Day 98-100: Universal Studios, LA!!

Yet another Last-Post; this time for the USA and it’s gonna be a long-un! We were only a couple of days away from heading south to one of the most exhilarating challenges of our life, so we figured we would spend our last couple of days in California somewhere fancy. Universal Studios had an awesome deal where you only have to pay an extra $4 for a two day pass instead of a one day, though you could do Universal Studios in one day if you got up early and was strict with what you wanted to see and when.

DAY 1 – Journey down to LA

This was a long day, but spectacular in scenery! The first bit of beauty was just past Hearst Castle. Most of the zoo-like animals that were brought over to the mansion eventually had to be donated to local zoo’s. One group of animals that acclimatised well, however, was the zebra. As much as I willed it, they wouldn’t come near. After what I’ve seen from other tourists over the past few days, it’s just as well that they kept their distance. 

 DSCF6050DSCF6060DSCF6067DSCF6043

After that we passed by a small, but very quaint town called San Luis. My memory is falling me a little here, but most of these cow statues were around this town, and the whole place was very colourful!

DSCF6085DSCF6089DSCF6091DSCF6094DSCF6122DSCF6118

It was around here that there was a very famous wall. It was famous for a really disgusting reason. I think it’s interesting to see how differently we reacted to it.

DSCF6101DSCF6107DSCF6113

And it made total sense that a gum-ball machine would be in the shop right next to it.

DSCF6116

Our last stop of the journey before hitting up LA was Santa Monica. More cows, watching people surf, eating salt-water taffy. Bliss.

DSCF6128DSCF6141DSCF6146DSCF6153DSCF6163DSCF6183DSCF6173

DAY 2+3 – Universal Studios

After arriving at our AirBnB, we quickly learnt that our host was going through some emotional time and we needed to give him some space. He had just cheated on his girlfriend or something and clearly wanted to just sit there and get high instead of showing us how anything in his house worked. His three cats were more of a host to us than him. It was a good thing in the end though, as we needed an early night in order to make the most of the next couple of days.

DSCF6232DSCF6294DSCF6264DSCF6272DSCF6288DSCF6243DSCF6248

As far as recommendations go, I would recommend whatever you can possibly do here. The studio tour was incredible!  Some of the special effects that they put on in the rides blew my mind! You also HAVE to go to Harry Potter world while you’re there and check out the ride, but just to warn you, it’ll be uncomfortable if you’re scared of spiders! My last personal favourite was the Simpsons ride. I never knew I could scream so much without actually moving anywhere but, like I said, the special effects were awesome!

DSCF6280DSCF6268DSCF6265DSCF6254DSCF6221DSCF6291

And so our time came to an end in the USA. I can only assume that going to Peru after here would be like night and day. The USA has been pretty stunning, warm and… comfortable. It’s been difficult trying to drum up a lot of passion when talking about California, even though I really can see what the fuss is about. I think it boils down to the lack of challenge – our traditions, language, and being haven’t been challenged here. It may also be down to the fact that we haven’t met as many people that we’ve had a genuine connection with here and that’s my fuel. That’s not anyone’s fault, but it may have been what has driven my mood here.

We’ve had a lot of fun, but I think I can speak for both of us when I say we’re ready to shake things up a bit and find out how life south of the hemisphere is.

Day 96-97: Paso Robles #2

To begin with, sorry for the massive delay in posts. We’re not currently in Peru and travelling has really stepped up a notch. I kid you not, we have barely enough time to go to the bathroom, let alone blog!

While we were in Paso Robles, we stayed with a very left-wing couple called “Steve” and “Matt”. They’d invested the best part of $200,000 into their home to make it fit for a B’n’B, and they were pretty much set up for life. They’d already hosted 800 groups of people, so by the time we came along, their establishment was a well oiled machine. We were one of three couples who stayed with them, the other two being a Dad and son from the UK and a married couple from Australia. We inevitably started talking about politics within ten minutes – remember that this was before the election. The hosts were adamant that Hillary was going to win, with a lot of pretty sound statistics to back it up. Both us and the other UK pair agreed, but the Aussies seemed less sure. They didn’t think we should have counted our chickens just yet, and I wish we’d listened to them!

For our second day, our hosts recommended that we visit Hearst Castle.

