Hey there, dear readers! I’m back in the groove, blogging weekly so here’s another 2019 adventure for you to enjoy!
I kicked off 2019 by mapping out my travel plans and of course at the top of the agenda was booking a trip to see Haleigh in good ol’ Washington State! April’s always a good travel month for that – public holidays to take advantage of and it’s usually not too busy at work. I figured an Easter break would work quite nicely.
Using just five days annual leave I managed to wrangle 11 days in Washington, kicking off the trip on the Wednesday before the Easter weekend.
I’ve done this journey a fair few times now but as we inched closer to the Canada / Washington border I was just in awe of the views below me. I say below me but barely, we felt that close to the mountains that I’m not sure I needed a parachute to hop out and have some fun in the snow – “Excuse me pilot, anywhere here will do..”
It was a breathtaking entrance in to Seattle. After landing I was keen to breeze through and get to my hotel ASAP – football had occupied much of my thoughts on the flight over and I knew Spurs would be playing shortly after my landing. I was hopeful I’d be able to catch the game.
That plan didn’t materialise. There wasn’t really anywhere near my hotel to watch the game and unfortunately I couldn’t find it on TV anywhere in the hotel – I had to settle for repeated “refresh, refresh, refresh” on my phone and hope that a combination of the BBC, Twitter, friends and family would keep me updated on the decisive Champions League clash with City. I’d watched Tottenham beat Manchester City in London a week earlier so we were just one “good” result away from progressing to our first Champions League semi final for 57 years.
I say “good result”. We actually lost 4-3 but that was enough to see us progress to the next stage. It was a dramatic and unforgettable finish to the game but the important thing was that we had progressed – what a way to kick off the trip!
I’d told myself that I wasn’t going to the semi final in Amsterdam in any hypothetical scenario that saw us qualify but I was ecstatic nonetheless!
Haleigh had her last day of teaching before their spring break so had to work on the Wednesday. She was driving over to Seattle later that day and we planned to spend the night in Seattle before returning East the following day.
Between Spurs victory and Haleigh’s arrival I didn’t really do much. I stayed quite close to the airport out of convenience and couldn’t be bothered making the journey in to downtown Seattle for the sake of a couple of hours. I think that ordinarily I might have squeezed in a nap but I was on too big of a high.
“No, no, no, no, no. I’m not going..”
Haleigh arrived a few hours later and we had a pretty relaxed evening. I don’t think we did much, I don’t even think we went back out for food and possibly had a pizza delivered to our room. I really can’t remember.
At the time Haleigh was living in Moses Lake still but we were planning to spend some of the break with Haleigh’s family in Walla Walla, so the next day we were heading back to Walla Walla with a little detour on the way.
It’s a little out of the way but we decided we’d go and visit a famous picturesque little town called Leavenworth. I say famous loosely as I’m sure there’ll be some of you who’ve never heard of it but Leavenworth is well known for having transformed itself in to a Bavarian town. Here in the heart of Washington was a little slice of Germany.
Leavenworth is lovely. As soon as you arrive you’re treated to picturesque mountain views surrounding the town and driving through you instantly appreciate the Bavarian style architecture.
We found ourselves a place to park so that we could have a look around and one of the first things that I spotted was that the street signs were in both English and German – a nice touch I thought.
Leavenworth isn’t particularly big. Like many American towns, it’s apparently a city but in my eyes barely more than a tourist town with a couple of streets to have a wander along. We popped our heads in to a few shops selling bits and pieces.
Whilst a very pretty place, there isn’t a huge amount to discover in Leavenworth. I think they go all out around Oktoberfest and Christmas and give you the “authentic” German experience of both but in April there’s not much going on and it was pretty quiet.
After mooching about for a bit we went and found a restaurant to grab some lunch at – the “BärenHaus” which was a nice pub restaurant selling typical German-style food. Haleigh grabbed one of her favourites (a Reuben which comes with Sauerkraut) and I probably ordered myself a Wiener Schnitzel because “when in Germany” it’d be rude not to!
Following on from lunch we had one last glimpse of Leavenworth before deciding to hit the road, it’d had been a worthwhile detour and I’m sure I’ll return one day. Hopefully coinciding with either Oktoberfest or Christmas-time to see how Leavenworth really sells Germany for those unable or unwilling to leave the USA to experience the real thing.
From Leavenworth we headed straight to Walla Walla – another drive showing off Washington’s scenic mountain views. I never tire of the drive – perhaps helped by the fact I don’t have to worry about doing the driving but it’s so pretty over there. A few hours later we’d arrived in the familiar setting of Walla Walla and settled in at the grandparent’s house who were kindly accommodating us for the weekend.
We mingled for a bit before calling it a night and relaxing in our room for the weekend. Amsterdam was still weighing on my mind as I went to sleep – ever more tempting as time passed. “Do I go..?”
Having slept on it I decided that I had to. A Champions League semi final featuring Spurs? Come on.. when is that ever going to happen again?
My indecision affected my plans. I should have been straight on it and getting those flights or trains booked up but by the time I’d come to my senses prices had sky-rocketed for both. I couldn’t justify the high prices so in the end found an alternative compromise and settled for an overnight coach trip to and from Amsterdam – bonkers but I had to be there!
All booked. I had to ridiculously start my day by emailing work requesting more time off. “I know I’m in Washington but..”
Amsterdam was sorted, I could finally and fully focus on Washington and the company I had with me. Later in the day myself, Haleigh and her brother (Ben) made the short trip over to the Tri Cities. We usually visit at least once whenever I visit as with the three combined cities (Tri-Cities, duh!) it’s a bit bigger than Walla Walla and a good place to hang out for a few hours.
We kicked off our afternoon with a little time at one of the parks in Richland which sits along the Colombia River. We popped our heads in to a small store with a bunch of art and bits and pieces before strolling along the river. I think Ben and Haleigh did a little Pokemon-hunting whilst I settled for grabbing some photos of the pretty views.
From the park we headed in to the Tri Cities to check out the mall. There’s a decent sized mall in the Tri Cities and it’s much better for shopping and picking up a few bits. We visited a few of our usual favourites including the likes of Barnes and Noble, likely grabbed some food at Olive Garden and then made our way back to Walla Walla for the evening.
The rest of the Easter weekend was spent enjoying time with the family and eating good food.
For such a religious country I find it baffling that there’s little love for the Easter holiday. Unlike the UK, it’s business as usual on Easter Monday so we headed home to Moses Lake on the Sunday afternoon.
I entertained myself on Monday whilst Haleigh worked. I wandered in to town and paid a visit to some of my Moses Lake favourites that I have a lot of love for. I grabbed myself some tea at my favourite coffee shop, enjoyed some lunch downtown and then had a wander along the lake before calling it a day.
Monday evening and Tuesday was pretty relaxed. It’s nice to have a home base to enjoy a trip and not have to think about work, just sit back and relax a little. I had such a busy start to 2019 and there was no sign of that letting up in the weeks ahead so it was good to have some proper downtime on this trip.
On the Wednesday I ventured back in to town. Much like Monday I just mooched about a little, grabbed some lunch and then popped in to Moses Lake’s museum for a little while. It’s free to visit and the perk of visiting every so often is that the exhibit had usually changed in-between trips. On this occasion there was an exhibit based on the history of the local school which was pretty cool to learn about.
In the evening our friends, Maddie and Cassie, popped in to town so we went for dinner together at a favourite local restaurant called Rock Top. I hadn’t personally seen Maddie and Cassie since their wedding so it was nice for the four of us to catch up whilst I was in Washington. We had a nice evening before they made the drive back to Ellensburg and we headed home.
On Thursday evening we had another outing. There was some career fayre kind of thing going on at some school in the Tri-Cities which Haleigh wanted to attend so we decided we’d go and spend the evening in the Tri-Cities. One of Haleigh’s teaching friends ended up joining us for the trip so in the end they attended together and I was left to amuse myself.
I didn’t want to be a million miles away from the school and there wasn’t an awful lot in the vicinity but one thing that caught my eye was a nearby brewery which I thought would be perfect spot to wait.
It wasn’t the easiest to find actually, it’s in quite a bizarre location on the suitably named ‘Railroad Ave’. There was actually some cool street art on route that made it an interesting walk but the brewery felt like it was otherwise in the middle of nowhere just on the other side of the tracks. It was a little too quiet for my liking – very little traffic and I’m not sure it’d feel the safest walking there after dark but fortunately it was light out.
Location aside, the brewery was lovely. It felt very off-the-beaten-path but still busy as I walked up with a few cars parked up and a lively atmosphere with a few people enjoying a beer outside. I walked in and first impressions were good. I took seat at the bar and ordered myself a flight. Along one of the corridors was various bits of train-inspired artwork and memorabilia which I guess correlated with the brewery’s location. All in all, it was a good place to hang out for an hour or so.
I think originally myself and Haleigh had talked about doing something together in the Tri-Cities but as Haleigh’s friend had tagged along we ended up just grabbing some food on the road and driving back to Moses Lake.
Unfortunately it didn’t seem like Haleigh had really had the chance to enjoy any time in the Tri-Cities and the school-career-thingy was a bit of a bust too so a wasted trip for Haleigh – although I very much appreciated the brewery visit haha.
Friday was a pretty chilled day. We enjoyed our final evening together and just hung out before calling it a night. The next day Haleigh drove me back to Seattle in time to catch my flight. The mountain views were as pretty as ever on the drive back – lots of snow on the mountains which was cool!
I left Seattle with mixed feelings. Being in a long-distance relationship is always difficult and of course I was going to miss Haleigh, not 100% sure when we’d next see eachother. It was bittersweet to be leaving so soon.
That said, I also knew that I had two imminent trips coming. I had two further trips to look forward to in the next ten days! Just one week of work and I’d be off on my travels again!
I was SO excited to be going to Amsterdam but before that? A first trip to Finland!!!
That story will be next up on the blog. Stay tuned!
Hello dear readers! How are things? I hope you’re all doing well? This post is going to be more of a thinker I suppose than a story of any sort but stick with me anyway!
As you’ll know I got married this year and for that wedding trip I spent six weeks in the USA – spending time in four different states (Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Utah).
Idaho and Utah were first-time visits for me so I was state-counting and worked out that I’ve now been to a total of 14 US states (plus DC) which I thought was pretty cool. I’ve technically passed through Arkansas, Wisconsin, Virginia and Maryland too but I don’t count those.
Anyway, it also got me thinking about the length of time that I’ve actually spent in the USA in my lifetime. Six weeks is a pretty significant amount of time for that recent trip but this was my third fairly long trip to the USA so accumulating all of those trips is starting to add up a bit. I decided to work out exactly how much time I’ve spent in the country and this was the result:
8 weeks in Florida – four separate 2 week trips with family in May 1997, December 2002, February 2004 & December 2008
Update! Okay.. so I must have drafted this post at some point between trips because I know that I was pleasantly pleased with how nicely rounded that number was. With 52 weeks in a year, 39 rounded out to an even 75% of a year or alternatively roughly nine months!
