Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Stepping out in San Francisco........and New York!!

Hello lovelies, I have landed back down to earth having returned from the most amazing holiday ever!! You might remember my daughter and son-in-law gifted me tickets to fly my good husband and myself over to San Francisco to holiday with them and explore and discover the sights and places they call home, and I must say it was fabulous....beyond fabulous, actually! Though the getting to San Fran threw us a few curve balls when we finally exited the airport at San Fran into the arms of our daughter, I must say we all breathed a very big sigh of relief and were beyond ready for the holiday fun to begin.

LAX Immigration and Customs is enough to put the fear of God into the most seasoned of travellers. You see, when my husband and I followed the 'cattle trail' through immigration, and it was our turn to  leave the herd, to be set free, the very serious government official behind the counter soberly informed us that 'the system' had rejected us!!!!! How could that be, I thought as I stared back at him nonplussed???? I had just spent over 18 hours in several planes  and the very thought of more 'joyous flying' way up high in the blue, blue sky all the way back again was incomprehensible!!!!!! What!!!!! Reject me and my good husband!!!!! Whatever for!!!!! I mean really, what has the USofA got to fear from the two of us. Perhaps the 'kindly' immigration fellow saw the steely gaze behind my green eyes or perhaps, just perhaps, he had surmised that we were not drug runners, neither were we smugglers of contraband, nor indeed terrorists, because after many questions ensuring we were not illegals who were going to become lost in the system to never return to our homeland, and checking that our return flights had been booked and we had accommodation for the entire trip  (suddenly I remembered the fine print on our ESTA visa waivers that this approval by no means signifies the certainty of entry into the USA.......the recollection of all those horror stories I have watched on those border patrol TV shows were rather ghoulishly swirling around in my consciousness) very kindly said......"well the glitch in the system may well have rejected you, BUT....I am going to put the blue rubber stamp of approval on your passports......enjoy your holiday." Phew...thank the Good Lord for that!! With this serious fellow's blessing and before he had the opportunity to change his mind, we high-tailed out of there faster than that wily road runner ever could run, to our next 'port of call'.

Aah yes.......about that next port of call. When we arrived at the Delta airline check in counter, the lady behind the desk in one of those 'plane, trains and automobiles' kinda voices (those of you whom have  seen the scene of the interchange between the rent-a-car woman behind the desk and Steve Martin....know exactly what I mean) said that there was no record of our names on the flight to San Fran.....a fact that she thought the need to repeat over and over again. At this juncture, with my nerves just a little frayed, I thought of doing a 'Steve Martin' and catapulting over the counter to help the kind lady find us on her computer, but thought perhaps not. =) Oh the joys of immigration, customs, security after security checks, check ins etc etc etc!! This dour faced lady moved us on to the 'Those with Impossible Problems' desk where it took a rather pleasant fellow 20 minutes to sort out our predicament (I might add at this point I had the booking confirmation of our flight and seat numbers), which then found us running to the gate (which was just about to close) to fall thoroughly exhausted onto the plane. My poor ol' 60 year old legs ain't quite up to running the mile in under a minute anymore. I can laugh about it now but at the time...........well, let's just say my rather droll sense of humour deserted me for just a little while. I have no idea how all of you whom are regular jet setters cope with it all. I totally get that added precautions are now put in place in the USofA.....and quite rightly so.......but I tell you, Los Angeles airport ain't no picnic. The next time I jet to San Francisco perhaps it will be a direct flight, bypassing LA totally!

But enough of the travails of  zooming aerodynamically from one end of the globe to another. The sight of our daughter standing at the lounge to greet us quickly put what had transpired into the dark recesses of our minds and we were determined to let the holiday fun, fun, fun begin.

I love San Francisco! The City by the Bay is truly a most amazing city. It is such a relaxed and friendly city with the best vibes. My husband and I  had the best of times spending precious time with both our daughter and her husband in their lovely home. We enjoyed so many shared experiences. My daughter and I share a love of movies, so what better way to start our holiday than a three hour bus tour with a tour guide sharing her wealth of San Francisco and cinema knowledge. It was a fabulous tour. The tour guide matched clips of movies to scenes right outside the bus windows as we drove by. I didn't realise that so many movies or indeed scenes in movies were made in San Francisco; 78 to be precise. Places such as the spot at the Golden Gate Bridge where Kim Novak, in the movie, Vertigo, jumped into the water and Jimmy Stewart saved her. Scenes from Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (one of my favourite movies), the house where the family lived in Mrs Doubtfire. Various locations from 'that' famous chase scene in the movie Bullitt....remember Steve McQueen??? The High School that Anne Hathaway attended in The Princess Diaries, City Hall in the movie The Wedding Planner and so, so many more. As a movie buff who used to watch many a movie with my darling mum, this tour was a highlight. At the end of the tour my husband, daughter and me (my SIL had to work this day) enjoyed lunch at the Boudin Bakery and Museum where I enjoyed a delicious meal of clam chowder. Of course upon leaving we bought many bakery delights to enjoy that evening.

