California here we are!!

Old Jan 12th, 2022, 03:27 AM
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California here we are!!

It is my intention to complete his report as we go and then expand upon it in our blog later.Thatís the plan, if it works out that way, no one will be more surprised than I,

After a negative covid test at Boots in Paddington Station we boarded the Piccadilly Line tube to Heathrow. The carriages were pleasantly uncrowded, such is the nature of public transport in London at present.

I had spent hours completing all the necessary ESTA, declarations, attestations, covid tests, vaccination certificates and uploading them to the Virgin Atlantic website for pre clearance. (About 8 hours of my life I will never get back!!!) . Heathrow was empty and we sailed through check in. Without a doubt the most pleasant check in experience ever - not great travel industry though.

We were flying Virgin Atlantic Premium Economy for the first time. Have to we were impressed. The plane was half empty hey had switched our seats window to centre section in block of three with all the middle seats blocked out for social distancing so very happy. Comfortable seats, space and great service - very happy! Nice friendly flight attendants one of which, an older Scottish lady seemed hell bent on getting me drunk! "Gin and tonic please" "have two" do you need an extra tonic?" "Yes please.I think I better" "What a wuss!" BA look out VAreally do have the edge these days.


The 10.5 hour flight passed relatively quickly and we arrived in SFO on time quickly disembarked only to hit the massive queue border control. 90 mins later we were chatting with a very friendly official who embed genuinely pleased to see tourist and asked us al about our trip a a very tips - a nice welcome! Also received another nice welcoming to California from Mlgb on my other thread with whom had been chatting by emai.

more latter as. My iPad ss i. Pyongyang. Upp
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Old Jan 12th, 2022, 05:38 AM
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Thanks for the real time trip blog! Sorry this is going to be one of those "I'll have to see that next time when it reopens" trips, but can't wait to see what remains open right now in my home State.

Also, thanks for the report on Virgin Atlantic. It has been top consideration as my new LAX to LHR airline since Air New Zealand shut off that route for good in 2020. (Very annoying as I have elite status on ANZ, but nevermind!).
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Old Jan 12th, 2022, 07:42 AM
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You should be having nice balmy weather for your trip. Bay Area had some rain last week, but no rain predicted for the next couple weeks. SoCal is also dry and warm. 74 yesterday in Santa Barbara. Enjoy and eat outside to avoid omicron and to enjoy the nice weather.
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Old Jan 12th, 2022, 08:04 AM
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90 Minutes is shocking! I wonder if the airport Border Patrol staffing is also affected by COVID.

Being a weather wuss I don't know if I would be calling our weather "balmy" but at least it's dry and forecast clear.

Virgin Atlantic even in regular Economy was fine for me in 2019 (LAX-LHR-JNB). That walk in Heathrow to transfer felt like a mile though!

Looking forward to your daily posts and impressions.
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Old Jan 12th, 2022, 02:49 PM
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The last unintelligible sentence in my last post was intended to say - my iPad is misbehaving, not some rambling about North Korea! Turns out it was the Fodors site playing up not my iPad.

i Hank the delays at border control were due in part to understaffing as only around a third of the booths were manned. Another factor was the apparent inability of many in the queue to recognise when a booth became free. Some were in a world of their! I felt for teh guys trying to manage the queue , it do seem that they would have had more success trying to herd a bunch of cats! There is one thing we brits are supposed to be good at is queuing so I can only surmise those responsible must have been on flights from other countries 😇

Last night the our plan to beat jet lag by going out for dinner and a few drinks was not to be. We hit the wall and stayed in for a very early night.

Staying down at Fisherman’s Wharf we were awake early, in my case very early! Only a four hour wait for the breakfast buffet! I used that time to devise a walking tour to take in some of the touristy sites using a blog Carolyn found online detailing 24 hours in San Franscisco. We pared that back and set of on a circular ward from the hotel to Lombard Street (the iconic zig zag road up a steep hill over a few hills (Nob and Russian I think ) to Union Square ( where we stayed on our last visit some 20 odd years ago. Popped into the Apple store to buy a lead we had left behind and T Mobile for a US SIM card.

