As I write this it is actually coming to the end of my third full day in San Francisco, so all being well I will post about what I’ve been up to in the next few days, but first I thought I’d start with the journey to get here.
Now, this is my first attempt at travel writing and my first blog written via the WordPress iPad app, so I’ve no idea how it will work, but let’s give it a go.
As with all holidays from Guernsey the first step is always leaving (escaping?) the island itself, for this one I was flying with Aurigny and, while the seats on all their planes seem to be specifically designed for people under 5’5″, the flight was the usual good service mixed with some stunning views of the Isle of White and the Solent as we hit the south coast of England.
Over the last few years Gatwick airport has changed considerably, and this has left the area ‘land side’ of departures a bit sparse so, as I had a couple of hours to kill before my connecting coach this left me continuing my stay at The Overlook Hotel (in The Shining) more than anything else.
I did though have a good all day breakfast at the slightly too hipster, but certainly rather tasty, Giraffe restaurant that has been left along with the Costa and Weatherspoons on the accessible side of the security zone.
It was while sitting here that it struck me that, while air travel has become a very run of the mill thing for many of us (especially those living on an island), there is still an inherent vague glamour to proceedings as, alongside Guernsey, the departures boards list places all over the globe and, at any individual moment, you could be sat with someone heading to any of them.
The one that particularly struck me while sat in the restaurant was the cancelled flight to Casablanca. This instantly brought to mind images of Bogart, Bergman and Raines, all longing for their boarding papers but inexorably stuck in their own limbo – however, the reality of situation was that the people due to fly out to the Moroccan city were more likely just like me, but considerably more fed up with proceedings.
After my own limbo time was done it was on to my first experience of an actual National Express coach ride and, with images conjured up by The Divine Comedy, I wasn’t sure if I should be looking forward to this or not. Thankfully, despite my actual coach being delayed, the guy in charge of coaches at the terminal said I could get on the one that was there as they all go via the main Heathrow coach station anyway, so much kudos to him and the rest of the National Express staff I encountered on this leg of the trip, including the comedian ticket inspector the following morning, who made a slightly baffled (and in the second instance already over tired) Guernseyman feel very welcome on their respective out sized busses.
While I could hardly say I was impressed with the room at the Holiday Inn at Heathrow, it was what i expected in being a cooker cutter commuter room clearly designed for stays of no more than one night, but the chance for a cup of tea and to sort out my papers got me about as ready as possible for the long haul time warp of a day and journey that was to come.
That journey began with the aforementioned second jaunt on National Express with the comedy club compere conductor, who certainly helped brighten up my morning more than the oddly designed Heathrow Terminal 3 managed to.
While the terminal contains pretty much what you’d expect in the way of very high-end stores such as Tiffany’s and Harrods rubbing shoulders with Starbucks and W.H. Smith I couldn’t help but feel that while the designers made us want to think that “all human life is here” really anyone of any status or ‘celebrity’ would probably be ushered into one of the mysteriously signposted but seemingly very well hidden ‘lounges’ supposedly located nearby which, combined with the modern shops and seating areas but oddly 70s looking structure makes for a very odd atmosphere in the very busy departure lounge.
Once I got on the plane, Virgin Atlantic’s Cosmic Girl though things soon settled down as, while I was in standard economy class I was pleasantly surprised by my standard amount of leg room (I actually fit comfortably) and both the inflight entertainment and cabin crew service couldn’t have been much better.
Over the course of the slightly less than 10 hour flight I was fed what seemed like a huge amount of very good (by airplane food standards) food ranging from a beef and mushroom main meal to snacks of ice creams and ‘high tea’ all while I enjoyed re-watching both the inexplicable much-maligned and still great fun Gangster Squad and The Shining documentary Room 237 (as well as a new Alan Partridge special and few other TV and ‘radio’ shows including a great interview with Dave Grohl about his Sound City movie).
All this combined left me a surprisingly good mood and untired state as we touched down at SFO at about half past three local time (around midnight by my own internal clock) and waited over an hour to get through the border control, which was much more straightforward than I remembered, but just as slow.
After a slightly baffling conversation with a taxi driver I was soon speeding along a freeway towards downtown San Francisco and, it being daylight this time round, I got to see a lot of the sight of the SOMA (South of Market Street) including the AT&T field, which proudly boasted about the city’s baseball team, The Giants, win in the 2012 World Series, and the Museum of Modern Art which is a fantastic looking building.
My day was rounded off well with the nice surprise of receiving a free room upgrade at the Hotel Triton giving me a view out onto the Dragon Gate of China Town and room boasting the beat literature of Jack Kerouac adorning its walls which left me, at about 4am by my personal reckoning, ready to head out and face the city after a much-needed sleep.