The holiday continued with a ferry ride to Sausalito, drinking in the blue, blue sky with the Bay Bridge looming far in the distance and the infamous Alcatraz rising from the sea. Fisherman's Wharf, the seals basking in the sun on Pier 39, the Painted Ladies....those gorgeous Victorian houses were a treat for the eyes. In saying this though, I loved, loved, LOVED the architecture in San Fransisco. So, so many gorgeous buildings of different eras painting the landscape. Each and every house sings with gorgeous details, each building different to that which stands beside it. I could happily live in any one of those 'to-die-for' houses. Why, one of those Victorian beauties sitting atop Nob Hill with a view of San Francisco Bay would do very nicely, thank you very much!

A cable car ride was a must as was also a visit to Grace Cathedral. Walking through Grace Cathedral was both soulful and inspiring. Strolling around this beautiful building made me feel rather insignificant. There are sublime painted murals depicting San Franciscan life through the ages. Oh, the exquisite stained glass windows! There is even a stained glass window way, way up high of the astronaut, John very cool. I noticed a glorious needlepoint 'kneeler' where people who were so inclined, kneel to pray. It was beautiful and if one feels the need to kneel when they pray, then why not rest them ol' knees on such pretty stitched handiwork. Just so you know, I left the needlepoint there......I did not add it to my collection!

A drive to the incredible Muirs Woods was another highlight. Never have I seen gorgeous trees filled with enchantment such as these, towering to the heavens. We all felt rather lilliputian standing amongst these magical beauties. As I walked along the path dwarfed by these wonders I was filled with a sense of wonderment, a witness to beautiful creation.

The day before we were to fly home our daughter and SIL took us for a drive over the Golden Gate Bridge and through the beautiful countryside to our destination of Frances Ford Coppola's winery at Sonoma, to enjoy a delicious lunch, sitting in the glorious sunshine, overlooking the lush vineyard with immaculately dressed waiters attending to our every need. A most beautiful place filled with movie memorabilia and I might add a tipple or two of mighty fine wine.

Now here is where my daughter's birthday gift to me became a little bit more exciting, if indeed that was at all possible. Safely ensconced in the living room of my daughter and son-in-law with a wine in hand chilling out after the airport debacle, my daughter proceeded to tell me that there was one more surprise. The four of us were going to jet off to New York for four days!!!!!! At this juncture you could've knocked me over with a feather as I could not believe what I was hearing. New York City has always been on the top of my list of cities to visit. As long as I can remember this has been so and my daughter knowing this, thought how wonderful it would be if the four of us could experience New York together. I know WOWSERS!!!

New York was everything I have ever imagined it would be and so, so much more! We had four days to tick off the boxes of the places that the four of us would like to visit and experience. We stayed in an airb&b in Brooklyn which rather felt like being in a scene of a movie. I rather felt as if I was "in the hood". It was a fascinating place. The four of us felt like four white fish in a fishbowl with the African American community and people from other ethnicities looking in. I loved the experience of staying in Brooklyn. I must say at this juncture that I loved, loved, LOVED the ethnic diversity of both San Francisco and New York. I adored the diverse cultural influences that make up these two cities. Each day we journeyed NYC and back 'home' again via the subway.....a most interesting experience.

To gain a better insight of where everything was located in NYC and what we would like to investigate further, we spent a good part of day one sightseeing on an open bus, drinking in the sights, smells, sounds; street after street of incredible, vertiginous buildings. The architecture is unbelievable. It was freezing up there on top of the open air bus, a freezing 8°C with a chill factor below zero. Aah yes......a lovely Spring day in New York City! Though I would have loved to see the trees in blossom I rather loved the sculptural beauty of the bare trees against the incredible buildings.

But...back to the matter of ticking off those boxes. The September 11 Memorial and Museum was I think, way up the list, if not the highlight of my New York visit. We took a guided tour and then walked around the museum trying to absorb all that was before us. I found it poignant, evocative, solemn, reflective, haunting...........and just so, so sad. There were many times when the tears trickled down my cheek as I read the deeply personal stories, the human drama and tragedies. The Memorial's twin reflecting pools which sit within the footprints where the Twin Towers once stood is a most beautiful tribute. As I read the names inscribed in bronze panels I was deeply moved.