Nine months of my life has been spent in the USA – isn’t that bonkers? I don’t know how you travelers compare, I’m sure some of you have had gap years or worked abroad and everything else but as someone who’s only ever really lived in England (nine weeks living in the USA with Haleigh in 2020..), it’s a significant amount of time in a single country that’s not my own.
Alas, back to the present! The visa process looked like it’d drag on for a while and I was missing my wife having had six weeks rarely apart! So I decided to “surprise” Haleigh for her birthday and spent another 1.5 weeks in Washington back in June – having a lovely time of course but ultimately ruining the nicely rounded number that I’d initially started blogging about.
Joking aside, another one and a half weeks now takes me up to 40.5 weeks in total and brings me even closer to a full year!
The plan is eventually for Haleigh to move here, should the UK government ever sort its shit out and process her visa application, but even when she’s permanently in England we’re obviously going to return to the US many times in the future.
It’s impossible to say what the future holds, maybe we’ll even find ourselves living in the USA one day but I’m “only” short of an entire year by 11.5 weeks with the likelihood of many future trips to the US to come.
I don’t know when I’ll pass that threshold but it will happen. At some point I will have spent an entire year of my life on American soil. 52 weeks in the USA, a full 12 months, 365 days give or take a few. It’s a pretty significant amount of time in one country, right?
and I suppose the only real point to this post was maybe for you to consider your own travels. It’s rare that we quantify our trips in such a way but I did pose the question to Twitter a while ago to see how my own 39 weeks (at the time) measured up against other travelers.
Some people take the same holiday every year and I find the concept slightly puzzling and yet here I am, 40 weeks of travel in the USA. Admittedly the US is at the very least a huge country and so diverse, it’s not comparable to returning to the same resort year in, year out but still.. I don’t think I thought that I’d ever be approaching a year in the same country.
Looking ahead, I’ve got two further trips to the US planned coming up this year so I’ll be ticking off another two weeks in the country and also adding a new state to my tally!
One week in Virginia / DC in October 2022 – I’m going to a wedding in Roanoke so unlike my last visit to DC I’ll actually properly get to see some of Virginia this time. State number 15!
One week in Washington – Thanksgiving 2022!
I’m slowly closing in on the year. I do hope in the years ahead that there’s much more non-US related travel than there has been in recent times. I usually try and visit at least one new country every year. That said, it’ll be cool hitting that impending one year landmark when the day comes.
Moving on from the USA, I did ponder where else my travels have taken me. My runner up would be Spain at around 4-5 weeks, with Germany not too far behind that. Nowhere comes close to the scale that I’ve visited the US.
So WordPress, play along. Where’s your most frequented destination? It doesn’t necessarily have to be a different country, it could be a neighbouring state or a coastal retreat or whatever but anywhere that might surprise you with how much time you’ve spent there?
Shock aside, I love visiting the US and I’m excited for the two trips in the next couple of months. Getting a chance to see more of Virginia and explore DC a bit more (I was sick on most of my last visit) will be great. I’m also looking forward to reuniting with the American family and eating good Thanksgiving food!
2021 wasn’t the best year on the blogging front. It’s almost like not being able to travel so frequently sucks out some of the motivation for travel-writing, who’d have thought?
Nevertheless, every year for the past few years I’ve done a round-up of the years travels and despite another year of travel uncertainty I still managed to squeeze in some adventures. So here’s your annual roundup of 2021!
June 2021 – Eastbourne The start of this year was a bit of a write off with lockdowns and more restrictions and so much travel uncertainty. It was quite a while before I felt like I could book a trip of any sort and decided I was going to just stick to somewhere in the UK.
With restrictions, testing and so many other things to think about I couldn’t be bothered with the hassle of going abroad. Six months in to the year and it somehow seemed even more restrictive and uncertain than traveling in 2020 had been.
My first proper trip of 2020 had been a coastal retreat to Norfolk and I was tempted to do similar over a weekend this year. I booked myself a long weekend away on the South coast and decided I’d visit Eastbourne, which I’d likely tie in with visiting somewhere else nearby.
Of course having waited just over five months for my trip, a week or so beforehand the hotel emailed me to say they wouldn’t be open at the time of my visit – disaster!
Fortunately I hadn’t booked any trains yet so wasn’t out of pocket but it spoilt my first travel plans of the year. Alternative accommodation prices didn’t look great (I’d found a great deal on my hotel) and the weather also looked miserable closer to the trip so I decided to pass on heading South and not spend the weekend anywhere.
June 2021 – Bury-St-Edmunds
Eastbourne didn’t happen and the late cancellation (on their part!) meant that it just wasn’t worthwhile trying to sort a break away at the last minute.
That said, I wasn’t about to waste a day of annual leave. It might well have been a quiet weekend but I had the Friday off work and I figured I should make the best of it and take a daytrip somewhere.
From Peterborough there were a few obvious options, fortunately the train links are quite good from the city and I pondered how far I could realistically go in a day (Edinburgh’s probably a tad too far!). London, York, Cambridge and Ely all jumped out at me but I decided to wing it and Bury-St-Edmunds seemed a fairly cheap day out, fairly local journey and also meant visiting somewhere that I’d never been to before.
The verdict? It’s surprisingly nice. I don’t quite know what I expected from Bury-St-Edmunds but it was better than I’d anticipated it being. The weather was miserable and therefore not the best day for exploring but I hopped on an early train and made the best of a few hours in a town I knew very little about.
It had lots of independent shops, a nice museum, some lovely pubs and was a really nice place to walk around. ‘Abbey Gardens’ was probably the jewel in the town and somewhere I could see myself spending many an afternoon if I was a local, a bit of a shame about the weather on the day I visited mind you.
All in all I’d recommend it as a nice day trip if you’re ever looking for a daytrip in the region.
July 2021 – Lancaster There were several motivations for this particular trip. First and foremost a friend moved up to Lancaster and I’d not had a chance to visit since he moved up there. Then of course I’d budgeted for a weekend-long trip to Eastbourne which became a cheap daytrip in Bury-St-Edmunds so I was financially better off as a result.
The one area of doubt was big plans in September. I knew that the closer we got to the big wedding in Washington, the more frugal I would have to be with my earnings.
Sadly Covid wreaked havocs with those plans and we postponed until April of this year so I thought sod it, I’ve got longer to save and I really needed a break. So I committed to visiting my friend up in Lancaster for a weekend – only one night but a train up on the Saturday morning and returning Sunday evening.
Lancaster would probably go in to the same category as Bury-St-Edmunds – not somewhere I’d really ever given much consideration to visiting and wasn’t that fussed about but having a friend to visit was a good excuse to check it out.
Unlike my June daytrip, the weather in Lancaster was glorious. There were minimal restrictions left in England by this point but the weather made the few restrictions still in place much easier to manage with the luxury of being able to eat and drink outdoors.
Lancaster itself was full of charm and is definitely somewhere I’m glad that I visited. It’s a nice town and probably a good base for a trip to the Lake District too. We didn’t have time for that on this visit but it’s something I’ll definitely try and make time for on the next trip up North.
September 2021 – Washington State
This was the big trip of the year! This was what much of 2021 was budgeted around and then it didn’t happen. The US border seemed like it was just going to remain indefinitely closed and as September inched closer and closer we eventually came to the decision that we were unfortunately going to have to postpone our wedding.
Very frustrating because it seemed like if I could get to Washington the venue itself would be fine to host it but it’s not much of a wedding without a groom and my hopes of getting there were dashed so we made the hard choice to postpone.
Somewhat fortunately the border didn’t open up until November. I think I’d have been sick had they opened a couple of months earlier and we needn’t have postponed.
Anyway, wedding or not – I wasn’t able to visit in September so crossed my fingers for Thanksgiving as the next best time to visit!
September 2021 – Ireland
One consequence to postponing a wedding was now what do I do? I’d been stringent on my annual leave all year so that I could enjoy four weeks out in Washington State, only to then have to postpone. I now had four weeks off work with nowhere to go!
It didn’t make sense to stick with four weeks off. I debated spreading it over the last four months of the year but in the end cancelled just the one and enjoyed a three week break from work. However I didn’t want to spend all of that at home sulking about a wedding cancellation.
One consideration was to see if me and Haleigh could go somewhere else together instead? Sadly she started a brand new job in September so it would have been hard for her to sneak away for a few days.
Still determined to not sit and cry in my bedroom for the next three weeks, I decided that I was going somewhere regardless of the circumstances. If seeing Haleigh wasn’t a possibility then I’d just have to adventure solo for a little bit.
With ever-changing travel restrictions, testing and an endless number of hoops to jump through I struggled deciding on where I could go.
Unlike earlier in the year I really wanted to go abroad but where to? I debated a few ideas, I also debated taking more than one trip to separate destinations over the space of the three weeks but a degree of sensibility kicked in and I decided that I’d only travel for a few days and take a trip to Ireland. Not too far to go but surprisingly a first time visit to the country.
A tad ironic looking back with the benefit of hindsight but I was actually due to visit Ireland in 2019. At the last-minute I buckled and decided not to go. I was burnt out with a wave of social activity in the early months of 2019 – both internationally and domestically.
I felt like I hadn’t stopped for weeks with busy weeks and busy weekends one after another and another and another and it was too much. I’d got to the point where I just needed one weekend for myself, one weekend of doing very little and with upcoming trips on consecutive weekends – Dublin or a Champions League final in Madrid – one had to go. Needless to say the latter wasn’t an option!
The idea of voluntarily skipping a trip now is ludicrous of course but the night before flying to Ireland I just couldn’t face the idea of going. I woke up and decided I wasn’t going to the airport. I know I would have enjoyed it had I got to Dublin but I decided it’d probably only be to the detriment of the roadtrip to Madrid a few days later.
I still stand by the decision to not take that Dublin trip in 2019. It was the right decision at the time but did leave me feeling like I had “business” to settle with Ireland. So getting the opportunity to finally visit (for the first time!!) was pleasing.
The plan was to visit for longer than the original 3 day trip in 2019. I decided to make the best of it with 6 days in Ireland – split between two cities. Dublin of course and then Galway was singing my name – “come and visit Jason, please!”.
Sadly, Galway was stupidly expensive and I just couldn’t justify spending that much to visit. My accommodation to stay in Dublin was cheaper than Galway looked to be and I couldn’t find any rational reason as to why so instead I decided I’d pop down to Cork for a few days.
If I’m completely honest the one thing that really appealed to me about Dublin, particularly at this moment in time, was the idea of sitting in a pub, listening to Irish music and not having to think about work or anything.
I said I wasn’t going to sit and cry in my bedroom for weeks but I’d reached my point of Covid fatigue – sick of restrictions, sick of sticking my life on hold, sick of no apparent end to this way of living. So if I was going to be glum anywhere, why not with a beer in an Irish pub?
