As my graceful host commented, maybe I have been bitten by the Travelling Bug.
No more than six months after my Japan trip I flew to another place I never set foot on, no matter how long I had been interested in its culture and history - the United States of America, and specifically the Bay Area. This time everything was organized by myself, without any help from travel agencies or tour operators, but with a big help from my friend Barbara, who gently voluntereed to host me for the whole trip.
Day 1 - Apr. 15th, 2014
Once again I start my photographic diary with the second day, having spent most of the first on planes (the best solution I could originally found had an intermediate stop in Denver) and driving from SFO to my host's place.
Barbara's home is in the San Jose area, and as a starter I drove around a bit and tried to have at least a brief look to some of San Jose main attractions.
Unfortunately some of these are not open or not fully operating during weekdays. On top of that "sprawl" areas (like most of California) do not work very well with my style of traveling (basically reach a spot - be it a large city, a park or any other interesting point - by car or by public transport, then walk all over the place).
In California is more like "drive to A, visit it, drive to B, visit, drive to C and o so on…".
Day 2 - Apr. 16th, 2014
Visited by Insomnia once again I got up at 5am and decided to go visiting Lick Observatory. The excursion in itself was quite fun, even if having to continuosly pull over to try to get some pics was a bit stressful. As I mentioned before, the problem with California is not only that you need a car to go anywhere interesting, but also that once you are there you have to park the damn car somewhere... Later in the morning I drove to Santa Cruz for breakfast, walked on the Wharf and visited both the Boardwalk and the downtown area (well - basically I walked along Pacific Avenue). The area is really colourful and very "West Coast" in atmosphere ... basically 3/4 of the places seems to have "Organic" in their name, for example. I liked it a lot, but could not explore more because I had to drive back to San Josè to pay a visit to one of the local Aikido dojos.
Day 3 - Apr. 17th, 2014
haven't thoroughly planned my trip here so it may happen (like today) that the day is way less packed than some others. In this case I took everything extremely easy. In fact, while I was up again at 3am I deliberately decided not to push my luck with driving around again and didn't move out until way later.
San Francisco was out due to time constraints, and the same applied to any far away target. In the end I picked out Oakland (more or less randomly) and drove there.
Oakland has a sort of bad name - it always been poorer than San Francisco (I believe it has alwats been a blue collar neighbourhood providing work force to San Francisco via ferry). I suppose that economical crisis hit it hard, bit like Detroit. I haven't really visited it in deep, so I can't say if the rumours about crime were exaggerated, or maybe just outdated. I spent most of the time in a renovated area on the bay front, got a glimpse of the Chinatown area and walked back to my car through a few blocks of older, slightly worn out buildings... which I suppose it's more representative of the look of the city.
In Chinatown I managed to see a small but nice exhibition juxtaposing Chinese and Arabic calligraphy.
Day 4 - Apr. 18th, 2014
Later in the day I had planned to reach San Leandro for an Aikido lesson with Patricia Hendricks Sensei. I was also a bit slower in leaving my home base, so in the end I opted for going to Cupertino first (because of Apple, you know?) and then I just decided to go to see Half Moon Bay, with no real reason, except that I like the name.
It is a very nice place, unfortunately the weather was overcast until 2pm so most of the pictures in the town have a grayish cast that makes the place look more like New England than California.
Day 5 - Apr. 19th, 2014
On the Saturday before Easter I finally managed to drive to San Francisco for the first time (it's a little over one hour of driving from where I am staying).
First of all I did a long walk along Mission Street, which is a very "colorfoul" area even for Californian standards. Having parked basically underneath the Museum of Asian Arts I naturally visited it, too (but no pics allowed...). Finally I made a short trip to Chinatown and managed to reach the Embarcadero to snatch a couple pictures before driving back home.
Day 6 - Apr. 20th, 2014
Another trip to San Francisco. This was a sort of marathon across the Golden Gate Park taking me to Japan Town (where I found out that the locals had somehow merged Easter with a "Springtime Festival" mixing up western and japanese elements of both... basically a sort of parade, most shops open and beer and food everywhere...).
Considering that on my way there I also visited the Japanese Garden (part of the Park itself) I think I had my fill of Japanese stuff for a day or two.
Highlight of the day:
While I was crossing a street on my way back towards where I parked the driver of a worn out sedan - a guy looking a bit like a younger Lenny Kravitz - looked out of the window and hollered "Hey, you! I have been seeing you around all day... I just love your hat, man!!!"
I took the hat off with a little bow as a salute and hollered back: "Thanks! I am a tourist, so I am not even from here!" "Way to go man!!!" he answered, then moved on as the light turned green for him.
Day 7 - Apr. 21st, 2014
2014-04-21 11.11.12_DxO With surgical precision I selected the only (at least so far) overcast day in San Francisco to take a bay tour.
