Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Flying from LA to Sydney...

Means you get on a plane and when you get off it's almost two days later. But the flight only took 15 hours. It's a bit weird.

However, if you fancy driving the 15,000 miles, Google Maps has some thorough directions. Do have a read and check out point 13 in particular.

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Oakland, California

My last stop in North America before heading back to LA for a flight to Sydney was Oakland, where one of my friends lives with her husband and extremely cute baby. Getting there from San Francisco was easy; I simply hopped on the BART train that goes across the bay and, voila, I arrived 20 minutes later!

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Oakland is full of great things to do and, more importantly, awesome food. We stopped for pizza on the Friday night, followed by lunch made from ingredients bought at a brilliant farmers' market, then - wait for it - a full roast dinner on Saturday night! It was the last homemade meal I'd have in a while and it was SO UNBELIEVABLY GOOD.

First up though was cocktail hour while watching a hilarious TV show called Party Down (thanks to Sarah for getting me into this!)


Then roast chicken, asparagus, rainbow chard, Yorkshire puddings and mash potato, before red velvet cupcakes! Heaven!




The next morning we ate brunch at Rudy's Can't Fail Cafe - I had pancakes, fruit and syrup, and it was DELICIOUS.


So, Oakland is great - really relaxing and funky and fun - but more importantly, I was so happy to spend a weekend with much-missed friends who made me feel completely at home! Thanks Sarah, Will and Jack!


Thursday, 7 July 2011

San Francisco

Here are some things I learned in San Francisco:

1. It's awesome, no matter how many times you go

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2. If you eat nothing but noodles and imitation Pop Tarts for a week, you'll start needing naps at 7pm every night when your body starts to shut down


3. If you put beer and a digital camera in the same bag, expect at least one of them not to survive the journey

4. Saying "Sorry I'm not on Facebook" or "Sorry I've got to go, my house is on fire" is a good way to get rid of members of the opposite sex who won't leave you alone

I think they are all valid life lessons.

Anyway... San Francisco is so great, it's definitely in my top three visited-places-on-the-trip-so-far. Numerous reasons make it brilliant; it's lively, diverse, no problem to explore should you not have a car, intelligent, interesting, vibrant and picturesque. It's also great for shopping - but, given that my travelling fund needed to last a lot longer than retail therapy would permit, I was nearly licking the windows of half of the shops because I was that desperate to let Mastercard have its way.

A friend and I first visited Chinatown (apparently the biggest Chinatown outside of Asia) - this is a bit of a tourist trap but cute and fun all the same. I used to work opposite Chinatown in Manchester, which is pretty similar, except about a twentieth of the size and it frequently scared the shit out of me when I'd walk past the markets on fish delivery day (nobody needs to see dying fish flapping about on their lunch break, or crabs that instantly made me think of the John Hurt scene in Alien... oh my god I've just thought - he's eating noodles in that scene isn't he? Weird coincidence. Now I'm never eating noodles again. By the way don't watch that film if you're squeamish or about to eat noodles. Or about to eat anything EVER AGAIN. Well, do watch it, because it's unbelievably good, but if you do, make sure you watch Aliens as well, purely for Bill Paxton and the bit where he goes GAME OVER MAN! GAME OVER!).

I'm digressing again. Somebody stop me next time I do that.

ANYWAY. In San Francisco the pretty lanterns and bustling markets make it a must-see should you ever visit.




Then we walked up to Fisherman's Wharf/Pier 39, from which you can see:


The beautiful sea lions (you can read more about them here)

San Francisco bay

We also rented bikes and went for a mammoth ride around the whole city. We headed from Market Street to Golden Gate Park up through the Presidio then up to the Golden Gate Bridge and down through to back where we started. Oh yeah, IT ENDED UP TAKING EIGHT HOURS. ON A DIET OF NOODLES. This wasn't the wisest move. Later we calculated that the route was just shy of 20 MILES and, if you didn't know this already, SF is SUPER-HILLY, I'm talking muscle-burning-y, soul-crushingly hilly. I've used A LOT of caps lock in this entry to emphasise HOW HILLY IT WAS. The views were totally worth it though.


I saw an apparently-real Banksy on the way though, hurrah!


And the giant pointy building in the city's financial district, which has matching mini pointy trees outside (yes, I'm easily amused by things like this)




Here are some pictures I took on our bike ride. The Golden Gate Bridge is easily one of my favourite sights so far. Hope you enjoy the photos as much as I enjoyed the city.










The mile-o-meter #2

Time to check again how many miles I've covered. It's been almost three weeks since I calculated the distance, so let's add on everything up to today (July 7th).

Manchester to London: 200 (all figures are approximate - well, according to Google Maps)
London to New York: 3,400
New York to Baltimore: 185
Baltimore to Miami: 1,200
Miami to Charlotte: 750
Charlotte to Los Angeles: 2,450
Los Angeles to Seattle: 1,140
Seattle to Summerland, Canada: 330
Summerland to Whistler: 300
Whistler to Vancouver: 80
Vancouver to Seattle: 155
Seattle to Los Angeles: 1,140
Los Angeles to San Diego: 120
San Diego to Las Vegas: 320
Las Vegas to Los Angeles: 270
Los Angeles to Santa Barbara: 100
Santa Barbara to San Francisco: 325
Total: 12,465 miles
San Francisco to Oakland and back: 32
San Francisco to Los Angeles: 344
Los Angeles to Sydney: 7,500
Sydney to Byron Bay: 450
Byron Bay to Surfers Paradise: 56
Surfers Paradise to Brisbane: 50
Brisbane to Noosa: 87
Total: 20,984 miles


Tips for surviving a Greyhound bus journey

I think I covered some good ground while in North America, given the size of it and the time it can take to get from place to place. I did this by hopping on internal flights, which are generally pretty good value and easy because you only have to check in about an hour before departure.

However, I needed to take a couple of Greyhound buses for convenience. The longest was only 9.5 hours, but they can take up to three days if you really want to clock up some miles. Here are some things I learned; hopefully they will help any of you who are planning to travel this way in the future!

1. The buses stop in the middle of nowhere and the driver doesn't really care if you are back on board on time. Here is a picture of the inaccurately named King City in California where I spent/wasted 30 minutes of my life.


2. Lots of people on the bus are total weirdos. No pictorial evidence of this because I was scared one of them would knife me.

3. Some of the routes are actually a great way to see some gorgeous scenery. I can think of worse things to look at for nine hours than the Californian coast.

4. Make sure your iPod is fully charged before you go.

5. Sit near the front to avoid being anywhere near the toilet, which will otherwise assault all of your five senses and make you want to shoot yourself in the face before the journey is over.

6. Take appropriate snacks. All layovers are in places with fast food outlets, so if like me you're trying not to return home twice the size you were, you'll need to plan ahead. I took fruit, nuts and M&Ms. Drink water, but not too much, otherwise you'll have to use the loo (see point five for why this is absolutely the worst idea ever).

7. Make sure you know how you're getting from the station to your destination. The stops are usually in the arse end of nowhere and doorways to hell.