Boxing Day Anniversary

It’s Boxing Day here in the UK. I gather from my step children that this is not celebrated in USA.

Boxing Day is traditionally the day following Christmas Day, when servants and tradesmen would receive gifts, known as a “Christmas box”, from their bosses[1] or employers. Today, Boxing Day is the bank holiday that generally takes place on 26 December. It is observed in the United Kingdom, Canada, Hong Kong, Australia, New Zealand, Kenya, South Africa, Trinidad and Tobago and other Commonwealth nations.

In South Africa, Boxing Day was renamed Day of Goodwill in 1994. In Ireland and Italy, the day is known as St. Stephen’s Day (Irish: Lá Fhéile Stiofáin) or the Day of the Wren (IrishLá an Dreoilín). In many European countries, including notably Germany, Poland, the Netherlands and those in Scandinavia, 26 December is celebrated as the Second Christmas Day.[2]

However my reason for this post has nothing to do with Boxing Day Holiday except that it was a year ago today that I first began this blog. In other words I am celebrating one whole year of this blog.

During this year I have made new blogging friends. Renewed other online friendships and shared my world with people in my every day life who have learnt more about me and my life than they would do normally.

I have married my Owl.

We had our honeymoon in California which I was then able to share with you through this blog.

I have celebrated my sons’ achievements.

I made a start at serious writing (on hold at the moment but watch this space)

We have shared the extremes in weather from the harsh cold long winter complete with unusual amounts of snow to the unexpected un British heat in the summer months.

We have also mourned the passing of our faithful cat.

Ending the year with various preparations for Christmas.

2013 has been a year of extremes, extreme happiness as well as extreme despair.

In a few days we will be celebrating the start of 2014 which I hope will bring with it a more relaxed year.

Maybe I will even manage to write something that I can do something with.

How would you describe 2013 for you and what are your hopes for 2014?

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It’s all in the duck

Tuesday 11 June 2013

This was to be the day that we went into the city, I was feeling a little apprehensive about this trip. It was about mid morning when we set off yet again on Route 101 this time going south.  We were not sure how it would work going through the toll on the Golden Gate Bridge. As the tolls are taken automatically. Missy M had told us on an earlier visit to the city that she believes rental cars are taken care of. We had it planned we wanted to ride a tram or maybe a cable car. It was a must that we should drive down Lombard Street, or at least it was a must for Owl. I would be happy just to see it.

I set the sat nav to find Lombard street, we were driving along the lower part of the street as we had done on both the previous occasions we had been in the city. I found it on the map but due to the one way system we were directed to turn right then left which was when we began our near vertical climb. I was holding on tight each time we came to a junction. The adrenalin was building up as we neared the crest of the hill. Turning left again we passed the section of Lombard Street that Owl was searching for. Luckily (in my view) there was nowhere to stop so we made our way back down towards sea level and Fishermans wharf. First we needed to find the car park, I managed to find the place we had parked on the first Saturday but it was full! The Parking attendant pointed us in the direction of another car park.

We walked from the car as fast as my little legs would carry me towards Fishermans Wharf where it was our intention to, have lunch, ride a cable car and or tram and if we could take a ride on one of the Duck tours. The first thing we found was the Duck tours, we booked our seats handed over the money $70 between us. It was then that I realised we only had about $10 left. Ok we would find a bank and draw out some more money but first we only had 20 minutes before our trip began. We set off looking for somewhere to buy a bottle of water to share. That 20 minutes flew past in record time and we found ourselves climbing onboard our transport.

IMG_0519  Owl was most disappointed to learn from the driver that this was not a genuine WWII type DUKW. These amphibious vehicles have been purpose built by the company. We enjoyed our ride anyway. There were steep streets like this to climb.IMG_0822 Various land marks were pointed out to us, usually on our right, I was sat on the left! Owl took photos that interested him on the right  like these from China Town reputably the largest China Town outside China.