William Hearst was an eccentric millionaire, whose father came into fortune in his 40’s when he successfully found a massive batch of silver. His father very carefully gave Williams inheritance to a trustee, who would only give William what he needed and when. William was passionate about a patch of land in California, and was eventually granted the rights to own and build upon it at the beginning of the 20th century. He built one of the grandest and most luxurious buildings in California and invited some of the biggest names in Hollywood, such as Charlie Chaplin and the like (I can’t remember..).

DSCF5929DSCF5989DSCF5986DSCF5981DSCF5980DSCF5979DSCF5978DSCF5977DSCF5970DSCF5965DSCF5958DSCF5952DSCF5947DSCF5938DSCF5935DSCF5932

In it’s hay-day, Hearst had all manner of exotic animals, such as polar bears, at his place. He also had a very unique way of allotting time to each guest. Every evening, he would invite everyone into the dining hall for dinner. Each guest would find their names along this beautiful table.

DSCF5945

On your first night, you would find your name very close to Hearst and each night after, your name would be placed further and further away. When your name finally reached the end of the table, that was Hearst’s signal to you that you had maybe outstayed your welcome. If he liked you, however, you would be invited back.

He was passionate about the land the mansion was built upon, and was often heard saying that he would rather the building fell apart than have any of the trees burnt down. He lived by that principle by moving any trees that needed to be moved instead of cutting them down, which would have been much less costly. He also demanded that his guests stay out of their rooms as much as possible and enjoy themselves outside in the sunshine.

And now time for my Bad Tourist award. This one goes to a lovely couple who, after a five minute and very explicit lecture about leading/touching/sitting on anything other than the ground or the handrails, sat here for a full half hour. I’m getting better at my passive-aggressive behaviour though as they originally asked me to take a photo, and I said no. I was shaking with the adrenaline.

DSCF5976

Our next destination will be the end of our time in USA, North America and the Northern Hemisphere for a while! We figured we may as well go out with a bang and head to LA. If I don’t see Tom Hanks, I will be pissed!

Quick Bathroom Story

I just want to write this one down quickly before I forget that it happened. I’m then going to publish it because I have no sense of embarrassment – I strongly believe that it’s a wasted emotion.

During one night in California, we were staying with an Asian man in an AirBnB. The only reason I’m mentioning his race is because his English was very basic and we generally had a hard time understanding each other. He knew just enough English to show us around the house, “bedroom….bathroom….kitchen….second bathroom”. The second bathroom looked a little like this.

image

So we continued with our evening by having very little to do with our host as attempts at conversation seemed futile. We ordered take-away and settled in for the night as we were tired and fairly far away from anything there. There were other guests we talked to for a while, but everyone in the house seemed ready for an early night.

Just as I was going to sleep, I felt my stomach rumble and not because I was hungry. Within ten minutes I knew for sure that I wasn’t very well and I needed to go to the bathroom pronto. In my hurried state, I made the quick decision to go to the second bathroom so that no one would have to go through the ordeal of going in to brush their teeth straight after I’d been in. I rushed into the bathroom, quickly locked the door and got to business straight away.

After about 15 minutes, I wasn’t feeling any better, and was resigning myself to staying in that bathroom for the whole night, when I suddenly heard “sorry, sorry!!”. The Asian host darted across from the corner of the room with the washer/dryer in. In my rushed state I must have missed the fact that he was there because it was dark in that corner and I wasn’t able to concentrate on much else.

I couldn’t move or try to make myself seem more decent, which would have been a lost cause anyway seeing as he must have been there the whole time. He was probably working out what to say when I dropped trough, so he decided to hide in order to save me from embarrassment. He bashed into the door with full force and spent what felt like a life-time working the lock to free himself. It must have been a full two minutes of him scrambling at the lock and me having to carry on before the poor fella finally freed himself into the rest of the house.

I never saw that man again.

Day 94–96: Paso Robles, CA #1

We continued along the 1 Freeway on the way to Paso Robles. There was nothing in particular about this place that we wanted to see, it was just a stop on the way to LA. The journey was stunning though, and dotted with amazing sights.

