Much, much, later...

Home - and a few final thoughts.

There’s not a lot to report on the final few hours of the flight. We both closed our eyes and tried to block out the world, but would hardly call it sleeping. As wide and comfy as the PE seats may be, they ain’t no Upper Class bed! Having said that, I don;t recall much clock watching so the time must have passed quickly enough.

The 10hr 05min flight ended up nearer ten-and-a-half hours as we were stacked, circling Reading several times. As spotted by Carl....


Ground formalities at Heathrow were done in a breeze and the bags soon appeared meaning we were kerbside within half an hour. I left Kay basking in the unseasonably warm sunshine we’d returned to and went to the bus station to collect the car. Everything at the hotel was in order, so half an hour later we were on the M4 on our way out of the airport.

First stop for coffee and to gather our wits was at Beaconsfield services on the M40 where there just happens to be a 24 hour SBs! From there we plodded north with a further stop at Leicester Forest East where I decided it’d be very unwise to try and get any further without a cat nap. The opportunity was taken to refuel ourselves with a snack from Burger King, and our respective fridges with milk etc. from Waitrose.

No major disasters befallen either of our abodes - though in both cases half a rain forest had been deposited through the letterbox.

Final Thoughts

I have been asked several times since I’ve got back whether I’ll be going to San Francisco again. The short answer is ‘yes’, but it’s no longer top of my list of US cities to visit. That’s no reflection on the city or its area, simply I see it as an itch that’s been scratched for now. The Pacific coast remains a strong attraction based on our time in Half Moon Bay and its environs - so a Pacific Coast Highway road trip may be on the cards some time... Seattle anyone!?

Residents of San Francisco, and what we saw of northern California, struck me as naturally very friendly and helpful - most often totally unsolicited and without the expectation of anything in return. I suspect some of the manufactured “have-a-nice-day” boloney that is inflicted upon the world originates from California based organisations but gets dilutes somewhat in its sincerity along the way.

I was struck by the leisurely pace of driving, even on the few freeways we used - though again this may be function of the time of day etc. We didn’t do much rush hour driving. I think the ubiquitous Stop sign may be partly responsible for this. I’ve spoke against the US obsession with this traffic management tool in the past and remain of the view that if poorly sighted are more of a liability than an aid. However, once the concept of first-come-first-served of a four-way Stop is grasped, they do lead to a kind of resignation that translates to simply not bothering to try and rush anywhere.

Best meal: Tarantino’s in Fisherman’s Wharf, simply for the view, with The Counter burger a close-run second.

Most memorable experience: First close up experience of the Pacific from Francis Beach in Half Moon Bay - made all the more special by the company, of course. Visiting the Apple Company Store gets an honourable mention in this category.

Things I’d have done differently: Stopped the rain - though that’s probably setting the bar a little high. Realistically, and partly because of the weather, I think if we’d picked the car up on the Saturday and moved out of San Francisco a day earlier we’d have had a better weekend. Oh well.

San Francisco is highly recommended, as is the Argonaut Hotel (thanks Bernie, Sue & Jim for the tip).


We're on our way home

This is being typed a couple of hours into the flight. Time-wise we’ve had a full day, but of course much of the second half of it has been at the airport. Anyway, back to this morning...

A combination of two large bottles of beer from the convenience store last night (could you tell with the writing?) and general disorganisation with the diary etc. meant it was gone 01:00 before I turned in. That meant Kay was up and ready a fair while before me this morning. Even so, we’d packed and were ready to roll by 08:00. It was a beautiful sunny morning, though the doom & gloom on the tv wasn’t far away as apparently tomorrow is going to be another stormy day. Oh dear.

Having dumped the cases in the car - another huge advantage of our own transport - we strolled along Main Street and over San Mateo County’s first ever concrete bridge dating from 1900 - facts proudly recorded on a plaque. On the other side of the bridge is the Half Moon Bay Coffee Company.


This establishment kindly provided us with an excellent breakfast which, by the time we’d done swapping stuff we liked/disliked between us, amounted to an egg & bacon bagel for Kay and hash browns, bacon and toast for me. Washed down by coffee, of course, given the name of the establishment.

