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Stage One – San Francisco

After travelling for a very, very long time we spent only one full day and two nights in San Francisco. It was a welcome chance to get our bearings, to refresh and refuel. To say to ourselves; “Here is where it starts.”

It was raining when we got to The City by the Bay, and after settling in S and I travelled by local bus into the heart of the city. The bus ride was an adventure in and of itself. Two guys at the back of the bus got into a rather heated argument about whether the air vent on the roof of the bus should be open or closed – S and I found this quite amusing at first, a welcome diversion from the monotony of bus travel. Until the argument got much louder and more heated. And at some point it dawned on me that we weren’t in Scotland any more. That we were in America. Where everyone can carry a gun just about anywhere they want to. After that, I was less amused and more terrified. Eventually they settled down. And, a few stops later (after one of the guys had already left the bus) the bus driver finally asked, “What’s going on back there?” leading me to believe that he was quite aware of the threat of danger himself.

It was a strange sort of paradigm shift, let me tell you.

Exploring the city in the rain wasn’t much fun although we did our best. We first tackled some necessities (getting a USA phone number, for instance) and then got down to the business of Adventure.

Cable Cars in the Rain, San Francisco

We rode the Cable Cars. Obviously. They were as I remembered them. Charming. A much-needed reminder of bygone times when nobody really needed to be anywhere in all that much of a hurry. I loved them.

At Fisherman’s Wharf we were both over- and underwhelmed. There was a lot of neon, I’ll grant you that. And perhaps on a nicer day, or later in the day it would have been something to see. But we didn’t bother staying long.

We did visit the Musée Mécanique, which was equal parts fascinating and frightening. Again, I like harking back to an earlier age, but papier-mâché fortune tellers have always scared me.

For instance:

Fortune Teller

This guy is super creepy. As are his good buddies, the wooden dancing men:

Frank, Bob, Charlie and Sam

I’m sorry, but that’s just FREAKY!  Although, considering we did spend about an hour there wandering about and paying the odd nickel to watch some of the fascinating machines actually working, it was well worth the visit.

Knowing, as you do, my adoration for all things Amusement Park, consider the following:

Toothpick Fantasy

This one is made entirely out of toothpicks!!! How awesome is that??

After we had spent all of our dimes and nickels we wandered away down the Embarcadero towards the Ferry Building. We stopped in for something to eat at Johnny Rockets. Because S had never been to one. And because they sell milkshakes. And play excellent music. And you have a mini-jukebox at your table.

Milkshakes and Jukeboxes

See? There IS reason behind my madness, even if I am the only one who sees it!! 🙂

We saw many iconic images during our walk including Alcatraz (as seen in yesterday’s post), the Fog City Diner (of cookbook fame) and, of course, The Ferry Building itself.

The Ferry Building

When we returned to The Ferry Building the next morning the view had changed somewhat. See if you can spot it…

The Ferry Building, Again

Yes, folks, that’s right. The sun was shining. Glorious, warm, American sunshine. Nothing beats it, trust me. The Scottish sun, even at its highest and hottest, just can’t hold a candle (and yes, I am aware there is only one sun…).

We met up with a dear friend of mine, Jeremy, whom I hadn’t seen in years. He took us for coffee at Blue Bottle Coffee in the Ferry Marketplace which was, quite possibly, the best coffee I’ve ever had (And I’ve been to Italy. And the Italians know their coffee!). Oh, my! Can they ever brew a good cup of coffee. If you haven’t been and get the chance to go – do it. RIGHT NOW. that’s an order!!

After that we went for a short walk in the sunshine (see above) and then stopped for something to eat at The Plant Organic Cafe. Where the food, company and conversation were all extremely satisfying.

When we parted with Jeremy (with promises to meet up later that night) we headed straight to the Alcatraz Ferry. Even though our scheduled ferry didn’t leave until much later, the folks at the ticket office were very kind and let us take an earlier crossing (freeing up our afternoon for more frivolity).

On the Ferry

What can I say about Alcatraz that you don’t know or can’t guess? It is over-commercialised, yes, but even so it is an eerily silent place with whispering ghosts in every shadowy corner.

OK, so I may be employing a bit of poetic license there, but the fact is there’s a chill in the air on the cell blocks. Anyone with a modicum of imagination can picture what the place was like when it was actively being used as a prison and wish themselves elsewhere.

Cell Block

We learned a lot – the audio tour is very useful. We saw the scarce windows (above) and the solitary confinement cells just opposite. We saw the mess hall and the warden’s office. We saw the depressing visitor’s area. We looked through the plexiglass into the ventilation shaft where the only people to escape Alcatraz snaked their way to the roof.