Ironically Ireland actually had more restrictions than England at the time but it felt like there was a degree of freedom for the vaccinated and that’s all I wanted – much like Gibraltar a year earlier – a taste of something normal (apparently Guinness on this occasion!).
I would love to say I planned a trip to Ireland for the castles, the culture, the history and the adventure but more than anything I just wanted a holiday – a break from the same four walls.
On that front, I can happily say Dublin didn’t disappoint. Even having to wear a mask and supply proof of vaccination upon every pub, restaurant and attraction it still felt nice that I could then just enjoy it on the other side.
If anything it was more preferable this way. I’d reached a point of Covid-fatigue but was also quite nervous about the no restriction free-for-all taking place in a pandemic-free England. This felt like more of a happy medium that let me enjoy living without feeling reckless doing so. It’s all I needed.
Temple Bar was unsurprisingly a highlight. I can only imagine that it’s much busier in non-Covid times but Ireland were slowly reopening their economy with live music for example only recently reintroduced in to pubs (table-service only). You could see how appreciative many of the artists were to be performing their first act on this side of the pandemic – live music back in Ireland – as it should be!
Admittedly a table service experience isn’t quite the same. My best Irish jigs were restricted to my seat but nevertheless just being able to enjoy a Guinness, some live music and a nice atmosphere was glorious.
Dublin wasn’t all (but mostly) drinking Guinness of course, I did check out a few of the big attractions and made a trip up to Malahide Castle which was a great recommendation from a friend (John, aka CarpeDiemEire). Infact we even met up which was lovely, it’s always nice connecting with fellow bloggers and travelers that you’ve crossed paths with online.
I’ll blog more about Dublin at a later date but it was a good first introduction to Ireland.
Cork I can’t say what it was but I remember myself stood overlooking the River Liffey and thinking to myself “I don’t know how I feel about Dublin”.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot to like about Dublin and I did enjoy my time there but I also posed the question to myself if it was somewhere I could see myself going back to or whether I’d be content having visited Dublin once and swaying towards the latter.
In all likelihood I will go back to Dublin because it’s so close, the nightlife ticks all of the boxes and Haleigh may well want to visit herself one day so I’d be incredibly surprised if I don’t go back at some point. However unlike other one-tiime-destinations that I’ve been to, I think I’d be OK if for whatever reason I didn’t return to Dublin.
So rather ironically I woke up on the Friday morning and pondered staying in Dublin. Was it worth getting on a train to go all the way down to Cork or should I just stay in Dublin over the weekend? I hadn’t booked my trains yet and despite my hotel being just around the corner from the nearest station, I couldn’t drag myself away from Dublin.
I was torn between the convenience of staying where I was and the lure of exploring somewhere new and then wouldn’t-you-know-it, I discovered my new favourite spot in Dublin. I’d decided I’d ponder my plans over a spot of lunch and this place just oozed atmosphere.
I don’t know if it was a case of it being a Friday lunchtime and people were starting to wind down for the weekend but there was a buzz about this place. The friendly chatter and noise that as I write this now I think fondly back to but the memory also becomes somewhat of an epiphany moment.
This lunchtime outing was one of my favourite in Dublin and I think perhaps the biggest thing Dublin had lacked was people. Essentially, we were still living through a pandemic and I hadn’t had too much of a taste of *this* Dublin.
I couldn’t drag myself away, Dublin finally had me swooning so I ordered another beer and another and.. I reluctantly left Dublin after taking a look at the hotel prices over the weekend (not cheap!).
In the end, I’m glad I did. Cork was smaller, much smaller actually but certainly had its charms. Whilst I ticked off a few attractions in Dublin, I did nothing in Cork for two days. The English market is an absolute gem and a must-visit when you go to Cork but beyond that, it was a chilled couple of days with a further Guinness or two.
It was a nice way to end the Ireland trip before heading back to Dublin a couple of days later. My flight home was from Dublin so I got to enjoy one final night in the capital before bidding an end to my first trip to Ireland.
November 2021 – Washington State! I wrote a while back, it might possibly have even been my last post, that I’d either be spending Thanksgiving in Washington or Slovenia dependent on the border situation and the USA finally opened their sodding borders – at fucking last!
After more than 18 bloody months I was returning to Washington. It had been long overdue and I was so excited to be spending Thanksgiving out in the US!
That excitement was mixed in with a “why even bother traveling?” range of emotions that I’d up to this point managed to avoid.
Whilst I’ve traveled overseas during the pandemic, this was the first trip where the stress and hassle of all the things you need to think and worry about become apparent.
I miss the days of booking a trip and then just taking a trip. I’m not a travel-worrier, things go wrong on trips and you learn to deal with them. I’ve made multiple mistakes or had unforeseen circumstances crop up and it is what it is but Covid.. bleurgh!
I think the thing I hated most about this trip was everything was out of my control. Will the UK react to the latest Covid numbers, will the US react to the latest Covid numbers, have I booked the right Covid test, will it come back positive or void, will the results come back quickly enough and on and on and on and on and on.
Eventually after jumping through many hoops I hopped on a plane and was on my way to Seattle where I could relax in the knowledge that I’d soon be seeing Haleigh US border control – shit! Here we go..
Funnily enough, it was pretty pain-free. I don’t know if the whole Covid process meant they weren’t as interrogative as they usually are but I was waved on through pretty quickly after barely more than a couple of questions – hurrah!
Now I can relax!
It was so good to be back in Washington, I’d missed it. I’d missed the people, I’d missed Haleigh but I’d also missed the USA. The last time I’d stepped foot in Seatac it was deserted so it was nice to be back and see some normality.
Beyond the company, the other thing I was particularly looking forward to on this trip was the change of scenery. Up to now, every time I’d come to Washington Haleigh had been living in my “second home” – Moses Lake.
However with the whole can we, can’t we limbo situation around the wedding.. Haleigh had to make a decision on whether she was going to renew her apartment lease and also extend her teaching contract another year and didn’t so is now back in her hometown Walla Walla!
I’d been to Walla Walla a few times before, popping ‘home’ to visit Haleigh’s family, but it had always been trips based around the same few points of interest and also spent close to 24/7 in Haleigh’s company.
I’m not complaining (“jeez Jason, you’re not even married yet!!”), I love spending time with Haleigh of course but I was also excited to discover “my” own Walla Walla. Unlike trips to Moses Lake, I hadn’t had opportunity to explore Walla Walla of my own accord. It was nice, really nice actually.
I’ve always enjoyed my trips to Walla Walla but I think exploring somewhere solo gives you a new appreciation for a place. Additionally the thing Walla Walla is most famous for is its wine and Haleigh doesn’t really drink so up to now we’d both avoided the wineries. In contrast I’m not opposed to a bit of day-drinking on holiday and when in Rome (Walla Walla) do as the Romans (Walla-somethings?) do, right?
Thanksgiving of course was another highlight of the trip, my second Thanksgiving and I’ve already booked the week off work to return in 2022. The only downside was the trip seemed to fly by..
Having previously said that time to myself was a nice perk to this trip, on the flipside I feel like myself and Haleigh barely had two minutes together and I was already heading home. Thanksgiving family-shenanigans over the space of a few days had occupied a lot of our time and that was it.. trip over!
To top things off, whilst I was in Washington Boris announced that anyone entering the UK from overseas would now have to isolate. I hadn’t planned for that!
The news unsurprisingly sent a lot of people in to panic as they rushed to get themselves new flights and get home before this new isolation deadline was imposed.
I went in the opposite direction, sod it.. let’s stay in the US a few more days! I ended up extending my trip by five days, still not long enough in the grand scheme of things but I figured I might aswell make the most of my time here before Boris puts us in to another Christmas lockdown (he didn’t in fairness to him).
The few extra days were perfect, I got to enjoy a little more of life in Walla Walla and more importantly got to spend a few extra evenings hanging out with Haleigh before having to say goodbye again.
Although it was goodbye to Haleigh, it wasn’t quite yet time to say goodbye to Washington. I had a lengthy layover in Seattle which meant I had roughly 12 hours to spare – plenty of time to make a day of it in the city.
The perk of a layover in a city you know relatively well is you don’t have to spend time finding your bearings. I was out of Seatac airport and in to Seattle before 7am, before sunrise even, and knew roughly where I wanted to be and how to get there.
The undoubted highlight of my layover was a trip to the Chihuly Garden and Glass exhibition. People rave about this place and I’d been meaning to visit a few times. I’ve joked that it never rains in Seattle because I always seem to get glorious blue skies when I pop in to Seattle but this was a stereotypically miserable day and a perfect one for a mostly-indoors attraction.
I have to say, the hype is warranted. I was blown away and it certainly didn’t disappoint. It was a great final day in Washington in one of my favourite cities.
Sadly I had to leave eventually and that was my final trip of the year.
Peterborough I don’t think I’ve ever done this before on any of my annual wrap-up’s but it would be negligent not to give a mention to Peterborough this year.
2021 was perhaps the year where more than any other, I really embraced living here. I’m London born-and-bred and London will always be the city that holds my heart more than any other but Peterborough is somewhere that I’ve grown to proudly call home.
Peterborough has probably been home to many of my highlights of 2021. I’ve been living on a bit of a Peterborough ‘high’ and some of you will know that I’ve even been quite active over on Instagram running a page dedicated to all things Peterborough.
I think one of the biggest causes for this was ironically Moses Lake. In early 2020 I went out to Washington to live with Haleigh for three months and the idea of living in such a small town for such a long amount of time terrified me – particularly being unemployed for the trip. What am I going to do in a town where I know no-one and the one person I do will be working a good chunk of the time I’m there?
As it was I knew very early on that I’d have to go out of my way to find things to do whilst I was in Moses Lake. Find new places to eat, drink, see what events are happening (if any) and it worked. Moses Lake is small and there is only so much a town that small can offer but one of my most vivid memories of 2020 was watching a rock band, with a beer in hand, whilst stood in a carpet store.
“A carpet store..?”
Yes! Plus an art gallery, real estate office, yoga studio, farmers market kind-of-store and so on. This little town didn’t really have the venues for a beer and music festival (12 breweries, 12 venues..”) and yet the community came together and made it work. So there I was with beer in hand watching a rock band in.. a carpet store. Crazy but such a vivid memory.
It’s one of those days where the message I took home was if such a wonderful event like this can happen in Moses Lake, surely there’s more going on at home? That was one of the biggest lessons from that trip – don’t go back to Peterborough and fall back in to the routine of go-to-work, eat, sleep, repeat.
Work is a necessary evil (I don’t think you’ll ever convince me there’s a dream job out there for me.. ) but I could still make the best of home-life outside of work. It was something that played on my mind constantly in Moses Lake and then unfortunately I came home to a pandemic where I couldn’t even go to work (“work from home please, unless it’s a party that looks like a work event”).
However as travel continued being a shitshow and domestic restrictions slowly lifted I really, really made 2021 a Peterborough-focused year. I could sit here and write about all of the things I did locally in 2021 and I’d no doubt still forget things.