DSCF5743DSCF5738DSCF5748DSCF5770DSCF5751DSCF5722DSCF5764

Our first stop was McWay falls (pictures above). It’s most famous for the waterfall that tumbles onto the beach, creating a scene that is pure paradise. A slightly lesser known fact about this place is that there used to be a multi-million dollar house built on this site. In the 1980’s, a landslide caused the house to me almost completely covered in earth, with only a few broken remains of walls and the view from the patio. As always, nature has a habit of returning the land to glory and it didn’t take the plant-life long to regrow in the areas.

DSCF5632DSCF5625DSCF5650DSCF5661DSCF5637

Next up was Bixby Creek Bridge. I apologise for the cheap pose, but when would I next get a chance to hang off a bridge?! There was also a pathway that led down the side of the bridge and gave you some amazing views of the beach below. Me and Dan have started to have a “anywhere you can walk, I can walk further” competition, so if he could get down to a certain spot, then I had to follow.

DSCF5684DSCF5606DSCF5778DSCF5710DSCF5698DSCF5690

I can’t really provide a location for these photos. They were just along the way. The horses were beautiful and incredibly curious, though they may have been hungry and willing to take a chance on some strangers. It was around this time that I truly began to appreciate what California had to offer. It took a little time, but I’ve got some love for you now Cali!

The next place we went to was completely by chance. It may be because the 1 Freeway isn’t commonly used to get from A to B, but not one person we asked told us about this. I’ll get the small grievance out of the way first, because it was truly sensational. Whenever I’m doing anything, I always want to follow one golden rule. If 1000 people could do the same as me without changing anything or damaging anything, then I go ahead. If 1000 me’s would create damage to anything, I stop. This rule means that I am not one of those travellers – someone who doesn’t care about their surroundings. This lady was one of those travellers and shame on her.

DSCF5897

Ok now I’m done, so here’s the good bit. This is what they didn’t tell us about.

DSCF5798

Elephant seals! Everywhere! All huddled and muddled along this beach, showing all of the emotions.

Bliss.

DSCF5814

Worry.

DSCF5874

Horror.

DSCF5872

Fear.

DSCF5864

 

Cuddle-road rage.

DSCF5833

Acceptance.

DSCF5801

And finally, love.

DSCF5799

It was amazing to see how individual all of their faces were. Not a single one looked exactly like the other. They did have one thing in common though. It became evident that each of these glorious animals had the instinct to turn towards the sea and head back out into the big blue. It was touching to see this one give a final farewell before heading out.

DSCF5846DSCF5847DSCF5818

There’s something amazing about seeing an age-old tradition take place, such as this. Once that precedes me and mankind, and one that will hopefully outlive me as well. These eccentric looking creatures knew what they needed to do – now we just need to figure that out!

Day 91-93: Halloween and Monterey

Our  Canadian Thanksgiving mission, which was to spend it with a local, was pretty successful. We did not have roast turkey and all the trimmings, but we did have a Canadian breakfast in a Canadian home with a Canadian host. And I put some maple syrup in my tea. The reason that we were so adamant that we had to spend thanksgiving this way was because we can’t spend 9 months feeling like a tourist. Sure, its not our holiday, but as I keep explaining to people we meet, we don’t go crazy over much in the UK apart from Christmas.

Monterey was a beautiful sea-side town, which was our first stop between San Francisco and LA. We’ve done a lot of back and forth in our journey in order to see as much as possible, and we’re still only going to scratch the surface. The town is just off the 1 freeway and has stunning drives to and from the place in any direction. The main attraction here is the Aquarium, which I think is the largest in the world? I’m sure that’s what someone told me.

Our AirBnB hosts were kind enough to lend us their annual pass, which stopped us from being $100 out of pocket. It’s not a cheap place to get into, but a lot of the money goes towards keeping the wildlife in the area healthy and sustainable and researching into global warming. I’m sure most of these pictures are going to speak for themselves, so I’m just going to pop them below:

DSCF5569DSCF5576DSCF5378DSCF5380DSCF5396DSCF5404DSCF5421DSCF5437DSCF5442DSCF5478DSCF5488DSCF5498DSCF5501DSCF5505DSCF5523DSCF5534DSCF5538DSCF5549DSCF5562

Here, just like in any zoo or wildlife enclosure anywhere now, they spoke a lot about the impact of climate change. I personally never gave the oceans much thought before this visit, and focused most of my concern on wildlife in the rainforests and the climate closer to home. But the truth is that nearly half of the known coral reef in our oceans has already died and we have reached a point in time where the climate will wipe out all of it if we do not intervene. The oceans absorb most of the CO2 we release into the atmosphere, but become more and more acidic as a result, which affect the balance needed for ocean life to thrive. That fact is indisputable and it’s terrifying. How arrogant are we to come along and wipe out species of animals who’ve been here for millions of years? Do we really want to be in a position where all we can do is mourn these beautiful, living sculptures?

