I’ve come to the end of my time in North America having spent two weeks in San Francisco and the bay area. There isn’t a lot to tell really as I spent time exploring SF’s diverse neighbourhoods, chilling out and catching up with old uni mates.
On SF itself, its a town I really like with an easy going nature and spectacular views. I knew what to expect as my brother and I visited the area about 6 years ago. I did get to Alcatraz this time and it was well worth the visit, despite the hangover I had at the time; handy hint, do pay the extra for the audio tour of the cell block as it well done and you’ll miss a lot of info without it.
Touring Central Park Al & I became frustrated at the number of roads through it and the inability of getting to somewhere park like. One great place was the Japanese Tea Gardens which normally charge entry but are free for the last hour of the day (5 -6) in summer. My first visit there was disturbed by the Blue Angels practising manoeuvres for the Fleet Day that weekend; spectacular flying guys but its ruining the peace of the park. The only jarring note about San Francisco is the number of beggars it has, more than any other city I have yet been to (I’ve only really travelled in the 1st world so far).
I spent much of the time in the Green Tortoise hostel and its still one of the best I’ve been to both in terms of location and its nature. OK its right in the adult theatre district but that lies nicely at the border of Little Italy/North Beach and Chinatown with lots of restaurants and bars. In addition the hostel has taken to putting on several free dinners during the week that are good and make a worthwhile cost saving.
Both weekends I have travelled out to Palo Alto to stay at my mate Seth’s where I have had a free bed, eaten his food, drank his beer and made use of his Internet service. It seems a little one sided when you realise that in return I can only offer the tourist hotspot of Birmingham, England. A big night out was had on the second Friday when Al Murray had jetted in from Texas to join Seth, Derek Gladding and myself at the Edinburgh Castle pub in SF. Considering less than 30 graduated from my degree course it was a some feat to have 4 of us meet up for a drink several thousand miles from home.
Last night (my last in the USA) Seth and I had tickets to the Monday night football game when the Kansas Chiefs came to the Oakland Raiders. The Raiders home ground is a fairly spectacular place called the Oakland Coliseum and an intimidating place for the away team as I only saw one of their fans all night. Unfortunately a strong home advantage didn’t help the Raiders when they had a lousy 1st quarter, dropping to 10-0 behind by the end of the 1st half. Only really in the final quarter did they start really playing, pulling back to 10-3 before running out of time on the Chief’s 1 yard line. 20 seconds more on the clock and there would have been a good chance of pulling the game back and going into extra time. It was great to see my first American Football game live and a shame that we came so close to pulling back but just missed out. One point I did note was the incredible influence of the TV companies; whenever they want to put on adverts, and its often, the clock stops and the teams hang around until the ad break is over. Its unreal for someone used to football as played by the rest of the world.
Today I travel to Samoa, travelling through the night and arriving at 3am their time. It’s the longest flight of my trip, around 10 hours, and taking me across the equator for the 1st time ever. I’m looking forward to this part of the trip as its the first country with a distinctly different culture. North American was a culture I already knew and held no surprises but was a great first stop on my travels to get me used to some aspects of backpacking. Now I get to stay on a Pacific Island for 3 weeks where the pace of life is said to be slow.