Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Life

Life continues well, I have my own flat, albeit with a larger mortgage than I would like, a car (fully paid, but getting on), a job which I hate but which pays the mortgage.

My Life:

Monday: Work
Tuesday:work
Wednesday: Work
Thursday: Work
Friday: Work from home and bumble around
Saturday: Sleep
Sunday: Shop

Mon dieu I need a life :-(


Went out with Kim and Justin last Sunday for Kims' birthday to Chu Chin Chow, the "posh" Chinese restaurant in West Byfleet which also does Sushi. although the sushi was only about to my own standard the meal was OK. Justin had the Prawns deepfried in noodles to start which were excellent, and my Drunken Fish was not too bad.

Cooked Sushi the day afterwards although I cooked too much rice, it was OK and I have to admit that I really like Tuna Mayo with chives as a filling.

Was going to cook either Kims' (Welteks') chicken or Tummys' pizza today, but I couldn't find last weeks dry shopping so need to buy more Oregano and yeast. I'm sure when I do the new jar will clink on the ones that I cannot find now.

Saturday, 12 June 2010

Tuesday 8th of June - Victoria

Eggs Benedict with mushrooms again.

Into Victoria - Maritime Museum, Bug Zoo (went yesterday as well, but only managed half of it with my thighs, and it was absolutely brilliant), Miniature world (OK if you like models, no the other sort)

Lunch with MKitty at Pescatore had seafood linguine very nice.

Supper at Superior again, crab cakes (sort of like chinese fishballs but a bit less solid and a lot more crabby), bruschetta - with fig paste as well as the normal which worked well, and fingerling potatoes with curd cheese.

Monday 7th of June - Victoria

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Woke up relatively early, omlette for breakfast, not as good as the previous two days, weather looking a lot better, and I finally remembered that painkillers are not just for headaches and so am a little more comfortable walking around.

Booked tea at the Empress at 15:45 and paid the dithery lady, this meant that I missed the first tourist bus and so stood around had a cup of coffee etc.

Caught the tourist bus again went round town, the bays seemed so much nicer in the sun.

Had lunch somewhere, pootled round town.

Tea at the empress very pleasant, most civilised, the tea itself was very nice.

Sunday 6th of June - Victoria

Just a placeholder really

Breakfast at the hotel which was rather good, Eggs Benedict with mushrooms instead of ham/bacon.

Dreary rainy day, caught the tourist bus, went round quite nice, although as Victoria is quite small we did cross the same roads a number of times.

Purchased a girly hat at the market to keep me dry.

Lunch at Don Mee? Dim Sum, it was OK, not quite as good as London, however that may be because I am more used to the flavours there.

Walked through the market square, quite disappointing, slipped and pulled a muscle on my right side, which goes with the thigh pain. Purchased some local beer and caught the bus to Fishermans wharf, quite nice houseboat area with a fish shop and Barbs Fish and Chips. Purchased a steamed crab from Barbs as the fishmonger was all out and walked back to the hotel.

Ate the crab later on with the leftover bread.

Saturday 5th of June - Victoria and Vancouver Island

Woke up about six o'clock, feeling quite tired and my left thigh quite painful, not sure how much I would be able to walk today, which would be a shame as I am going out with MKitty, anyway pootled around a bit and went for breakfast, I had paid in advance for breakfast during my stay however when I checked in I was only given one voucher, checked with reception and they are going to drop off the rest of the vouchers in my room later today. Had the "Sunshine Breakfast" scrambled eggs with ham, hollandaise and fruit on muffins, with tea, really rather pleasant.

Ambled around the hotel for a while and then went out for a small walk. My hotel is only a block away from the parliament building, so really quite centrally located, there is a lovely little park with the shields of all of the Canadian Provinces in it that I had a look at, and just opposite is the state government building which looked very impressive. Crossed the street to the wax museum and had a chat with the lady on the tourist bus stall, she gave me a few details and I declined to purchase a ticket until tomorrow.

Didn't want to get too far from the hotel as Mkitty was picking me up at 10:30 and as my thigh was somewhat uncomfortable I didn't want to have to rush back from anywhere. Went back to the room and read for a while and then went to sit outside to have a cigarette, no hotels seem to have smoking rooms any more, and this one has banned smoking on the balconies as well.

At almost the exact time MKitty and Mr MKitty strode round the corner and greeted me, MKitty then said that I had a choice, we could go to Buchart Gardens, or we could go round the island a bit visiting wineries, taking a ferry across an inlet and driving back through the countryside. I always enjoy my visits to Wisley (www.rhs.org.uk/wisley) and appreciate the beauty of the gardens, however I'm not knowledgeable about plants, and so I asked if they would be OK with the tour, they were and we set off.

They drove me through the back of Victoria giving me information on the city, before too long we were out of town and starting to see a bit of country, they showed me the outside of their house, which looked gorgeous, if any of my invisible friends come to the UK, I may indicate my flatlet from the M25, but that would be about it :-)

Our first stop was at the Barking Dog vineyard, which turned out to no longer be a vineyard, but was now a distillery specialising in Victoria Gin, the chappie in charge showed us the distillery itself and explained how they make their various spirits, we then went upstairs to the lovely Natalie to sample the wares. They had laid out the ingredients used for the gin including a secret ingredient! My guess would be sassafrass, however I'm not sure. Tried the gin, very citrus, I liked it, think it would be very refreshing with tonic on a summers day, the aged gin, interesting but I don't remember it particularly, some bitters which were quite good, an eau-de-vie made from wine which was very brandyish but clear, and a vodka which was really very interesting it was made with hemp seed which gave it an oily, olivy mouth feel, purchased a bottle for bairn, but I'm wishing that I had also bought one for myself. MKitty also purchased some vodka, along with some of the bitters.

We then drove on to Brentwood Bay, just near Buchart gardens and parked in the front of the queue for the ferry then popped to a very posh pub for lunch, I had an halibut burger with chips and a wedge of a huge gherkin! They did that thing where they served the piece of fish on the bottom part of the bun on one side of the plate and the top of the bun with the lettuce, tomato and gherkin on the other which always seems a little strange to me, so I assembled the sandwich (minus the gherkin) myself. The fish was gorgeous, and the chips were very nicely homemade, Mr MKitty had sweet potato chips which looked battered to me, he and I also had a glass of the same wine which was really rather pleasant. Mr MKitty paid, I have never been good at persuading people to let me pay, they were taking me out for a day with them, suffering my company, I really would have liked to buy them lunch, however it wasn't to be.