Peterborough isn’t the best for advertising what’s going on but it seems that if you’re willing to look for it, you’ll quickly find there’s quite a lot going for it.
I’ve climbed Peterborough cathedral, been to countless exhibits at the musuem, embraced small food festivals, cultural festivals, visited new restaurants and pubs around the city, returned to old favourites, been to comedy shows, theatre, gigs, sports events and on and on and on.
2021 wasn’t the best year for travel. I still found good reason to travel and had some wonderful trips but really Peterborough was probably the big winner of the year.
2022? Weddings, weddings, weddings! 2022 promises to be a year of the W word and the USA I suppose.
Our 2021 September postponed-wedding will in all likelihood be happening. I’ve even got as far as booking the flights this time. On the 9th of April I will be getting married in Washington State!
Then on the 30th of April one of Haleigh’s cousins is getting married so having barely got home, I’ll be flying back to the US and this time heading for Salt Lake City! I’m really excited to visit Utah – particularly as we’d planned to visit around Easter in 2020 and it obviously didn’t happen – our first travel casualty of the Covid era.
and all good things come in three’s right? Another friend has asked me to ‘save the date’ for a wedding in Virginia in October so it looks like there’ll be 3 international / American weddings to look forward to this year. There are no concrete plans for that trip yet but I’m pretty excited to visit Virginia and Haleigh’s never actually been to the East coast so it’s inconceivable that we don’t try and make a good trip out of that!
Ending the celebrations, I’ve also booked off Thanksgiving week so finance-willing, we’ll be celebrating Thanksgiving in Washington again.
I won’t lie, I kind of wish my annual leave and travel plans weren’t all US-based but on the plus side I’m visiting a couple of new states this year. I’ve also got a couple of annual leave days to spare so perhaps we’ll get another short weekend away somewhere if possible.
Anyway, this was a rather long and ramble-y post. I haven’t posted much at all over the last 12 months so consider this a year’s worth of posting all wrapped up in to one! A tad incoherent in parts but at least I got a blog post out, right? Hopefully I’ll get back in to the blogging groove this year and actually tell some more travel stories of yesteryear.
Welcome back my dear readers! It has been a while! Ironically I’ve been pretty rubbish at blogging for most of the pandemic – you’d think with more time I’d have found it easier but no.. Weird, right?
Anyway, those of you following along on this journey have read countless posts on this particular series – from the early planning stage to the farewell to the rubbish summary in the immediate aftermath of the trip.
The next step of blogging about the trip was determining the “right way” to relive it. I have a habit of rambling and my concern was that breaking it down by location would see an enormous post on destinations such as New Orleans or San Francisco and then a four word post about other parts of the trip, so in the end I decided I’d post a day-by-day retelling which has worked well (I think).
However now that we’re approaching the finish line I’ve been conflicted on whether to stick to daily posts for the last few days or just wrapping this up with one last post – I’m leaning towards the latter.
I was asked many times after this trip “what was the highlight?” or “favourite place?” or whatever but I sincerely loved every minute of it. The end to this trip was just as special as the start of it and it was quite nice to wind down for a few days before heading home. Given I’d be landing in England on Monday and returning to work on Tuesday after an entire month off, it was quite nice having that downtime at the end of this trip.
That said four days in Moses Lake of not doing much won’t make for particularly exciting reading so here we are! One final post to wrap this trip up!
After leaving San Franciso, California on Monday morning we’d made it back to Moses Lake, Washington on Tuesday evening. I wasn’t flying home until Monday so in spite of everything I just said about a relaxed end to this trip being nice, I would have loved to have had a few more days traveling and extended our travel right up to Sunday night.
However Haleigh teaches and some genius decided sending the kids back to school on a Thursday after 3 months of vacation would be a good idea and lead to a really productive two day first-week back. Consequently we had to cut our traveling short and make sure we were back to Moses Lake on Wednesday at the latest.
In hindsight I do actually believe it worked out for the best but before this trip I was probably more bitter that the schoolyear’s calendar was so inconvenient for me (that’s not the first thing they consider?) and that I’d lost 4-5 days that I could have been traveling instead.
Anyway, we woke up on Wednesday morning back in familiar surroundings and Haleigh was off to school – last minute preparations for the new school year!
I had the choice of staying in bed or joining Haleigh and getting a small glimpse of the school life from the “other side”. I’d only ever experienced school as a young student – you turn up on day one and everything is in place. That’s obviously the same for the teachers, right?
Well let me shock you right now – apparently there are no magical school fairies that do it all! It’s actually teachers and other school staff that are the ones going in before the school year to get things set up for the year! Who knew!?
After grabbing breakfast (pancakes) at one of our favourite breakfast spots in Moses Lake we headed on over to Haleigh’s school and I got an exclusive behind-the-scenes tour of teacher life! I met various other teachers and administration staff over the next couple of hours – one little academic family working their own magic.
The main reason I’d tagged along was to hope I’d be of some use. Given that my time in the US was running out I figured the sooner Haleigh was done, the sooner we’d be out of there and spending quality time together so I helped where I could before Haleigh was satisfied that she was all good to go for tomorrow!
We grabbed a late lunch but didn’t do too much with the rest of our afternoon – I think we may have even napped! A little later our focus switched towards dinner and we decided we’d return to another Moses Lake favourite – “Rock Top” – a restaurant downtown and also host of mine and Haleigh’s first proper date roughly a year earlier. It’s a nice place with nice food so it’s always somewhere we enjoy visiting.
On this particular occasion they seemed to be having issues with their beer availability. I ordered a particular beer with my dinner and then two minutes later my waitress returned to to say they were having some issues and that particular beer wasn’t available.
No bother I thought as I ordered a different beer instead but then a couple of minutes later she again returned apologetically telling me that wasn’t available either – nor was any other beer – but she’d personally buy me a cider for my troubles.
I’m not much of a cider drinker but who am I to turn down a free drink? It was a sweet gesture and one I appreciated – infact I probably tipped better than I normally would do (still generous) so I guess it balanced out a little. It was a good reminder of why this place had proven to be a favourite though with some great service despite the problems they were having with their stock!
The next day it was “back to school” and this time I had no desire to wake up early. As Haleigh got herself ready for the first day back, I snuggled up under the duvets and basked in the cozyness of a nice, warm bed.
I didn’t really end up going back to sleep but certainly made the most of a lazy morning before pondering what to do with the day. I’d been to Moses Lake before – twice infact and it’s not a big town, there isn’t an awful lot to do. Nevertheless I didn’t want to sit around the apartment all day on my own so I figured I’d have a wander, grab some lunch and maybe catch the football if I was lucky enough.
One of the unique things about returning to such a small place is that the differences between visits perhaps seem more noticeable. On my walk in to town was this apartment complex which had been pretty much nothing when I first visited (Sep 2017), construction when I returned (Feb 2018) and something glimpsing more of a finished product (Aug 2018) come the time of this trip.
The rest of town seemed much the same. I noticed a couple of new statues that I hadn’t seen previously but otherwise it was business as usual in Moses Lake. I popped in to my favourite little coffee shop and ordered myself some tea and took my “usual” spot by the window.
Following on from some tea I decided to go grab lunch at a favourite bar from a previous visit. It has a nice atmosphere, a lunch menu and more importantly a bunch of TV’s so I was hopeful I’d be able to watch some Europa League football which kicks off at 8pm in the UK and would make perfect lunchtime viewing.
Sadly it seems no US network has picked up coverage for the competition so I settled for some lunch accompanied with some beer. The food was good, the atmosphere as friendly as ever and to my surprise I was even recognised!
“I remember you! You’re the guy from England with the teacher girlfriend..”
Or something to that effect anyway. I have to say I was a little surprised by it. I’d only been to this bar once – six months ago – so to be remembered was a real sign of how few out-of-towners a place like Moses Lake attracts. Brits are certainly few and far between so I was subjected to a taste of the “rockstar” lifestyle – remembered and welcomed. It was an experience that added to the feeling that I was at home here. I’m very much a “big city” person but small-town life definitely comes with its perks.
I could happily have stayed in that bar all day but I thought better of getting too drunk and made my way back to the apartment for another relaxed evening with Haleigh.
Friday started pretty much as Thursday had. Haleigh’s alarm went off in anticipation of the school day and as she got ready, I once again snuggled up and had a little more sleep.
I didn’t really have any idea of what to do with my day, however as it was my last full day in Moses Lake for quite some time I figured I’d go make the best of it and again made the trek downtown.
I decided to wander a little further today and find somewhere new for lunch. I’d never noticed it previously but this restaurant / bar popped up on Google Maps and I was intrigued enough to check it out.
“The Hangout” as it’s called looked anything but from the exterior. It didn’t give off the impression it really wanted to be found and as I walked up to the doors I did ponder if it was even open – there was no inkling of what laid beyond the front doors.
It was a weird little place. The “stay away” exterior vibes didn’t really change as I walked in with pretty much every head turning towards the door to give the intruder a look.
“Were we expecting anyone else?”
I must have been 30 years younger than anyone else inside, staff included, and certainly felt like I stuck out a bit – that’s before I’d even opened my mouth. I took a seat at the bar and gave the menu a quick glance before ordering myself a burger.
Hearing the English accent came as a bit of a surprise and caused another “rockstar” moment! Brits always seem to be welcomed with open arms in the US – particularly in tiny towns such as Moses Lake.
A guy at a stool sat to my left took a bit of a shine to me and actually welcomed the company. Its standoffish exterior and interior did a fine job of scaring away the Instagrammers hunting photogenic spots but once you got past the appearance, it was actually a pretty friendly place and you could tell customers and staff alike all knew eachother and in some cases probably saw eachother daily.
My new friend was reminiscing of his youthful trips to England and how much he was fascinated by all things London (Kent included). I didn’t have the heart to break it to him that London didn’t stretch quite as far as Kent but it was still a pleasant experience and nice to have the company whilst enjoying my lunch.
I didn’t stay beyond lunch. I wanted one last stroll by the lake before heading home and then took a detour via the local museum on the way home. I’d been to the museum before (Sep 2017) but it’s free to visit and I was hopeful that the exhibit would have changed by now.
Fortunately it had and I was treated to an exhibit on Bigfoot, Sasquatch and a few other bits and pieces that made for some interesting reading. It’s not a huge museum but for a freebie it’s worth a visit if you ever find yourself in Moses Lake (why would you be?).
Happy that I wasn’t going to be mistaken for Bigfoot on the way out, I called it a day and made my way back to the apartment and soon afterwards Haleigh was home. We decided we’d go out for dinner for our final night in town and chose to visit Rocktop’s partner restaurant – “Michael’s On The Lake”.
Unsurprisingly given the name, it’s a restaurant that sits overlooking the lake and offers some pretty views. We timed it pretty well as we got to enjoy most of the sunset whilst we ate – a perfect setting to end our time in Eastern Washington.
After dinner we went and played some bowling. I managed my best round of the trip (Portland, Klamath Falls & Moses Lake) which was rather unfortunate as Haleigh also bowled her best game which would have probably beaten me on any other occasion.
and that was that for Moses Lake.