Back to the car, having witnessed a bit of a traffic jam in Main Street caused by a Budweiser delivery to the ‘Emporium”. I comment on this as Half Moon Bay, even on a Tuesday morning, gives such an impression of laconic peacefulness that two cars waiting amounts to a traffic jam!

We set off north along Highway 1 - the Pacific Coast Highway. First stop was HMB’s twin settlement just up the coast where there is a cluster of hotels, a marina, the Half Moon Bay Brewing Company (shame it was too far to walk!) and an airport. The ocean views here, despite spawning an hotel of that monicker, are not brilliant as the Pacific is tamed somewhat by the marina. Not a shabby corner of the world though.

Still onwards toward Pacifica with a further photo stop at a State Beach [with no internet as I type this, I can’t look up names - see the map on Flickr of the photos when they’re uploaded]. This was just as stunningly beautiful as every other location we’ve chosen to watch and listen to the ocean. There were very few people about, despite the free car park being right next to a major highway.

A little further north there is a huge building project going on to tunnel through the headland as, quite clearly, they are expecting the ocean to claim the highway sometime in the future. Lots of shoring up work has evidently gone on (and continues) but sooner or later it is clear there’s only so much humanity can do to stop nature.

Pacifica is a bit of a dump. We went down to the sea front mainly as somewhere to stop and consult the map. The most striking thing about Pacifica Pier is it appears to be a pick up point for casual labourers meaning there were a lot of gruff looking men hanging around.

We decided that we were as far north as we wanted/needed to be, so set a course in the SatNav to take us to the Hillsdale Shopping Center at San Mateo, where we were on Sunday. Kay has something she wishes to return to Old Navy for exchange - and that’s as much excuse I need to visit a mall with Barens & Noble, SBs and an Apple Store! This was the only time on the trip I’d bothered with the SatNav for anything other than its ‘moving map’ capabilities. I have to be honest and say I’d have never managed the twisty route over hill to the Bay side of the Peninsular without it.

Kay’s mission in Old Navy was accomplished while I mooched in B&N, so we wandered the length of the mall looking at bits we missed on Sunday. SBs looked full and we were both still coffeed-up from breakfast, so we passed it by. Shock! Instead we decided to look in Sears as this was one of the big brands which hadn’t received our attention this trip. As our bags were packed (albeit with a bit of spare capacity in my case) I certainly wasn’t intent on buying. Kay’s philosophy is if it’s a bargain then damn the logisitics, so she was on her marks as we entered. I wandered into the men’s department and was quite taken by the prices. So when I saw a rail of coats, despite not being in the market for one, I had a cursory look. One in particular looked up my street, a microfibre Covington bomber style jacket with pockets in all the right places and it fitted perfectly (long arms and all). When I saw it was marked down from $100 to $19.99, it had to be mine!

The irony of having survived the rainy days in nowt but a fleece and/or a lightweight jacket and then buying a bloody good coat on the last day (which was sunny) was not lost on me.,

Kay got as far as queueing at the checkout for something, but decided against it in the end, so it was only me who contributed to Sears’ turnover today. Back along the mall, resisting to visit the Apple store as I’m wearing a polo shirt bought in the Company Store yesterday, and that would be just too nerdy even for me.

Back at the annex to Hillsdale where we’d parked, there is a place called The Counter . This is a “custom burger” restaurant. On entering we were given small clipboards on which a pad of forms is mounted. The idea is you go through the form, ticking the meat for the burger, the size, the method of cooking, the bread, the toppings, the relishes. etc. The entire thing is custom made to order. There’s a conventional menu on the back of the clipboards too, but I thought it was a really good idea. This, of course, is from the world’s faddiest eater and the opportunity to keep things plain and simple whilst adding the things I like was excellent. [It lead me to think how this ought to be extended to an iPhone App - and how it could include payment and ordering of all food & drink. I’m very sure Mr. Jobs is way ahead of me on this one and I expect to see this sort of ordering appearing very soon]. This was a good start, however.

