Finally, I'm back.
I'm having problems uploading photos as my internet connection keeps dropping out - the joys of living just that bit too far away from the exchange...
So, we've left Vegas and are making our way to San Francisco.
The road to San Francisco was rather long and boring.
So we entertained ourselves with singing, talking about our favourite things we've seen and done so far on the trip plus reading (well, The Groom didn't do that part - he was driving) and looking at the scenery.
Eventually we got to the state border and we were asked if we were carrying any fruit onboard.
I don't know how sincere they are at border control about their security, but we answered "no" and were told to drive on.
At home, inspectors would search your vehicle to check!
The feed lots that we passed saddened me.
They were massive and looked nothing like the ones we had up here.
I really felt sorry for the cattle out there.
It made me think of the documentary, Food Inc.
I loved looking at the road signs and recognising names from movies or books.
Now I can say that yes, I do know the way to San Jose.
After what seemed like the longest time, with a few stops for something to eat, go to the bathroom and get some fuel in our rental Jeep, we were finally there.
I have a bit of a phobia of bridges, I do not like heights or being so close to other traffic in a confined space.
So we did not go over the Golden Gate Bridge, but I've decided that next time we visit I will make the effort - just so we can say that we have been over it.
I really loved driving through the city streets.
The Groom wasn't impressed with the traffic and tight lanes, but he's a country boy so he's excused.
We don't have traffic like that where we live.
All I could say was how much like Melbourne it was!
And that was even without the trams, but that was a bonus.
We stayed at the WorldMark on Bush Street, near Chinatown.
So after we had given over the car to the valet (and paid a small fortune for the privilege of parking in San Francisco) we checked into our tiny but gorgeous room and headed out for some sightseeing.
Before I go on, I want to say how friendly the people in San Francisco were.
We left our hotel and were unsure of our bearings (we'd forgotten to grab a map and by the time we realised we needed one we were one block away), so we must have looked a bit confused as a homeless man pushing a cart full of his belongings stopped and asked if we needed help.
This man was so polite, so friendly and so informative I think it really set the tone for how we saw the rest of the population.
He did not ask us for money for his time, unlike so many people we encountered in Hollywood.
A few blocks away, we saw an old lady looking a bit confused on a corner.
She asked us for directions to a bank and we admitted to being tourists and unable to help.
A man on the other side of the road crossed over to us and asked if we needed help then gave the lady directions, wished us a great stay and went on his way.
We walked with the old lady as far as she needed to go, just chatting, and said our farewells and continued on our way.
Just a brilliant introduction to my now favourite American city!
Of course, the first stop had to be Pier 39 and check out the entertainment.
I loved them, they remind me so much of dogs, this one on it's own reminded us of our dog, Rosie, and we spent about half an hour just watching and listening.
They do smell though.
And it is really noisy.
But their antics are so funny.
We stopped in to Ripleys Believe It Or Not, one of the kids' favourite places to visit.
It was a lot of walking that we did that day and I couldn't wait to get back to our room and rest my weary feet.
I'm so unfit I had to walk backwards up some of the steep streets!
The next morning, having gotten our bearings from the day before, we headed back towards the Pier - our mission today was to visit Alcatraz.
We wandered the streets but didn't catch the trolley car as we had just missed it or we were in a shop as it passed us by.
We passed a fire station and the men were cleaning their truck, so we stopped and watched them.
They told us we could take as many photos as we liked then we got talking about where we came from.
I mentioned how much like Melbourne I thought San Francisco was like and one of the firemen said that his brother had been to Melbourne and said the same thing.
I really wanted to ask if I could jump in the truck and beep the horn but I thought they might think I was weird, so I didn't.
I wish I had the courage though, that'd be so cool!
I loved that they decorated their vehicles for Christmas.
Even in a city there is always someone who can manage to create beauty in their world.
This was on the footpath outside an apartment complex.
The kids and I pretended it was a fairy garden.
Finally, we made it to the wharf and headed up to where the ferry leaves for Alcatraz.
Alcatraz has a feeling to it that is so hard to describe.
It was windy, cold and almost reverent.
If you've ever been there then I'm sure you'd understand what I'm trying to get at.
We listened to the park ranger give his spiel then went inside to watch the video before collecting our audio tour head phones.
I can only imagine what it was like in the prison in its hey-day.
It is beautiful in a macabre way.
We spent many hours wandering Alcatraz so by the time we left we were hungry.
We'd walked through Little Italy on our way down and I had spotted a little Italian restaurant that I wanted to go back to for dinner.
We had an early dinner at Franchino Restaurant.
We were one of two groups there so we had the owner's complete attention.
Guisseppina, the owner's wife, was so much like my childhood friends' mums.
I ordered the seafood linguine.
It was delicious.
She jokingly admonished my kids for not eating all of their dinner and told them there would be no dessert if they didn't do so, so they did and they did.
We chatted with her and her daughterabout how they came to come to San Francisco and the changes they've seen over time, children and their quirks and lots more.
They were such lovely people and I will go back there to eat.
Great food, great people, great kindness.
After dinner we walked slowly back to our hotel and settled in for the night.
We only had two nights in San Francisco and it wasn't enough.
In the morning, we packed up the car and headed back down the Californian coast for Solvang.
Goodbye, San Francisco.
I can't wait to see you again.