Now back onto Halloween. Dusk was approaching and we had made no plans. We asked people on the street, waiters, supermarket workers, anyone within reach, but they all said the same thing; Halloween is on a Monday this year. If we weren’t around to celebrate it at the weekend, then we pretty much had lost out chance. We could try and go to a bar, or we could go back to our AirBnB and admit defeat in front of a TV with some candy (that’s sweets/chocolate to you and me).

We drove home and shuffled up to the front door with the keys in hand. Before we put the key in the lock, the door opened and we were faced with two people and a dog in fancy dress. As usual with the people we meet, the British-ness in me feels that taking a photo of them would be an invasion of their personal space, so I’ll find the best replica I can on the internet.

Is this in any way how they looked? You’ll never know. Our hosts didn’t have much Halloween luck either, as they thought we would be their fourth trick ‘o’ treaters, but they made the effort to dress up and provide candy regardless. We ended up eating most of it and watched Cloverfield 10 with them, so it wasn’t the Halloween we expected, but it was a good one.

Day 89-90: Sequoia National Park and Yosemite National Park, California.

Believe it or not, even with the wealth of photos in the last post, I still managed to leave one out. Once we turned away from the General Sherman (biggest tree in the world), we were racing with the sun to gather the last few shots we could get. We were just in time to see the last glimpse before it disappeared completely.

DSCF5103

Now onto the next day. America is all about the big, and so was Glacier Point. Just high enough to get a tiny bit of altitude sickness, which was most likely a mind over matter situation, we drove up to 8000 feet above sea level. Due to the time of year (end of October) a lot of Yosemite was closed, so Glacier Point was one of the few places that were left to view in all its glory.

when we first arrived, the area was covered pretty thickly in clouds.

DSCF5132 DSCF5134DSCF5140

Before we let the British in us out and start grumbling about the weather, we decided to wait a little while.

DSCF5120DSCF5186DSCF5197DSCF5207DSCF5210DSCF5228DSCF5232DSCF5235DSCF5234

It paid off. Both for us and the recently married couple. There’s not an awful lot to say about this day that isn’t covered in the pictures, so I’ll just leave it with a few more photos. Glacier Point in Yosemite is pretty accessible, as it’s only a short walk away from the car. We tried to make up for this lack of adventurousness by decorating our shots with the pretty leaves. I think I nailed it with my shot of Dan. We’ve also learnt this cool trick of turning round and looking the wrong way when smiling for photos. It makes us look more travel-wise.

DSCF5240DSCF5245DSCF5255DSCF5219

Day 86–89: Lake Tahoe and Sequoia National Park

After our bad couchsurfing experience, we needed a day of not doing much. It makes us sound a little soft I know, but it wasn’t because we were emotionally traumatised or anything. If you’ve read the blog, you’ll know that it wasn’t that horrendous an experience and pretty much straight away we were laughing at how we’d finally lost our shitty-couchsurfing-experience virginity. Finally we had a story of our own to tell at dinner parties.

No, we needed to take a day out because we were tired. We spent hours looking for a decent motel after we decided to leave and finally found one in the early hours of the morning. The man behind the desk probably wasn’t that nice, but he honestly looked like Mother Theresa to me as I was so worried. When we got to our next AirBnB, I had an hours long bath and went to bed. It was exactly what the doctor ordered. Well nearly..

I went with Dan to see Lake Tahoe, but slept in the car while he went on a hike. This is what I saw:

DSCF4773DSCF4770DSCF4772DSCF4766

And the next bunch of photos is what Dan saw alone. I could try to justify taking that nap more, but all I will say on the subject is his two hour hike felt like five minutes to me, I fell asleep that fast. It was at this point that Dan discovered the Macro setting on our camera (allows you to take very close up shots and blurs the background to anyone who was like me before this nap/hike), so enjoy the artistic photos because we’ve gone crazy with that setting ever since.

