A trip down memory lane with mum
  • Day11


    February 14 in the United States ⋅ ☁️ 9 °C

    Our last day in San Francisco started early so we could have breakfast and then catch a tram car down to the area where we would get the ferry over to Alcatraz for our tour.

    We've been really lucky with the weather for the whole of our trip, but it was far colder today and definitely jumper and jeans weather, rather than shorts and t-shirt.

    Report the tram car and then had a 10 minute walk to pier 33 where we got onto the ferry to take us over to Alcatraz. You're both surprised that Alcatraz was actually prison for less than 40 years given. That's the thing it seems to be most famous for and had a fascinating self-guided audio tour of the name accommodation area which was far smaller than I thought it might be. There were three rows of cells and three stories meaning prison could accommodate around 150 prisoners and also some cells for solitary confinement.

    We realised that we'd actually arranged the tour and it was quite tight for us to get back to the hotel in time to leave for the airport and so immediately after the audio tour, we walked back down the hill (mum says we ran down the hill) and were just in time to catch the ferry back to the mainland.

    We caught an Uber back to the hotel before finishing our packing and then checking out. We drove the half an hour to the airport, checked in and started to reminisce about our trip!

    So our time in the States 🇺🇸 has drawn to a close. It's been a real indulgence to have 11 days away reliving memories and creating new memories with mum.

    Great to catch up with friends..and new spouses.(thanks Simon Thompson , Marcia Britvan and Andrew Parker). Los Angeles, you were great, Palm Springs was delightful, Cambia just spectacular and San Francisco.. Let's just say I've left a bit of my ♥️ there! x
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  • Day10

    Union Square and Pier 39

    February 13 in the United States ⋅ ☀️ 21 °C

    We spent the rest of the afternoon. Wondering around firstly Union Square where you could see some great views around the city but also off where our hotel was and then we headed to pier 39. The last time we were in pier 39 was 34 years ago when I was younger and some of the activities were far more fascinating. As it's time for drink, we stopped off at a restaurant to have a cocktail. We did have to send the first one back because rather than a long island iced tea I actually ended up with iced tea which was something very different!

    As the sunset, we saw another of San Francisco's phenomenons with the fog slowly rolling in from the bay and starting to develop the city. We caught an Uber back to the hotel and had a couple of cocktails in the Top of the Mark which is the bar on the top floor of our hotel and after a quick freshen up we went back there for snappetizers and a couple more drinks before taking our last drink back down to my room and then heading to bed.
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  • Day10

    Muir Woods and the Golden Gate Bridge

    February 13 in the United States ⋅ ☀️ 17 °C

    For this morning's trip we were up for breakfast at 9 and then we retrieved the car and we're planning to go and see the redwoods at Muir Woods. This evolved retracing our steps from the previous day and crossing the Golden Gate Bridge once again and a trip into the mountains with some amazing views and some very windy roads. Needless to say mum didn't send much of the views because she was too busy worrying about the drop on the side of the road.

    On our way back we stopped at two points to overlook the Golden Gate Bridge and take the obligatory touristy shots. Your back tire hotel just in time for a quick comfort break before walking. Three blocks downhill to meet Andrew Parker and his wife Jamie for a lovely Italian lunch. It was lovely to catch up with them and to renew old friendships. Sadly, once again we were very remiss in relation to photographs of the event.
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  • Day9

    Napa valley

    February 12 in the United States ⋅ ☀️ 23 °C

    A half day excursion to the Napa valley started with a 10 minute walk downhill to the meeting point. Here we got onto somewhere between the size of a minibus and a coach. After one more stop downtown we start studying with the driver/ tour guide, Marco, giving us lots of interesting information about San Francisco as we went along. We had two more parties to pick up one somewhere else in the city and the other in Sausalito.

    Once again the drive took us north from the city and over the Golden Gate Bridge and then the journey to the wine areas was about an hour.

    Our driver gave us lots of information about the Napa and Sonoma Valleys and explain that California produces 90% of all USA wine, which makes it the fourth largest wine producer in the world. However, the napper and Sonoma valleys only produce around 4% of California's wine and as such they are generally the more premium products.

    Our first stop was at the Madonna estates which was formed in 1922 and here we tried four wines. We heard that the climate in this particular part of the region is often some 15° Fahrenheit cooler in the summer than the rest of the region and so they tend concentrate on white wines and pinot noir. Here we tried:

    Sonoma valley - 90% of USA wine. 4th largest wine producer in UK

    2019 pinot grigiot
    2018 pinot noir
    Cab sav

    We stayed about an hour and then moved on to the second winery which was of Sutter. This is a much larger producer, although the wines that we tasted were their reserve wines that aren't for general sale in supermarkets and other shops.

    We tried a bubbly moscato, a reserved white Zinfandel, a cabernet servignon another red wine and a port.

    Again, we stayed for about an hour before getting back on the bus for the return trip to San Francisco where we arrived at around 6:30 p.m..

    For our evening meal, after we'd got changed, we walked across the road to the Fairmont hotel and to their bar in their basement which is a Tonga bar complete with a floating stage and pool and rain that comes down periodically into the pool. There was a live band and we had cocktails as an aperitif! We return back to the hotel for a night cap.
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    chris gallon

    Jan's natural habitat.....sitting in the sun with a glass of wine in hand!!! Lovely to see

  • Day9

    The Big Sur

    February 12 in the United States ⋅ ⛅ 17 °C

    We need to cover about 250 miles today to get San Francisco and after I stop at the seal beach we continue driving north. The road became extremely windy and very up and down, but the views themselves were amazing.

