Holiday Post Two: 13th August.

One of the overriding reasons why my husband wanted to go to the West Coast was Yosemite. I will freely admit I was skeptical that the trip would live up to the hype, until we went up Route 120 to get there. The Tioga Pass road is something I will never forget, a climb up in daylight that’s amazing but in darkness is more frightening than any movie, book or game you’ll ever experience. I have to give credit to my husband who drove both ways in a SUV that owes more to Sherman than Buick, without batting a single eyelid. What was abundantly apparent on the entire trip was the extent of the drought the State is currently gripped by, and how much of the countryside has already burnt. Massive swathes of trees were black, shells of their living selves. It was in turn both depressing and beautiful, but nothing really prepared me for what we’d find when we finally made it to the eastern entrance to the Park. The three and a bit hour drive was more than worthwhile and pictures simply won’t do the experience justice.

The Park defies adequate description: hot, vast and dangerous, and full of views that make you realise just how insignificant humanity is on the general scale of existence. We found a place fist to paddle and then later for the kids to swim. I have no problems on days like this being the designated adult, and watching the world pass by, documenting as I go. My only dissapointment is that we didn’t have more time to explore, as I suspect the majesty of the place would take several days to take in properly. Needless to say, from big to small, I tried to capture as much as I could in pictures. The Flickr feed has a selection of the best images (points to the right.)

What struck me most was the sense of scale: how huge everything was and how tiny I felt in comparison. It was a sombering reminder that however good you think you are, you are a mark, a stain on a planet that has existed for billions of years. It was an amazing day I doubt I’ll ever experience the like of again, especially with my children and husband. That, more than anything else, is what made me realise how grateful I am to have them and how much I love them all. It makes me understand I made the right choices in coming to this point. Because human life is so fragile, it is undoubtedly essential to enjoy every moment as much as you can.

I will not forget this time at Yosemite for the rest of my days.

Holiday Post One :: 11-13th August

It is quite a long way from Essex to California.

I’d not really grasped the distance until I got onto the Virgin Atlantic flight, and the plane itself helpfully showed me relatives: almost as far across the Atlantic as it is across the continental US. The eleven or so hours were not nearly as stressful as I’d anticipated: I wrote, I watched a whole movie (Tomorrowland, which I now grasp was panned for many good reasons and is basically borrowing from a load of SF movies without being unique enough on it’s own) and I didn’t sleep at all, which I would pay for later. However, as flights go? Hugely enjoyable. I know now I need to watch Interstellar on a big TV (managed an hour, gave up.) I have three new writing plot bunnies to play with. I ate airline food *and enjoyed it hugely* which is definitely a step forward from last time. It’s almost 20 years since I did a long haul flight, after all, and a lot has changed. Mostly, I’m glad we went with a company that cares enough to offer my kids a trip around the aircraft and a huge bag of spare sweets at the end because we were cool. That makes me smile.

The Pier 2620 Hotel’s about two minutes walk from Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco, and was probably far better than I’d hoped for this being a pretty much ‘seat of the pants’ holiday experience. The first thing we did was go explore, and then eat, and I can attest that my idea of scoffing only sandwiches and nothing huge to ensure I didn’t gain a ton of weight was sound. The crab sandwich I had on sourdough (Joe’s Crab Shack, which appears to be a restaurant chain WHO KNEW) was possibly the most amazing thing I’d ever tasted, and has set the bar for the rest of the trip thus far. Food is fresh, delicious and has made me realise I’ve spent far too long at home staring at a PC screen. This holiday was much needed and has been incredibly relaxing. I say that even with the trauma of the first full day, which forced me so far out of my comfort zone I was forced to tears. However, in the end? All utterly worth it.

I rode the Golden Gate Bridge on a tandem, and I’m still not sure how my son put up with me for the whole day. It was in part glorious and frightening, and the massive bruise that my left leg remains after I fell off the bike about ten minutes before the thing was returned makes me realise I have a long way to go in terms of personal fitness, something I fully intend to work on when I return to the UK. In the end? The best day I think I’ve ever managed on a bike in 48 years. I intend to improve on that as a matter of priority and next time? I’ll ride alone. Not for my benefit, but so no poor bugger has to rely on me for steering. My son is a bloody saint. He’s also now 6 feet tall and doesn’t show any signs of stopping.

Having survived the tandems (and another monster Crab Sandwich at the Buena Vista bar & restaurant) Thursday started as sightseeing and then rapidly degenerated into an afternoon trip to Waterworld in Concord. Before that, however, there was Cannoli. I had promised myself I’d do this when I was in the US and BOY was I not disappointed. The Victoria Pastry Company were happened upon pretty much by accident and I now wish I’d taken more of these away to eat later because the lack of these in the UK is positively criminal. Needless to say I had no problem sitting all afternoon not working these calories off under a sun lounger. The heat was a concern when I got here (as an asthmatic) but as per usual, there was no need to worry.

One of the things I’m going to do when I’m back in the UK is sort out taking more photographs. I love the process of finding interesting things to capture, and even with the simplicity of my iPhone camera (which all these snaps are taken from) there’s an amazing amount of variety to be had with a bit of thought. Mostly my mind thinks in shapes and colours, and California thus far is proving a rich seam of creativity in both departments. The Denny’s on our return to SF was just what was needed for a cheap day out, and that night I think I realised that maybe I should have done this trip a long time ago. I’d always wanted to do the West Coast, but never really had the belief it would be as good as this in reality.

Yosemite showed me what a fool I’d been on that front. As a result, it gets a post next all on its own.


Holiday Writing

I’ve already lost one post so far this morning, let’s see if this one survives my iPad.

I’m on Day Four of the Great US Adventure: family + ridiculously large motor veicle on the West Coast of the USA. I’m finally adjusted to the -8 hours (took a while) and I feel the need to document everything properly before I lose the clarity of memory that I always do in situations such as these. It’s ridiculously early to be writing but I want to draw my line in the sand here: I’ve already done Tandems over the Golden Gate Bridge and an afternoon in a US Water Park, but there are other observations that I’d like to make, and this is probably the best place to do so.

For now I have to eat breakfast and go look at nature. When I’m done, we’ll start catching up.