There were many other amazing experiences. Catching the ferry to Liberty Island and seeing the Statue of Liberty is something that I have always wanted to do. Sailing towards Liberty Island, I could not help but be reminded of 'her' symbolism of  freedom and democracy. I could only wonder of the powerful statement, a beacon of hope 'she' was to those millions of immigrants who journeyed through the years to Ellis Island, clutching their dreams of a better life. To wander through the museum reading how 'she' came into being was fascinating and climbing the 169 steps to view the glorious outlook from the pedestal was memorable. The New York skyline from this vantage point was amazing! I didn't think my poor ol' knees would carry me up those winding steps.....but they did!!

Now, when in New York one must experience the New York skyline at night. What better way to view "The City that never sleeps" than to 'fly' in an elevator to the top of the Rockefeller Building 'The Rock', to look at the millions of scintillating lights. There are no words to describe the resplendent beauty of New York City at night. An experience I will remember for a very long time!

Then there was the marvel of Times Square!! I don't think there is anywhere on earth quite like Times Square. Standing in the middle of Times Square by both day and night is like nothing I have ever experienced! The bright and dazzling neon lights, billboards and advertisements, the hordes of was wild.

The four of us went to New York with an agreed objective to enjoy as many different cuisines that was on offer. Little Italy, China Town, Haitian, Mexican, the famous Katz's Deli (of the movie 'When Harry met Sally' fame....remember THAT scene??). I still don't believe the amount of pastrami or corned beef on two little slices of bread! It was rather akin to eating a whole cow!! Oh, then there were the pickles.....delish! Other gastronomical delights were Southern fare....the best sticky lamb ribs ever, burgers and the mighty damn good milkshakes at the Shake Shak, the best desserts from the Canoli King....New York baked cheesecake....each spoonful was heaven AND then we happened upon Magnolia Cup Cakes.....oh those red velvet cupcakes!!! Unbelievable!! We packed in a lot of eating in those four days. Believe it or not my waistline did not expand, if anything it is a little smaller because we walked from the early hours of the morning to well into the evening. Nothing like fourteen hours plus of pounding the pavement each day to keep those calories at bay!

What is a gal to do in New York but to see a show on Broadway. The four of us saw the Broadway production of Aladdin playing in the New Amsterdam Theatre. It was spectacular and just a little aside, the part of Jafar was played by the original actor, Jonathon Freeman in the Walt Disney animated movie starring Robin Williams. Major Attaway who played the genie was fabulous. This part was his Broadway debut and I feel the world is going to hear a lot of this talented actor! LOVED this production; indeed, another highlight to tick off.

Strolling along 5th Avenue (pretending we were a couple of swells) was a pleasurable experience also; window shopping at Tiffany's, Valentino, Saks of Fifth Avenue.......oh the beautiful window made my li'l ol' stylist heart sing! Then there was Central Park...a most beautiful acres upon acres oasis in downtown Manhattan.

Then there was a visit to the American Museum of Natural History. Loved walking around the different exhibits and participating in some of the interactive displays. So, so much to take in! I would have loved to visit the National Museum of the American Indian, but alas we just ran out of time.

BUT.....perhaps the piece-de-resistance for me was something that I had wanted to do forever. To visit the Garment District located on Seventh Avenue, where there was shop after shop burgeoning with bolts of silks, brocades, velvets, organzas, french laces, cottons......every pretty I could have ever magically whipped up was the thousands. Moods Fabrics..........a most amazing store!! Believe it or not I could not think of what I wanted to was just so overwhelming. I haven't quite come down from those arty farty, textile embellished clouds, where cherubs float way up high with length after length of diaphanous silks covering their modesty. Oh to be able to just slip out of your apartment whenever you desired and find your way to the Garment District to purchase  that perfect fabric or embellishment....HEAVEN!!

All in all San Fracisco and New York was a 'once in a lifetime' holiday for me. I don't think I have laughed as much, eaten as much, walked as much, been amazed as much, been exhilarated as much, been bedazzled as much.....EVER!! I loved every second of this trip. I am so, so very thankful for my sweet, sweet girl of mine and yes, my sweet, sweet son-in-law for making my dreams come true; memories I will treasure forever. Loved, loved, LOVED every precious moment I spent with my beautiful Pip and wonderful, oh-so-funny Leon.....and of course my darling husband! Sitting here in my far rural outpost swapping the bedazzling lights of New York City for the theatre of the night sky filled with thousands of twinkling stars that I call home, I still can't quite believe it all happened, that only a little while ago I was experiencing all those dreams that I can now tick off........but it did happen as I have the happy snaps and selfies to prove it!!

Until the next time.............................