From D.C. it was cross country to San Francisco for a little bit of East coast. SF is a bit on the touristy side, but we kinda knew it would be like that so we donned our tourist garb and got out amongst it. Of course one of the SF essentials is riding the cable car hanging off the side and taking in the vista that is the magnificent Golden Gate Bridge. However the vista wasn’t quite enough for these two active kiwis, so we hired some bikes and rode across it to a small village on the other side of the harbour.
Since we were unable to make it to a baseball game in New York we went along to see the SF Giants play at Giant Stadium. The stadium itself was fantastic and looked right out over SF Bay. Of course we had the best seats in the house, they were right up the top… the locals call them the nose bleed seats (who would know why?). Anyway we decided to toe the line and support the home team who managed to blow a 5 run lead in the final two innings to lose by 3. Oh well, we did get to see the mystical Barry Bonds hit a homer.
Can I just say while we are talking about the Giants, that baseball fans (whilst slightly obsessive) put rugby fans to shame in NZ. We had brought some Yankees caps in NY and made the fatal mistake of both wearing them one day in San Fran. Well…you would have thought we were holding large “we hate San Francisco” banners. We got dark looks, snide comments, openly questioned as to our loyalty, but we did get one call out of a car from some Yankees fans yelling out “go Yankees”. I actually felt a bit sorry for Yankees fans, I think they may get the same treatment as Aucklanders do from the rest of NZ.
After San Fran we jumped on the train towards Seattle with a stop midway at a randomly chosen small town called Klamath Falls (which unlike the name suggests does not actually have a waterfall). Klamath was quite a contrast to San Fran and served as another example of how varied the States can be. It would be fair to say that there is not a lot to do there, it’s a real country town. However, we did manage to get a taste of small town America by dropping into the County Fair and we also stayed with a lovely couple who gave us a taste of small town hospitality.
The real draw card of Klamath Falls is that it is a stones through from one of the best National Parks in the States, Crater Lake National Park. Needless to say we spent the good part of two days driving round the lake, hiking up for a view over it and hiking down to it.
Seattle has been the surprise city of our entire trip. We hadn’t expected much at all and in fact it was really just a gateway into Canada. We didn’t in fact know that it was home to the most spectacular markets and it just happened to be the 100th anniversary of the markets over the couple of days that we were in town. This meant there was plenty of free stuff being handed round, which we all now is a pretty good start to anything.
The highlight of the markets are the fish tossing stand where guys throw huge Salmon to each other over about a 5m distance without letting one slide at all. I wouldn’t recommend trying this at your local supermarket. Then there is of course the first Starbucks café. It is actually kinda cute and kwirky, just the way you want your café to be and much unlike the franchised crap that they have managed to put out in every other location around the world.
To be fair, most of our time in Seattle was spent hanging out at the markets with a fellow kiwi who we bumped into. She is currently living in Tokyo so we were all able to entertain ourselves with each others accents and stories from home.
I have to disagree with Kel here, the highlight of the markets was not the fish tossing but rather the enormous birthday cake in honour of the Market’s 100th birthday, which I generously offered to help them finish.
Kel has been to Canada before, but as it was the first time for me he acted as a bit of a tour guide. We started off in Victoria then made our way across to Pender Island, a smaller island off Vancouver Island. Pender Island proved to be a true remote getaway, with one taxi driver, no public transport and 3 places on the whole island to eat. It is also worth mentioning (as the locals frequently point out to you) that they have an international disc (Frisbee) golf course through a forest, which actually proved to be wicked (or so I’ve realized since being away sounds like “wucked” in the Kiwi accent)..
After Pender Island we headed to Vancouver. It’s quite amazing just how close you can get to the outdoors from the city and we had a great time hiking and kayaking at some beautiful spots only a bus ride away from the central city. Kel insisted that I do the infamous “Grind” hike which I had heard so much about. It is straight up for an hour (yes, that’s no flat and no downhill) and although I hated it all the way up, it felt pretty good when we got to the top.
We’ve now hit Calgary and are now in the process of all sorts of boring things like flat hunting, getting jobs and lining up to get IRD numbers. We didn’t get off to a particularly good start, the person we had arranged accommodation with for our first week didn’t show and wouldn’t answer their phone so we were literally in a new city with nowhere to stay! We are now glad to be out of hostels and looking forward to the challenges of living in a new city for a wee while. Will keep you posted.