The next morning I woke up fairly early. With Haleigh still sleeping I packed up the last of my bits and prepared myself for another Moses Lake farewell. I knew I’d be back at some point but it’s always tough leaving when you feel so at home somewhere.
Before this trip I was worried I might end up feeling homesick but the reality is that I could have stayed much, much longer. I was in no rush to be going back to work and reality. Nevertheless it had to be done – time was almost up.
We grabbed some breakfast before hitting the road and making our way Westbound towards Seattle. The realness of the situation had hit! It was the third time I’d had to say goodbye to Washington and it just got harder every time it reached this point of a trip. I knew I still had the rest of the day to enjoy with Haleigh but the fact that we were going to Seattle meant I knew time was nearly up.
The music didn’t help.. Our self-created playlist seemed particularly cruel and had synced perfectly with the occasion. On came the next song with lyrics of “Jason’s going home and you’re never going to see eachother again..”
Admittedly it might have been something a little more subtle than that but it was certainly something tauntingly cruel that only helped ram hope the point that I was leaving. We ended up having to make a stop somewhere close to the Colombia River to get some fresh air. The tears were streaming as we got out of the car but a pretty view helped get our emotions back in check – it was too early to be sad!
We hit the road again with Haleigh suggesting we stop for lunch in Ellensburg – a college town in central Washington. She really wanted to revisit a restaurant and we figured we could also check in on our friends Maddie and Cassie before going home.
As it was it seems the restaurant was closed for the holidays and Maddie and Cassie were ironically in Seattle having taken a friend to the airport so I didn’t get a chance to see them before heading home (our fault for winging it last minute!).
We ended up heading downtown and grabbing lunch elsewhere, plus checking out a couple of stores downtown before getting back on route to Seattle. Ellensburg is the last major stop on the East side of the mountains, once you get past Ellensburg the scenery really begins to pick up. It’s a journey I’ll never tire of – particularly as a passenger able to just take it all in and admire the views.
Soon enough we’d arrived at our hotel for the night. I wasn’t actually leaving until tomorrow but I had an early morning flight so I figured it was convenient to be staying by the airport for my final night in the US.
We didn’t end up venturing in to Seattle itself. Had we not been to Seattle before we might have reconsidered it but I don’t think either of us felt like doing much and just wanted to enjoy our final few hours together.
After a bit of relaxation our focus switched to heading back out for dinner somewhere. A quick look on Google suggested this Thai place would be a good place to check out. Unfortunately we drove over there and finding somewhere to park was impossible which was when we spotted a Cheesecake factory across the street.
Rather than struggle to park we crossed over and ended up eating at the Cheesecake Factory instead – a second on this trip after San Francisco.
Much like in San Francisco it was really busy. I’ve seen mention of them in TV shows and things but they’re a fairly big deal in this part of the world. I could understand the wait in San Francisco given the time and day and central location but this was nowhere really – it’s clearly an American favourite with a host of options to take your fancy.
Unfortunately we weren’t sat with the best of company and ended up next to the most obnoxious guy which spoilt the atmosphere a little. On the plus side some of the members at his table seemed equally displeased with his company so at least we weren’t stuck with him for the evening haha. The food was good and we made the best of enjoying our last meal together for the foreseeable future. After another tasty meal and dessert we headed back to the hotel, chilled out for a bit and got ourselves an early night. A 7:40am flight meant an early start to the day!
The alarm started going off at silly-o-clock. Rather stupidly I was flying home from Chicago. I’d flown in to Chicago on day one and for a multitude of reasons I thought it made good sense to just book a return flight home but in hindsight that was a mistake.
The second I booked the flights I seemed to instantly regret that decision and should have just flown home from Seattle. It’s the second multi-city US trip that I’ve done this for and I regretted the inconvenience on both occasions. In 2017 it robbed me of a few more hours in Dallas and on this occasion it robbed me of a little more time in Washington with Haleigh.
Haleigh came with me to wave me off at the airport, extending our time together by a few more minutes but eventually it was time to separate. We said our painful goodbyes (yet again) and I made my way through to the other side and breezed through security.
Sidenote – the Seatac staff were particularly cheery on this day so that was something at least!
Reversing the cycle of the holiday, I ended it as I started it. On day one I kicked things off with a pre-flight beer or two and despite the silly time in the morning I did likewise here.
Unfortunately the task of finding a bar that was open was a little trickier at Seatac than it had been at Heathrow. I eventually stumbled upon one but despite being a pretty busy airport, the bar was relatively empty. I thought you Americans liked a beer? I think it further highlighted what a drunken little island we are – you’d find any good Wetherspoons airport bar back home packed no matter the time of day!
After a couple of beers I figured it was time to go and find my gate. It was at this point that I noticed the TV’s behind me had been showing the English afternoon football and I’d needlessly been checking for updates on my phone – oops!
Soon enough I was boarding my flight to Chicago and back in the Windy city. I had a mini layover, probably three hours or so before I’d have to be back at the airport so I was in two minds about going in to the city. I wanted to but I also realised I needed to eat and with a 30-40 minute journey each way I pondered if it was even worthwhile.
First things first, I figured I’d try my luck at the bag drop off point. I didn’t want to be lugging my suitcase around with me but to my surprise they were happy to check my bag in extremely early so going in to Chicago was that little more tempting. Nevertheless it didn’t seem worthwhile to go all that way given I wouldn’t really see anything and the only plan was to eat. I’d also avoid any mishaps so stayed at the airport and made my way through security.
It actually took quite a while getting through O’Hare’s security but given I had all of the time I wasn’t too worried – it was actually pretty appreciated on this occasion as I knew I’d be fairly bored for the next few hours anyway. Eventually I got through, found a little shop and bought some postcards to take home with me before switching my attention towards getting something to eat.
I opted for a sit-down pizza place and to my absolute horror, they had no Chicago-style pizza on the menu!
We’re in Chicago!! How can you not have Chicago-style pizza on your menu? It was a travesty! Don’t get me wrong, it’s by no means my favourite style of pizza but there should be laws against such wrongs in the world!
In the end I grabbed food elsewhere which wasn’t a much better choice really. The food wasn’t great, service was rubbish and topped off by a waitress deciding I needn’t receive any change. I waited a while for her to return but to no avail. I didn’t particularly want the change because who really wants loose change in a foreign currency to take home after a trip but nevertheless it was a sneaky move – one way to ensure you receive a generous tip I suppose.
The rest of my time passed pretty quickly. Given I was at the airport for so long it felt a lot shorter. I popped in to a bar but only seemed to have time for a couple of beers and I was then boarding.
The trip was over – reality was near! I landed in London and knew it was “back to work” tomorrow.
Nevertheless, what an experience! It’s undoubtedly one of the best things I’ve ever done and despite a blog series that never looked like ending at one point, I don’t think I’ll ever adequately summarise what a special summer it was. Thirty days spanning six states with countless faces and memories – what a celebration!
I know at some points it seemed like I wasn’t doing much but I suppose that’s the perk of longer travel. I had the right balance of busy and time to wind down and it was just an incredibly perfect trip that I don’t think I’ll ever forget.
If you made it to the end (even of this post alone, let’s be honest I like a ramble) then thank you! I still don’t know that I really did the trip justice but I feel really grateful and humbled to have had the opportunity to embark on this adventure.
If you’ve missed any of the previous posts I’ll link all of them below – from start to finish but next up on the blog? Travels from a trip other than this one! Stay tuned!
Welcome back my dear readers! After my much-needed rant on the football last time out on the blog, it’s back to travel and more importantly the final few days of the “big 3-0” trip.
Those following along will know that in the summer of 2018 I’d planned a trip spending 30 days in the USA which coincided with two friends getting married and also my 30th birthday.
Having run around all over the country, this was to be the last big day on the road. We were making our way back to Haleigh’s apartment in Moses Lake, with Haleigh set to go back to work and for me to see out my final few days in relatively relaxed spirits.
Before thinking about Moses Lake however, we had a full day of driving ahead of us. On the previous night we’d made a relatively unplanned stop in Klamath Fall which was our halfway point from San Francisco – a convenient place to break up two days of driving.
One of the attractions to stopping in this particular area was its proximity to Crater Lake in Oregon. We figured it would be a worthwhile stop on the way home.
I can’t really remember why we skipped it. Much of the West coast was up in smoke that summer (as it is every summer really..) so the conditions at the time weren’t the greatest. That might have been one off-putting reason to skip it but I think we were just keen to get going and get on the road early.
In hindsight perhaps we should have just committed to it regardless of how terrible the conditions were. That said, there’s no doubt that much of our future will be spent visiting the West Coast so it’s hard to imagine us not having an opportunity to return in the coming years.
So skipping Crater Lake, we drove onwards and soon enough found ourselves arriving in a city called Bend. Before knowing what the school schedule looked like we had contemplated staying in Bend for a couple of nights and meeting up with Haleigh’s best friend. In the end it didn’t materialise but Bend still seemed like it would be a good place for us to grab some brunch and we found ourselves a little pancake place on the outskirts of the city.
After fuller stomachs we hit the road again and around half an hour later Haleigh spotted a “must stop” roadside attraction – an alpaca farm with baby alpacas!
Haleigh insisted that we stop so we pulled over and headed in to this little gift shop to pick up a bag of food to feed them.
It’s a funny feeling having alpacas eating out of your hand. It was a first-time experience for me, I’m not sure what I was really expecting. I liked it initially but I think the second or third alpaca I fed was so slobbery that I left Haleigh to it after that. Haleigh laughed at my reaction so it felt like some sweet form of justice when she was getting slobbered on by the same alpaca a minute later.
We did a full lap of the farm with Haleigh continuing to feed the many alpacas we met whilst I stuck to taking photos. They’re so cute! Although some of them didn’t seem too impressed that I was wasting my time taking photos when I could have been feeding them instead!
Aside from Haleigh getting sneezed on, it was a fun little stop and I’m glad that we’d pulled over. Sadly we couldn’t stay there all day and had to hit the road again.
The rest of the car journey was pretty uneventful. In parts we could really see how devastating of an effect the forest fires had had on the West Coast with burnt out trees becoming quite a regular sight. It wasn’t really until we hit the Colombia river that the scenery started picking up again.
Soon enough we were crossing back over the river and crossing the Oregon / Washington border for the umpteenth time on this trip. Back in to Washington we knew it wasn’t too much further to go but the long drives of the past two days were taking its toll on Haleigh and that final stretch probably felt much longer than it actually was.
Good music kept us going for that final stretch before we’d eventually arrived back in Moses Lake after another long day of driving. We’d been away for the past few weeks so had no food in the apartment. Additionally we didn’t feel like heading back out for dinner so in the end we settled for ordering a pizza and finishing off our night by enjoying some Netflix.
Again, it hadn’t been a hugely eventful day with the alpacas being an unexpected bonus! However it was just nice to be back in familiar surroundings and sleeping in a familiar bed again after three weeks of sleeping in various hostels, hotels and AirBnB’s.
