Thursday, 14 August 2008


This time last week I'd never flown. This time this week, I'm back, and if the vertigo would only go away I'd be absolutely fine.

Myths busted

1. There is nothing to see from the window of an aeroplane.I don't know where this was, because by this point my camera was having battery trouble, and I really didn't think I'd taken a picture. Somewhere between San Francisco and Chicago, nearer the former than the latter. Probably quite near the bits of desert that had large white patches in them, which can only have been salt-flats.

2. There is no public transport in America. Everyone drives (except in New York City).
This picture was taken from the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) station, which was just across the road from our hotel. Those diggers are working on a Transit Village, to improve the public transport available. This is to say nothing of the cable cars (I liked the cable cars).

3. Food in America is bland and tasteless. Possibly. If one goes for the fast food option. But that holds true in most of Western Europe as well. We might have been spoiled, because the two main meals we had during our stay were (1) the wedding reception we actually went for, in a rather nice restaurant, and (2) a slightly scary-looking restaurant in Chinatown during our explorations in San Francisco itself. The best Chinese food I have ever had (but my experience hasn't really been vast). The first cup of tea I have ever drunk (and second, and third).

4. My baby brother is far too young to be married.
Apparently not. Unfortunately, this is the only picture I managed to take of the two of them. I'm looking forward to seeing the proper photos, taken on posh cameras by people who can consistently remember which button is the shutter and which is the on/off switch, and who pack spare batteries.

Myths that turned out to be true

1. Holy cow that is one big country.

2. Americans are friendly. Very friendly. They actually talk to strangers at wedding receptions (instead of muttering "who's she?" in disapproving tones).

3. American yarn stores are to die for. I don't have pictures. I only bought three skeins of yarn. Mum does and didn't. I found myself wondering if they'd let me sleep in here if I promised to tidy the skeins. I don't think there's anywhere in Britain with as broad a range of stock (Get Knitted would probably come closest, and they're not exactly handy), and I have no idea if this is an extra-special-wonderful shop, or if it's fairly normal to have that mind-blowing variety available.

4. Airport security is totally random. Gill and I packed our liquid in virtually identical clear cosmetics bags with zips, well under the maximum size. At Dallas Fort Worth I was ordered to take my stuff out and put it in a flimsy airport-supplied bag. In the other queue, she got through fine. Dallas Fort Worth want every item of metal and electronica you possess separately laid out in trays. San Francisco International are quite happy for you to leave it in your bag, so long as you don't wear it through the metal-detector. My favourite airport was Chicago O'Hare, just because it was an incredibly smooth transfer. In 50 minutes (which had been worrying me), we got off one plane (a Mcdonnell Douglas MD-80, which was the smallest and probably the oldest plane we flew on, but was our favourite for comfort and view - although I wouldn't be saying that if we'd been at the back by the loos), ambled down a corridor, through a shop selling water, through duty-free, through rest-rooms (with electric seat-covers!)(not quite as dangerous as I make them sound), up to another gate (without having to pass through security again, hence the water and duty-free excursions) and onto a Boeing 777 for the final leg. On which I got a window seat by myself. Michigan is an awful lot more watery than I'd realised.

The things I'd never have guessed

1. We all got a wicked case of the ear-worms from the place-names we were passing over. 24 hours from Tulsa, anyone? Wichita Lineman? Chicago, Chicago, it's a toddling [possibly] town? Michigan seems like a dream to me now, it took me four days to hitch-hike from Saginaw? Somehow 24 hours from Luton doesn't have the same ring to it.

2. Apparently there are people in the world who do not just get drunk at wedding receptions, then stand up and sway out-of-time on the dancefloor and call it dancing. There were some scarily good dancers there.

3. I never thought I'd be so moved by my first excursion into the wider Anglican Communion. Perhaps it's because of all that's going on at the moment, and the fact that the Diocese of California is known for being the very definition of liberal, but Grace Cathedral was much more than a building on the tourist trail to me. I'm very glad I got the chance to visit it.
(As you can see, it wasn't a "typical San Francisco day" for weather by any stretch of the imagination).


knititch said...

looks like a delightful holiday.

Silas said...

Yes, Michigan is a two-part state, the Upper Peninsula and Lower Peninsula. Or the Bunny and the Mitten, as they're also known.