The burger when it arrived was to die for. Kay was slightly less adventurous having a cheese and ham sandwich, but that is probably due to a decent breakfast just a few hours before and less of a gluttonous nature than me. It seemed to go down well though. We’d ended up skipping the idea of a last night steak, by the way, so this was my substitute!

Then it was all over. Time to retrace our steps onto Hwy101 and turn in the car. When we left it we’d managed the grand total of 189 miles. Check in was quick and easy. I’d tried Online Check In both last night and this morning but the system wouldn’t let me. The desk agent told us that was because the flight is full. In any event, we were allocated bulkhead seats - 18H & K, so as well as wide seat we’ve ample leg room too. Premium Economy resulted in us getting access to the Priority line at security, but as it happened, it wasn’t busy and we had plenty of time, so it counted for nothing. The screening at SFO is the new all body scanners, with an option of a pat-down if you’re queasy about the security staff seeing your bits! Seems a bit of a slow and cumbersome process, but I guess it’s effective in the end?

Things took a slightly sour turn at this point as we decided to spend our remaining currency in the news/gift shop. Turned out we were a dollar short of what we’d selected. Not a problem, just take off the packet of sweets, I suggested. Oh no, the clerk said in a barely comprehensible accent, once it’s scanned only a manager can take it off, we would have to pay on a card! I invited him to call a manager then, and when he declined I suggested in my own way he could keep the lot and went to walk out. Kay was more diplomatic and fished in her purse for shrapnel, ending up paying the balance in what looked like a handful of dimes! The queue building behind us was not happy, I wasn’t happy and the clerk couldn’t give a shit. Rules is Rules. Regular readers may recall I had a bit of a strop with airport retail flunkies at JFK last time. I leave room for the possibility it is me, but this was the first even remotely awkward episode in the trip. I suspect it is the airport culture of slavish adherence to procedures which is at least partially to blame.

The rest of the time waiting for the flight passed by. We were waiting at a gate shared with Virgin America whose gate staff are certainly characters. A PA call for some missing passengers on a flight for Dallas described them as “awesome customers and we’d really hate to leave with out you. Please, please, please hurry up as the gate is closing in exactly one minute”. The LA flight was leaving from the next gate and it was interesting to watch and listen to how they were cajoling, then bribing, then “mandoing” the passengers to check their larger rollalongs, “because we’re really really full today”.

Our flight boarded at 18:00, pushed back at 18:40 and was wheels up at 19:00, heading along the Bayside and over some of the ground we’d covered yesterday before getting up into the cloud. About half an hour in, Kay pointed out the window to the snow on the ground - my camera’s GPS was still on and it revealed this to be Reno, Nevada. By then it was getting dark and that was about it for the view.

The meal was served pretty quickly to allow folk to get their heads down and was half decent. Served on real crockery and with real cutlery is the main distinction of Premium Economy - with a greater amount of attentiveness as well. Baileys or Brandy after dinner is something that doesn’t happen a the back, either!

Time to try and get some sleep now, I think..


A Day of Varieties

Oh joy. It was raining this morning. Again. To be fair, it’s March and our expectations in respect of the weather for this week weren’t high. “Showers” is what the guide books suggested we’d be looking at and temperatures were perhaps the greater concern. The reality of regular downpours is frustrating. I mentioned a few days ago a quote from a meteorologist about “wait five minutes weather...”, and that really does seem to sum up northern California weather in March 2011. We certainly saw Winter, Spring and Summer today...

We set off southwards along the Pacific coast via Rt.1. The Pacific Coast Highway is called the Cabrillo Highway in these parts and is clearly a road which has the potential to be the “drive of a lifetime”. The ten miles or so we did today were scenic even in the greyness of a heavy drizzle. Those miles took us to the San Gregorio State Beach where we pulled into the car park for a look at the wild Pacific. From there we headed inland along Rt84, up the hillside toward La Honda.

Much of this road is lined by forest or woodland, and though there is a community up here on the very twisty roadway, it is virtually invisible in the trees. This makes it quite spooky as it is evident there are people living here but they are largely invisible to the passer by.