The last few days would be spent trying to make the most of the little time we had left together in Washington before I’d have to head home.
Welcome back dear readers! Time for yet another day of this 30 day trip! You’ll be pleased to hear (or maybe not?) that we’re near the end now!
Those of you following along will know I was enjoying a 30 day trip in the USA to coincide with my 30th birthday in the summer of 2018! The trip spanned six states, several cities and I cherish so many moments and memories from this trip but the reality is things were starting to wind down from here on out.
Whether that will make for interesting reading, who knows.. I guess I’ll let you be the judges of that but we woke up on Monday morning and it was time to say our goodbyes to San Francisco and head back to familiar surroundings in Washington State.
I wasn’t flying home until Sunday so in an ideal world we would have squeezed in some more adventure but Haleigh teaches and unfortunately, with no consideration for my trip, they set their first day back at school on the Thursday! A sodding Thursday! I’m sure that was a productive first two day week back at school!
So with school in mind we hit the road, not that we really knew where we were going. We’d half hoped the school might be a little flexible and Haleigh might be able to miss the first couple of days and start on Monday instead. Of course it didn’t pan out that way but that slim hope meant we held off making concrete plans or booking any accommodation so as the trip got closer and closer we just decided to wing it.
We’d looked at a few possible options before setting off but were mostly in the mindset of “we’ll see where we end up..” and just find somewhere to stay once we’d decided where to stop.
For the most part it was a fairly uneventful drive. Unlike our drive down the coast, we headed back to Washington further inland which wasn’t quite as scenic as our journey down – although the company more than made up for the less aesthetic scenery!
That’s not to say that parts of the drive weren’t pretty because they were. However with forest fires ravaging Northern California and Oregon it seemed that the further North we got, the sky would get hazier and hazier. The blue skies in San Francisco seemed a distant memory.
We made a couple of stops along the way to break up the drive and get some food but nothing noteworthy until we started getting closer to Mount Shasta. Shasta seemed largely unaffected by the fires; things had started brightening up and the blue skies had returned which provided a great opportunity to get some photos as we drove along.
Eventually we arrived at a city in Oregon called Klamath Falls which seemed like a good halfway point to stop for the night. We did debate driving on to Bend but as that was another two hours away we sensibly decided that was a bit too far to go after already having spent the bulk of the day on the road.
Our first task in Klamath Falls was trying to find somewhere to stay. The first hotel we stumbled across had some pretty off-putting reviews so we decided to give it a miss and configured our SatNav to take us to another hotel nearby.
A short drive away we soon “arrived” at our alternative hotel option only to find nothing more than rubble and an empty carpark. The SatNav hadn’t been updated in a while and it seemed our hotel no longer existed!
Hoping it would be third time lucky our next hotel was unfortunately fully booked before we finally managed to book a room in the hotel next door – who knew finding somewhere to stay in Klamath Falls would be so difficult!?
To our delight our fourth choice hotel was actually quite nice. We checked in to our room for the evening only to find an in-room jacuzzi which was an unexpected surprise and something we definitely intended to make use of before leaving.
However the first priority was to go and find some food. We dropped off our things and visited a nearby Chinese restaurant which had some decent reviews. Much like the Chinese we’d had in San Francisco, the food was excellent but there was just so so much of it. We ended up giving our leftovers to a couple of guys embarking on a roadtrip we got talking to in a neighbouring booth as they had a van and the means to heat something up on the road.
If we’d been in town earlier I think there’s probably a bit to do in Klamath Falls, most notably seeing the nearby falls of the same name, but in the evening there didn’t seem to be much going on. It’s a sleepy little city with a population of little more than 20,000.
In the end we found ourselves a local bowling alley which was near empty and we played a couple of rounds. I maintained my success over Haleigh which felt just revenge for the constant Mario Kart beatings Haleigh served me on my first trip to Washington!
After a couple of games we returned to the hotel and put our jacuzzi to good use for the evening – definitely a nice little bonus to our stay in Klamath Falls. It was by no means the most exciting day on this trip but we’d anticipated as much, knowing it would mostly be a day of driving.
Sadly tomorrow would be more of the same but we did make one fun roadside stop that I think you’ll enjoy seeing photos of! Stay tuned for more on that!
Welcome back my dear readers! I hope you’re all doing well and feeling some optimism that there’s an end in sight to this crazy past 12 months.
Last time out on the blog I’d talked about more of my time in San Francisco and it’s time to continue with the “big 3-0” story as it nears its conclusion. Those of you that have been following along will know I was in the USA for 30 days, celebrating my 30th birthday, back in the summer of 2018.
We’d now covered a bit of ground in San Francisco and seen a few of the main landmarks in the city but there was one “must see” left for us to experience – Alcatraz!
I’d heard mixed reviews from people about Alcatraz but it was something myself and Haleigh were both keen to visit and see for ourselves. I’d sneakily bought tickets for Haleigh’s birthday which was a little tricky because everytime Haleigh hinted at buying tickets I was coy about doing so – “we’ll get it booked after the next payday..”
Alcatraz unsurprisingly sells out well in advance so it was one of few pre-planned attractions on this trip – along with the Chicago Skydeck which some of you will remember was a disaster and an attraction I ended up missing out on in the windy city at the start of the trip. I was hoping today wouldn’t be similar!
Anyway, we kicked off our day as we had so many times on this trip – fairly relaxed and without too much rushing around. For whatever reason we decided to take a different route in to the heart of San Fran today, deviating from our tried and tested journey on the one day we had concrete plans. Clever, right?
In hindsight it probably wasn’t the brightest idea we’ve had. We’d left our AirBnB in good time before heading over to Alcatraz but our spontaneous route put our plans in jeopardy a little. We stood waiting at this particular tram stop for an age.
Our wait did mean we got chatting to another couple at the stop but after a little small talk the discussion swerved to whether this tram was ever going to arrive! Eventually one came along but then kept going and whizzed by us – too busy on board to make a stop to pick people up – ahhh!
The minutes ticked by and ticked closer towards missing our Alcatraz boat! Eventually we had to accept we’d have to improvise further and get ourselves to the pier asap! We parted from our new friends who were heading elsewhere and managed to grab a taxi over to the pick-up-point.
The next dilemma was the tickets. I’d booked in advance, through the official website I’ll add, but their strange system had me feeling a little uneasy. For whatever reason you book your tickets online and they then need to send you two confirmation emails, the second once payment has been processed which for whatever reason isn’t instantaneous – unlike just about any other booking system on the planet.
They’d emailed me one confirmation and they took my money a little while after the actual booking which was of some relief but I’d envisaged some scenario where they’d deny all knowledge of my booking at the ticket office – which was only exacerbated further by the Chicago Skydeck debacle. I’d winged most of the trip – were the only two plans I’d really made both going to fall through?
The woman at the desk seemed frustrated that I was unable to provide the second confirmation email – as if it was somehow my fault and that this stupid system wasn’t the bigger cause of the confusion. However fortunately the details we had were seemingly enough for her to print our tickets and she seemed a little friendlier after locating them.
We took our tickets over to check in and were soon being waved on to our ferry. It slowly started filling up and then we were off!
As we inched closer and closer to Alcatraz I began to appreciate just how far off the mainland it actually is. It’s visible from San Francisco but it’s still a little way on the ferry – this island isn’t the quickest to get to and it starts to sink in how difficult it must have been to even think about escaping from. Good luck swimming in the cold and harsh waters of San Francisco Bay!
Each arriving boat to the island gets a little introduction and a welcome before you’re then left to explore at your own leisure. We grabbed a few photos from the outside before heading in.
Assuming that, like us, you start from the bottom one of the first rooms you’re likely to encounter are aimed at educating on the history of the island. It might purely be ignorance on my part but I don’t feel like Alcatraz’s past gets much coverage beyond its prison days.
It was fascinating to discover that people lived on the island at various times in its history with Native Americans notably occupying the island for almost two years in protest against the US government. It was really interesting to learn about and in one of the rooms there’s an educational video that plays in this dark room which we both watched.
As you explore more of the island you see homage to those days with graffiti and other landmarks that date back to their occupancy.
Today it’s part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area and is managed by the National Park Service which allows millions of people to visit every year. The luxury of being able to explore in your own time meant we could slowly admire the views from the island and check out a few points of interest before making our way up to the prison and undoubtedly Alcatraz’s biggest attraction.
Once you enter the prison area you’re handed a little device offering an audio tour. These rarely hold much interest for me and I usually abandon them pretty quickly and end up exploring without one.
However I have to say that I found that the audio tour really added to the experience. Throughout the tour you’re exposed to the history and various stories from Alcatraz and it really brought the prison to life for me – it’s remarkably well done I think and I’m glad I stuck this one out. As you walk around I couldn’t help but visualise what life behind bars would be like – see for yourself!
As my sad-faced-selfie shows, it’s not a life for me!
The tour takes you through a number of different areas within the prison. Towards the end of the tour you get taken outside for breathtaking views of San Francisco’s skyline which felt like a pretty apt way to round things off and really help transform you in to the life of a prisoner and how tempting it must have been having the city in plain view.
I thought the tour was incredible and worth every penny, or cent rather. Everyone has their own preferences of course but I have to say the mixed reviews I’d heard really surprised me. I couldn’t recommend it any higher and it’s a must-do on any trip to San Francisco in my opinion.
We popped in to the gift shop for a look at what was a wealth of merchandise and reading material from Alcatraz before slowly making our way back down the island and towards the ferry point. Fortunately we’d timed it pretty well and it was pretty much ready to board by the time we’d arrived.
The mood on the ferry back seemed a bit more pensive than the buzz and excitement that there had been when going to Alcatraz. Perhaps that’s just because it was later in the day and people had had enough adventure for one day but I think there was that added appreciation to be heading back to the mainland.
We’d escaped Alcatraz and were heading back to “the land of the free” . It felt nice knowing our time in Alcatraz had only been temporary. I think as a prisoner of Alcatraz I’d have preferred to have been more remote than the island actually is.
It is a bit of a journey on the ferry but to be that close to freedom and see it every day? That would be so agonising for me. I’d spend my days in envy knowing people were living such normal lives just across the water. I’m feeling pandemic envy as it is seeing people in NZ and Australia for example having a blast whilst we’re in day four billion of lockdown, sod that being a permanent feeling!
We made it back to sunny San Francisco and I do feel like I let out an illogical sigh of relief. Even with the stupid selfie, there was never a part of me that felt imprisoned but Alcatraz is its own little island and consequently very much a bubble. Even for a few hours its easy to forget that there’s a busy city in the backdrop.
After our Alcatraz adventure we decided to grab an early dinner. Our proximity to Pier 39 made it a convenient place to grab something as although a little touristy, there’s a good range of places to eat.
