So I'd left South America behind, I was on my way to Canada to work a ski season in Whistler. But before I faced reality and the job hunt again, I went to visit one of the first friends I had made in South America - Allie Engle. She lived in San Francisco, USA, so I thought it made sense to go there and not fly over it.
Getting to San Francisco had its fair share of minor difficulties and annoyances. I thought I was well prepared when I turned up at the airport that morning. I had packed everything, said my good byes and had my flight itinerary for my up and coming flights. It turns out I had not realised, you'd think a seasoned traveller lie me would have some idea of what was needed. It turned out I needed to print some other documentation. Like my flight details out of America, and where I was staying in the self-proclaimed Land of Opportunity. Luckily I had the information at hand on my emails, but connecting to Wi-Fi was against me. Finally we got there in the end when the airline hostess let me connect to the Wi-Fi through her phone and I was on my way for my first flight out of the three I had to take to get to San Fran. I could have got there much quicker and direct but being a backpacker enables you to make your choice dependant on two things the cheapest and the best adventure and more often than not the two run parallel. The first flight saw e depart from Panama City and fly to Atlanta. It took about four hours to get there. My journey consisted mainly of watching the free films. The Jersey Boys was the stand out film and had me wanting to go and see the stage production in London's west end, something my pops says is ten times better. After a brief stop in Atlanta, where I passed through immigration and got my passport stamps, consumed a McDonalds and had a bit of a mix-up which resulted in me using my big backpack which I'd been living out of for the past two and a half years as hand luggage. Surprisingly it fit in the over-head locker though which gave me mixed feelings. It was impressive to see I could travel that light and it fit, but also think wow that's all I have. Anyway I was back on an aeroplane and edging increasingly closer to San Fran, my next stop was even in the same state! I was heading to the glamourous LA. It didn't take long to get to the home of Hollywood and I raced through the terminals to get my next flight as the sop over was only thirty minutes. I think I was meant to be boarding as I landed so I was racing through the airport like I was in a Rom Com chasing after the girl I want to declare my love too. I got to the gate in record time only to find out my flight had been delayed 50 or so minutes. Despite it being a minor annoyance I couldn't get to San Fran quicker it did mean I could have a mini San Blas reunion with Emily who also had a stop-over in LA on her massive journey back to Melbourne. After a chat and see ya later to Emily I was boarding my third and final flight. Just over an hour later and I was in San Fran. Allie had gave me great instructions on how to get to hers, I would catch the Bart (Bay Area Rapid Transit) station to Walnut Creek , where she would pick me up. My first issue was dealing with the culture shock. After six months of not really understanding people around me speaking another language I was back in an English speaking country and could hear everything. It was like I had a million voices in my head. A poster for TGI Friday's instantly stood out and I could read what people were reading and typing again for the first time in six months. I found out that a guy text a girl, presumably his girlfriend, or girl he was chasing that he had just Indiana Jonesed the train and I could also read the newspapers. Not that I did the airport was quite far from Allie's house so my main focus was staying awake and not missing the required stop. Despite the odd bit of head bobbing I made and was reunited with Allie who still was a doppelganger for Emma Watson of Harry Potter and The Perks of Being Wallflower fame.
Allie drove us back to her Mum's place who very kindly made me a delicious Lamb dinner and then spoilt me more with Cheesecake. To be honest it wasn't the best cheesecake in the world but a bad cheesecake is still better than most other desserts. I spent the night catching up with Allie, her Mum and her Mum's boyfriend Vince who when I told him I was on my to Whistler, told me he had a good friend there Mike, he worked at the Bungee place and he said that he would be able to give me some advice regarding jobs and accommodation once I got into Whistler. They really made me want for nothing and it was weird having people looking after me, it felt weird not having to fend for myself and people offering me food, drinks, extra sheets, contacts. I went to sleep with my head buzzing with information and still trying to adjust to being back in an English speaking country.
The next morning was nice and chilled out, it was what I needed as the travelling although compared to a lot of trips in South America was a short 13 hour journey had totally rocked me. It could have also been that I could now understand far more too and my brain was working overtime on getting to grips with things. Allie made us scrambled eggs for breakfast and then we had a walk around the little suburb where her Mum resided called Danville, mainly so I could go and withdraw some US dollars. The walk though made me all sorts of confused seeing things that I hadn't see for ages and I felt like I was in an extra in a movie because I felt I recognised everything. I thought there high school looked like the spitting image of the one used in Back to the future and many of the shops and houses looked familiar. Danville though was not the source of Back to the Future or any other film, well there was one scene of Mrs Doubtfire filmed there but that was it. We weren't back for long before we headed to the thick of the city. The aim of the games was to find a Taco Tuesday. Although San Fran was not short of Taquieria's and other places that sold Taco's there was a lack of the Tuesday special, or if they did it was only between certain happy hour special times, which personally I find stupid, Taco Tuesday should be for the whole day. It's not called Taco 2 Hour Tuesday is it? With no deals on we found the cheapest place and indulged ourselves in the Mexican culinary treat. After this we headed a few blocks down the road to a Google City Expert party. Basically a Google City Expert writes reviews for places around a city. Allie is a member although she has yet to write a review and got invited to the party which show cased many local businesses of the area. These included food places like Chicken and waffles, to glass making, t-shirts and brewery's. 90% of the stalls offered free samples, the pick of the bunch being the pulled por sandwich. At the end I was starting to regret having that extra taco with the amount of free food we were getting. We thought we were in with a chance of winning a $150 gift voucher for a bag store who offered the prize for the best photo in their booth. There was a horse mask which I donned and got on all fours, with Allie riding me showcasing the bag we thought we would be clear winners for our creativity. A look at the pictures the next day though saw that at least four other people had the same idea as us, though the winner's picture in my eyes was pretty horrendous and sloppy. The event was brilliant though and I loved as I got to learn about San Fran and taste and explore different things about the city.