Walked slowly back to the car taking in the stunning scenery, beautiful forests on mountains rising over a crystal blue lake, and then we noticed that the ferry had arrived and other cars were overtaking us and boarding, so we rushed to the car! Despite the wonderful weather the ferry wasn't full and so we were able to board without any issues, although the price was surprisingly high I have gone to France for less! The ferry was very small, one proper deck with the cars parked on it, and a higher deck with the lavatories and captain on it, we walked up to the upper viewing area (about 10 foot wide just in front and below of the captain) and gawped at the view, the weather was clear there were a few fluffy cloud enhancing the sky and the water was still as a millpond, it was one of the most beautiful boat trips I have taken, up there with cruising the Corinth canal and the underside of Turkey.

Sadly we reached the other side of the crossing at Mill Bay and drove from there to a vineyard called ??? dash it I cannot remember, where we tasted their wines (Well I only tasted one of the reds as I really don't like the tannins) I have to admit to my surprise at how good they were, their Pinot Gris was flinty and citrussy in a quite amazing way, incredibly light as well, I purchased two bottles one of which will be drunk in Victoria!

We then went on through the country, passing loads of dressed up 16 (18?) year olds dressed up to the nines for "Graduation" and to Cowichan Bay, almost via Mama MKittys' residence! Where the MKittys knew of a Cheese shop and a bakery. The cheese shop was quite small, I wouldn't say that it had more than about 30 cheeses, although as well as local cheeses they did carry a selection from all over the world, including 5 counties cheese, which one rarely sees even in England! Canada has had a habit of using names that are not strictly their own to use in relation to foods, and so I purchased a goats milk Camembert, made with milk from the flock of the owners of the cheese shop, it wasn't as aggressive as goats cheese normally is, and it didn't quite have the pungency of Camembert although this could be because I never gave it time to mature, taken on its own though it was a very nice cheese indeed. We then walked through a little passageway to the bakers, there was a wonderful selection of breads, rolls, and viennoiseries, I purchased a couple of "Pretze" rolls which were quite like a German pretzel, a ficelle, which was pleasant, but was chewy rather than crisp, and a pain au chocolat, not quite flaky enough, but it was a little late in the day.

My cough had been bothering me during the day, and so I ordered a coffee and glass of water in the bakers to calm it down a bit, I also ordered another pain au chocolat, however that was for purely narcissistic reasons, as I was sipping the coffee I realised what Victoria was missing, Tim Hortons! Apparently there is one in Victoria city centre although I didn't track it down, but they are mainly situated out of town in the local shopping parades.

Having purchased a planned supper we headed off to visit another vineyard, I have to admit I didn't care for this one as much, the chappie running it was simply unloveable and I found his white wine, which contained out fifteen varieties of grape (I kid you not) confused and depressing, although the MKitties seemed to enjoy it so I may have been missing something. He did let me try his Gew├╝rztraminer which was surprisingly crisp and dry, although I have to admit I wouldn't have purchased any even if he had some to sell.

Sadly all good things must come to an end, and so we wended our way back to Victoria, along the main roads this time, although there was still deep forest on both sides! MKitty told me about the difficulties of getting in to work in the city over the pass in the mountains when there was snow on the ground, it almost sounded like being at home! On the way back through the city the MKitties went out of their way to show me a restaurant that they had always enjoyed called "Superior" in concept it was similar to Tu Tu Tango, one orders a number of small plates. I reciprocated by boring them with a mention of the Niagara peep meet going to Tu Tu Tango (which had closed when I visited Niagara so Meemo, Pepe, Pene, Seana and I went to a different place).

MKitty and I arranged to meet for lunch on Tuesday, and they dropped me off at my hotel at about half past five, I popped and and refreshed myself before heading out to Superior! A truly wonderful supper, I think this is the first time that I have ever been to a restaurant where I would gladly have ordered anything from the menu (although not the three things that contained nuts) I had some spot shrimp that were to die for, a small cup of a sort of chowder with beans in that was simply amazing, and the charcouterie plate that was again just divine, finished with strawberry and marscapone wonton with caramelised olives that worked perfectly.

All in all a wonderful day, walked back to the hotel and to sleep.

Saturday, 5 June 2010

Friday 4th of June - Seattle to Victoria

Woke up about seven, washed and dressed, started the packing, gave up and went for breakfast downstairs. Had two eggs over easy with toast, hash brown, and sausages (which were the correct shape) the eggs on toast were lovely. Back to the room, and more attempts to pack, eventually I had to abandon the duty free Pimms, I guess shot glasses and coffee cups do take up a lot of room! Thinking of buying a small suitcase if I can find a cheap one to make the packing easier.

Then to checkout, where I purchased a sommeliers corkscrew with the hotel logo on it, and unloaded my bloated suitcase.

Exited the hotel to catch a bus to the Space Needle (Seattle Centre) and ran into Raul, who told me about golf, and asked me to mail him photos of Europe and generally kept me chatting for about a quarter of an hour. Having passed him on to someone who works in the hotel I then waited about another ten minutes for the bus, and leapt aboard!

Seattle has a strange bus system, some buses are free, and some charge on exit, I don't know how to tell them apart, anyway I missed the stop I wanted and on getting off at the next one the driver waved me off without payment.

Looking at the photos of me, Karchita and Sharnina I was quite distressed by my hair, I have very fine hair that curls in odd directions when it reaches a certain length, and having washed it that evening it was flopping and curling everywhere, as I walked up the hill to where I hoped the Seattle Centre was I spotted a barbers so went in and asked for my hair to be defluffed, twenty dollars seemed like a lot to me, however at least my hair is shorter now!

Kept on up the hill and arrived at a basketball stadium at the top of Seattle Centre, so I started heading down to the Science centre, however whilst walking that way I thought "sod it, I'm going shopping instead" so went to the monorail and rode that to the Westgate centre, quite a cool ride really, not sure if I have done an outdoor monorail outside of Disney before, and one got an interesting look at parts of the city.

Not that much that I was interested in in the Westgate so went outside and had a cup of latte at "the most expensive Starbucks in the world", according to yesterdays guide Starbucks were desparate for the site but the owners who were a rival coffee chain refused to sell so Starbucks purchased the entire chain just for that site, wasn't a particularly wonderful version of the shop (although the barristas were very pretty) so I am dubious about the story.