IMG_0530  IMG_0531  whilst I was enjoying the architecture on the left.IMG_0826 I should have taken a note book to write down all the landmarks that were pointed out to us. IMG_0829  IMG_0830 IMG_0839 IMG_0842 IMG_0844  IMG_0562  going from land to water was much easier than I had expected.IMG_0544   IMG_0546   It was a little un-nerving being on board this land based vehicle puttering around in the bay  passing such huge vessels as theseIMG_0548 San Francisco as seen from the water  near to the Bay Bridge. IMG_0550    IMG_0555  the back of these US Navy transport shipsIMG_0556 In case you hadn’t guessed this is the Bay Bridge as seen from the bay. IMG_0847  IMG_0848  The Giant’s stadium as seen from the bayIMG_0851  IMG_0564  Now the Giants Stadium seen from the road.IMG_0567   IMG_0568  Here is a selection of San Francisco Trams. Did you know that the trams have been collected from cities across the world.IMG_0576     IMG_0864  IMG_0865  IMG_0866 Finally we returned to our starting point. Before doing anything else we needed to find a bank so we could get some dollars. It seemed to me that since we had arrived in USA everywhere we went there were banks on every corner even drive through banks (something we don’t have back at home). So it shouldn’t take us long to find a bank. Or so we thought……..

WE walked along several blocks with no luck so changed direction again nothing so we changed direction again. Going into a camera shop we asked directions to the nearest bank. We were direct towards a shopping arcade 4 blocks to the left. Finally weaving our way between other tourists we made our way to the shopping centre. The bank clerk was very pleasant and helpful but no matter what he tried my bank card was not going to allow us to withdraw any money. However we were able to take a cash advance using Owl’s card. When we came out of the bank we headed back to Fisherman’s wharf for a spot of late lunch. IMG_0580

Owl made a new friend.IMG_0578  He also loved looking at Alcatraz from here.IMG_0583 After much deliberation we decided to eat at Boudin Bakery again before having a walk along the street looking at boats moored up in a small marina, there were many boards up advertising fishing trips. We were going to find a cable car to take us up to Lombard Street but decided to just collect the car and drive up there. When we got back to the car park I realised that it was above the shopping centre where the bank was.

 

I was hoping that we would just drive past Lombard street and glance down as we passed it but no, to my horror Owl turned to go down it. IMG_0588 I would have had my hands firmly over my eyes at this point if he hadn’t asked me to take photos. Not the easiest thing to do when you are hurtling downhill at speed constantly turning corners but I did my best. IMG_0590  IMG_0591  IMG_0592 It was a thrilling experience and at the end of the day I am glad that we did it but it was scary.

Apologies

Two months ago I started writing my account of our trip to California. I have enjoyed doing this, not only have I enjoyed sharing our trip with you but it has been lovely reliving our memories of the trip. It is also something we can go back to in the future to remind us of the wonderful time we had.

I have found that whilst I started off well it has not been easy to get to the end. Not because I don’t remember, I do and I am in the middle of a post about San Francisco. However life since we returned from our trip has taken a turn that we couldn’t foresee. This change in my home life has made it difficult for me to dedicate time to writing my blog or reading and commenting on your blogs.

Please forgive me and hopefully normal service will be resumed in the not too distant future.

Muscle with a grin

Sunday 2nd June 2013

Sunday started bright, sunny and warm. We were both in good spirits. Owl was feeling stronger almost back to his usual self. The only down for me was when I looked in the mirror and saw the black bags under my eyes. The bruises from my fall on Friday were making themselves obvious. I had been sleeping with a cold flannel draped across my face in the hope of lowering the swelling. Oh well if bruising was the only price I had to pay for examining the airport floor with my nose then I was getting away with it lightly. My left hand was still and is still painful but I don’t think I broke anything so I am relieved about that.

After a drink and a snack that we had bought from the gas/petrol station the night before, Owl called a cab to take us to the local bus station. We were informed that our bus would be here in a few minutes. An hour later it arrived, sitting on a wall in the bus station for an hour in the middle of a hot Sunday, I was beginning to gain a little redness on my shoulders. Our bus took a circuitous route calling in at places with names like Larkspur landing (I would like to go back there to investigate more one day.)

Mid afternoon we were dropped off at the airport and told that we needed to catch the skytrain. What a great way to get around the airport. The last stop was the Car Rental area. Luckily for us there was no queue at the desk we needed. We (by that I mean Owl) explained that we should have picked up our rental car on Friday but had not been able to hence why we were there now. ‘Not a problem, as it happens we can offer you an upgrade if you are interested.’ Of course Owl was very interested especially when he was offered Mustang convertible. The grin on Owl’s face was as wide as the Channel Tunnel. I think all his Christmases had come at once.