At the top of the ridge that runs along the San Francisco Peninsular we turned right onto Rt. 35, the Skyline Boulevard. Though out of the tree line, we were still enveloped in cloud so the views up there were limited. The GPS on my camera reported our location as San Meteo County Jail, which kind of added to the melodrama.

Our route took us south along the ridge, then down into Saratoga via Rt. 9. It was bizarre that almost as soon as we hit civilisation in the form of Saratoga Village that the grey dampness gave way to brighter weather. The reality is this is unlikely to be a coincidence - the forefathers of today’s Americans weren’t daft and knew full well where to build and where not to!

From here we were in high density urban sprawl - part of San Jose. I confess my map reading and the “helpfulness” of the SatNav failed to gel and we spent some time exploring western San Jose that wasn’t planned. No drama, however, and before long we were entering Cupertino.

Though by now my planned route and the map were coinciding, I was in the left-most of three lanes as we passed Infinite Loop on the right, so a U Turn was required. To several people’s consternation, including both mine and Kay’s, my initial attempt at this involved a freeway access not intended for such purposes. I realised my error immediately and recovered from the faux pax before any harm was done or horns sounded.

I had no real idea what to expect of Apple Corporate Headquarters. I’d heard tell of The Company Store and that it was accessible to the public, but it seemed too good to be true that mere mortals such as us could wander un-announced into the hallowed precincts of One Infinite Loop. Turns out, sure we can. There’s a visitors car park (full, but a party of Japanese tourists soon left to make way for us). Thereafter, Tom, Dick, Harry, Dave or Kay can happily wander into The Company Store and browse to their heart’s content - and pose for photos into the bargain. We resisted presenting ourselves at reception and asking to see Jonny Ive, but I suspect we wouldn’t have been the first if we had!?

Other than in limited numbers when Apple stores first open, when they give them out for free, Apple stores don’t sell T shirts. (I have a Bull Ring T shirt, having queued for that particular store’s opening). The Company Store, therefore, is the only one in the world where Apple T shirts or mementoes can be bought. They come in a multitude of designs, but the coolest is the simple message “I visited the Apple campus. But that’s all I can tell you” with the logo on the back. To confirm my self-declared status of a FanBoi I spent over $100 here - though I spread my obsession among various friends/relatives! The thing is that whilst we were far from alone, given that this is effectively a fully functional Apple store, it wasn’t exactly packed. Nor does it appear unusual for such a “pilgrimage” to be made.

As we headed northward we came to the community of Sunnyvale. First stop here was a plaza that not only hosted a Starbucks, but had a Borders which was not closing (big wow!). We frequented both in our time here. Borders has a coffee shop - “Seattle’s Best Coffee”, which is a subsidiary of Starbucks, and both establishments provide free WiFi. Borders was almost empty while the SBs was packed, so we had to wait a while with our drinks before we got a table. The majority of people filling the ‘real’ SBs, however, were very clearly using it as their office, leeching the free WiFi and rarely buying anything. This is a longterm dilemma for retailers in this sector - how to provide a service for their customer without being used by parasites like those occupying 90% of the seats in this particular branch.

Still in Sunnyvale we followed the signs to “Downtown Sunnyvale (Open for Business)”, mainly as this was the location of a HUGE Target store and Kay wanted a return visit after seeing the one at The Shops at Tanforan. This held Kay’s attention for half an hour, but mine for fifteen minutes - the balance being spent exploring the rest of Downtown Sunnyval.e. Turns out that other than a Macy’s (which I didn’t actually find) the rest of Downtown Sunnyvale comprises of blocks of condos and the large steel skeletons of only partially built shops - victims, no doubt, of the recession.

Continuing northwards brought a reunion with Rt 82 - El Camino Real which I mentioned earlier in the trip. Quite a long drive through various communities - including Mountain View. Our audio accompaniment for the journey had been KFOX, a classic rock station serving both San Francisco and San Jose and it barely put a musical foot wrong all day. I mention this as the DJ was talking of a sponsored bike ride at this point which was being held at the Google campus, pretty much as we were at our nearest to it. Not inspired to visit though!