Then popped into Maceys looking for pants and socks, Maceys is like Debenhams in that it seems to be made up of loads of small shops and has nothing of its own to sell, all of the socks were dull, and all of the pants overpriced, I need to go to France soon to get some more, just checked and they still do the Estragon sauce as well :-)

Anyway, by now it was almost midday so up to the food court in the Westlake I went, Firstly I purchased a bubble tea, I didn't read the directions so just ordered a Canteloupe tea, and when the lady asked what I wanted in it I just said Bubbles, I realised whilst she was putting it together that they did different flavoured bubbles, but I had the standard sort of flavoured but not really ones. Then I purchased some sushi which they actually made fresh, it was better than supermarket sushi, although it wasn't as good as the sushi Waitrose used to do, I suspect any food purchased in a foodcourt would be disappointing, and I was really spoiled in San Francisco.

Ambled round a little more however I didn't want any sweets, and couldn't fit any Lush in my suitcase, so decided to head back towards the hotel, hailed a cab as I had no idea which buses were appropriate. Didn't go into the hotel, but to a local coffee shop where I asked for something refreshing, and they suggested a peach iced tea where the peach was "subtle", I liked it, however the peach was about five times stronger than it is in liptonice so subtle may not have been the most appropriate word.

By the time I left the coffee shop they were all calling me Andrew as well, in the UK I would suspect mickey taking however in the US it seems genuine. Walked up to the hotel, picked up my suitcase, was interrogated again by reception on if I had enjoyed myself and if I was coming back to visit again soon, I would certainly like to come back, there is so much I haven't seen, however the costs of the flights and hotels tells me that it isn't likely into a taxi and off to dock 69 for the Victoria Clipper, despite giving this information to the driver, and despite the doorman also having told him this he decided to drop me at dock 66, as there was a big cruise ship there I suspect that he was after a fare there. I did tick him off, but walked the distance to the correct pier.

Checked myself and my luggage in, was told by the lady who checked me in that boarding would probably start at a quarter to three for the three fifteen departure, well we were marshalled into a queue, then into another queue, and then into a third queue before we could board, I think I actually got on board at the time we were supposed to depart. The ship itself was a fastcat, but much better laid out than the one on the Newhaven - Dieppe route was, although I think it was also quite a bit smaller.

Purchased some duty free fags and a bottle of "purified" water (I'm paying how much for tap water? Why?) wrote my postcards, looked out of the window at the beautiful forested shores on both sides of the sound and relaxed. After about an hour and an half things got a little choppy and I started to feel a little tom (in the same way that you can use any word for drunk (I was absolutely Seattled) I think you can use any word for nausea (I felt quite Seattle)) fortunately one was allowed out on the stern deck, and one was allowed to smoke there! So, after a lot of wasted gas I stood there in the very windy fresh air, smoking and feeling less sick, unfortunately I had a bit of a thing and couldn't approach the rail where the ashtray was as I saw myself going overm the drugs are making the compulsions better but they are still there. Saw some parasurfers on the way into Victoria, it looks like great fun, although very cold I should imagine.

Got off the boat in Victoria and passed through Canadian customs, really a pleasant experience, they don't seem to have the chip on their shoulder that so many American immigration officers do, put my case in the back of a taxi and told him my destination, about a minute later we were there, I apologised to him profusely and overtipped. although I was grateful that I hadn't pulled my case that quarter of a mile.

Checked in to the hotel, where they had upgraded me to a deluxe room with a balcony, which was nice, when I reached the room I found it was very large, only slightly smaller than my flat and with a lot more wardrobe space! The kitchen is quite impressive for an hotel, hobs (stovetops), oven, and microwave, having nothing to cook I went Off to the hotel restaurant, where I had a Caesar salad (you want $8.95 for that? It isn't even shaved parmigiana, actually it isn't even parmigiana), and a mushroom and tarragon chicken schnitzel, not sure what the mushrooms were for, and there wasn't enough tarragon for me, although I appreciate that I am inordinately fond of tarragon, and do like a lot of it. Along with a pint of very paletable Canadian wine.

MKitty wrote to me to confirm my arrival and location, she has a bad cold, so I hope that she feels better, and if not that she doesn't feel she has to come out just to see me when she would rather be in bed, after all whilst we can't do the gardens later, I think that she has a full time job, we can catch up for a meal or something in an evening.

Bedtime

Thursday 3rd of June - Seattle

Oh forgot to mention that yesterday I tried to go to the science centre which is in the same park as the space needle, unfortunately their computers were down and they were unable to let me come in :-(

Awoke at about seven, I guess I am getting into US time! Bathed and tidied, and set off to the restaurant for breakfast, it seems odd to be paying for a breakfast in an Hilton, however I suppose I have to get used to it now :-( They did a version of Eggs Benedict with crab and spinach that I tried, they served it with Hash browns (rosti) which was a little odd, but quite useful to sop up the extra sauce and egg yolk! It was a nice idea.

Then walked down to Pioneer Square to catch the bus. Back with the same driver as yesterday who remembered me! And a new guide, which is always interesting as he focussed on different things, rode the bus all the way around again which took about an hour, but flew past. Did meet up with a Puerta Rican family who were quite entertaining, I eventually got off the bus at the Miners Pier, where I went into "Ye Olde Curiosity Shoppe" which was a standard tourist shop with a number of strange things in it, shrunken heads, mummies, hunting trophies, guns, various parts of whales (including a penis, which was smaller than I was expecting). An odd thing, but quite interesting.

Pootled around the pier for a while, and then got back on the bus and rode it almost all the way round to Pike Market where I walked round all of the market, including popping into the first Starbucks where I purchased a travelling coffee mug with the original logo on it, although they did take a loooong time to make my coffee, which surprised me.

Then back on the bus again and back to the waterfront, popped into a restaurant, called Ivars which had the motto "Keep Clam" I wasn't feeling that hungry, hardly surprising after all I have eaten! So I ordered the mixed seafood cocktail, which contained two crab claws, two big prawns, a lot of small prawns two pieces of avocado and two of (unripe) mango, along with a spicy tomato ketchup, it was nice, however I was still a little peckish afterwards so I ordered the Calamari! Unfortunately they were severely breaded, and the oil they were cooked in wasn't hot enough so they were greasy, claggy and unpleasant :-( left most of it, and paid up and left the restaurant.

There is a free bus that goes along the waterfront in Seattle, called the 99. I then caught that to Chinatown, it dropped me off at the top of a hill, a couple of steps away was the Wing Luke museum which showed the Chinese experience in early America, and a lot of interesting stuff on the Asian experience in the US and was very interesting, then I walked down enjoying looking in all of the shops and restaurants, at the bottom was a gate, although it didn't have any Fu Dogs, just through was the station and I walked down past that to the Gold Rush museum, which was fascinating it showed the lengths that people had to go to in order to get to the Yukon, the amount of stuff that the Canadians insisted everyone carry with them was quite amazing, enough to last people for a year. They illustrated this with five peoples stories, which really helped in being able to imagine their experiences. In the window they had a mock up of a ton of gold, it is a lot less in size than one might think.