Unfortunately it seemed we picked rather poorly. I don’t know if it was just an off evening in the height of summer because the restaurant seemingly rates pretty highly in Google reviews. That certainly wasn’t our experience though with terrible food and the worst service I’ve suffered anywhere in the US – possibly anywhere altogether!
We’d pondered what to do with the rest of our evening but the unexpected extension on our meal time scuppered our plans a little bit and limited our options. It did dampen what had otherwise been a nice day.
In the end we decided to visit the ‘San Francisco Dungeons’. I’ve seen these in a few other cities – notably London, Edinburgh and Amsterdam but as yet had not visited any of them so I wasn’t 100% sure on what to expect.
It was surprisingly a lot more enjoyable than I’d anticipated. You’re led through a series of rooms where actors play out a number of different scenes depicting various locations throughout San Francisco. There’s a fair amount of audience interaction which makes it quite enjoyable and I’d say pretty family friendly too – albeit a little jumpy in parts.
Towards the end of the experience we were taken “back” to Alcatraz – just as myself and Haleigh thought we’d escaped that pesky island!! The penultimate room then saw everyone interrogated by a prison guard.
I’d managed to avoid all audience interaction up until now so as the guard did his final roll call, row by row, I had to reveal my identity and additionally reveal my accent to all which sent shockwaves around the room as they realised there was a Brit amongst them! I’m sure some witty comment from the guard followed at my expense but I can’t recall what it was now.
The final room saw us escape Alcatraz and head back outside. Overall it had been a surprisingly fun attraction and is something I’d consider doing in other cities – even if only in the UK.
From here we made the slow journey back to our AirBnB. We took a small detour somewhere to grab some food after the disappointment earlier in the day but that was pretty much it for San Fran – our final day in San Francisco was over!
Tomorrow morning marked the beginning of the goodbyes, the adventure was nearing its end. It was time to say goodbye to San Francisco and California and head back up North.
I’d said plenty of goodbyes on this trip already of course. Goodbye to Chicago, goodbye to Minneapolis, goodbye to friends in New Orleans but every one of those was different as more adventure beckoned.
This time it was different, the faint cries of reality were calling. Haleigh had to be back in Washington for the start of the school year, soon after I’d be heading back to England and time was sadly finally beginning to catch up with me.
Tomorrow we’d be saying goodbye to San Francisco and onwards to..
Well, we didn’t actually know. We knew we wouldn’t get all the way back to Moses Lake but we hadn’t actually booked any accommodation for the next night. Perhaps there was still some adventure left in this trip after all?
I guess you’ll have to stick with this series a little longer if you want to find out! Stay tuned!
Welcome back my dear readers! Last time out on the blog I was writing about the start of mine and Haleigh’s time in San Francisco and so on to the next part of the story!
For those of you only just stumbling upon this series, we’re three weeks in to a 30 day trip back in the summer of 2018. I’d flown over to the US for a friend’s wedding, which fell two days before my 30th birthday, so went all out to celebrate with a big trip!
One of the places I was determined to visit on this trip was San Francisco! That said, I didn’t go with a huge list of things I wanted to see or do in San Fran. Me and Haleigh were largely winging it and with the exception of a few obvious points of interest, didn’t actually have much planned for our stay in the city.
Keeping that in mind, we woke up and didn’t really have much of a plan for our day. We’d already seen the Golden Gate bridge, Pier 39, Fisherman’s Wharf and Ghiradelli Square. Meanwhile we had plans to visit Alcatraz tomorrow so had a lot of the first-time-visit stuff ticked off.
After a slow and relaxing start to our morning we left our AirBnB and made our way in to downtown San Francisco once again. We kicked off our day by visiting Chinatown – supposedly the oldest in North America and the largest such enclave outside of Asia which is pretty cool!
Given its popularity, I have to say it didn’t feel anywhere near as touristy as London’s own Chinatown. We wandered up and down the streets, snapping photos along the way whilst admiring all of the decorations hanging above our heads.
Chinatown quickly morphs in to San Francisco’s ‘Little Italy’. On the outskirts of both there was this little bookstore I’d read about that I thought Haleigh would enjoy visiting. It was no Powell’s Books and I wouldn’t say it was worthwhile going particularly out of your way for but it was a nice little detour. Haleigh surprisingly escaped without buying anything which was some achievement!
The slow and relaxed start to our morning had set the tone for the rest of the day. There was no rushing around today, we just embraced being in San Francisco and explored at a much slower pace than you sometimes do when traveling. So it was conveniently lunchtime by the time we’d stumbled upon Little Italy.
Little Italy seemed as good a place as any to think about grabbing some lunch! There’s a few places to eat along the main street but we passed this historic and authentic-feeling Italian restaurant which seemed like the best option – our Italian host definitely added a dash of authenticity which was enough to tempt us inside.
It was a really enjoyable lunch and the service was really good too, it was a great choice for lunch. Rather than grab dessert here, we figured we’d try out a dessert place that we could see across the street.
We grabbed some gelato and then found ourselves a table outside to enjoy the glorious sunshine. A few moments later this funky looking van drove by and I was really beginning to feel like we were in California.
After a little more people-watching we hopped on a bus and headed across town to the Golden Gate Park. The Golden Gate Park is essentially San Francisco’s Central Park equivalent – it’s huge!
It’s home to botanical gardens, Japanese gardens, museums, windmills and so much more. You could easily spend an entire day trying to see everything the park has to offer. We had a bit of a wander before finding ourselves a patch of grass to sit down, relax and soak up the atmosphere.
This was Saturday afternoon in California in the height of the summer – it was inevitably busy with people enjoying picnics, kids riding bicycles, dogs running around. There was such a feel-good mood around us and it was impossible to not get swept away by it. Me and Haleigh spent an age chatting and people-watching. Why would you want to be anywhere else on a day like this? It was bliss.
Much like the beach spot from the previous day, and Central Park too for that matter, I could see myself spending many a day at Golden Gate Park if I was a local. Nevertheless we dragged ourselves away and caught the bus back towards the downtown area.
We passed the famous ‘Painted Ladies’ before stopping off around the city hall for a look around. We grabbed a few photos but, aside from a couple of outdoor exhibits from the Asian Art museum on the other side of the square, there wasn’t too much in the area.
It had been a pretty relaxed day all around. We headed back to our AirBnB for a bit before making dinner plans. We decided to check out San Fran’s ‘Cheesecake Factory’ which was a first for me.
I don’t know what I really expected but they’re seemingly really popular! We had to wait a little while before getting a table, which wasn’t so bad because they had an outside balcony overlooking Union Square and allowed us to enjoy the view.
Eventually we were taken to a table and I got to see why the Cheesecake Factory was so popular. Despite the misleading name, the menu is a fussy eater’s dream! I think they have just about everything you can think of on their menu – it was overloaded with choices. We had a nice evening, although didn’t have the dessert we wanted so we skipped out on that and called it a night.
We made our way back to our AirBnB and watched a little Netflix. Overall it was a much slower-paced day but still a thoroughly enjoyable one and we’d covered a lot of the San Francisco area in our two days. There was just one last “must see” left on our itinerary – Alcatraz!
Welcome back my dear readers! We’re in to the final third of this trip which has seemed a little never-ending haha. I’ll be quite pleased to actually write about somewhere other than the USA but I’m glad you’re still enjoying this series!
Anyway, those of you following along will know this was a 30 day trip in the summer of 2018 which coincided with my 30th birthday. On day 20 myself and Haleigh had driven down from Crescent City and finally arrived in San Francisco!
Much of this trip was flexible but San Francisco was somewhere that I was determined to visit on this trip so I was excited to get our first proper glimpse of it. We’d arrived the previous night but not really seen anything beyond the neighbourhood we were staying in.
We had a pretty relaxed start to our morning which is definitely one of the perks to staying in an AirBnB. Our host had kindly left out some sort of home-made bread for us to enjoy before we set off for the day.
We were staying a little outside of the central area of San Francisco but the public transport in the city is pretty good so that wasn’t a problem. Our nearest BART (San Fran’s subway system) station was Balboa Park so we made the walk over to the stop and got ourselves a couple of tickets to get us in to the heart of the city.
Pretty much all Americans drive so Haleigh hadn’t previously used any underground train network. I think it’s easy to get a little frazzled by some of the subway systems around the world and I’d love to say I helped Haleigh master San Francisco’s in preparation of one day tackling London’s famous tube system.
However the reality is San Francisco’s is probably the easiest subway system I’ve come across on my travels so didn’t require the greatest mind or navigational skills to get around. Unless you’re leaving the San Francisco area, it really doesn’t matter which train or line you jump on. All trains go to the same stops making it particularly easy to avoid getting lost.
We traveled as far as ‘Powell Street’ which takes you in to the heart of the city. The reason we’d opted for Powell Street is because it’s home to San Francisco’s visitor centre and we thought we’d pop in for some recommendations, pick up some 72 hour travelcards and maybe a map to help get our bearings with where things were in the city.
After picking up our travelcards we had a wander around Powell and Market St which is a pretty busy area, popped in a few of the shops in the area before heading on over to the street car which would take us to Fisherman’s Wharf.
Unfortunately the street car is one of the San Francisco checklist items to do on a first trip and visiting in mid August meant every other tourist in San Francisco had the same idea. The queue was so long that we scrapped that plan for today and instead walked over to the nearest tram stop which would get us over to the pier much quicker.
A short while later we’d arrived at ‘Pier 39’ and were ready to see what all the fuss was about. It was pretty close to lunchtime by the time we’d arrived at the pier and it was inevitably busy. Admittedly this is probably one of San Francisco’s biggest tourist hotspots but in all honesty, this just seemed to be how San Francisco was.
With the exception of the BART which was woefully under-used, it was just busy wherever you went. Hordes of tourists, overcrowded transport leading to long queues, a million cars on the road – it was unavoidable!
That said, we wanted to temporarily avoid it haha. Before tackling pier 39 we decided we’d grab lunch and although the area had a huge range of food options, conveniently right where we’d stopped was San Fran’s very own Hard Rock Cafe!
Long time readers will know I enjoy visiting the HRC’s around the world and this happened to be in the perfect location to tempt me! All that was left for me to do was persuade Haleigh it was a good idea, who’d yet to visit a HRC herself.
In contrast this would be my 19th HRC and the second of this trip after finding time to visit Chicago’s too! Fortunately it took little persuasion skills and Haleigh was more than happy to have lunch there!
Following on from lunch we wandered down to the pier and admired the views stretching over the bay and over to Alcatraz. It was a beautifully sunny day so we looked to see what boat tours they had on offer and were enticed by a tour for $15 which took us out on the water and a little closer to some of San Fran’s best sights.
It was a fun excursion. Our captain told us a few interesting stories whilst we passed by the famous seals of the pier and then got a closer look at Alcatraz, plus some cool views of the San Francisco skyline behind us.
The boat dropped us back at Pier 39 and we strolled among the busy crowds, popping in and out of shops along the way. It’s definitely a bit of a tourist trap but I feel like you could spend a good chunk of time there and still keep yourself amused. Haleigh ended up buying some fudge to take back to Washington, whilst I settled for nothing more than some window shopping.