DSCF4779DSCF4888DSCF4857DSCF4835DSCF4810DSCF4804DSCF4786DSCF4783

That evening we stayed in a town called Fresno. Fresno is not an exceptional town for anything itself (just about every Fresno resident I met told me that), but it has a great advantage of being smack-bang in the middle of a lot of cool stuff. So it does see it’s fair share of tourists. Thankfully for us, we gave Couchsurfing another go and got to see a little more. Our hosts ‘Michael’ and ‘Brittney’ (just assume from now on that I’m not using their real names as I never ask permission) let us in to stay for two nights.

The first night we were there, they took us to some cool bars. I learnt two things that night; a) Fresno is working hard to re-build their music scene that started to decline in the 90’s and b) I actually like some types of beer out there. The first time someone handed me a beer, I gave it back to them thinking that someone must have thrown up in the can. This beer was so much nicer though, they had types with blood orange in, sour beers etc. You may not think it’s a big deal, but having those kinds of beers on tap is rare in the UK!

Brittany also thoroughly entertained us that night by telling us all about the time she used to date one of the Hell’s Angels. Apparently he was a nice enough guy, but he was too much of a junkie. She also introduced us to a guy who played some of the best piano I’ve ever heard. He did ‘Lord of the Rings’, ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’ – very eclectic and awesome!

phone-pictures_29974029053_ophone-pictures_29974038373_o

The next day, we went to seek out the ‘Sequoia National Park’, which contains the worlds largest tree. Obviously it isn’t just this one tree surrounded by lots of dinky, normal sized trees, so we got to experience life as a squirrel for a day! The two main types of trees were called Redwood and Sequoia. On the way, we passed by some more beautiful scenery and a lime farm (?!).

DSCF4940DSCF4953DSCF4956

The first thing that dawned on us as we got out of the car and took a look around was wood really does play it’s own song.

DSCF4972DSCF4824DSCF4925

The next thing was the grandness of these guys. The obvious pitfall in trying to photograph something so large is trying to get the whole thing into one shot. We did our best.

DSCF4990DSCF4975DSCF4971DSCF4919DSCF4969DSCF4967DSCF4965

Having people nearby helped to give you guys an idea of the sheer scale of these trees. When they were first discovered, the original forest workers had to cut down and send off various samples of the trees to prove to the world that they were real. For a long time, these trees were considered to be a Californian hoax to entice people to visit.

I feel like a common thread in our rural posts is the wildlife that we see. Didn’t want to let you down did I? I know only one of these is exotic enough to not be found in most of the world, but all three were cool to look at.

DSCF4997DSCF5183DSCF5158

We were not yet at the sight of the largest tree, and the sun was setting on us, so we had to get a move on, which meant only stopping a couple of times to take in this scenery.

 

DSCF5279DSCF5058DSCF5275

Finally we got there. The Great Sherman Tree. Boy he was big!

DSCF5093DSCF5044DSCF5037DSCF5036DSCF5017DSCF5084DSCF5089

We tried to capture this guy from as many different angles as possible. The highest branch, using us for scale, comparing him to his neighbours, just taking a picture of the damn thing. You can see from the photos that he is never overshadowed completely, which may sound obvious, but he’s not the oldest, or the tallest, or the widest tree in the world (we saw plenty that were arguably wider). He just takes up the most volume in m3.

As impressive as we was, one day he’ll die. I wonder which one of these fellas will grow up to take his place?

DSCF5045DSCF5039

Day 85-86: Bad Couchsurfing experience

As we were driving to Lake Tahoe, we were noticing how we were becoming complacent. Complacent with the beauty that surrounded us and we just weren’t taking it in as much as we used to. As much as I wanted to concentrate on the beauty, I found that my eyes were glazing over and I wasn’t appreciating what was in front of me. It was a strong enough feeling that we almost wished we could pause the travelling for a little while an resume it once we were back in the groove.

Massive first world problem eh? Well we learnt that evening that you tend to get what you need, but not in the way you expect.