That night we stayed in Vince's city flat, it was handier as the next morning we went out for breakfast - A bagel, my first. I'd always strayed away from bagels thinking they were too boring, but I had one filled with bacon and egg and with Jalapenos which changed my opinion on the food no end. Allie then took me on a tour of the city, our first stop was Lombard Street. Lombard Street attracts heaps of tourists for having a steep, one-block section that consists of eight tight hairpin turns and thus making it the crookedest street in the world. Our next stop via a Safeway supermarket which blew my mind with sightings of food and drink I'd not seen in what semt like forever, was a park which offered not only a great view of the Golden Gate Bridge but also Alcatraz. I've always had a strange intrigue for prisons for reasons unbeknown to me so I asked Allie if we could take the boat trip to the island placed prison. She wasn't too keen having already been and clearly not showing being as intrigued as the going off in prisons as me. She said if I really wanted to go though, she wold meet her friend in the city and meet me after, I thought that sounded god so we went off to the ticket office but had little success as the popular tour was booked out for the day. I did have success for the next day though and purchased a ticket for the prison which inspired the movie 'The Rock.' This also left me free for the afternoon to go with Allie to meet her friend and have a drink. We went to a couple of bars. The first a Peruvian bar called La Mar where we sampled a few cocktails and then we made tracks to another bar called next to bay bridge with a never ending happy hour called palomino's, where I had a Guinness as I'd not had one for so long followed by several lagers and by the time we were on the BART home we were pretty pissed. The long journey home was made much better because of the guy on the tannoy , who would speak in different accents, make dad jokes, be overly friendly and just in general come out with some crazy funny stuff.
I was up early on my penultimate day in San Fran to go and see the famous prison Alcatraz. The price for the tour was around $40 which I thought was decent value for money as it included the boat there and back, entrance and a free audio head tour. I liked the tour and enjoyed seeing the cells, hearing about failed escapes and other antics which went off in the prison. I even had the experience of being locked in a solitary confinement cell for 19 seconds. This was in a q&a with a guard and sparked a debate about the rights and wrongs of solitary confinement which I found really interesting. The prison was also good because it allowed you to get a great view of San Fran and it's skyline. My only disappointment of the tour was the amount of people thee which made getting decent phots difficult as you would always have at least one or two stray tourists in there somewhere. After exploring the famous prison I indulged in a meatball subway and had a beer at a nearby bar until it was time to meet Allie at the Oracle Arena where we went to see the Brooklyn Nets take on the Golden State Warriors in a Basketball game. Golden State Warriors ended up being victorious with a 107 - 99 win. I enjoyed the experienced made better with the shock appearance of Hulk Hogan who did a pre match prep take to the crowd. The atmosphere was brilliant two there were only two disappointments of the event. One the price of the alcoholic beverages was astronomical and the second was the amount of time-outs, why would a team need a time out with 0.6 seconds remaining? The only time I liked the time-outs were when the cheerleaders came out and the guys on trampolines who did fancy shots. The other entertainment was either boring or weird. A classic example was the world's most flexible man who was doing all sorts of crazy s***.
After the game we went to Chenise's house, where she lived with her boyfriend Dietrich and a heap of other folk. We had a few beverages, played some weird dice drinking game, which was a little too slow and not enough drinking for my liking, but I guess that's because there was a fair bit of chatting going off and then I went and beat Dietrich on FIFA before retiring to the sofa bed for the night.
Allie's girlfriend Katie arrived the next morning. It took a while to decide what to do for the day, but eventually we settled on going to the supermarket - Trader Joes - apparently the best store ever according to Allie, and with 19 cent bananas I can see where she is coming from. We got some food and drinks and heading to a nearby lake for a picnic. We rocked up at Lake Chabot ate some food, played s*** head, which I bossed as usual and then headed off. While I was in America I wanted to go shopping to get some warmer clothes in preparation for Canada, however there hadn't been an opportunity to go and neither was I too fussed. Allie was conscious of the fact though and took me to Koles to see if there was anything decent there. There wasn't and with limited time there was no time to go elsewhere. I think Allie felt guilty as I expressed a desire to shop for warmer clothes beforehand and I assured her it was ok, to be totally honest I preferred having fun with her and her friends rather than traipsing around shops. We picked Chenise up from the gym, met Dietrich at the house and then headed into the city for Happy Hour beers and appetizers at a place called Z Cafe. After a few bottles of red stripe we made our way to like a thanks giving based food festival with companies having stall and specials on food. I assume to promote their business. On the flyer it also said that there would be $2 beers. This unfortunately was a lie. So after a Turkey cranberry pie, which lacked mushy peas, mashed potato and gravy and a BBQ pulled pork slider we headed to a beer garden called Telegraph, where we drank copious amounts of pitchers and played drinking games, or drinking gam I think the only one we played was a******. It was good night as the beer flowed, Katie made the crazy accusation that she would never see me again. I told her it was a small world and we would, she argued there were millions of people and the chances of running into each other are slim especially as we are from different countries. I guess only time will tell who is right and who is wrong. With many pitchers sank we headed back to Chenise and Dietrich's were carried on drinking and I once again bossed FIFA.
I was up at the crack of dawn the next day to leave. I loved San Francisco it was a city in which I could easily live. And I was most grateful of Allie showing me around, introducing me to her friends and generally making me have such a blast in San Fran. I hope she knows if she is ever in England which I hope she will be one day that the favour will be returned. It was time to leave The Golden City and head to yet another country, and again meet some old travel friends. The first stop being Vancouver, Canada.
So until next time stay safe and take care