We then headed to Chinatown for a dim lunch at the much vaunted Good Mong Kok bakery which we took to eat in Portsmouth Square. Lots of old Chinese ladies playing mahjong and cards, massive queues for the covid testing centre their and a lot of homeless people all about including one old Chinese guy coughing away on what appeared to be an opium pipe. The dim sum wasn’t great and it wasn’t the most relaxing location so we moved on!

We saw a lot of homeless people about, some quiet aggressive - one yelled at me asking what I was looking at? Shouting I could take you, you a*******. Thought about telling him that I glanced at him because he reminded me of Frank Zappa but I thought that my have been lost on him… SF does seem to have a big homeless/drugs problem . It exists in London too but not so much in your face in tourist areas. All very sad.

Our plan was to head of to Haight Ashbury mainly to see the Grateful Dead house. Partly because in the summer of love as a 14 year old I was the proud owner of a Grateful Dead tee shirt and partly because one of the actuaries I worked with actually lived in that house with her mother when the GD were there. Not to be though as by back was killing
me ( had a procedure on it a few months ago and have probably overdone it ) so we headed back to the hotel through the heavily Italian orientated North Beach district - saw the size of the pizzas at one place and will likely head back for one tonight. I have seen smaller beach parasols!, We will take another walk out later to catch some views of the bridge and Alcatraz - typical tourists!!

Overall impressions of San Francisco - love it. Everybody seems so friendly. The people in the shops are so helpful and engaged in their jobs, the service is so much better than back in London. People say good morning to us in the street ( again, doesn’t happen that often in London. We could easily live here, seems so laid back.




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Old Jan 13th, 2022, 03:00 AM
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OK , we made it back for the pizza at Tony’s in North Beach and what a beauty it was ;


An award winning pizza and who am I to argue with the judges? Possibly the best I have eaten /shared.


Seems like an entirely reasonable sentiment to me!


A street named for the man that launched a million backpackers "on the road"

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Old Jan 13th, 2022, 03:59 AM
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Originally Posted by Surfergirl View Post
Thanks for the real time trip blog! Sorry this is going to be one of those "I'll have to see that next time when it reopens" trips, but can't wait to see what remains open right now in my home State.

Also, thanks for the report on Virgin Atlantic. It has been top consideration as my new LAX to LHR airline since Air New Zealand shut off that route for good in 2020. (Very annoying as I have elite status on ANZ, but nevermind!).
you are welcome Surfergirl. I would definitely use Virgin Atlantic again. I have a load of points with BA which I will probably now just use those for a few short haul European flights, hotels, car rental etc. and switch allegiance. Everything from the pre flight experience to check in to the flight experience itself was so much more efficient and enjoyable than with BA. Of course part of that could be down to the fact that the flight was less than half full.
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Old Jan 13th, 2022, 07:27 PM
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I love San Francisco! Itís a beautiful and historical city. Did you get to Grace Cathedral?

Thanks for sharing - brings back a lot of great memories.

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Old Jan 14th, 2022, 03:48 PM
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At first glance, I thought it was the cover of the Doobie Brothers album, lol.

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Old Jan 15th, 2022, 03:22 AM
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Originally Posted by lrice View Post
I love San Francisco! Itís a beautiful and historical city. Did you get to Grace Cathedral?

Thanks for sharing - brings back a lot of great memories.
i am not sure, are either of these it?



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Old Jan 15th, 2022, 04:23 AM
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Time to leave San Francisco. A great city that we thorough enjoyed.



An Uber whisked us away to the airport to pick up our rental car and, after the usual push to buy extras and upgrades, we were on our way south down Highway 1, the iconic route which hugs the coastal for most of the way down to Los Angeles.

We had earlier picked up a SIM card from a T Mobile shop in Union Square. A quick and painless process costing $60 for unlimited calls and data for one month. The primary use will be using Googlemaps as a sat nav. I had previously saved all,our likely stop off points, accommodations on the maps so it was very easy just to plug it into the car’s entertainment system and go.

Our first overnight stop will be at the Green Gables Inn at Pacific Grove on the Monterey Peninsular but we decided to head across from the airport to pick up H1 at Half Moon Bay. A long time since I have driven a left hand drive car on the right (to me wrong) side of the road. I soon adapted though , judging from the sharp intakes of breath coming from the passenger seat, Carolyn did not necessarily agree!

