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At last some pictures – Alcatraz April 27, 2008

Posted by Rambling Man in Emigration.
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http://ramblingman.myjalbum.net/Alcatraz

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San Francisco … April 3, 2008

Posted by Rambling Man in Emigration, new zealand.
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So I finally have a chance to sit down and catch up on a bit of good old blogging !  I had hoped to do it a lot sooner but what with the move, the opressive heat, new job and all sorts of shennanigans going on, this week is the only time I’ve had – “Don’t have time to scratch meself” as they say back on the oul sod (God listen to me – I’ve been a member of the diaspora for 5 minutes and I’m talking like some oul fella who hasn’t been home in 50 years !)

And to boot we still don’t have Internet at our flat and because in New Zealand it can take up to 3 weeks to get a connection, we’ll have to make do with keeping the $4 an hour cafe down the street in business …

So first was San Francisco … we left Ireland without much hurrah and that was the way we wanted it.  It would’ve been too hard otherwise – so a quick goodbye and “Till next time” to a few friends and family and off we passed, silently into the morning sky.  We were flying direct with Aer Lingus to San Francisco – partly because it was direct and partly because we wouldn’t have to go through the horror story that is LAX’s transfer area with small child in tow.  Looking back on it now I was quite impressed with Aer Lingus’s service and most importantly their leg room.  The baby fell asleep as we were boarding and slept for the first few hours which eased us into it.  10 hours later and we were on the west coast of America.  Security and that end of things was fine – you have to get fingerprinted and photographed but once the ‘American only’ lines had cleared we got to go through those desks which were much quicker than the ones where the guards had to explain to a multitude of non-English speaking people what finger to put onto the scanner and so on … Although I loved New York and New England from the moment I saw it, I knew I would feel just as good about being in San Francisco.  We were picked up by a cousin of a cousin but those sorts of relationship distances don’t matter to big Irish families like ours and we were made feel right at home.

I’ve always wanted to go to San Fran (which nobody in San Francisco calls it !) ever since hearing about the Birdman of Alcatraz and watching Pacific Heights and stuff like that as a kid – the sights of those police cars booming over the hilly streets … aaah I was in heaven !  So here I was for real and we weren’t disappointed.  Our friends had managed to get some tickets for Alcatraz and off we went the first morning.  As I said I’ve always wanted to go there – my late father always wanted to go there too, so I guess we were enjoying it for him too.  The weather was perfect, the sea was calm and even the baby realised I was about to fulfill one of my long held dreams.  What can I say about Alcatraz … it was amazing without being over the top and commercialised.  The area is now a national park and is treated with due respect including very well tended trees and wildlife.  If you’re ever there, get the self guided audio tour – only something like $4 – and take your time to wander through the cell blocks and detention areas.  Back when the area was a working prison, the inmates could hear people shouting or celebrating the short distance over the water on the mainland.  How frustrating and annoying that must’ve been … but then again they were criminals eh ?  They even had one of the old prisoners signing a copy of his book there but he was being mobbed by tourists asking for his autograph and stuff – felt a bit fake to me.  So we stayed on “The Rock” (and it is just a rock) for a couple of hours and caught the short boat ride back to the docks.  There aren’t any restaurants or anything there …

Afer lunch at Pier 39, we did the tourist thing for a while and took some pictures of the sea lions … grumpy bastards they are too … lots of them were fighting for the best places to lie and conk out in the sun !  And some of them are just massive – like over 12 feet long !

San Francisco is quite compact and dead easy to get around – if I could get my head around driving on the wrong side of the road I’d be OK but our friends were fantastic and drove us everywhere … the shopping was quite good too and we managed to get some good bargains, what with the exchange rate being in our favour.  Funny thing was, despite what everyone says about a lot of Americans being overweight and obese etc. there was hardly a big fella to be seen where we were.  That said, bigger jeans sizes and stuff like that were hard to come by because the people were mainly Asian and thus smaller … Asians don’t have big arses it seems …

Next day we went over to see how the other half live in Sausalito – an amazing place with million dollar homes hanging on cliff edges and wonderful vistas wherever you look … reminded me of the Amalfi coast, where we got hitched.

A trip to the Golden Gate recreation area should definetely be on anyone’s San Fransisco “to-do” list.  Its not much of a park but you can walk right up to a hill overlooking the bridge and mouth to the harbour and it is nothing short of spectacular.  The weather behaved itself and some of the views are just breathtaking … you can look right down and see the surfers and sailing boats at the other side of the harbour.  A great spot to do a panorama shot of the entire city as well as Oakland and other outlying areas … I attempted to do it with my new Nikon camera and the efforts should be on Flickr as soon as the broadband gets connected.

So we left San Francisco after 4 days and it wasn’t nearly enough – its a city you can feel quite at home in, after only a short space of time.  And all the people were so friendly – we can’t wait to go back.  The airport was a breeze too and although I’m guessing it was quite busy, just had a way of making you feel at ease.  And not thronged with mad people like Dublin at 5am !

So if you are going and have limited time, these places should be top of your list …

– Alcatraz, Alcatraz, Alcatraz …
– Pier 39 and a walk along the Embarquement; sea lions
– Have lunch somewhere on Fisherman’s Wharf and get sour dough chowder, in a bowl made of bread !
– Chinatown
– Twin Peaks
– Golden Gate Bridge park and viewing area
– Sausalito

Not long to go now ! January 14, 2008

Posted by Rambling Man in Emigration, General Bloggery.
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It’s certainly not long to go now until we say a temporary goodbye and head first to the city of San Francisco and then on to our new home in Tauranga, New Zealand.

Amidst all the box packing (and re-packing when the baby has gone through them again !) and cleaning and clothes sorting, we’ve had little time to plan the first leg of our trip – San Francisco !!

Some distant family members have graciously offered to put us up for a few days while we break the 23 hour journey to Aoteraoa with 4 days in San Fran – its somewhere I’ve always wanted to go …

So a few questions to any of my fair readers, who’ve ever been to across the Golden Gate Bridge … I was hoping to purchase a good few items since the exchange rate between the € and the $ seems to be very favourable at the moment.

Basically I’m looking for a laptop, fairly high spec and a digital SLR camera, also towards the higher end. Does anyone know of good companies where you can just walk in a buy one off the shelf ? What should I expect to pay …. any links ?

Many thanks – I’ll post the pictures from Alcatraz – me and my buddies used to play at being the Birdman of Alcatraz when we were kids, isolated in the veritable prison that was my garage roof !