Our route took us past Sanford University close to which was a mall which caught our eye. This, it seems, is where the well heeled and well to do of academia spend their money. As well as high grade ‘anchor’ stores of Macys, Bloomingdales and Nieman Marcus, the mall hosts Cartier and countless other top dollar brands (including Apple, of course!). It is an outdoor strip mall with many floral displays and water features - perhaps the most elaborate and well presented mall I’ve ever encountered.

Still onwards and by now in search of lunch, we found a Wendy’s by accident as I missed the turn for Rt. 84 in Redwood City. We both had a “Baconator combo” (bacon cheese burger) which was surprisingly tasty and really filled the spot. From there I found Rt.84, the junction being cunningly hidden from the south and not exactly easy to get at from the north either. Once on Rt.84, it promptly disappeared, being signed by its various road names, until west of the I-280. Beyond there it climbs quickly and is incredibly twisty, continuing to do so as it reaches Skyline Blvd (Rt.35) where we turned right.

As the name might suggest, this route has several “Scenic Vistas”, though mainly due to trees, none of these are brilliant. That said, for the most part the trees themselves ‘make’ the scenery.

This route took us back to Half Moon Bay (which I’m going to follow local convention and abbreviate as HMB from here on in). The last few miles into town along Rt.92 were nose-to-tail with traffic for some reason - being 17:00 and rush hour may have been part if it? When we eventually reached HMB, instead of turning left into Downtown, we went north along Rt.1 a little way. We turned off at eh Venice Blvd beech turn where the sunshine and slightly abated wind made it a pleasant few minutes of photography. The Frenchman’s Creek river meeting the ocean added to the drama of the backdrop.

After that we decided our caffeine levels had dropped so returned to HMB and explored the Strawflower Village collection of shops. The Bay Book Store was a draw for several reasons - not least as it is to play host to a book signing on Thursday by Ian Rankin (“Rebus” etc.) - the only appearance he is doing in the SF area, it seems. I repaid the favour of browsing time therein by buying a $10 on the history of HMB - which I found interesting on leafing through.

From there we spent half an hour or so in the HMB Starbucks, which allowed me to wipe the iPad floor with Miss T at Scrabble. Our use of the iPad attracted the attention of a senior gentleman (who resembled Ernest Borgnine) whom had recently acquired an iPad2 which he brandished for us. His question to us related to covers - which I tried to answer but it seems he’d been fobbed off by being told what he wanted was simply out of stock.

By now it was close to sunset, so we drove to Francis Beach - where we’d first encountered the Pacific yesterday afternoon. Though not quite as bad as yesterday, cloud again served to limit the effect of the sunset.

Back to the room via various establishments for chat, beer, iPad games and tv, including ‘All New” Hawaii Five-O.


Guess what: It’s raining hard - again :-(


Pacific Coast

For the third day running we awoke to rain. The television news was full of doom and gloom with more “Storm Watch” captions plastered over the screen. By the sound of things some pretty nasty weather passed by overnight with trees down and the second tornado in two days in the northern California area (they average one a year!, apparently)

We got ourselves sorted & packed and were checked out by around 10:00. I had toyed with the idea of leaving Kay to guard the bags somewhere in Fisherman’s Wharf while I went and got the car. In the end I decided against that plan on the grounds that an event called Sunday Streets would see the Embarcadero closed all day. This event, apparently modelled on something that happens every Sunday in Bogota, Columbia, will see this main road given over entirely to pedestrians. The practical impact of this scheme would be to make access to Fisherman’s Wharf quite challenging for a novice to navigating San Francisco.

Even Plan B would have been difficult had we left it much later as the F-line street cars were also to be suspended with Muni buses substituted. To me, that made what was on the face of it a reasonable idea completely stupid - to stop (or at least severely disrupt) the main artery of a tourist area is madness. But, hey-ho... At least the street cars were still running when we needed them.

The trip to the airport was smooth and painless, if fairly slow due to the limited frequency of Sunday public transport. Eventually we made it to the Dollar rental desk at SFO and completed the formalities. We have a Chevrolet Malibu with 17.049 miles on the clock, CA license 6LUC342. Kay was duly briefed on her duty to constantly remind me to drive on the right and to assist in working out what the speed limit might be at any given point.