    The sea was sparkling blue and the sky without clouds.

    We stop briefly to admire the view and to see one of the viaduct structures that have been built as part of the road construction before continuing on to our next stop which was Pfeiffer beach.

    A couple of miles off the main road and down a very windy bumpy road we came to a car park and a short walk later. Found ourselves on a really pretty beach with a couple of coves and a large rock with a cave that goes right through to the ocean. The beach is also famous for some of the purple sand that is being eroded down from the rocks above the beach. Mum had a quick paddle and then when we're back to the car to continue our drive.

    After another hour or so we passed through Big Sur after which this part of the journey is named, although actually appeared to be just a handful of houses and visitor shops. We continued on to Monterey.
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  • Day9

    Sausalito and the Golden Gate Bridge

    February 12 in the United States ⋅ ☀️ 15 °C

    We had a relatively leisurely start to the day with breakfast at the hotel and then retrieved our car and the car park and drove to Sausalito. The journey took us along some steep roads that make up the Central part of San Francisco and then eventually out onto the freeway which takes you North out over the Golden Gate Bridge. I really had to pinch myself to believe that we were actually here. The bridge is such an iconic structure and nothing I can say in this summary will do it anymore justice than those have written before.

    Sorcalito small ex fishing village located just beyond the Golden Gate Bridge. There are lots of yachts and motor boats and also a significant number of houseboats that people live on. It was quite early and I'm not sure that the village had quite woken up but we had a look round and then needed to head back to San Francisco in order to be back in time to meet for our afternoon tour of the Napa valley.

    Golden gate bridge
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  • Day8

    Intercontinental Mark Hopkins

    February 11 in the United States ⋅ ☀️ 16 °C

    The hotel that we're staying in San Francisco is the intercontinental Mark Hopkins which is a grand old hotel situated on Nob Hill.

    The rooms aren't as modern as some of the ones we've stayed in and are much more classically furnished. My room was upgraded but both were on the 10th floor and had great views over the city.

    On the 19th floor there is a restaurant and bar that they call Top of the Mark. With the current restrictions because of the pandemic, this meant that drinks and canapes were served here each evening.
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  • Day8

    Sunset cruise & evening in San Francisco

    February 11 in the United States ⋅ ☀️ 20 °C

    We caught an Uber down to pier 43 where our sunset cruise was setting off at 5:30. The timing of the cruise at this time of year is perfect because you leaving the lights and the sun sets whilst you're on the cruise, meaning that you arrive back in the dark.

    No Sunset cruise would be complete without a drink and thankfully there was a bar on board. First stop on the cruise was out to the golden gate bridge where the boat slowed and then stopped just beyond the bridge to allow plenty of time for photographs.

    The boat then headed around the east side of the island of Alcatraz before continuing on to do the same under the Oakland bay bridge.

    It was difficult to believe that we were actually there when we were under the golden gate bridge and whilst the light didn't lie to see the colour on the way through, once you the other side the red rust coloured metal was clear to see.

    The journey back from the Oakland bay bridge gave lovely views of downtown San Francisco the boat arrived back on time at 7:00 p.m..

    We gained another Uber to get back to the hotel, we're after a quick shower. We headed to the restaurant at the top of our hotel called the Top of the Mark had cocktails and appetizers as our meal for this evening. The restaurant is on the 19th floor and so gives spectacular views out across the city.

    We decided it wasn't quite time for bed and so I headed out to an off-licence to pick up a bottle of wine. When I got on Google it didn't look very far. What I hadn't counted for was the very very steep hill that I had to go down and then back up in order to get to the shop. However, mission accomplished and we had a final drink of the evening before retiring to bed.
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    chris gallon

    Stunning photos Ceri

  • Day8

    Monterey to San Francisco

    February 11 in the United States ⋅ ☀️ 23 °C

    Beyond Monterey, the roads became less windy and therefore faster, and we bypassed Santa Cruz with our next stop at Pigeon Point lighthouse. Test itself is now not accessible because it's in a poor state of repair, but the views were incredible and this part of the coast seems to have changed compared to the last part where the hills rose deeply from the coast.

    We had one more brief stop before heading to San Francisco as a point where the waves are crashing against the rocks.

    We successfully negotiated the roads into San Francisco and found our hotel with little problem thanks to Google. We left our car to be parked and checked in good time to allow us to get to the sunset cruise.
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  • Day8

    Elephant point seal sanctuary

    February 11 in the United States ⋅ ☀️ 15 °C

    Not far at the coast. Our first scheduled stop was at the elephant points seal sanctuary. As is usual with these sorts of places, I didn't really expect to see anything and thought we would just get some good views of the coast.

    We pulled into the car park and started to walk along and were really excited to see a handful of seals just in small little coves relaxing in the sun. We spent ages looking at them and then carried on wandering. It turns out that the seals that we saw there were just an amuse-bouche for the main course which was a huge long stretch of beach. Absolutely packed with seals of various shapes and sizes; male, female juveniles and babies.

    They were absolutely mesmerising and we spent a long time. Just standing and watching them laying around barking. Annoying each other and fighting. There was some huge, great big male seals and the time that we're visiting is right at the end of the breeding season.

    Colony of seals apparently only started coming to this beach and stretch of coastline in 1990, but they're now regular visitors and spend 3 months at this time of the year breeding and the females giving birth and then 3 months around may time for the molting season and the rest of the time they spend a solitary existence in the water.

    Eventually we are realised that we just had to move on And so we reluctantly got back in the car and restart start journey.
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