Californian Dream (Part 1: The Golden Gate City)

“DWAYNE?! DWAYNE?!” – A confused waiter hollering a seemingly absent customer

After nearly 12 years of build-up, my sister and I were finally given the American experience we had been promised by our Dad every year since we were toddlers. It’s probably fair to say that California is a dream location for many when picking a summer holiday and that is true of my family. All four of us; myself, my sister Holly, my Dad and his girlfriend Debbie were anxious and excited to experience the famed Golden coast and it was certainly an interesting experience…

On the night of the 24th July, the day before our flight I accumulated a total of 0 hours sleep. I have an irrational fear of flying and I was definitely not savouring the daunting prospect of an 11 hour trip across the Atlantic ocean.  The customary airport formalities went off without a hitch and before I knew it, I was strapped against my will in a steel cage of death precariously hovering over a pool of hungry sharks. Fortunately, my initial terror subsided and was quickly replaced by uncontrollable boredom. There’s only so many crossword puzzles you can do before you start to evaluate the worth of your existence. However, I shouldn’t moan, I caught up on a bit of lost sleep and even enjoyed a couple of films on the journey.

We arrived in San Francisco, full of excitement. Dad had warned us that San Fran would be significantly cooler than our later stops in LA and San Diego but following the tumultuous rain we’d had back in England, a temperature of 22°c was nothing to complain about. We swiftly checked in at the Hilton and went off to absorb the delights of  the city’s Fisherman’s Wharf area, which can only be described as Skegness Deluxe. That may make it sound like a shithole, but the whole area had a charm about it that made it my favourite part of America’s fog city.

Otis…Sitting on the dock of the bay, wasting time.

The next morning, we awoke at 6am. Our bodies had seemingly failed to adjust to the eight hour time difference with old Blighty and by 8am we were out on the town. You’d think having been up so early we’d have been able to grab a swift breakfast and dive right in to the many sights and sounds San Fran had to offer. But no. In fact, we hadn’t decided on a café to grab breakfast in until 10am. Although our indecisiveness was initially frustrating, our choice to eat at Boudin was perhaps one of the best of our entire holiday. My Dad went up to order our breakfasts. An order of three traditional breakfasts and one granola and yoghurt. However, being the socially awkward person he is my Dad actually asked for three traditional breakfasts to be smothered in granola and yoghurt. The cashier, rightly confused sought the help of her manager and any misunderstanding was quickly rectified. My father then gave his name, Whiting which he politely spelled out for her so she could call our name when our order was ready for collection. I stood with my Dad to collect the food and Debbie and Holly went to wait for our coffees. About 10 minutes passed and our names still hadn’t been called. Others who had ordered after us had come and gone with their food whilst we were still waiting. At both counters a man named ‘Dwayne’ was being summoned loudly by the staff to collect his food and coffees. After about 5 minutes, it dawned on my Dad that ‘Dwayne’ was not coming and his order was in fact ours. The cashier had mistaken the name ‘Whiting’ as ‘Twaing’. As you can imagine, we were in genuine hysterics as we sat outside and loudly scoffed on our granola-free bacon and eggs.

With our bellies full of fried goods, we set off to view the heart and soul of San Francisco, the Golden Gate Bridge, which stood ominously in the fog-drenched distance. We set off on the obligatory six mile walk, stopping for snacks at a local supermarket on the way. The Golden Gate Bridge was magnificent. It was majestic and bustling with tourists. Perhaps, it didn’t live up to its hype but essentially it is just two red poles sticking out of the sea. We then caught a bus in the hope of viewing Golden Gate Park which was surprisingly a trek and a half from the city’s infamous bridge. Buses in America are weird. They’re crowded, dirty and full of questionable individuals. A bit like a mobile shanty town. Anyway, we were absolutely shot after such a long day on our feet and we ended up ambling for twenty minutes before succumbing to a sit down and a mouth-watering hot dog.

San Fran-tastic… The Golden Gate Bridge

In fact, food would become a focal point for the rest of our stay in Frisco. The weather was often overcast and cool and with a dauntingly tall city centre and no chance of visiting Alcatraz to look forward to, the morning croissants from Starbucks were quickly becoming a highlight. In fact, San Francisco boasted several brilliant eateries; The Fog City Diner, a classic American diner that did the classic British dish of fish & chips more than justice. Boudin, also got a second visit from us, this time so we could try Fisherman’s Wharf’s infamous clam chowder which was very tasty. A whole host of lovely restaurants are also homed on the vibrant Pier 39, which again had a classic seaside feel to it.

Fox City… Leicester scarf in San Francisco

Our last full day in San Fran arrived and we were anxious to explore the inner city areas; Market Street, China Town and all that jazz. We hopped on a cable car, and when I say hop, I mean stand wedged in a queue for an hour between a chirpy puppy and an obese racist in the Northern Californian drizzle. My Dad decided it would be an excellent idea to stand holding on to the side of the cars as we whizzed through the streets of Frisco. Initially, I wanted to just sit like a normal person but that would have robbed me the pleasure of spotting San Fran’s very own ‘Filbert Street’, which obviously brought a smile to my face. We arrived in the centre of the city and following some initial awe at the sheer size of it’s skyline, the rest of the day was a bit shit and involved a lot of walking back to the hotel. That night, we returned to Fisherman’s Wharf, and I fell further in love with the place due to the fact I saw a Leicester City scarf proudly draping from the ceiling of one of the shops. You can take the boy out of Leicester… the next day, we were on the move. It wouldn’t be as easy as going by foot or air. This time,  we were going by road…

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