Our couchsurfing host had 30+ positive reviews and only one negative, complaining about the son. We figured that maybe couchsurfing reviews are like restaurant reviews, where at least one customer is never pleased, and ignored it. The lady who was our host was great with communicating, and told us that she wouldn’t be home until half 8, but we could head over at half 6 as that’s when her son would be home. It’s also worth mentioning that her offer to us was her front lawn to camp on. We were worried about getting in trouble with the police for sleeping on the side of the road so we were glad to have a safe place to sleep in the car.

When we pulled up, the first thing that immediately grabbed our attention was their dog. This dog only had three legs, but for what he lacked in the leg department, he made up for it in threatening behaviour. As soon as we pulled into the property, the dog went crazy and ran around the house several times, before the son came out and chased it into the house. I was firmly not ready to leave the car at that point, so Dan went to knock on the door.

Let’s call the son Kevin from now on. Kevin was not interested in letting Dan into the house. Dan came back after five minutes and simply said “I don’t think we’re welcome anymore”. So we decided that the best thing to do would be to wait until – lets call her Stephanie – to get home. After about an hour, Kevin came to our car and knocked on the window.

“Here, take some apples. Wanna get high?”. We thanked him for the apples, but quickly said that getting high wasn’t really our thing. “Okay bye then”. We actually had to shout after him to stop him for walking away. After asking him if we could come inside and use the bathroom, his reply was “yeah okay, then we can hang out and get high.”. We again said that wouldn’t be something we were up for doing.

Don’t get me wrong here, the kid could do a line in front of us if he wanted to, I just didn’t want to get involved. After asking whether the dog was OK or if he had ever attacked anyone (it was a big dog), Kevin’s reply was simple “It’s a fucking three legged dog. There’s worse shit out there”. I liked his avoidance tactics there by not actually answering the question. Once we were inside, Kevin asked us to “not touch anything, not a single thing, nothing”. This would have made sense if the place was immaculate, but it was in a state. So we sat down next to some dirty laundry and watched Kevin get high.

It was coming up to 8 o clock at night and it was already pitch black outside, and Kevin was losing interest in us fast. The conversation went form bad to worse, as Kevin was less and less interested in getting to know us and more interested in whether we were going to get high or not. Dan asked for the WiFi password so he could look up motels in the area under the table, while I kept painfully trying to find some common ground with Kevin that didn’t involve smoking his impressively large bong.

“The fucking WiFi password is s-e-m-e-n-d-e-m-o-n”. He didn’t explain that it was an in-joke with his family, and made full eye-contact with Dan while he was spelling it out. Dan was given all of 20 seconds internet time, before Kevin eventually got bored of us and asked us to leave so he could lock the door.

So we carried on sitting in the car until Stephanie came home. Kevin didn’t care so much for keeping the dog indoors anymore, and allowed it to bark and growl right next to our car. When Stephanie ignored us and walked straight past out car to her house, we knew it was time to leave. After several hours of driving around different motels, we finally found one that didn’t look like we’d get robbed in our sleep.

As soon as our head hit the pillow, we realised that we would never take a good couchsurfing host, or beautiful scenery for granted again.

Day 82-84: Google, Computer History Museum and Sancramento

We left San Francisco and ventured into the ever so slightly more rural parts of California. Eventually, we want to do the coastal road connecting San Jose and LA but before that, we want to see the National Parks of California, and so we need to head East.

These couple of days were more Dan’s fantasy than mine, but I think I managed to appreciate it as much as a computer novice could. We made our way over to California’s Google offices in order to have a little experience of Silicon Valley. The offices were very much as we expected them to be; sleek, slightly hipster and futuristic.

The first thing we noticed was that there were Google bikes everywhere. Nothing too special about them, except that they offered the workers free transport.Dan was telling me that the workers can just leave them on the side of the road anywhere once they were finished, and they would be picked up and returned to Google offices. That would be super cool for the workers. 

DSCF4524

Then it just got cooler.

DSCF4527DSCF4523DSCF4530DSCF4518

That last picture is a Google Self-Driving Car. Apparently (I’ll say apparently until I can catch a lift in one of these) you can sit back and take a nap, while the car does all the work for you. The only annoying thing is we kept seeing the drivers meddle around with joysticks in the cars, so maybe they’re not completely self-driven? Either way, they blew our mind! 