The shops and promenade seemed a little less crowded and hectic on the upper deck so we headed up the stairs for a look around up there, which also provided an opportunity to get some nicer photos.
Perhaps going up there was my fateful mistake! We wandered along enjoying the atmosphere below us whilst basking in the gorgeous weather when I suddenly felt a small dropping hit me..
“Please be rain!”
Rain? I looked up and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky – just sunshine and bright blue skies.
Nevertheless whatever had dropped was on top of my head so I needed Haleigh to confirm my fears and sadly she did. Some bloody bird had crapped on me! I’d been dreaming of visiting this city forever and on my first full day in this city I get crapped on!
I don’t know how regularly this happens for the rest of you but I’ve been quite lucky in that I can only remember experiencing this on one other occasion – down in Florida!
Both times in the USA? Really!? Those pesky American birds!
So after a quick detour via the public restrooms, we were back on the move and wandered down towards Fisherman’s Wharf which was equally busy. Rather than spending too much time there among the crowds we marched on towards Ghiradelli Square which Haleigh was keen to visit.
There was a much more relaxed vibe here than there had been at Pier 39 / Fisherman’s Wharf. There was still a bit of a buzz in the air of course with people mingling and chatting away, whilst others played a round of ‘Cornhole’ but it was far less hectic and a much more enjoyable place to wander and look around.
Moving away from Ghiradelli Square we meandered down to the beach and just sat and admired the view for a while. It was a perfect spot and I think if I lived in San Francisco I’d frequent this part of the city on many occasions. I could have stayed there for hours I reckon but time was flying by.
You could easily spend an entire day in the pier 39 area I reckon if you were to combine it with other attractions and excursions. Having had a good taste of things in San Francisco we tried our luck again with the street car. There was a long queue again but we were feeling much less rushed heading back to our AirBnB and it was something we wanted to experience at least once in San Francisco.
Whether you have the patience for the queue is an individual choice I suppose but I’m really glad we did it. I think it’s worth traveling on at least once and had it not been for such long queues I’m sure we’d have rode it more frequently throughout our trip. It’s a great way to see the city as you travel up and down San Francisco’s hilly streets.
Soon enough we were back at Powell Street and jumped back on the BART in direction of our AirBnB. We relaxed for a bit and then freshened up before deciding what to do with our evening.
We contemplated going back in to down town San Francisco and finding something fun to do. However in the end we decided to stay local and grabbed dinner at a bar just around the corner from our AirBnB.
The upside to not staying in a touristy area was that it felt like we were probably the only out-of-towners in the place with everyone else seeming local and friendly with eachother and in weekend mode given it was a Friday evening.
We took two seats at the bar and ordered ourselves a burger each, accompanied with some drinks which went down equally well. In addition to the good food and good beer, there was also a live band playing which provided the perfect entertainment for the evening.
It was a really nice way to round off our first full day in San Francisco. Aside from the unfortunate bird incident it had been a pretty positive introduction to this wonderful city.
After a couple of drinks we called it a night and headed back to our AirBnB, excited to explore again tomorrow. Stay tuned for more on that!
Welcome back my dear readers! I suggested last time out on the blog that I’d try and “up my game” a bit and get two posts out a week going forward. It hasn’t happened haha. Nevertheless I’m determined to get back to posting once a week so I’m cracking on and posting another day of the “big 3-0” trip.
Those of you who haven’t been following (have missed 19 posts!!) will not be aware that this was a 30 day trip in the USA coinciding with my 30th birthday in the summer of 2018.
One of the places that was a must visit on this trip was San Francisco and we were close! Myself and Haleigh were slowly making the drive down from Washington and had just spent the night in Crescent City in Northern California. After a good night’s rest it was time to hit the road again!
We said goodbye to our AirBnB and hopped in the car – heading Southbound once again. One of the reasons we’d stopped off at Crescent City was its proximity to the famous Redwoods and it wasn’t long before we were surrounded by trees towering over us on both sides.
I think I spent the early part of the morning just glued to the window, taking photos and videos to look back at someday. On the other hand, all I could think was “what a place to die..”
Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t some suicidal thinking on my part but with the winding roads, the fog, the towering trees it created that perfect horror-like setting. It was beautiful of course but just a few minutes in to the drive I felt so far removed from civilisation and the rest of the world. You couldn’t help but feel that any minute we’d break down on the side of the road and some axe-wielding maniac would pull over asking if we needed any help.
“No.. no, we’re okay thanks!”
Fortunately the car was showing no signs of failing us so we kept plodding along until we came to the “Trees of Mystery”. I’d read about this attraction when looking for things to do in and around Crescent City and discovered it was home to a 30ft “Paul Bunyan”.
Haleigh was familiar with the tales of Paul Bunyan but the name meant nothing to me. His fame doesn’t appear to have made it over to our side of the pond but it seems that he is a famous lumberjacker in American folklore and travels around with his trusty companion – “Babe the Blue Ox”.
The giant lumberjacker was difficult to miss on the side of the road so we pulled over and got close up for a few photos of our new friends Paul and Babe. The trees of mystery attraction itself seemed to offer a few trails for hiking but we were content just making it a fun and quick stop.
We got back in the car and as we drove through the forest, the trees just seemed to get bigger and bigger – we were truly in Redwood territory now.
Travel has a way of making your place in the world feel very small but I’d say particularly so here. I was in complete awe of the Redwoods and the surrounding scenery. Even in the midst of forest fires ravaging the West Coast, nature still seemed to be thriving and left me mesmerised.
We passed a sign highlighting the scenic route, which would add a few miles on to our journey, and couldn’t resist the temptation to get off the main highway. We were quite happy to be rid of the traffic and aggressive drivers pushing us to zoom along the winding roads.
True to its word, the scenic route was just that – breathtakingly scenic! We pulled over at one point just so we could properly admire them up close. They’re just incredible! It’s hard to imagine too many other places such as this which really leave you speechless and humbled.
We passed a few other parked cars and consequently a few people who’d seemingly had the same idea we had. Fortunately it meant myself and Haleigh were able to get a photo of the both of us as a nice souvenir and reminder of our time passing through the Redwoods.
Some kids we’d walked past were less enthused by the experience with one retorting that “it’s only a tree..” and clearly not happy that their parents had forced them out of the car. It left me and Haleigh amused and made me realise that sometimes you don’t really appreciate these things when you’re younger.
I envisaged a scenario in the future where the kids would want to return and being mockingly told by their parents that “it’s only a tree..”
Admittedly those kids weren’t wrong. They are “just” trees at the end of the day but as spectacular as you’ll see anywhere. In the company of trees that have stood for hundreds of years, it was impossible to feel anything other than small and insignificant. They’re a must see on any trip to Northern California!
After getting plenty of photos we got back in the car and continued with our journey, leaving the scenic route and returning to what was still a pretty scenic highway. I can’t really remember much else of the drive, I presume we stopped for lunch somewhere but I couldn’t tell you where so it was probably just some fast food of some kind.
The only other memorable stop we made was as we passed by a little roadside shop which had loads of these wooden hand-made bears sat on the side of the road. They were pretty cute and available to buy along with a lot of other hand-made items and art.
It was an interesting little stop. We took some photos with the bears and I also found Pinocchio who told me I was the coolest kid around – I couldn’t understand why his nose was so big though?
The rest of the drive was pretty uneventful. The thing that really struck me was how quiet the roads were in this part of California. At times it felt like we were the only people on the highway which surprised me – particularly in the summer months but it seems that all of that famous California traffic is reserved for the big cities such as Los Angeles.
The roads started getting busier as we got closer to San Francisco, particularly around Santa Barbara, but even then a good chunk of the highway has a carpool lane which you only need two people to take advantage of so we were flying past all of the single-drivers on the road. Soon enough we were seeing signs for San Francisco and then the golden gate bridge!
We hadn’t really hit any traffic all day but as we approached the tunnel which leads to the Golden Gate bridge things started slowing down and we came to what was almost a stand still. It probably wasn’t the ideal time for us to be arriving in to San Francisco, albeit unavoidable. That said, I have a feeling that the traffic in to this part is probably always like this.
Not that the locals seemed to have the patience for it – the car honking was endless! Puzzling too, where exactly do you want us to go? In to the back of the car in front of us?
“Hit the pedal Haleigh!!”
Oddly enough, Haleigh was unwilling to partake in a game of road rage and smashing in to all of those who blocked our path. Instead we crawled along at a snails pace – which was actually fine by me!
At the end of the tunnel I could peek my first glimpse of the golden gate bridge! I was so pleased that we were traveling in over the bridge itself – even better that we were slow-moving and I could really take it in and appreciate it in all of its glory.
This was the Sydney Opera House, Eiffel Tower, Big Ben “pinch me” moment of San Francisco – there was no doubt as to where we were! We’d made it! We’re really in San Francisco!!
I managed to grab a bunch of photos before we eventually escaped the bridge, however there was no sign of the San Francisco traffic easing up. I don’t know why you’d want to drive in a city like San Francisco, much like New York City or London you have to question if it’s even worthwhile being on the road.
Karen, our handy sat-nav, guided us to our AirBnB where we parked up and awaited for our AWOL host to arrive. As it was, she was only in the back garden so not too far away and was quickly letting us in to show us around. We had no intention of driving whilst in San Franciso so swapped the cars around – putting Haleigh’s car in to the garage whilst our host moved hers in front of the garage.
It had been another long day of driving so we didn’t really have any plans for our first evening in the city. Had we been closer to downtown San Fran perhaps we’d have gone and explored but we just settled in to our AirBnB and familiarised ourselves with the local neighbourhood.
In essence we were staying in an unofficial Chinatown. The area was full of restaurants offering Asian cuisine, with a Sushi restaurant on the corner of the street we were staying on. It was far enough away from touristy San Fran that it felt very local and is undoubtedly one of the perks of AirBnB life – this being only my third AirBnB stay – all three of which were on this trip.
We went and checked out a nearby Chinese restaurant which had some good reviews on Google. On appearance it’s probably not somewhere I’d have walked in to, more reminiscent of your typical kebab house you’d stumble in to at the end of a night out.
Nevertheless, appearances can be deceiving and the food was really good. Although I’d originally ordered a duck-dish and they were then out of duck, not that I could complain about my second choice. If there was to be any complaint it would be that there was just too much of it!
Both me and Haleigh struggled to finish our meals and agreed we could easily have shared a meal between us – it felt a bit of a waste to leave so much unfinished. Brilliant value though as it was not only delicious but pretty cheap too.
Following on from dinner we had a wander through the neighbourhood but didn’t go too far. It was beginning to get dark and for the first time this whole summer, it was cold!
Whilst San Francisco was warm by day, it quickly became apparent that you’d need a jacket in the evening as it got quite chilly. Having had a small glimpse we headed back to our AirBnB for a relaxing evening and started making plans for tomorrow – our first full day in San Francisco!