Also known as the "Crooked street" - our first afternoon in San Francisco we drove through the crooked part of Lombard Street. We've been here 3 days already and have been to Alcatraz Island, Fisherman's Wharf (a big tourist trap which really can be avoided altogether), the Financial District, North Beach, Castro and ofcourse the area of our hotel - Union Square/downtown. San Francisco feels like a European city, and it small enough to navigate on foot & by cable car. An added bonus was I got to see friends of mine from the Philippines - Isabel from grade school and Jisun from highschool, a real treat! Last night we had dinner with Isabel in Castro at a local hangout called Harvey's - named after the politician who was murdered in the late 70's (there's now a film about "Milk" starring Sean Penn). Next stop: Carmel & Monterey
Thursday, 28 May 2009
We spent the night in Mammoth Lakes (130 km from Yosemite) and got the great tip at breakfast to visit the spectacular lakes a few miles from town. The view was amazing! We then went to Yosemite and spent pretty much the rest of the day there. Rob went on a hike to the falls - I couldn't face the climb after lunch so we met up later. From Glacier Point we got some great views of the half dome and the rest of the valley. We were cutting it close on gas as we left Yosemite, but didn't find any decent town along the way - until we got to Oakdale. We stayed at the Quality Inn - and just in front of us was a restaurant, so we freshened up and went for a bite, only to find the place had closed. Nothing open except fast food. Great. Decided to get a few beers at the local "Liquor store" and some Taco Bell take away. If you're in dire need for food, try to avoid Taco Bell like the plague! Anything else will taste better. We're now at a diner having breakfast and lo an behold they have WiFi in this one-horse town! Next stop: San Francisco!
Wednesday, 27 May 2009
After driving through Death Valley we stopped at Manzanar, here is some additional information of the Historic Site:
During WWII, 120,000 Japanese Americans were transported to different 'War Relocation Centers" due to fear of espionage by Japanese Americans after the attack on Pearl Harbour in 1941. Manzanar was one of these "centers" (read: camps) which held 10,000 people against their will. No Japanese American was ever charged with espionage. It was only in 1988 (a mere 43 years later) that an official apology was given by President Reagan a payment was made of $20,000 to those who were detained. The strange thing is, they had schools - and graduation, baseball, cheerleaders - basically everything you expect from an American school. The only difference was they were surrounded by barbed wire and couldn't get out.
After breakfast we went to the Las Vegas Premium Outlet Stores for a bit of shopping - after all, what else is there to do in Vegas during the day? Spent a short while by the pool - but the very loud hiphop music and teenagers shaking their bootie in the pool was a bit much! It's really a place full of contrast - I mean they've recreated Venice - with the gondola's and everything in The Venetian hotel. On the other hand, so many people are walking around with cocktails, their arms full of tatoos, their skirts (what skirts) invisible, it's sleaze galore. Our evening was made though, first the Vegas version of The Jersey Boys, slightly different to the London version - and then a souper at Enoteca's on Piazza San Marco. Rob decided to have a drink at the bar @ Bally's while I tried my luck on the slot machines. $12 poorer, I decided to quit, it didn't look like I was going to hit the jackpot anytime soon. Well - that was Vegas - glad to have been there, but also glad to leave!
Monday, 25 May 2009
Had another early start (on the road by 08:30) and they call this vacation?? Drove by the historic route 66 - more nostalgia than anything else, and many one-horse towns, or ghost towns. One town was even called Chloride, imagine that! Due to a huge accident before the Hoover Dam, we were stuck in traffic for 45 min. but then finally got to the dam and took some pictures. It was 37 degrees Celsius at Hoover Dam. Our destination was Vegas, and we got to Bally's hotel (on the Strip) in a huge suite which is our room. Now we're off to pick up our tickets for the Jersey Boys show tomorrow and have a seafood buffet (a welcome change to all the burgers, steaks, etc, we've had during the past week).
Sunday, 24 May 2009
What a day! We had an early start (as usual) and after breakfast at the hotel went to the Grand Canyon National Park to hike the Shoshone trail which is relatively unknown. On the way, we saw some animal prints - I thought it was a cougar but it was probably just a deer! After 20 minutes hike, we got to the viewpoint only to see NOTHING BUT FOG! After a hike to Kaibab Point (which although was foggy started to clear up just a tad), we decided to go Westbound. Luckily - the weather kept getting better and the sun came out - so we got some pretty amazing pics of the South Rim. After lunch - a small hike to the Yavipai point until it started to get grey and thunder & lightning struck. Great. So much for our chopper ride (so we thought). We went to Papillon Helicopters and yes, the flights were on! 25 minutes heli ride - absolutely amazing! It then strikes you - how beautiful nature can be and how lucky we are to experience that beauty!
Saturday, 23 May 2009
Our next door neighbor at the motel was kind enough to make sure we had an early start by switching on the TV at 6 am! After a hearty breakfast at a typical all-American diner (pancakes, bacon & eggs), we set off for our journey to the Four Corners. This is the only place in the US where 4 states come together - Arizona, New Mexico, Utah & Colorado. We then entered Utah and drove through the magnificent Monument Valley. Almost everyone has seen the scenery in some Western flick - but the reality is really impressive. We didn't have the blue skies we were hoping for but there was enough sun for us to capture the buttes in all their glory. Next stop: The Grand Canyon.
Friday, 22 May 2009
Here it is, the Cliff Palace, the largest Ancestral Puebloan cliff dwelling, consisting of 217 rooms and 23 kivas (communal multi-purpose rooms) which was home to around 120 people. The cliff dwellings were abandoned around 1300 AD - possibly due to drought, over-hunting and harsh weather conditions. It's really an impressive National Park- the wildlife is equally awesome. As we were hiking we saw a black and yellow snake cross our path (photos on Flickr), and a lone fox on the road. It was a long drive to get here - 400 km from Holbrook, but definitely worth it!
Thursday, 21 May 2009
Probably the most interesting place in Holbrook, the Wigwam Motel! Here's chief Robert guarding the Wigwam with his life as you can see from the stern expression on his face!
Our first night in the States was in Phoenix - were when asked where we were from, Chief Robert said "which country can you freely smoke marijuana without getting arrested"? To which the waitress happily replied "Amsterdam!". OK, so Amsterdam's a country now, so what? Our second night was in Holbrook where we went to a Steakhouse (wasn't much else) and had the sheer joy of being at a booth with pictures of corpses of criminals......needless to say, never a dull moment. The natives, are as expected, very friendly!
Here we are in the USA, and our first National park was Montezuma Castle where this cliff dwelling was home to the Sinagua people from 1125 AD. There were ladders that used to go up to the dwellings - but unfortunately visitors are not allowed to climb up anymore so we need to cherish the view from below. Our trip to the States went smoothly, with a 5-hour layover in Houston, TX. Upon arrival in Phoenix where it was 40 degrees Celsius, we picked up our Chevy Impala which drives like a dream and will be our faithful companion during the next 3 weeks!
Saturday, 2 May 2009
Queen's Day 2009
What a strange Queen's Day this turned out to be. Some crazy guy drove his Suzuki Swift into the crowd in Apeldoorn with the intention of attacking the bus with the Royal family, in total 7 dead. The tone was "will Queen's Day ever be the same?" . We shouldn't change tradition because of one crazy guy. At Elsa's we were told Job Cohen wanted the festivities in Amsterdam to continue, but asked everyone for 1 minute of silence for the victims. Very appropriate.
On a different note, the party at Elsa's was as usual, with "The Second Hand Band", excellent.