8 October: Reflections on our trip

Author: Mr A

Location: Atlanta, Georgia & Dallas, Texas, USA

I like to believe a holiday should change you in some way. For Catherine and I, this trip across the US has certainly had an impact on us. We have made some new friends, learnt some new things (like that gravy isn’t always brown, and kettles are not a universally recognised essential item for your kitchen), and decided to review our plans for next year (more mountains less scrubby desert).The America we have met on this trip is one full of kind, respectful people (no..we didn’t meet any politicians). We had so many instances of people (friends and strangers) go out of their way to be thoughtful and courteous. When you read the headlines focusing on the negative headlines from here, as elsewhere, its easy to forget a country is made up of individuals. It’s hard not to generalise about the “behaviour” of groups of people from the same geography, race, religion or sex. As humans, we want the simple truths, but really we will find as much variation as commonality.We have so many highlights it would be unfair to call them out, but I will. Thank you to all the people who went out of their way to help make our trip here go so well. Those who had us stay (may your livers recover), those who helped us settle in (Deborah of the care package extraordinaire), those who gave us tips on specific things to do in their patch, and most importantly to the doctors who provided a “just in case” safety net for Catherine (who can’t get medical travel insurance for her breathing disease).

We saw so much beauty in this country. The mid coast hinterland of California, then the giant sequoia trees and the soaring peaks of the Yosemite. Then over to Chicago’s downtown area along the lake front, then the much smaller scale lakefront community of Cicero, then on to the unique geological area of the Red River Gorge and finally the majesty of the Smoky Mountains.We have eaten some fabulous food, cooked by friends or out and about, the choice of cuisine is almost endless. The option to not have sugar or dairy in it…a little harder. We sampled some amazing wines in California (Dave and SJ, Susan and Joe – you have such great taste!), and mind bending cocktails and bourbon courtesy of the Chases in Cicero.Thank you for your hospitality America. It’s time to return to Sydney, and the life and friends we have there, but we are certain we shall return.

23-25 September: San Francisco – a brief love affair

Author: Mr A

Location: San Fransisco, California, USA

Sunday: From the moment we left the airport after dumping our car, we started to fall in love with this city. Our cab driver was so polite and helpful, our apartment right down at Fishermans Wharf was great (so lucky to get something in this location so reasonable), this city felt good!Our first night was spent at a beautiful Italian seafood restaurant courtesy of another member of Catherine’s sub-glottic stenosis support group and her husband, Lynne and Ron, and what a great vibe down on the wharf. We could get used to this!

Monday: We headed out to explore, with the traditional early morning mist clearing to reveal a sparkling harbour that we walked along for miles before heading off for a power shop. Some browsing around the shops later we headed off on a tram across town to a discount shoe outlet, even the conductor wouldn’t take our money! It was quite an experience travelling up and down San Fransisco’s incredibly steep hills.Lots of shoe bargains later, we walked back to the bay and hit an oyster bar – wow there’s some big fellas here and a very different flavour from what we’re used to in the Southern Hemisphere.

What a superb market down on the wharf, you could spend some serious coin in the delis here. We just brought some soft cream sheep cheese and headed back to taste test the wine we had been given made by the talented Joe – a Duke’s Folly Pinot – so smooth and just set off the tart cheese wonderfully.Dinner was an early affair (Catherine is feeling pretty beat with her airway so closed at the moment, and we had clocked up just under 12km (7.5 miles) on foot!). We had booked a Korean restaurant just down the road from our apartment and once again had some awesome food. California really has not disappointed.

Tuesday: Another misty start but we headed out to walk up to the Golden Gate Bridge, which was almost completely hidden until we reached it and magically the fog lifted and there it (mostly) was! This city is being so kind to us. I think she knows we have fallen in love.The dog walkers were out in force, although this guy seemed to have his own pack very well trained.A big walk back along the bayside and a lunch in the sun – I had been hanging for a crab chowder in a bread roll – and I got it! Sadly no dairy free version of that creamy number for Mrs A.Off we marched again and caught the ferry over to Alcatraz for a superbly produced audio tour. Thanks to our Napa friends, Susan and Joe, who encouraged us to book the trip – it is not usually our thing to hang out in the crowds but this was great. I wonder how many of the 1 million visitors a year have sworn off a life of crime after seeing this place?Now I have to admit we then committed a major faux pas for travellers and went back to the same Korean for dinner. Please forgive us, but we had seen another dish on the menu we both wanted and just couldn’t resist. We were home by 6.30pm (16km (10 miles) of walking under our belts today) and packed up ready for our early getaway tomorrow to Chicago. Wild things no longer.

San Fran – it was a brief dalliance, but we loved your vibe.