Then popped into the Zeitgeist coffee shop, which had some wonderful Art Deco woodwork, a clock I would kill for, and a large collection of coffee pots, took a cup away from there, and waited for the 99 bus, and waited, and waited, my thighs were killing me by the time it eventually turned up, I rode it up to Chinatown and waited 10 minutes for it to turn around, got off when it reached the miners pier, my thighs having recovered, caught the double decker up to the square (on their last run of the day) bid the driver a fond fairwell and walked up the hill to my hotel.

After a period of recovery I then walked to McCormicks fish restaurant, which was just above my hotel, had singing pink scallops! in a chardonnay sauce, they were a little smaller than I was expecting being the size of my little finger nail, and were something like a cross between a scallop and a clam, the sauce was a little sweet for me, however it was a nice change I ordered a glass of A by Acacia wine which was OK, but a little rough around the edges. I ordered a mixed seafood thingy for my main, I always seem to do this I cannot bear to miss out on something so I order the combo. It was salmon, halibut, mussels, mini prawns and cockles (although they called them clams) in a sauce that was surprisingly similar to the scallops sauce, the salmon was good, the halibut was heavenly and the shellfish was good, wish I had just ordered the hallibut though!

Then back to the hotel, and sleepytime.

Friday, 4 June 2010

Wednesday 2nd of June - Seattle - Peep Meet!

Awoke at five , and pootled around a bit, managed to get to sleep again a bit later and awoke again at ten to nine, packed the rucksack and headed out. Tried to work out the underground system but with no joy, walked to pioneer square (triangle), which is quite interesting, late nineteenth century architecture, some of it quite posh, but generally utilitarian, which is really good, of course most of these buildings around the world have had plateglass windows put in if they haven't been knocked down, so it was really interesting to be able to see them almost unaltered. The main problem here, and to be honest in a lot of Seattle is that every third person seemed to see me as a human cash machine, which got most irritating after a while.

Waited around in the square for the tourist bus, one drove past but didn't stop, and I couldn't see where I was supposed to catch it, walked back to the hotel and caught a bus out to the space needle (some buses are free, some you have to pay for, I really have no idea and I paid), when I arrived there was a McDonalds and decided to pop in for breakfast. I ordered a sausage and egg McGriddle because I thought it sounded interesting, it was an omlette and sausage patty inbetween maple syrup pancakes (little ones, so it was like a burger with US pancakes on the outside) to be honest I found the sweetness quite unpleasant, however I guess that it a) because I generally don't care for sweet and savoury together, and b) I am very unused to that sort of thing.

After finishing my repast I walked over the road to the park with the Space Needle in it, as I walked in I noticed the Science fiction museum, the chap selling tickets tried to con me into buying a city pass "if you are doing x y and z it will save you money, it only costs 54 dollars" me "X costs 15, y costs 17, and z costs 18, how am I saving money?". Forked over $15 for the sci-fi museum, and got free entry to a "music" museum as well. The science fiction museum was very interesting, original outfits from Star Trek, Twiki from Buck Rodgers in the 25th century, The Death Star and lightsabres, all very good, spent quite some time there :-) really a highlight!

Then to the emp, I lvoe, lvoe, lvoe music, my tour of the hard rock vault in Floridia (shut down now alas) is one of the highlights of all of my trips, unfortunately I have some musical blind spots, whilst the museum suggests that it covers all music with a lot of Jimi Hendrix I couldn't find much that wasn't Jimi, and I just don't get him at all. Other weaknesses, Robert Morley and the Wailers, and Mickie Jackson.

Spotted a double decker bus on exiting the museums so I walked over, discovered that they drop off the pickup signs as they go round and don't reach the square until well after I was there. Purchased my ticket for 48 hours and boarded the bus, the weather was very changeable, was up and down to the open top of the bus any number of times!

The driver seemed to take a fancy to me and the guide (Cheryl) had lived in the UK (Branston in Lincolnshire, I didn't know anyone in the US had even heard of Lincolnshire!) so we hada very nice chat.

Seattle seems to be a city on its way up, there are a lot of old and new buildings, quite a few places by the waterfront at a surprisingly inexpensive cost (and some at a phenomenal cost!). The bus went round to pioneer square, Pike market, the shopping district, the waterfront, and back to the space needle, I rode it all the way round, and then got off at Pike Market, ambled round a bit, it seems like a really big farmers market, a lot of little stalls, fruit, veg, seafood, honey, t-shirts, hand made hippy tat, went into the Athenian, where Rob Reiner and Tam Hanks had a meal in Sleepless in Seattle (which I haven't seen) and had a crab, which was very nice, although I think I have been spoiled by the King Crab that I had in Oakland!

Ambled around the market a little more, and purchased a Starbucks, not at the original, but at another one just opposite the market, although this one did use the original logo (the mermaid is topless in the original, Americans being what they are when Starbucks went national they changed it). Then stood waiting for the bus where I met Eleanor from North Carolina who had been in town for a teachers convention and was now quickly riding the bus before heading home. Her chappie was from Liverpool, or maybe north wales, and she had been to the UK a few times, we chatted as the bus went round and at the end she tried to interest me in a health drink (I think) from Australia for which she and her chappie are the US and European representatives.

I got off the bus in the Square at about fourish, where Cheryl yelled Andrew is coming down, and the bus driver held the crowd back saying Andrew is getting off the bus, there was much welcioming of me by name by the people waiting for the bus, flustered I managed to throw all of my pressed coins into the tip box, and Cheryl chased after
me to hand them back.

Quite tired I went back to the hotel, had Raul talk to me for a quarter of an hour on what I had done in the day, and then went to my room to bathe and pretty myself up for my evening out! Put on one of my new pink shirts (second one saved for the visit in Calgary! And my lovely new (still frightened by the price) jacket, and my I think they are jeans but I'm not really sures, and at a quarter to six went out to the hotel entrance. Unfortunately the hotel has two entrances on two streets, although if one stands on the corner one can see both. Up at the main entrance there was this chap with a mustache, and a small rucksack. Karchita had said that her husband might meet me in the lobby, when Karchita pulled up it turned out that he was Mr Karchita, and I apologised for having ignored him, but I was popping up and down the hill to check both entrances (and of course chatting to Raul).