We walked in the rec-yard where you have an exceptional view of the bay and of the city. A perfect means of punishment for some of the prisoners who were sentenced to be on The Rock for life.

View of the City

View of the Bay

Of course, the prison closed in 1963 and now it’s a tourist trap. But, like I said, if you can imagine them, the inmates are still there, whispering to each other through the closed bars…

Prison Cell

Anyway, I digress.

After we got back to the mainland we walked towards Fisherman’s Wharf. At some point it struck us that it might be a fine idea to rent bicycles and ride over the Golden Gate Bridge. No, I’m not joking. That was our actual thought process. Wouldn’t it be fun to ride bikes across the bridge? Well, yes, it would.

So we rented bikes.

And we rode.

And rode.

And rode.

Uphill.

A lot.

And then we rode some more. And then, when we eventually arrived at the base of the gigantic, monstrous, insurmountable (teeny, tiny) hill leading to the roadway across the bridge – we realised we didn’t have time to cross it and get the bikes back in time. So we took a few pictures and rode back.

I may be exaggerating a little, but I swear to you it felt like we rode for about 100 miles. All uphill.

The end result was worth it, though. I mean, look at these pictures:

So then we rode back to the city and dropped the bikes off. And walked around a while, and rode more cable cars. It was, of course, necessary for us to visit Lombard Street:

Having wrung all the fun we could out of one day in San Francisco, we returned to the hotel to freshen up a bit, then headed back to the airport to pick up our rental car.

This was not a simple task. This car would be our mobile home for the next 20 days! Somehow we snaffled an upgrade, and I sure am glad we did. Look how pretty he was:

Dodge Avenger 🙂

We then drove back to the city and met up with Jeremy and some other friends for a much-deserved and much-enjoyed night on the town. There were drinks and merriment and laughter. The perfect end to an excellent start to our vacation.

San Francisco was beautiful and warm and welcoming. We could have spent much more time there. Certainly one full day did not do it justice. However, our plane was leaving from New York City in a few short weeks and we had a lot of miles to cover.

So, we went to bed on the 18th of May full of excitement for the next morning when we would really and truly begin our Epic Road Trip Adventure and the next day we woke early and drove out of the city towards Sacramento.

With my longing for, and love of, the open road, with the sound of wheels on asphalt and the wind coming through the open window it’s not hard to understand how my mind barley lingered on the beautiful city we were leaving far too early. Somehow, though, I found time to regret our departure.

Perhaps this is why:

Sunshine on the Bay

Sunshine on the Bay

xo

A

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Hello again. Welcome to the first in a series of installments detailing the events of our trip to America. I know – you can hardly wait, right?

At 04:30 BST exactly one year ago today, S and I were checking in at Glasgow Airport for our flights to San Francisco.

This was the beginning of our three-week whirlwind adventure to cross the breadth of America in a rented car. It was amazing. One of the best things I have ever done.

I realise I never wrote about it. Never shared any anecdotes our photos or anything!

So, starting tomorrow, watch this space!

It will be thrilling. Almost indescribably so. Trust me.

In fact, here, have a teaser:

image

See? Thrilling.

But, I’m afraid you’ll have to wait until tomorrow for more!

xo
A

well…

Well. Today is my 31st birthday. I had a whole draft post written about the year I’ve just had and how I’d like to never, ever have another similar one in future.

But then I  read it back and decided not to post it.

Sure, the beginning of last year (calculating from birthday to birthday) was quite phenomenal what with our whole Coast-to-Coast American vacation (of which I have been promising more details and I will get there, soon!) and getting to see so many friends and family members.

But then came my whole life-changing diagnosis with Idiopathic Intracranial Hypertension in August. And everything to do with that part of my life has been pure  hell and I would quite like to go back in time and never have this condition. I mean, I’ve had a headache for 275 days. For crying out loud!!! But if we’re wishing for things…. Well, why stop there?

Do I want some of last year back? Yes. Are there things I would change? Yes.

But…

I have my wonderful husband. I have my family and I have his family. I have two nieces whom I adore and cherish. I have friends (far and near) that have enriched my life in ways I could not ever express. I have loved and laughed and cried with these people over the past 365 days and I wouldn’t change any of that.

Which makes changing the last year difficult. How do you regret one thing without changing another? Hmmm…

So, no, it hasn’t been the best year. But that’s OK. You win some, you lose some, right?

Although, this year I aim to spend less than 31 days in the hospital and I would also like to have a lot less lumbar punctures. Correction, I would like to have a lot less  failed lumbar punctures.