We spent a good hour talking about what life would be like if all cars were replaced with google cars. Infants sitting in the drivers seat, taking a nap while heading to work so those hours are no longer a waste of life. You could commute much further to work, as you wouldn’t have to do the commuting yourself. And less road accidents. Seeing those cars definitely told us that we were in the future. 

The Google mascot is a dinosaur, which seems cutely ironic, as Google is all about the future.

From here, we went to the Computer History Museum in Mountain View. If I seemed at all ignorant just now, its about to get much worse. I did not have a clue here. I knew nothing. Dan loved it all, so maybe he’ll re-do this blog post, but until he does, you’re gonna have to see this museum through my eyes.

They had several things.

They had a Google Car, as modeled by Dan.

DSCF4479

Then they had a giant cigarette dispenser.

DSCF4501

Then some giant cassette players.

DSCF4503

Some mini beer kegs.

DSCF4496

Some TNT.

DSCF4500

Some cheap Christmas lights.

DSCF4498

Some large pennies that hadn’t been stamped with anything yet.

DSCF4510

An extremely white man offering money to any woman who could sew the fastest.

DSCF4490

An exposed washing machine. Everyone was going crazy over this one. It just went round and round.

DSCF4507

A flask with a complicated stirrer.

DSCF4495

A fun game where you had to guess the correct time each morning before work.

DSCF4492

And the most annoying piece of technology to ever be invented.

DSCF4512

Yeah, I didn’t get it. After about an hour, I went to the gift shop. It was a well ventilated building.

After the very modern, we went to the very old fashioned. We drove (in a manual car unfortunately) to Sacremento, where we would be staying for the next two nights. A woman named Dora agreed to host us on CouchSurfing while we were there. Sacremento has a section within the town that pays homage to the days of gold mining in the area. It shares its history by letting you walk through the shops as if it was the late 19th century.

29974022143_8cbc90260a_o

I liked the place, but if you don’t have the money to go shopping, you begin to get a little bored wandering around. I eventually stumbled into a fortune tellers shop. I don’t personally believe in fortune telling, but I have to give her credit for her calm demeanor when speaking to me. I could have easily spent an hour talking to her, mainly because she was chilled, but a little bit because I’m slightly narcissistic. She told me that I will not have a great amount of sickness in my life – score!

That evening, we had a chance to speak to Dora about politics. It’s a very obviously contentious topic to be discussing at the moment as things are getting more and more tense closer to the election. I don’t like bringing it up either as it seems a bit hoity toity of me to come stomping into someone’s country and start discussing their politics with them when I barely understand them myself. Dora seemed pretty open to the idea though, so we used it as an opportunity to quiz her on her views.

One topic that came out of our discussion was America’s use of guns as Hillary opposes the use of them. As a Brit, it seems absurd that everyone should own a lethal weapon in their homes. I’ve grown up without a gun in my house, so having one now would make me feel more unsafe, if anything. Dora is someone who has grown up with guns in the house, so she had the view that if everyone around her has a gun, then she would compromise her safety not having one.

I can’t justify it in my head, but I can’t think of a plausible solution to it now either. The guns are out there and people own them. How would they ever manage to reel them all back in? Apologies for this blog suddenly becoming very somber. To anyone worrying back home, Dora was very sane, just like 99% of gun owners I’m sure. If you’re still worried, we’re not staying with Dora anymore.

Day 79–81: San Francisco and Alcatraz

San Francisco has some stunning scenery and it certainly is a unique place to visit. It’s possible that Canada had just as many bad points to each city, but I subconsciously decided to be blind to them. Here, however, they felt obvious and stuck out to me like a splinter. I don’t want to dwell on them, so I’ll get them over and done with first so I can move onto the good stuff.

I started to get fed up with people asking me how I was, without make eye-contact and walking away before I could answer. It felt far colder than if I wasn’t asked in the first place. It’s something small and meaningless, I know, but it was our first impression of the city. And if you need to take one train and two busses to get anywhere, then you have to pay for all three. We slowly realised that using an Uber-Pool was much cheaper than using public transport ($16-18 for two as opposed to $14 for one), but still not as cheap as New York, where you could go from one end of the city to the other for $2.75.