Plenty of stops to admire the stunning coastal vistas and wonderful beaches along the way. Some less than nice aspects were the damage wreaked upon the redwood forest along some of the highway from the tragic wildfires we had seen so much about on the U.K. news. Also driving through Santa Cruz we saw a huge shanty town that had sprung up along the banks of a river. Reminded us of our time in Freetown, Sierra Leone. Shocking and presumably the result of refugees making their way up from Mexico and Central America?



We finally arrive in Pacific Grove and check in just in time for wine and cheese hour! Green Gables is just how I imagined a "traditional " American inn or B &B to be. A rambling house, huge rooms packed with bric a brac and antiques. Best of all it is right on the coast road with stunning views of the Pacific. Blessed with the weather we have clear blue skies and can see right across Monterey Bay.





The views from Green Gables







We love California!!
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Old Jan 15th, 2022, 07:42 AM
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Looks perfect. if you have time to go to UC Santa Cruz campus it’s a nice drive and campus is sprawling but perched on a hill overlooking the ocean. My older son attended and in his dorm many kids had ocean view rooms. We’ve got cloudy conditions with some drizzle in Santa Barbara (and a tsunami warning!) but temperature is nice and supposed to get sunny again with highs in the 70’s next week.

The shanty towns are usually homeless many with drug and mental health issues not so much immigrants from Mexico. It’s a really difficult problem and because of our temperate climates we probably get lots of homeless from other states.
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Old Jan 15th, 2022, 08:23 AM
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Homeless encampments. You will see more on your trip. Not immigrants from Mexico or Central America.

You are lucking out on great weather! I was in PG a few days ago. Beautiful. Take some time to see the Monarch butterflies. Numbers are much higher this year and sunny weather will have them fluttering around.
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Old Jan 15th, 2022, 10:36 AM
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Did you bring that tsunami warning crellston?

Continued good weather and lodgings.

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Old Jan 15th, 2022, 11:14 AM
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Just catching up. Green Gables looks gorgeous!
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Old Jan 15th, 2022, 11:21 AM
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[QUOTE=crellston;17322742]i am not sure, are either of these it?

No. Grace Cathedral is at the top of Nob Hill. Still, beautiful churches!
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Old Jan 16th, 2022, 06:40 AM
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Thanks for the info on the homeless camps - seems like a pretty big problem!

michelle, I took your earlier rec to go visit the Monarchs in PC . Got to the grove , maybe 6 photographers with VERY being lenses hanging around ONE butterfly☹️ We heard those dreadful words not traveller wants to hear "you should have been here yesterday , they were everywhere” Saw lots grouping together high up looking like bunches of dead leaves so they are there!


We have been lucky with the weather though it could be on the change 🤞 it stays sunny.

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Old Jan 16th, 2022, 06:41 AM
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Originally Posted by thursdaysd View Post
Just catching up. Green Gables looks gorgeous!

It so was Thursdaysd. Just how I magined an American inn/B&B to be.
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Old Jan 16th, 2022, 06:44 AM
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Originally Posted by mlgb View Post
Did you bring that tsunami warning crellston?

Continued good weather and lodgings.
Probably did mlgb. It wasnít my first! Still got the tee shirt from my first one when we were in Thailand for the Boxing Day big one!
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Old Jan 16th, 2022, 08:22 AM
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Originally Posted by crellston View Post
Thanks for the info on the homeless camps - seems like a pretty big problem!

michelle, I took your earlier rec to go visit the Monarchs in PC . Got to the grove , maybe 6 photographers with VERY being lenses hanging around ONE butterfly☹️ We heard those dreadful words not traveller wants to hear "you should have been here yesterday , they were everywhereĒ Saw lots grouping together high up looking like bunches of dead leaves so they are there!


We have been lucky with the weather though it could be on the change 🤞 it stays sunny.
Sunny, warmer days, the butterflies will be fluttering about. On cold days, they bunch together, like a huge branch of leaves.

You can check out the grove In Pismo Beach as you head south.

Enjoying your report!
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