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The only query we had before we drove away……how to take the roof down. All it took was two clips and a button. With hired Sat Nav in hand (boy are we glad we asked for one of those!) we set off back through San Francisco, over the Golden Gate Bridge along Route 101 ending up in San Rafael, stopping at the pizza parlour to show off the car to Missy M.

After having more pizza we headed back for our third and final night in our San Rafael hotel. We still didn’t know where we would be staying next but we were armed with a list of hotels to visit, but that is another story.

 

Crocs in hoodies

Saturday June 1st 2013

Did I tell you that we had pizza for dinner after arriving at our Travelodge in San Rafael. Missy M works part time for one of the pizza outlets nearby. We only wanted a medium as we were not really hungry but knew we must eat. We were presented with the biggest pizza either of us had ever had, one slice each was enough but cold pizza in the middle of the night and again for breakfast late morning was still not going to make a dent in it.

Missy M and Mr T picked us up early afternoon, we had intended to go to the airport to collect our hire car but neither of us were strong enough to drive yet. Missy M took us up to ‘The Heights’ where we had a great view of the Golden Gate Bridge and the bay beyond. Apparently we were lucky as we had such a clear view of the bridge. Very often it is shrouded in mist or at least the top of it is. (During our time there we crossed that bridge 7 times and it was clear for 6 of those 7 times).IMG_0605   IMG_0341

I did wonder why it is called the Golden Gate Bridge when it so clearly isn’t anything like golden in colour. Mr T informed us that it is called the Golden Gate Bridge because it was the gateway to the gold mining area to the north following the California gold rush. How true this is I have yet to check but it seems plausible to me. Once we had taken all the photos we wanted we set off again into San Francisco.

Once parked in the Fishermans Wharf area we hurried to the nearest clothing stall to buy hoodies to keep us warm once the temperatures took a dive. I really can’t believe that Owl voluntarily became a hoody wearer. I got one too, so did Missy M. We had intended to have either a late lunch or an early dinner but time was running out on us. We walked as fast as we could considering that Owl was still a bit shaky after yesterday. We decided to get a quick snack to keep us going and have dinner later. Boudin’s on Fishermans Wharf was our chosen destination for our snack. We found a table outside where we could people watch. Do you know how many people stop to take each other’s photo stood under the Fishermans Wharf sign on the corner of the street.

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Time was getting away from us so we finished our food as quickly as we could and set off to find a taxi cab. Hey that was not as easy as we had expected. We had walked several blocks before we managed to flag one down that was not already in use. The four of us piled in, the taxi turned the corner and 100m down the road joined the stationary traffic waiting to turn into The Embarcadero. Anxiously we kept an eye on the time, we knew we were cutting it fine. If we had all been fitter we would have got out and walked/run.

We heave a  collective sigh of relief when at last the taxi slides to a halt opposite our destination.  We take advantage of the stopped traffic to cross 6 lanes to pier 33. With just a couple of minutes to spare we joined the queue for the ferry.  We were on our way to fulfil one of Owl’s greatest wish list events. I am sure you all know about Alcatraz, well that is where we were going.

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It was a lovely sunny early evening, I took some lovely photos of the island as we circled around it. Once again Owl’s physical state was to our benefit (well mine and his that is). On arrival on the island those of us who were less mobile could take a tram ride up to the prison building instead of the steep walk that everyone else had to make. It was here that Mr T began to try his father and sister’s patience.  It didn’t bother me at all but his biological family found his constant disappearances somewhat trying. Mr T is very passionate about creating films and is constantly on the look out for locations and ideas for his films. We all collected our audio guides and set off following the route around the prison. We all started together but gradually began to take our own time going round. I continued to take copious amounts of photos (both family and location). Many of the photos of Missy M show her with her phone in her hand which we found amusing. We caught up with Mr T several times before he scooted off again. We were beginning to panic when there was no sign of him when we were heading back to the ferry for our trip back to mainland.

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By the time we returned to terra firma it was dark and getting late, Owl and I waited by the side of the road whilst his children (my step children) went off to collect Missy M’s car. Arriving back at the hotel the pair of us just about had the energy to eat half a slice of pizza before falling into bed.

It was lovely spending the time we did with the two young people who I am still getting used to as my step children.