The last thing that bugged me was how the homeless were being treated, which was like shit. One scruffy guy sat down next to me in a fast-food joint and quietly minded his own business for about five minutes, before an employee went up to him and shouted “OUT”, with his arm stretched towards the door. The homeless guy, quite rightly, replied with “don’t talk to me like a f***ing dog”, before shuffling out. He was one of a few homeless people who were made to leave restaurants and shops for just walking in. Maybe a few of them cause trouble, but I didn’t see anything remotely close enough to warrant the way they were spoken to.

Now onto the good stuff! San Francisco is hella expensive, so the street performers were competitively awesome! This particular guy played the bass, keyboard, guitar, drums and sang. Hats off to him.

image

We also found that the place was colourful! After spending the morning feeling unsure about the place, it was hard not to have our spirits lifted by the scenery around us.

29975041403_401fc23983_o30492026342_8ff7faf2e7_o30492016832_a8d4e8b0d8_o30609051645_30708db03c_o

Lastly, the food is verrrry good. Most of it is pretty expensive but there are some spots that are decently priced, and the seafood is comparatively very cheap! This clam chowder was under $6 (under 5 without the bread!), and was from one of the permanent food stalls which are everywhere along the peer.

29976109174_45f41140a5_o

In every direction in Fisherman’s Wharf, there was something that could catch you eye.

30308995820_a100b0c28a_o29977094044_56a8a01858_o29977121634_ffcdf1e0bb_o29977149884_a0728500d2_o30308968770_3efbb69880_o30308978950_ce92c53dfd_oDSCF4535DSCF4532DSCF4533DSCF4537

Who hurt you Sea Lion?!

30309063430_a860256dec_o

One of the best places we saw was Alcatraz. Alcatraz housed some of the most dangerous felons from 1934 to 1963, with one of those felons being Al Capone. I know Al Capone was a gangster, but I couldn’t tell you much of what he did. He actually looked quite cuddly! (Al Capone is far left in this picture).

DSCF4613

If staying in one of those cells wasn’t enough, they had a special wing of isolation, called ‘D’ block. You would stay in there in total darkness for up to 12 days if you were caught fighting or you tried to attack an officer. One prisoner said that the only way to stop himself from going mad is to throw a button in the air, listen out for where it landed and pick it up. Another inmate said he went with the madness and tried to enjoy the hallucinations. They say that some of the worst punishments are the simple ones; it was pretty eerie standing inside one of those cells, even for a minute.

DSCF4616

Only in some of the more open cells did I feel able to goof around.

DSCF4611

I don’t know if these exact articles are genuine or not, but the prisoners found catharsis in art and craft. Apparently crocheting became a big thing in the prisons, with many wanting to learn how to do it.

DSCF4637DSCF4635DSCF4645DSCF4640

The prisoners who managed to be in cells facing San Francisco were considered to be the lucky ones. Not because they could see the city, but because twice a day this would happen.

DSCF4642

I have a few more photos that I’m not sure how to categorise, but want to include anyway. It wasn’t just the inmates who lived on this island, but many of the prison guards and their families. The children that grew up on Alcatraz speak of it quite highly, saying they had a great childhood there.

DSCF4577DSCF4684DSCF4681DSCF4671DSCF4673DSCF4665DSCF4653DSCF4602DSCF4601DSCF4592DSCF4588DSCF4570DSCF4566DSCF4563DSCF4576DSCF4574DSCF4571DSCF4698DSCF4704

As much as I love seeing the back of my head and my squinty mc squintyface up close, the views from Alcatraz weren’t going to cut it as far as the Golden Gate Bridge was concerned.

The last big highlight out our stay in San Francisco was the bike ride up to this tower (bridge) of strength. The best bit about seeing this triumphant piece of architecture was that we had to earn the view. We were NOT going to be lazy and get an Uber, so it was either an hours bike ride or a two hours walk. We chose the bikes. You can rent one from near pier 39 for $8 an hour each, which brought our total to $32. Again, not as cheap as NY, but close.

 

DSCF4726DSCF4747DSCF4745DSCF4741DSCF4731

San Francisco is definitely worth a visit. You don’t need some random Welsh person telling you that really. While I feel that not mentioning the negative stuff I found would be lying by omission, it is totally possible that they just stood out to me because I’d become used to smaller towns and countryside. I didn’t fall in love with San Francisco like I thought I would, but I did enjoy my time there.