchandise and goofy tat.
After a long and tiring day we then had one in a series of minor meltdowns as we left the park, this time from one of the children. The flight, the driving and the enchanted kingdom had all taken their toll and we were glad to collapse into our motel beds for the night. We didn’t expect it all to be plain sailing, and much like the whale trip it had involved some pained wailing but tomorrow’s another day and the vast expanses of America were waiting for us…