Discuss longhaul
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Travel is the most private of pleasures. There is no greater bore than the travel bore. We do not in the least want to hear what he has seen... (Vita Sackville West).

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Tram coming into view

Friday, June 25, 2004

Golden Gate Bridge from The Coit Tower
Rock sculptures
Seaside shades 2

Sunday, June 20, 2004

It is an odd thing, but every one who disappears is said to be seen at San Francisco. It must be a delightful city, and possess all the attractions of the next world. (Oscar Wilde).

I suppose he was being ironic and had been there himself. Maybe I am just getting spoilt/jaded/travel-weary (certainly) but old San Fran is another place which just doesn't live up to its glowing reputation. Yes there are hills, trams, the sea, views and sunshine but the carefully cropped images you see in films of Victorian-era wooden villas and glimmering sea beneath spans of suspension bridge are only part of the story.

Most of the city is the usual American sprawl which has spread like a rash over what were once probably attractive hills. Most people live in ugly boxes and the heart of the city has the usual high-rise financial district, graceless, weighty American architecture and the homogenous bloody shops. Tramps and alcoholics hassle you for change around all the tourist hotspots and queues for the cable cars (trams) are too long to contemplate. It is also chock-a-block full of gawping American tourists heaving their fat bums on and off various forms of public transport or wasting their dollars on tacky souveniers from the travesty of taste that constitutes Fisherman's Wharfe. I felt as if a large Godly arm ought to lower itself down from above the clouds and just sweep it all away, returning the place to nature because no doubt the location has the potential to be beautiful.

My day consisted of a very long walk from the financial centre, up through North Beach - where the beat generation writers used to gather, to a local landmark - the Coit Tower, built by a female eccentric in the 1930's. This afforded good views across the city and the huge area of San Francisco Bay, which did certainly glimmer invitingly. Some of the crew and the pilots had chartered a yacht for the day and gone sailing with champagne and all the trimmings in tow and in retrospect, I should have joined them, but mistakenly I thought I'd be missing something if I failed to get acquainted with the inner city's sights, heart and soul. Doubtless I have not found the famous soul, though I did meet a few people who seemed to have hit on a certain happy spirit of their own.

One woman, grey-haired and long-legged roller-bladed her way along the pavements and twirled round flower-beds, zoomed across roads, pirouetted beside lampposts and performed balletic movements for the sheer pleasure of no-one but herself. She seemed a real free spirit, exhibiting joie-de-vivre midst the traffic, tourists and tat. I watched her for ages and she was the most uplifting sight I saw all weekend.

A sixty-something-year old man waded amongst shallow rocks on the seashore, selecting all shapes and sizes and then laboriously filing them down so that he could balance them on top of one another in the most impossible-looking sculptures. He'd been doing it for years all over the world and showed me photographs of some of his gravity-defying creations. You had to see it to believe it, but he said "Anything is possible" and I was fully persuaded by this, looking at what he'd achieved. He has a website these days called www.rock-on-rock-on.com. Have a look. You wont believe he hasn't cheated, but I promise you it is all genuine.

In a Virgin Megastore I was tempted in by the sound of good rock music issuing from within. (Doesn't sound like me? Nope, but I was hooked straight away). It turned out there was a live gig going on inside by a group called The Killers from Las Vegas. Sounding like early U2 they had brought smiles of enthusiasm to everyone's faces and one of the sales assistants took a few minutes to tell me about the group and we agreed together that they really had something. (When they hit no.1 - you can credit me with this early tip-off OK?).

So, not all doom and gloom really, but I still think San Fran's hey-day has for the moment been and gone. Who knows, it may be due for a renaissance? I know I am disillusioned with American cities after a mere five months of visiting them. I'm fed up with hearing American accents and being forced to refer to toilets as rest-rooms and requesting my eggs "sunny-side-up" - the alternative being blank looks and further misunderstandings if I try to avoid the phrase. I met a woman from Nottinghamshire on the plane home which was otherwise filled full of Americans and we talked about the positive and negative sides of America and American life. She explained that what attracts her to the country is the wide open spaces and I had to admit that I am only ever getting snapshots of urban America and that no doubt I would love the scenic places too and would soon calm down about accents and shops. I'll never see these things courtesy of BA though and my current disaffection with the States has set in at a bad time as for the next wee while it is all I'll be seeing - my next trips being New York, Miami, Denver, Los Angeles and (thankfully) Bombay. As most of these have already featured on the blog, I may give the blogging a rest for a while. What with the football, the new series of Big Brother, the recent sunny weather and who knows what other numerous more attractive pastimes on offer to you dear readers, I can see you've all been distracted elsewhere of late. Time for a breather perhaps.

Friday, June 18, 2004


Wednesday, June 16, 2004

J'burg was uneventful and I skived off adventures for the duration of it - sorry to disappoint anyone hoping for interesting details. There ARE things to do there and next time I intend to do them. The tour of Soweto whets my appetite most. Sad to say I quite enjoyed sitting around in the hotel garden reading Inspector Rebus books and drinking decent coffee. I am obviously becoming complacent.

My days off have been much more exciting and I was happy to see many Cardiffians during them. In the current heatwave, not much is more pleasant than lounging around in the garden at Glenroy's with the proprietor and other drinkers. The only things working were the local bees, busily building their nests.

A trip to Caerphilly to check up on Bob's progress was also a treat. I'm glad to say that after scaring everyone at the beginning of the weekend and ending up in hospital for the night, by Monday morning he was full of beans and intent on weeding and mowing the lawn - see photographic evidence.

Then I flitted across to Bristol where I received my birthday present from Jo and Martin -an inspired choice - a deck chair! Brilliant! I look forward to many hours of idleness in it.

Tomorrow off to San Francisco.....

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

Birthday on the Beach
Boats in the evening sun
Kiloran Beach again
Standing Stone
The most uncomfortable cycle journey ever
The Second Highest Hill
The Village Harbour
Click on the photos to see how Colonsay managed to feed my soul and refresh my spirit. I had a lovely time cycling and walking everywhere, talking to cows, flowers and birds. Perfect. Kiloran Beach won second prize in a World's Best Beach competition last year and that's where I turned 33. In the evening I shared a bottle of wine with fellow hostellers who were nice enough - though with one snorer. I even got birthday post up there! Thanks to everyone who sent me a card or prezzie to Colonsay or home. Tonight off to Johannesburg and not home again until Saturday 12th June. I could have done with another week off but apparently J'burg doesn't deserve its bad reputation. We'll soon see....

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