Tuesday, December 16, 2008

SFO: Done, dusted and growing a redwood tree

All bullet points – else we’ll never get to the end of this.

- It’s been WEEKS since we’ve been back and nobody but seems to mind the extraordinarily slow pace of my writing and so despite telling myself each time that I would post in quick succession it NEVER happened. Why can’t I do things unless people hold me to them? Where has my willpower gone? I blame the artic London winter.
- So Chinatown in SFO. I love it. In 1998 day my donut friendly friend and I spent an afternoon wandering Chinatown. Sadly when I got there this time I didn’t remember anything beside the fabulous Chinese meal we ate a in corner restaurant. Of course the chances of finding it again were spectacularly slim. Chinatown looked totally different from my memories this time round. The streets seemed straighter, steeper, cleaner and more organised – lovely to walk through and see all the Chinese people who work and live there, going about their chores. This time we ate dinner with my cousin A, her hubby and very cute (unseen before this) son in C-Town. They lived in London once upon a time and it had been too long. So we talked and ate at the Empress of China which was at the top of a building with a great view of SFO. The d├ęcor was a bit once-grande-now-old, the entrance was a bank of lifts, after walking through a very large Chinese shop. The food was yum though we were too late in the day for any dim sum.
- We had a very heavy brunch at an all-American diner near us (YAY gallon of milkshake!), and then courtesy my cousin’s hubby and his friends (cousin and girls long gone to thanksgiving thing in another city) we drove up to the Golden Gate and joined the masses of photograph takers. Then we drove up to a higher vantage point and looked down on the foggy bay and the resplendent bridge. I like it but think that the Bay Bridge looks nice and more imposing somehow.
- Then we drove to Muir Woods, which has apart from nieces become my favourite thing about the whole holiday. I am such a city girl that I was totally not expecting to fall so head over heels in love with these giant redwood/ sequoia trees. They are lovely, big, tall and whole and yet fallen, bruised, burnt and shadowy. All at once. We walked a short trail around them stopping to take pictures and listen to a short lecture on how they grow etc. and then went to the coffee shop to get warmed up with hot drinks. Redwood trees grow from burls, tumour like growths that they develop on their bark, like a bulge of bark. These burls once cut and kept in a bowl of water sprout shoots and grow into new redwood plants/ trees, that can be planted and encouraged to grow. I bought a small burl from the shop and brought it back with me. It’s sitting pretty in a bowl on my kitchen counter and its shoots are growing green and bright. I’m still thinking about a name for my plant. I think Shoot. Then I think Tom. Then I think Sam. What do you think?
- The next day we took a guided Napa Valley wine tour. BIG MISTAKE. Over a 9 hour period we saw 3 vineyards for an hour each and spent the first 5 minutes of each of those hours being sold the wine by tasting a bit in a glass and directed to the gift shop. Not a word on how wine is made, types of grapes, climate or anything remotely related to wine making beside a plug for the purchase of the end product and its various toys like a foil cutter, wine opener, glasses etc. I recommend if you want to do Napa Valley with even an iota of sense you should hire a car (i.e. learn how to drive/ get a license – a skill we are missing) and do it on your own. The only redeeming factor of the day was the hour long stop in the (touristy yet) pretty town of Sonoma for lunch. I had delicious fish tacos in a Mexican place called Maya which I would recommend unreservedly. I warned you - save your $70 each or be a gift shop bride.
- We spent the bulk of one day and most of the next just glued to our TV’s watching the unrelenting bad news pour out of Mumbai. For what it is worth the American coverage was better, more even, than the Indian coverage – especially CNN – insightful, calm, collected and respectful of its surroundings – quite unlike the shoving, pushing, stammering, one sided Indian coverage, which had very little to commend it. Then the day we came back I watched a Barkha Dutt special on NDTV. I don’t think the baton for journalism has ever fallen that low.
- Even with the depressing change in currency rates for us, the shopping is good. We missed the bulk of the Thanksgiving sales because we were enjoying the company of friends and the outdoors instead of queuing around the block waiting to get in anywhere on Black Friday. But I bought enough stuff, mostly in dribs and drabs, to comfort the shopaholic in me.
- The windy, up down streets are quaint but a bitch to climb up and down. The streetcars and cable car were fun if a tad slow. I loved the atmosphere which is busy yet gentle compared to the rush of Manhattan or London. It hums rather than buzzes and that is always good background music for a holiday.
- One of the things I will always remember about SFO is how on 6th Avenue between Lombard and Howard ( think), at the corner, there is this white painted brick building which has random real household objects stuck to its side – a fridge, a bathtub, a sofa among others. I didn’t manage to get a picture but I absolutely remember looking at it and grinning. If that is not the point of installation art I do not know what is.
- Will we ever see pictures? Who knows?! I still haven’t put up our Paris or Singapore ones from months before, so I wouldn’t hold my breath if I were you.
- SFO is done and dusted. We’ll be back someday - of this I am sure.


  1. Anonymous12:24 AM

    its nice to see a Londoners perspective of SFO :) Beautifully written! "hum rather than a buzz"..*giggles*

    As for naming your burls, i'd rather not go with 'shoot', as its slang for a not so nice word (atleast in the US).

    "Uncle Sam" is my pick!

  2. Anonymous2:13 AM

    its native american name can be "reaching for the stars" 40in2006

  3. Anonymous12:51 AM

    watch it; you are going to end up with a giant redwood in your living room! :)