The traffic was apparently quite heavy, although I have to admit it seemed very light to me for rushhour (I still flash back to Romania for bad traffic, that was amazing, stationery or 90mph no inbetween, but mostly stationery), some chap had broken down and was blocking one lane of a dual carriageway, once we were past that it was clear sailing all the way. When we got to Ray's cafe their car park was full, so we parked on a street just a little way off.

On entering the restaurant Karchita confirmed her reservation and we were shown upstairs, the view of the Puget sound was lovely, so green and pleasant over the water. We were given menus, and I ordered the Globalrita (sauza hornitos tequila, jagermeister, cointreau, lemon lime, & fresh orange) which was OK but didn't really grab me, and we chatted for about ten minutes before Sharnina, her husband and two of her lovely daughters turned up. Ordered the food, and Mr Sharnina said Grace, we shared hummus and calamares to start, the hummus was fantastic, so much lighter than I am used to but still packing the flavour, and the calamares were almost perfect, a light batter, and not just the rings but also the tentacles which I adore!

I then had Blackened Red Rockfish, the fish was nice, haven't tried Red Rockfish before, although the sauce was a little overpowering for it although the guacamole and corriander & lime sour cream worked really well, the polenta was a revelation, I am used to the Romanian version which is nice, but again heavy, this was light and really a very good textural accompanyment. Finished the meal with a Key Lime Cheesecake, which was a little heavy and needed a little more oomph.

Throughout the meal Karchita, Sharnina and I chatted, often about RTVW and the peeps there, but on a wide variety of other things as well, it was a really lvoely evening, it's funny how one sort of knows people from an online forum and worries a little that they will be serial killers (or at least aggressively boring) in real life, although one knows that they aren't just from their online selves, and how they are just even more faceted, fascinating individuals in real life, the evening flowed so easily, although it may have been a little dull for the non OTers there. After what seemed like ten minutes we needed to leave, what with tomorrow being a school day, and with Karchita needing petrol, and sadly the party broke up.

Karchita gave me a lift back to the hotel, Raul welcomed me back, I had a couple of cigarettes, and went upstairs to bed. What a lovely day :D

Tuesday the 1st of June - Coast Starlight - Seattle

More details about the train, it was about eight carriages long and the carriages were double deckers, we had two sleeper carriages with cabins on the lower deck and sleepettes on the upper. I was in sleepette 5, most of the wall was window, overnight pretty much the whole thing became a bed, when the steward changed it to the daytime layout it became two seats facing each other, no facilities, however there was a lavatory on the top deck, and two more with two showers on the lower. I awoke about half five, and realised that I didn't have a change of clothes with me, so I popped down to my luggage picked up a T, some pants and socks, did my toilette as best I was able to, changed and put my old clothes in the suitcase.

About 7 I popped along to the end of the corridor and into the next carriage, which was the parlour car, it had a number of seats, a bar, and a few booths, below was a cinema. Then on to the following carriage which was the dining car (after the dining car were the non sleeper carriages) where I had a breakfast of scrambled eggs with sort of rosti, a couple of rubbery burgers (called turkey sausage, actually I like rubbery, chinese fishballs are amongst my faves and in texture these were similar) and a scone, spent the time chatting to someone who was on her way to Eugene.

Back to the sleepette, Anthony had changed the configuration so I slumped in the chair and watched the view out of the window. Regarding scenery please refer to Jerome K. Jerome in "Three men on the Bummel", I will say though that it varied, beautiful forests, impressive mountains, big rivers, dull farmland, junkyards, generally I would say that it was well worth taking the train for the views though. Ate lunch in the parlour, tomato "bisque" which I had to drink using a teaspoon, and a chicken caesar wrap, which was served with the dressing on the side and crisps which was very nice.

More training with the very rare stop, on a couple of occasions it was possible to have a cigarette, however mainly it was the nicotine inhalator. Supper was barbecue brisket of beef with mash and beans, I was going to have the half roast chicken, and to be honest I wish I had. Had supper with a lady and her (six year old?) daughter, who gave me a few hibts and tips on what to do in Seattle, although why she should think I would be interested in aeroplanes escapes me.

We arrived in Seatle at about eight, which was about three quarters of an hour before I expected to, we detrained and I picked up my suitcase, they are doing a lot of work on the station, however it is very impressive inside, beautiful marble work. Leapt in a taxi and off to the hotel, couldn't help but notice that there seem to be a fair number of hills in Seattle! Was really hoping for some level ground after San Francisco.

The taxi dropped me off at the Arctic Club, where my suitcase was appropriated by Raul, who had me checked in and introduced to my room in a very civilised manner, honestly I don't think I would have been treated better had I been The Queen herself, after checking if I was going out for supper (I said that I might want a little something, but had eaten on the train) he popped up after about 5 minutes with a plate of fruit and cheese and a bottle of water, which was most gratefully received. Really very tired, so to bed although to be honest it was quite late.

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Monday 31st of May 2010 - San Francisco - Oakland

Awoke this morning at six, so I started to pack and popped down for breakfast at seven, had a couple of their quite nice croissants, which were not quite as good as the ones I had on my first morning, but were still not unpleasant. Went back to my room and finished the packing, unfortunately it seems that I have purchased too many clothes and the case was very difficult to close, in a way I am looking foward to Seattle where I can give my presents to Sharnina and Karchita which will give me a little more room ;-) On the other hand I think maybe I need to roll my new shirts rather than trying to pack them flat! Anyway with a bit of pushing I managed to get the bag closed, then turned round and noticed that my bottle of Pimms was still on the table. Having only had one glass of it so far (last night) I was loath to leave it behind, however there wasn't really room for it, so I unpacked my jacket to give me the room, and resigned myself wearing it around town.

So went next door to check out, which involved me passing them my keys and them telling me to have a nice day, and to leave my case as I didn't really want to walk round the city with it. Then to the cable car line just up the street where I caught a trolley to Fishermans wharf and walked along to pier 39. Looked around pier 39, which was quite touristy, and caught the harbour cruise at 10, this took us out and under the Golden Gate Bridge, and round Alcatraz, I have been very lucky with the weather, so of course all was clear and the views were really very nice, although the commentary was a little irritating.

