My last stop before home.
Better make it a good ‘un.
I was excited to reach San Francisco. As well as being a vibrant and interesting city, I would be meeting up with Bill, my travel buddy from north-west China. Within an hour of dumping my bags, he’d picked me up at the hotel and we had beer in front of us. Next day he took his tour guide duties very seriously and I saw more of San Francisco in one day than I’d hoped to see in five.
Bill took me for the best Dim Sum since Hong Kong, perfect pizza, burritos that would feed an army and delectable fusion food, the inspired blending of flavours that mirrors San Francisco’s eclectic ethnic mix. Wandering around, I indulged in Vietnamese beef noodles, strong espresso, deli eats and traditional American diners. In San Francisco you can take your tastebuds on a round the world trip without crossing the street.
Wearing flowers in my hair, I followed in the footsteps of the Beat Generation and spent a delightful couple of hours perched on a wooden stool in the City Lights Bookstore, immersing myself in poetry and stories that were born in San Francisco and influenced the world.
We went along to the Chihuly exhibition at De Young’s museum, a stunning display – I didn’t realise glass could be so beautiful. We strolled through Golden Gate Park, saw almost extinct American Bison and were drawn into a debate about Iraq by a passing San Franciscan. I marvelled at the Golden Gate Bridge, enjoyed views from just about every viewpoint in the city, thanks to Bill’s Honda, and was bowled over by the vistas spead out before me.
Shopping, wandering around, quaint cable cars and trams, pastel-coloured houses gleaming in the sunshine, steep hills rewarding me with glorious views, occasional fog unrolling over the city like a fluffy blanket; San Francisco captured my heart and added itself to my list of places I could live for a while.
On my last day, Bill took me up to Napa Valley and we spent the day tasting Californian wine and enjoying the scenery, followed by more great food and a steady stream of beer, laughs and travel stories. I kept saying out loud,
‘I go home tomorrow.’
But it refused to sink in. It was a meaningless, disembodied sentence.
It wasn’t until after midnight, in a bar called ‘The Bitter End’, listening to favourite tunes on a old juke box, that I said, ‘I go home today’ and it seemed real for the first time.
Next morning, rubbing my eyes and dosing the after effects of The Bitter End with strong coffee, I took an emotional journey to the airport, bidding a sad farewell to San Francisco, a very special city, and to my incredible year of travel. I felt them both pull me back, like an elastic band at full stretch, and tried to savour every moment, to experience every sensation of this, the end of my trip.