Sorry for the delay in updating the blog, but we've had a very busy past week & we've had a few things go against us but we've managed to pull through - such heroes!!!
So we caught the greyhound bus from LA to San Francisco on 21st Feb. We thought we'd seen the last of these buses in Australia but we cant seem to get away from them! The journey wasn't too bad and we arrived in a dark San Francisco around 7pm. Our first task was to catch the BART (their train system) out to Union City where my Aunt Karen & Uncle 'Pebbles' live. The problem was that the train line we needed had finished for the day so we were worried. We managed however to find a way of switching lines further down so panic over! In Union City Dennis picked us up and on the way back to their house Helen spotted a Krispy Kreme donut shop. To save her breaking the window and running across to it Dennis thought it was best to pull over and he treated us to some donuts. Back at the house we had a nice cup of tea and caught up with Karen, Dennis and their friend Perry who was over. After that was finished we played a couple of games of table tennis - they have a table in their house and play a few games every night which usually descends into a fit of laughter and giggles! The problem was Dad had told them I was a county champion (winding his sister up as usual) so they had spent a couple of weeks practicing hard. Needless to say they kicked our bums - but its not all about winning, its about taking part - thats what we told ourselves!
The following day we had a nice lay in, in a comfy bed and had an even better shower in a clean shower not having to wear flip-flops like you do in hostels. Helen then spent the morning filling out her job application form and submitting it. Afterwards there was much point in going into the city so we popped down to the local mall (shopping centre) and looked around the shops. Back at the house we had a lovely roast dinner with peas & mint sauce!!!!! We've gone 6mths without them and have I missed them! We then played table tennis again and lost again!
Saturday we caught the BART into San Francisco City with Karen and Dennis and met up with my cousin Dean. We then caught the Cable Car through the city taking in the sites. We ended up by the pier and as it was lunch time we tried Clam Chowder which is the local popular meal. It was a creamy soup with clams and potatoes served in a large fresh roll - very nice. We then walked to Pier 39 which is the 'entertainment pier'. There was some magician / entertainer guy doing an act. For his finally he need 4 slim tall males. Karen didn't waste any time in giving me a massive shove forward while shouting and pointing at me. The guy selected me, and as I was walking up Karen shouted 'He's from England' which gave him even more ammunition to tease me on stage. There we had to sit on a chair each and then lean back on each other and support each other while he removed the chairs. The problem was he took my chair first meaning I had to support the weight the longest! After that we headed to the end of the Pier were we got our first glimpse of Alcatraz, the Golden Gate Bridge and the seals who rest on the floating rafts. It looked as though it was about to rain so we looked around a few shops before catching the cable car back to the city centre where looked around the massive shopping mall before Dennis shouted us all dinner at a really nice restaurant. Back at the house it was table tennis again, and we lost again!
Sunday we had planned to head back into the city and meet up with Dean and his girlfriend and go over to Alcatraz but there was 50-80mph winds expected and loads of rain. With that we decided to leave it and just to walk around the city ourselves. Helen wanted to hit the shops so we had a quick look around before going to Chinatown. It had been the New Year Celebrations the night before but the party was still continuing. It was absolutely packed but not really that much to do, or that different to the other Chinatowns we've visited. We did have some lunch here though which was really nice. By the time we'd finished it was time to head back to the house as the family was coming round for a BBQ and to meet their English travelling cousin and his girlfriend! It was good to see everyone as I hadn't seen most of them for 15 years and hadn't met half of my cousins children. We had a really good time though and we had peas again - mmm!!!! Once everyone had left we packed a bag left with Perry. We were staying the night with him as he was going to take us to Yosemite National Park the following day.