Arrived back at the pier at about 11 and decided to have a clam chowder in a sourdough roll at Boudins who claim to have invented the concept, and do actually have a bakery just up the road from the pier. It really was rather nice! Although I have to admit that I don't know if one is supposed to eat the bowl when one has finished or not, anyway as Molaholic had recommended a Mexican place to me I decided that I wouldn't. Then I went to the Aquarium of the Bay, the first few rooms were less impressive than the Academy of Sciences, but still interesting, however after that one went down in a lift and walked through 100 yards of undersea tunnel, now the tunnel isn't actually in the bay and so they were able to have two separate environments to walk through, firstly a "close to the surface" one, where I had a school of anchovy swim over my head, and a "Deeper water" one where I had a ray and a few sharks swim over my head, I was captivated, particularly by the anchovy! Then one took the lift back up to an area where one could fondle fish, having touched enough fish in my time I wasn't too disappointed that the area was overrun with children.

After this I walked back to catch the cable car, and came back to Union Square, went into Chipotle on O'Farrell street and ordered a Barbacoa Burrito as Molaholic had suggested, they then asked me a lot of technical questions, to which I replied "whatever you think goes best" and I ended up with a lot of "hot" sauce on my burrito. What I ended up with was a soft taco filled with rice, haricot beans, warmed rillettes, cheese, and of course "hot" sauce. Now I'm not really one for hot things, I can go to a dhansak ot Patia because I adore the flavour, but it can be a little warm for me, this sauce was really quite mild from the British pov. The burrito was interesting, I think I would have enjoyed it more had there been less in it and the meat could have taken a more prominent role in the meal, I may try another Chipotle in Seattle and go for less rice.

Sat back in Union Square for a while just soaking up the rays, then back to the hotel to pick up my suitcase, I never want to have to walk up as many hills as I have in San Francisco! After retrieving the suitcase walked down Mason to get to the Powell street BART stop, leapt on the train and then off at 12th street Oakland, checked the directions for the train station, and all I have to do is walk up Broadway and I will be in Jack London Square. Well I reckon that Oakland my be the panhandling capital of the US I was asked for money seven times, and sworn at twice for not just handing it over. I do find the aggressive begging they have here to be quite unpleasant.

Anyway down to Jack London Square, if I had a connection I would check who he was, I'm thinking he wrote Whitefang or A call of the Wild, not sure, anyway he was an author and in order to recover myself I popped into a pub which was mentioned in one of hos books, inside the bar was set on a slope, but built flat if that makes any sense, picture a normal American pub, then tilt it 10 degrees, not sure how people kept their drinks on the bar, I sat outside!

Then tried to walk to the station, however I was on the wrong side of the line, and wasn't able to get over, so I returned to the pub, where I had another wheat beer, then decided as it was about six and my train wasn't leaving until about a quarter to ten that supper would be a good idea. Walked to a restaurant called Kincaid's (Presumably after Tex Kincaid, frontier accountant) where I had a Sirloin steak with mashed potatoes, crispy onion strings and half a pound of King Crab legs, it was all very nice, never had King Crab before the legs were huge, I only got two for my half pound (or was it a pound?) and they were full of meat.

Then meandered over to the station, where I checked in, waited a while for the train and the boarded, unfortunately the lady who boarded me misread the ticket and put me in the wrong cabin, I was in my skivvies when she asked me to move, dressed and moved carriage to one that it closer to the parlour and dining car. undressed again this time in my correct cabin tp sleep with the rhythm of the rails by about 11

Monday, 31 May 2010

Sunday 30th of May 2010 - San Francisco

Up at about six thirty this morning, hadn't had a bath last night which is a little yucky, however it was quite late and I was very tired so I had one this morning, not sure why, however I really prefer bathing in the evening, still at least I was fresh for another busy day of sightseeing!

Breakfast at the hotel was something that looked like it had been scrambled eggs in a previous incarnation and burgers! So I decided to visit a restaurant called Sears fine dining that I had spotted near Union Square. Popped in there and ordered the Eggs Benedict, which appeared to please the waitress immoderately, they were rather nice, although the muffin had gone a touch soggy in the middle and the overall thing was a little sweeter than I would have chosen.

So from there I walked to the contemporary Jewish Museum which I had remembered would open at 10, I arrived outside at 09:30, and chilled by a foutain/pool, apart from fielding a bloke who wanted to sell me a rose it was very peaceful, so at ten I ambled round to the entrance, where I discovered that the museum actually opened at eleven, as I walked up and down 3rd street I spotted the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, as I had a Citypass I had free entry to it and so I ambled over, unfortunately it also did not open until eleven, however it had a cafe, so I went in and had an iced tea to pass the time, on opening I went in and up to the second floor where there was an exhibition celebrating years of the museum, they had some Bracques, some Lichtenstein, and a couple of other interesting works, however for contemporary art even the Casino in Luxemberg outclasses it by a huge amount.

On the third floor there was an exhibition by a photographer who made my snaps look like Alfred Stieglitz.

Disappointed and not expecting much, although buoyed by the fact that according to Jewish law I am Chinese, I walked over to the CJM, was security cleared, paid and went in, on the 1st floor there was a fascinating exhibition on the Torah, I am ashamed to admit that I didn't know that much about it, I guess I always assumed it was like the Bible, and I was fascinated to learn more, just how important the shapes of the letters are etc.

On to the ground floor where there was an exhibition called "Our Struggle". Background - a few years ago a Jewish woman in France was given a copy of Mein Kampf (My struggle - Hitlers antisemitic rant and autobiography) I'm guessing by someone who didn't like her. She drew on 30 pages and then thought it would be interesting to see what other people would do, so she handed pages to all sorts of different people, Jews, Gentiles, Men, Women, religious, atheistic etc. and asked them to make a piece of art with it.

The exhibition is simply stunning, so moving, thought provoking, just so wonderful, so many things to remember, just one - a real physical gold tooth sitting on the page, I almost burst into tears. Why didn't SFMOMA have just one thing up to this standard?

Emotionally drained I purchased another shirt and caught a taxi up to the Nob Hill Cafe (see yesterday), got a table just next to the kitchen and ordered Bruschetta and Trancia di Calamari. The Bruschetta was good, the tomatoes weren't quite ripe enough, however it was still pleasing. Then a plate came up with a piece of what looked like floured and fried meat with capers on top, pasta and snap peas, oh well I thought and cut in, it was a wing of squid, absolutely perfectly cooked, with a light sauce that took it into the sublime category, the pasta complimented it perfectly, frankly it was one of the best things I have ever eaten in my life, I cannot think of anything that could have been done to improve it, the word sublime is overused, in this case it was perfectly apposite.