This, plus the drive to San Francisco and back, took most of the day, so all the pics are basically from my stay around Fisherman's Wharf.
Day 8 - Apr. 22nd, 2014
Today there are very few pics, all taken in the late morning while I was moving around San Jose. The reason for this was not the weather (which was back to splendid) but the fact that I spent most of the time indoors, in places where I could not take pics. (Of course to move around these places I still had to drive a lot, but I am trying to take as few pics as possible while driving).
The two places were the San Jose Shodo school where I spent I think three hours in pure calligraphic bliss. I am extremely thankful to Noriko Lake Sensei for having me as a "guest student" and kindly find the time for a chat before the regular lesson. And I am equally grateful to Patricia Hendricks Sensei and all her students for having me as a guest, too. After the Shodo lesson I moved to San Leandro and trained (for the second time during this trip) with her, always a pleasure for me.
Day 9 - Apr. 23rd, 2014
As you have seen already I am not very good at pre-planning activities in detail. So today I just decided to drive to Berkeley and see what the place looked like. I have always had a vague notion of places like Berkeley itself, or Palo Alto and so on, mostly due to recurring references in the history of computing.
The weather was fantastic so I got a very nice stroll around the Marina and on University Street. I finished the day by driving back to San Jose to train again with Wada Sensei and his students.
Day 10 - Apr. 24th, 2014
The day was pretty full. I got up early (around 6am) in order to arrive to San Francisco as soon as possible. It's basically a one hour drive, but you want to avoid the wave of commuters on both directions.
I managed to do that and so spent most of the morning just wandering around San Francisco, mostly across North Waterfront and Russian Hill.
I did not want to move too far away from Pier 39 because I had booked a visit to Alcatraz, and the boat starter from there.
On top of this, I managed to go back to Redwood City in time to train with the nice people of Aikido West (many thanks, guys!)
Day 11 - Apr. 25th, 2014
Incredibile dictu - it can actually rain in California. We had actual rain - the kind with water falling from the sky etc. - for the whole morning (actually I think it started in the night), and the weather remained decidedly overcast for most of the afternoon too.
This offered me the chance to sort out a few things at home and also explains the small number of pictures I took.
I didn't move much at all (I basically just made a short foray to donwtown San Jose) not just because of the rain, but also because I wanted to go to and train again with Jack Wada Sensei and his students.
Day 12 - Apr. 26th, 2014
I traveled to San Francisco again, originally with the idea to visit the Presidio but in the end i parked close to Geary Blvd. and started walking in that direction until I took a detour to reach "Land's End": a park overlooking the bay from which you can see the Golden Gate and the sea. It's quite impressive because you are basically walking along a cliff over the waves... and at the same time you are no more than a 5 minutes walk from a residential district.
Day 13 - Apr. 27th, 2014
San Jose has a dedicated Flea Market area since 1960. This was actually one of the places I wanted to visit on my first day here, but discovered that it operates mostly over the weekend.
Considering that the weather was still overcast, and that later I wanted to try my hand at a bit of archery (again, right out of San Jose) I decided that it would be a good idea to get there on Sunday morning.
As should expected (we are in California, after all) the place is really big - I am comparing with my hometown version which is fairly large in itself, but is distributed along streets and small squares well inside the central part of my hometown.
Day 14 - Apr. 28th, 2014
I purposely got up early enough (5:30am) to avoid traffic jams because I wanted to go a bit farther this time. Actually my original plan was to drive all through Morro Bay but considering I wanted to be back to San Jose by 6pm (in order to practice with the legendary Robert Nadeau sensei ) I changed my mind before reaching my car.
I headed towards San Francisco again, passed the Golden Gate bridge and reached Sausalito. The weather was fantastic, and I managed to get some spare time to ride one of the trams and walk back to the car and still have enough time to drive leisurely back to San Jose dojo.
Day 15 - Apr. 29th, 2014
Plans for today were a trip to Mountain View to visit the Computer History Museum. Sadly I neglected checking what their schedule was and found out (too late, i.e. right when I arrived at the museum) that the place is closed on Monday and Tuesday.
They suggested I visited Intel's Museum instead - free entrance, open (usually) and located in Santa Clara... I followed their suggestion but I also took the opportunity to stroll across the beautiful Shoreline Park before going to Santa Clara (where I discovered that just for today the Intel Museum would close at 3pm leaving me a grand total of seven minutes to tour it).
Day 16 - Apr. 30th, 2014
Final day of my stay in the USA. I left San Jose around 8am and headed to Mountain View again, in order to finally see the Computer Museum.
This still left me plenty of time (my flight back home had been rescheduled to 9pm) to go to San Francisco again for a final walk around Mission Street (and another lunch at the fantastic Gracias Madre restaurant) before finally turning my car back to the airport and embark for the long flight home.