Having found out what (most of) the buttons and dials did, we tentatively hit the road. It was as I joined a relatively empty Hwy 101(Bayshore Freeway) that I thanked myself for the foresight of arranging to do this on a Sunday morning! Any other time this would be a baptism of fire, but as it was it allowed me to get back into the swing of things once more. Another thought which was crossing my mind at this point was that it was nearly Noon and we’d not even had breakfast...

Rather than follow Kay’s navigation toward Half Moon Bay (I’d foolishly agreed to hire a SatNav with the car but it was off at this stage on the grounds it was already annoying me!) I chose to divert off our route onto El Camino Real (Rt 82). This is the San Francisco peninsular’s central street and is mainly lined by commercial premises. As if by magic, this took us to Hillsdale Shopping Center at SanMateo. The fact that I’d noticed a few days ago when looking at the lie of the land that there was an Apple Store here is entirely coincidental!

First stop was the food court and after a restroom call it was time for lunch. We both had a Philly Cheesesteak from the Real Steak & Potato Company - though I went for the foot long version compared with Kay’s more refined 7”. Very pleasant they were too! Apparently our choice made a lady at the next table hungry as she explained whilst engaging us in conversation as her children finished off the corn dogs they’d been treated to.. I mention this only as it typically illustrated a distinct character trait we’ve identified in San Francisco locals of engaging total strangers in conversation - something which is a rarity in other urban areas?

There was some Lego sponsored event going on which perhaps explained why at one point as we walked through the mall we were being followed by a Jedi Knight. The Apple store had a notice prominently displayed explaining they had no iPad2 stock, but there was no line here. Otherwise it was a typical medium size mall Apple store.

In an annex to the mall there is a Barnes and Noble next door to Old Navy. Inevitably this led to a separation of our ways at this point. I stocked up with magazines and Kay stocked up with clothes. Together we did our bit for the Bay Area economy. We regrouped in the in-store Starbucks at Barnes and Noble and compared purchases. Oh, and Kay has discovered how good the iPad for is for playing games on!

Back on the road and rather than return to the freeway straightaway, I decided to leave the by now extremely busy Hillsdale Shopping Center by the back route, along a residential street, spookily, called Hillsdale Blvd. As it climbed the hillside of its name, the houses got more expensive as the view across to the bay became more impressive.

After an interminable number of four-way stop crossroads, we returned to Hwy 92 for the very twisty journey over the hills to Half Moon Bay. At the top of the ridge there is a turn off to the Skyline Blvd, which may see us tomorrow. On this occasion we did stop at the overlook at the junction to take some snaps looking back over San Mateo.

Almost immediately on resuming our journey we had our first glimpse of the Pacific. I should mention that by now it was a beautiful sunny day, the rain had stopped almost the same moment we began our journey out of San Francisco - is that a message we should take notice of? The effect of this meteorologic transformation was that the sun was shimmering off the ocean.

The descent into Half Moon Bay is equally as twisty as leaving San Mateo, but the road is lined by countless Christmas tree farms and the air is thick with a pine sap aroma. Before we knew it we were in the City of Half Moon Bay. (Like most American “Cities” it is of course little more than an overgrown village, but who are we to deny them their civi pride.)

While waiting for Kay in Barnes and Noble, I’d been busy on their free WiFi with TripAdvisor. As of this point we hadn’t booked anything for the last two nights and I suppose at the back of my mind was the nagging worry of everywhere being full! Anyway, having first filtered out any of the national chains, the top scoring establishment on Trip Advisor was the eponymously named Half Moon Bay Inn on Main Street, so that is where we went.

Having woken the receptionist from her afternoon siesta to enquire about rates and availablity, it would have been rude not to have stayed! As it was we both instantly agreed we’d made a fist class decision. The hotel has a dozen or so rooms and is right in the centre of town (yes, “Town”! There I said it!). It has the ambiance of a bed and breakfast whilst still having the independence of being a hotel. The room we chose is a ‘queen’ size and, like the hotel, has a Mediterranean theme to it. It is luxuriously appointed (i.e. lots of really posh smellies for Kay, with good cable & free WiFi for me!). A really nice touch is a visitor’s book in the room which Kay set to reading. As well as many compliments about the room & the hotel, this contains several really useful tips, including the use of a hand towel behind the headboard to stop it knocking against the wall... and we quickly discovered the practicality this tip has nothing to do with, er, mature themes!

