After my US visa drama it was a great relief to arrive in San Francisco as planned with no delays or extra costs.
The change in weather was expected but the difference n temperature came as a jolt. From a humid 30 degrees in Kuala Lumpur to a chilly 8 degrees in San Francisco.
We spent our time sightseeing and celebrating Christmas.
Privileged and grateful to be hosted by a fantastic family who immersed us in their totally unforgettable warm generosity. From giving up their home for our stay, to a high-spirited Italian restaurant dinner hosted by Uncle Tony to scrumptious Christmas Eve and Christmas Day family dinners. Made possible by an exceptionally warm and kind Sicilian and Maltese descendant family who made us feel part of their Mediterranean “family”. A never to be forgotten festive season.
We visited the Palace of Fine Arts and Pier 39. Enjoyed Irish coffees, as I had 35 odd years ago at Buena Vista. We travelled across the Golden Gate and Bay Bridges.
Walking through San Francisco city we enjoyed the decorations and festivities around Union Square. Going through Chinatown made us feel like we were back in Asia. Then as we wandered along we were surprised as we turned left down a street we had suddenly arrived in the Italian section of town.
Dinner which followed at the Italian restaurant was a fun, delicious tapas style meal complimented by a flow of Italian red wine.
A Day in the Life
The next day we took a drive to Napa Valley where we indulged in wine tasting in the private tasting room at the Brian Arden estate. This was followed by a wander through the captivating town of Calistoga. Then supper at an iconic In and Out Burger joint and onto watching an absorbing high school basketball game.
The game was much more animated and exciting than I expected. Supporters were standing shouting instructions and criticisms of the referees. One woman taking out her phone to take a video to send to a local radio station proving that “the referees are biased”.
So in one day we experienced a wide range of the local society.
Our outdoor excursions were limited as the weather was quite chilly but we had an enjoyable walk/jog around the Lafayette Reservoir. It was sunny and cold and there were many people enjoying the opportunity.
The only negative experience was seeing the number of homeless people. It was surprising as I never expected to see so many in a first world city. We hadn’t noticed anything like that in Asia.
On Christmas Eve we were attending the first of two Christmas functions with the customary Secret (not always very secret!) Santa.
My Next Drama Moment.
Standing in the kitchen and having a drink before dinner I suddenly felt very hot. I took off my sweater but felt hotter and hotter and like I needed to sit down. At that moment I passed out! Caught and supported by my step son whose face was the first thing I remember after coming around.
I was lying in the passage and asked question after question by various people. I started to feel better but the next thing the Marin County Fire Department was there. They asked more questions as they hooked me up to various measuring machines. By now I'd drunk water and was feeling much better.
Only a bit of a party pooper. Their protocol was that I should then go to the ER for a full check up. I declined and signed a liability waiver.
Who knows what caused it? Dehydration, stress, air travel or whatever. I hadn't had an episode like this before or since so hopefully it wasn't anything too serious.
The next night we had another Christmas dinner. Another festive and very enjoyable occasion ... except everyone kept feeding me with water!
The visit to San Francisco was special. Family, Christmas and doing fun things.
What we liked in the US
- The towns had a friendly engaging vibe. The streets and waterways were clean.
- The restaurants we visited were excellent.
- The wide open spaces.
- The people we met were welcoming and hospitable. In Concord a family moved out of their house so we would't be cramped.
- Marin County Fire Department emergency support.
The things that weren't so great!
- After Asia it was our first experience of a fully focussed consumption economy.
- Every element of society makes it easy to spend money. Including money not yet earned!
- Homeless people in every town ... panhandling on the street and living in temporary shelters.