Once, when I was in the student area of Hamburg, or St. Pauli I went into a cafe and said "Espresso bitte" and the chap behind the counter asked me in English if I wanted an Italian or German espresso, I asked what the difference was and he replied that they both had the same amount of coffee but the German espresso was twice the size. I ended the meal with a German expresso!

Walked down the hill a bit and stumbled into the cable car museum, which was very interesting, I find it amazing that all of those cars, on all of the routes, are run by underground cables. I then decided to catch one to Fishermans wharf and do an harbour cruise, unfortunately I caught the car going the other way! Lazily caught the car back up the hill and came back to the hotel. Last night in San Francisco so I had sushi again!

Sunday, 30 May 2010

Saturday 29th of May 2010 - San Francisco, Monterey, Carmel

So I awoke this morning relatively early, and packed my rucksack ready for my day out :-) I had called and confirmed the reservation yesterday, and on doing that had arranged for a pickup from my hotel at 08:15, as breakfast at my hotel starts at 08:00 during the weekend I decided not to risk it. Stood outside in the glorious sunlight and relaxed until the bus arrived, this the took us to Fishermans wharf where we checked in for our individual trips. The bus for Monterray and Carmel set off at about nine twenty, we had a garrulos driver whose name I cannot recall.

The drive was along the coast, parts of it were spectacular, and even the less spectacular bits were pretty, after the coast we drove inland for a bit, the scenery was sort of a cross between Devon and Souther Spain, brownish rolling hills. We stopped along the way at a chew and spew for the oldies to avail themselves of the facilities, and I had a cup of hot brown water.

Then more driving and we arrived in Monterey, now I don't want to upset anyone however it seemed to me to be just an indistinguishable tourist location, T-shirts, fudge, and dubious restaurants, I wouldn't have minded if it had had a little individuality like Provincetown however all it had was pictures of John Steinbeck everywhere. I went to a restaurant called "Fish Hopper" where the clam chowder tasted less pleasant than regurgitated vomit, and the deep fried fish... 1 piece from a fish like coley or pollock presumably had no flavour, the 2 deep fried prawns? had been cooked to such a degree that they were like greasy cardboard, and the six or seven bits of squid had no flavour whatsoever. I appreciate I may have been unlucky, (and believe me there wasn't that much less on the plate when I finished from when I started) and normally their food may be passable , however it was the worst restaurant experience I have had in North America and up there with my attempts at ordering takeaway Chinese food in Florida and fermented red tofu as the worst food I have ever tried to eat. And this insult to my tastebuds cost a bleeding fortune as well.

Whilst I malign Monterey I must admit that the Aquarium does look quite impressive from the outside, unfortunately our stop was only for about 75 minutes, so I only had time for a short wander and a rainbow sherbert icecream (which was nice) before boarding the bus. We then headed off for "The 17 mile drive" overall you can see how beautiful the scenery must have been before golf courses and architects whose idea of an artistic statement is "f*ck you" arrived. We saw some deer on one of the golf courses near bird island, which was nice, and Bird Island was not unattractive. We also stopped at "the lone Cyprus" the tree that is the logo of Pebble Beach golf course, it does look quite striking out there on its own, as I was taking photographs a squirrel ran up to the fence I was at and poked his head through, I got a couple of lovely photos :-).

We then stopped at the Pebble Beach clubhouse, it appears that they are hosting the US Open golf tournament in June (apparently it moves around a bit), I was surprised to learn that it is a public course with no members, however in preparation for the tournament they are denying the public the opportunity to spend 495 US Dollars on a round. I purchased a very nice shotglass celebrating the tournament and ambled relatively contentedly, although slightly peckishly back to the bus.

We then headed on to Carmel, which was a little strange, quite regimented and at the same time a little quirky (albeit in a "look at me, I'm quirky" sort of way) I actually rather liked it, we had an hour and an half to amble round which was very enjoyable, I had an iced coffee with the bubbles from bubble tea in it which was interesting and not unpleasant, and a cheese croissant which was very paletable.

Then back to the bus for 17:30, the driver asked where we wanted to be dropped off, now an invisible friend of mine called Jennifer* had recommended a restaurant called the Nob Hill Cafe so since we were to be arriving in the city at about eight I asked to be dropped there. On the way back we stopped at "the garlic capital of the world" (bless them) the shop was quite interesting however I didn't purchase anything as I don't want to know the havoc that garlic could wreak on my clothes in two weeks!

Anyway just after we set off on the final leg the old couple in front of me (he had taken photographs approx every three seconds of the trip, and she had done nothing but text her friends) started whining about their dinner arrangements, so I checked my phone and realised that we were indeed running a little late, once we had dropped people off at various hotels around the airport (people you save on the hotel, but then you have to lose a lot of time, and probably pay a lot of money to get into town), and at various train stations I realised that I wouldn't arrive at the restaurant until nine at the earliest, and that is a little late for me (I know my Spanish and Italian friends would be shocked at this as they don't even look at heading out before ten) so when he stopped at Union Square I alighted there.

On the way back to the hotel I pass Sushi Toni (or Swiss Toni as I thought of it), so I pulled in there and had some sushi (three nights in a row!) which was really rather good, however for three days I have had Spider Rolls (Deep fried soft shell crab, rice etc., etc. held together by seaweed, it is about an inch and an half round) because I rather enjoy it, however I cannot work out how to break it in two, and with the legs pointing out on the end bits even I cannot fit it all in.

And so to bed.


*Although I never actually think of her as Jennifer, in the same way as when Jose, Carol Ann or Cindy pop up I always need to do a sort of mental translation.

Saturday, 29 May 2010

Friday 28th of May 2010 - San Francisco

Light today as I am quite tired

Not sure if I have mentioned how twee my hotel is, very nice, but flowers everywhere and there was a teddy bear on the bed when I arrived.

Awoke fairly early, didn't breakfast as I wasn't hungry, walked down to Union Square via a different route, and now realise that Mr. Bolt could probably make it in ten seconds (although the hill might slow him on the way back). Just missed the tourist bus, so I sat in the gorgeous sunshine and boarded the next bus. A gorgeous trip and I got off in the Golden Gate Park where I went to the California Academy of Sciences, an Aquarium, Planetarium, Natural History museum and Rainforest (which I missed), very good I thought.

And the De Yong which had a fantastic selection of Impressionist paintings from the Musee D'Orsay, really fantastic. Then a taxi to Fishermans wharf (a long journey, about 20 dollars) where I ate a crab at Nick's Lighthouse, it was served with ketchup and melted butter (I really think someone needs to introduce the Americans to the delight of a really good mayonnaise with shellfish) and it wasn't at all bad. Then to the Stonehill Creamery where I had a strawberry and bananana confection made for me which was also very pleasant.