Who knows what’s coming? I certainly don’t.

I know I’ll be ready for it, though. This last year has taught me at least that.

You and me, 31, we’ll be OK.

xo
A

tunesday

Yes, it’s back too. I couldn’t think of a better way for me to ease back into the habit of writing frequently than by resurrecting one of my favourite features: Tunesday!

Today I’m sticking close to home and doing what I can for a local band that I have an extreme playlist crush on. They’re a trio called Fatherson and, as far as I know, they’re Kilmarnock born and bred. So much the better for us, or do I have to remind you all of the benefits of an audible Scottish accent?

As for who they are off stage, I have no idea, never having met them myself. On stage they are refreshing, energetic and just plain fun.

If I had my way I would showcase all of their songs that I know, but I will stick to the format and narrow it down. Because I have to. Expect to see more from them, especially around their upcoming hometown gig at The Grand Hall.

The Band: Fatherson

The Song: First Born

So, that’s Fatherson. And, as an added bonus, lots of Glasgow in the background!

Like I said, there’s more to come from me on this topic, I just wanted to get Tunesday off to a running start. Look them up. They may be local now, but they’ll be global soon.

xo
A

i know, i know

It’s been too long.

I don’t have any excuses. Except to say that I’m sorry, and I can only try harder in future.

To say that the past few months have been full of fun and games would be untrue, although they have been eventful. Some good news, some mediocre and some not very nice at all, but we’ll get to that.

I’ve missed writing about Christmas and Thanksgiving, two of my favourite times of year, as you well know. My Mom was here for three Weeks and we went to Paris. It was unforgettable.

I will get you caught up, just give me some time, and as long as I don’t have to spend loads of time in the hospital again, it shouldn’t be too much trouble.

Wish me luck.

xo
A

on modern technology

I have had a revelation. Truth. And prepare yourself because it’s a good one. Are you ready?

When one is staying in the hospital after having recently discovered that one is suffering from a rather painful condition, one should not be allowed access to the mobile internet at 4am.

Are you ready for my second revelation? (I may have been gone a while but when I come back I do it with style!)

On 29 September I was diagnosed with Idiopathic Intracranial Hypertension (IIH) the main symptom of which is frequent (read daily), throbbing, splitting headaches which have thrice so far been so bad that I was sure there was no way I could survive them.

These headaches are caused by having too much Cerebrospinal Fluid (CSF) which presses rather uncomfortably on the brain, and combined with the nausea and the almost constant badly blurred vision (which makes it hard to read and makes me too sacred to drive) this condition has so far not been a great deal of fun.

I will tell you all my diagnosis and hospitalization drama another time because at the moment I’m trying to make a point about modern technology…

Which is that sometimes it’s not a good thing.

Being that IIH most commonly occurs in overweight 30 year old women, of which I am one, this morning when I awoke at 4am (thankfully not, as yesterday, with a screaming headache, but rather because I’m on the respiratory ward and all 3 of my wardmates SNORE) I decided to Google whether losing weight would cure me (although I’ve already lost 35 pounds this year). Because if the internet told me losing weight would cure me I would stop eating immediately, no matter how ill-advised.

Google-ing IIH is something I have thus far not allowed myself to do.

For good reason.

The first link I clicked on lead me to a page of a support forumn. Ok. I can get on board with this… Right? A support community is a good thing. Right?

Well yes, of course, I’m sure I’ll be grateful in the long run. But when I’ve only just discovered this morning at 4am that there are people who have been suffering for YEARS with no measurable decline of their symptoms despite various treatments? Well, no, I’m not entirely pleased.

Did you hear me say YEARS?

So my conclusion is that modern technology is rubbish. And that, even if I didn’t wake with a headache, by now I can feel one coming on. And, now that Google has planted the word YEARS in my (slightly squashed, let’s be honest) brain, I doubt if I shall ever sleep again.

Signing off from the incredibly noisy annex of Ward 3B at Crosshouse Hospital,

xo
A

Well, it’s finished. At long last. After months of deliberation, indecision and, above all else, trying to find a name for it, I have finally opened my Etsy shop.

I am very pleased indeed to present to you:

Red 14 Photography

There you can buy prints of some of my photographs. It’s a bit sparse at the moment but over time I will have more selection. It is a very time consuming process getting prints ready for sale. Nothing, in my mind, is good enough Straight Out of Camera and therefore I have become very good friends with Photoshop over the past few months.

Browse. Buy if you want. Tell your friends.

I may never sell a single print, but at least I’m out there trying.

xo
A

p.s. Red 14 is from the Roulette wheel. Apparently it’s my lucky number. Who knew?