Once we were settled into the room we went for a walk along Main Street and out toward the beach. Half Moon Bay is the epitome of “Small Town, America”. Everybody seems to know everybody else. The cops wave to people. The place is spotless and has every conceivable amenity (City Hall, High School, Funeral Home, Farmer’s Market, Launderette - all within a block of each other). Being Sunday, it was quiet, but most of the shops were open.

We walked the mile or so to the beach taking in the neighbourhood as we did so. It was an eventful walk as a starling which was part of a group roosting on overhead wires chose to dump on Kay - good luck apparently, but that is hard to see when you’re the victim of such an atrocity. Then there was a slight miscalculation on my part which took us through a swamp - to the barely concealed amusement of two rangers watching us and our embarrassment as a consequence. Such set-backs aside, once we reached the Pacific our breath was truly taken away. The sound of the surf was audible a quarter of a mile away and when we saw it the sight was amazing. Half Moon Bay itself, as a coastal feature, is aptly named and we could see it curving around for about three miles northwards, with expanses of golden sand and huge white surf in both directions. The place wasn’t exactly deserted, but I doubt we saw more than 30 people the whole time - and that includes the distant specks on the beach.


Eventually we tore ourselves away from the spectacle and retraced our steps. The street we walked along to get to the beach was fascinating with the range of housing and the uses the front “yards” were being put to - artists and artisans obviously live cheek-by-jowl here. One house about quarter of a mile from the beach was for sale with a flyer helpfully telling us they wanted $465,000 for it. The single story building wasn’t anything to look at, but this really is Location, Location, Location.

We’d reached a consensus that tonight would be a “room picnic” night and we’d likely have a last night blowout tomorrow. The plan went from picking something up from a gas station we’d passed, to getting the car and visiting a 7-Eleven we’d passed, to the eventual realisation of the plan by visiting the ‘Farmer’s Market’ deli/convenience/supermarket on Main Street we’d passed. I had a beef sandwich which was made up in front of me to my specification (this was 18:30 on a Sunday evening) and Kay had a ready made sandwich, We stocked up on treats and drinks and I bought three pint sized bottles of beer -more about this later!

Kay had read in the visitors book in the room that the Ritz Carlton hotel along the coast provided free public parking for the beach and that this was the perfect place to watch the sunset over the ocean. That’s a plan then. We collected the car and took our picnic. The bit about the free car parking at the Ritz Carlton turned out to be absolutely true, but it was in their garage and, although free, involved getting tickets validated in the hotel and all sort of potential bureaucracy. Instead we found a pull-in (still within the Ritz Carlton grounds) that we could legitimately occupy until sunset.

As it happened, some cloud on the horizon put paid to a spectacular sunset, but the cliff top views on which the R-C’s golf course is situated (again with public access) were stunning. We enjoyed our picnic and I snapped loads of views of the ocean - several of which I am quite pleased with! - before driving back to the parking lot in which we can leave our rental overnight, across the road from the hotel.

At this point my own personal bird-shit-on-the-head moment happened as the handle of the paper bag containing my beer gave way - with a sickening crack followed by glug-glug, the result. I lost a beer, the name of which I can’t now recall, but I can say it was hand picked and was to be fondly savoured. Kay, to her credit, didn’t laugh (like I didn’t laugh about the starling incident).

Back in the room I did enjoy the survivors: Big Daddy IPA from Speakeasy, San Francisco and Stone Smoked Porter from the North Country Brewery of San Diego. Sad to report also that at least two of the cookies I bought got beer soaked.

All of this was set to a backdrop of television, the highlight of which was probably an “All New Episode” of The Simpsons.

Last full day tomorrow and the car has a full tank of gas which needs using up! Is that the Mothership I hear calling?