Decided to go to the contemporary Jewish museum for the rest of the day so caught the bus again and got off in Union Square, it was such a lovely day, and I remembered someone mentioning a restaurant at the top of Macys so I popped up there where I had a piece of cherry cheesecake, when I told the waitress that it was gorgeous she replied "so are you" :-)

So I walked off to the museum however when I arrived there I realised that it was only about twenty minutes until the museum closed, so I decided to come back on Sunday or Monday. Just next door to the museum was a fat and lanky shop, so I purchased four shirts and a jacket, although to be honest I didn't realise just how expensive the jacket was. Walked back to the hotel purchasing (a lot less) sushi on the way, from Maru Sushi, which again was lovely.

Friday, 28 May 2010

Thursday 27th of May 2010 - San Francisco

As I said I awoke at about 04:30, which was quite good, stood outside and had a couple of cigarettes, then tidied, repacked my daypack and generally pootled around. Then went down to breakfast, awful bread, a surprisingly good croissant, lovely melon, and a valiant stab at an omlette that didn't really come off, to drink, tea, not great, but what does one expect?

Then popped to reception a couple of doors down the road, and asked them a) where can I go for free internet access? And b) Where do I go to pick up a tourist bus? They answered a) Well we provide it (some hint on checking in would have been appreciated!) and b) Down the road, turn right for Union Square, and they are just outside Maceys from about 09:30. So although there was still a time to go I set off, the morning was nice and I debated leaving my coat in the hotel, however it was just on the edge of chilly so I took it.

Walked down the street, turned right at the appropriate juncture and was very soon in Union Square, ambled around looking at it, a nice concrete open area, reminded me of Neuilly Sur Seine, however surrounded by expensive shops, the weather turned a little inclement then, and so I retired to a cafe on the square and had a very palatable cup of cafe latte, after this I went to the bus stopping place, and signed up with the first bus company that came through, the bus had a covering at the front of the top deck, and we went through the city, China Town, North End, Pier 39, Fishermans Wharf, Golden Gate Park and such. So I rode all the way round the first time just to get a handle on where things were, popped out for a cigarette in the viewing area the other side of the Golden Gate bridge and got drenched, it really was raining very had. I was blowing steam on the top deck as we were coming back!

Got off at Fishermans Wharf, have to admit I was expecting more from it, quite a few restaurants and a number of relatively unimpressive shops, tried an "In and Out" burger as everyone speaks so highly of them, it really was quite pleasant, the chips were not at all bad either. Being the glutton that I am I then went on to Alioto restaurant because I wanted to try some of the crab that San Francisco is so famous for and the restaurant had been spoken of very highly by people on my bus trip. Sadly they didn't do crab and their "Bay shrimp creole" was not really that impressive, bay shrimp were the smallest prawns I have seen, and to be honest were up there with the cheapest frozen prawns I have purchased, the bread was very good though.

Walked up to the cable car station and caught it up to Union Square, very enjoyable, the hills really are rather steep! I sat inside the car which was quite good as it started to rain again.

Walked over to the bus stop again and got on another bus, this one did not have a covered top at all so I took my place downstairs, we went round again, however having another guide (Anne on this trip, Shona on the first one) meant that although the general gist of the guide was the same there was different frosting which was very interesting, when we arrived at Fishermans wharf the weather had improved and so we went upstairs where Anne dried the seats that we passengers were going to use and we sat down and on with the trip, just before we reached the golden gate bridge it started to get a little wet, and whilst we were going across it certainly felt like there was hail driving into my face and by the time we reached the viewing point I was totally drenched. Then sat inside the bus and was almost dry by the time (over an hour later) that we reached Chinatown where I left the bus and had a walk through.

Just after the gate (present from Taiwan, 1970, Fu Dogs), there was a Starbucks which fulfilled a pressing need of mine, although there was some schoolgirl who seemed irritated that anyone else was in the queue, which as she came in five minutes after me, and I was also on the verge of exploding, was a little irksome. My hotel is a few blocks along from Chinatown, so I walked back, and arrived back at about 16:30. Started writing this, and at about 17:15 I went down to the Wine and Horses doofers, olives and devilled eggs, lovely :-) The white Whine was also quite pleasant, however there was a very loud bunch of men discussing their imported Italian wine (or possibly wine faked in America, I wasn't sure, and when they said it would always taste the same from year to year I realised that it would be crap anyway, and the flog it for 18 dollars a bottle!) so I left quite quickly.

About half a block from my hotel there was a sushi restaurant http://sushirika.net/ where I ordered three sets of rolls, Spider, Monster and Tiger. In the description of Monster it mentions the number 4, so I assumed that there would be 4 pieces per roll. Wrong! 8 pieces of Tiger, 8 pieces of Monster, 5 pieces of Spider, but they were HUGE! I had to take half of it away in a doggy bag! All of them were gorgeous, absolutely gorgeous, I will have to go back to Oisi, although I'm not sure they use all of these sauces, and I feel even guiltier about Kim not tucking in, the crunch from the Crab and Tempura was lovely.

Then back to the hotel, a bath and soon to bed...

Wednesday 26th of May - London to San Francisco

Wednesday 26th of May

Well checked in yesterday, and BA managed to run my flight :-) Was on the upper deck of a 747 in a backwards facing seat. Why does a cabin crew strike mean that we had economy food and drink? Also they had problems with the entertainment system although as I didn't really want to watch anything that didn't worry me. Flight was a little delayed by headwinds so we landed about half an hour late at about five. Immigration and baggage were a doddle and my taxi dropped me off at my hotel by six.

Stood in reception for about ten minutes until someone came by and said that I needed to check in at another hotel just up the street, so I went and checked in there, where I was given two physical keys! I haven't had a physical key for an hotel for years it always seems to be cards these days. One key for the front door of the hotel and one for my room. The hotel is done in an old French style, and my room is done in "cutesy" down to a teddy bear on the bed (photo to follow) with a lovely fire although as the weather is reasonable I probably will not need that.

Started to go out for a walk, however I got paranoid about some chappie who was going into the hotel, so I went back, picked up two bottles of water from a fridge (free water is something that I think all hotels should offer). went back to my room and had a bath, why are the baths in America so low? It is something that always surprises me anew every time. After moisurising to bed! Have been having a lot of trouble with sleeping back home (3-4 hours a night) so I am delighted to report that I fell asleep at about half eight, and awoke at about half four.