We left around 8am to head to the park on Monday. The journey was longer than we all thought - 3hrs. This was mainly down to the fact that as soon as we entered the park we had to put chains on Perrys truck as they'd had so much snow in the past week. We wondered what they were on about as it didn't look that back but sure enough around the corner the road turnt white and all the embankments were a few feet high with snow. We were restricted to 25mph on this section so it took us an hour to get into the main area of the park. Once we were here our first stop was at the Bridalveil Falls - a 620ft waterfall. It didn't look that high mainly as its surrounding cliff faces were even higher but it was still very pretty. Next we drove into the village, stopping on the way to look over at El Capitan which is the largest granite monolith in the world (basically the largest cliff face that is made only of granite). It was huge and climbed high into the sky from behind the trees that were in front of it. We also stopped to look at a meadow that was completely covered in snow. We set out to discover how deep it was and couldn't believe it when it went up to the middle of my calf. We'd never seen snow like this!!! The view back to down the valley was fantastic and was what we imagined New Zealand to look like in winter. On our way back to the car Helen was feeling slightly cocky and decided to jump off the low fence to the pavement. On landing though she went bum over boob (being polite) and landed in the snow. Myself, Perry and a woman walking by all saw it and couldn't help by crack up in laughter! We also saw the Half Dome which is Yosemite's main attraction. Its stands at 8,842ft tall and is estimated to be 87 million years old. We had a fantastic view off a bridge up a stream to the dome. Unfortunately it was too far to walk up and, especially in the conditions. After a quick bite to eat we set off to the Yosemite Falls. Its in two sections (upper and lower) and when combined makes it the tallest waterfall in North America. It was again very picturesque, added by all of the snow around. The trek to the upper falls is over a days walking so we just walked to the lower falls. Once we'd finished we headed back home very tired and rather chilly. Back at Perrys we met Marylyn, his dog who was lovely but absolutely mental. She licked us and our clothes clean!
Tuesday started with us taking Marylyn for a walk before heading back down towards the city to meet up with Karen. We stopped on the way at a flee market but didn't spend very long there as it was selling everything we couldn't possibly take home such as kitchen wear and garden accessories. We met up with Karen and had some lunch before picking up one of my 2nd cousins from school. Back at their house we met their dog Coco who was petrified of us at the start but soon loved us. As you'll see from the photo Helen and her particularly hit it off. Back in Union City we picked Dennis up and went to another shopping mall for a look around. Amazingly Helen wasn't in the mood for shopping!!! I've never known her to say that so must have been tired!!! Back at the house we had dinner and then Helen fell asleep. I played table tennis and won a couple of games so I think we found the week point he he he!
Wednesday Karen & Dennis took us, Kirsty & Avery to Monterey and Carmel. Monterey was a seaside town with a pier that had loads of little shops on. We had a look around here before having fish & chips for lunch mmm! We looked after Avery who had more energy than us all put together and knew exactly what she wanted and she was only 4!!! There was also an English Shop there selling everything English. This sold things that we really miss so made us look forward to stuffing our faces when we return home! Carmel was another seaside town but had a nice beach. Here we build a sand castle with Avery and looked for shell before going for a dip - only up to our ankles! But that was far enough as it was freezing!!!! On the way back we all fell asleep bar Dennis and Helen which was lucky as Dennis was driving, although he had been up since 4 o'clock to go to work!
Thursday was our last day in San Francisco so we headed back into the city for our last look around. It was a much nicer day with the sun shining. Our first stop on the cable car was Lombard Street aka the Crookedest Street. San Francisco is very hilly and for some reason on this street instead of just having a sloping straight road like they have all over the city they have installed numerous bends creating a zig zag that the cars have to drive down. Its vey unique though as was worth a visit. We then went down to Pier 33 where we caught the ferry over to Alcatraz. This was something i'd been looking forward to since we left and it was very interesting. We got an audio tour which gave you an insight into what happened in each room or block and told storeys about prisoners, guards, escape attempts and general life. At the end there was also an ex convict who had written a book on life in Alcatraz and was signing copies which was interesting. There was also fantastic views of the city and the Golden Gate Bridge. By the time we got back on dry land we had time to catch the cable car back to the city centre before catching the BART home. Unfortunately we didn't have time to see the Golden Gate Bridge up close as it was quite a way out of the city but it will be something to see when we come back - when we can afford it. Back in Union City we left to go and watch Dennis bowl. He's bloody good and could have turnt pro but decided not to. One of his team mates couldn't make it though so I got to bowl in place of him. My score didn't count, I was just used as a pacer but it still meant I got to bowl. I was pretty nervous to say the least and this was made even worse when I threw my first ball in the gutter! I think they were wondering what Dennis was thinking but by the end I scored 121 & 132 and had everyone talking to me which was cool. It was then time to go back to the house to pack up our stuff and have one last game of table tennis which of course we lost!!!
Early Friday morning we set off to the airport to catch our super cheap flight that Karen & Dennis had managed to get us to Las Vegas.
Overall we had a brilliant time and are so grateful to everyone who who helped up out over the week, but especially Karen & Dennis!!!! We really appreciate it and really look forward to coming back very soon.
Gavin and Helen