I've never had a strong wish to go to the US. It is too much exposed through TV and media to be really exciting, I suppose.
Anyways, with another winter coming on in Norway and Tollef starting to work for Fastly in San Francisco, we decided to put the yearly "get somewhere warm and sunny for Karianne"-trip in the area. California has a lot of interesting sights as well as a comfortable climate, and the planning went accordingly.
On our way out we flew via Copenhagen and had a quite nice and mostly uneventful trip. The time zone adjustment went surprisingly well for my part, maybe because it is quite easy to get up early in the morning and go to bed early.
Already on the first day we headed to Alcatraz, it being our only weekend to spend in SF. I was a bit disappointed, it wasn't THAT exciting compared to all the fuss about it, but the audio-guided tour was quite interesting and it is still a must-see. We had a bit of rain, but mostly before and after the tour itself, so we also got some nice views from the island. After the trip we walked over to Fisherman's Wharf and the nearby shopping-area, and had a real American Diner Lunch.
On the second day, the time zone-change hit me hard, and I spent most of the day just relaxing in the apartment that Fastly had gotten for us, slightly disappointed that the rain kept Lindy in the Park from happening. In the evening we headed out to meet some friends of Tollef, and had a really nice time of it. Also, we accidentally met a colleague of Tollef from the time working for Canonical, really weird, in a nice way!
On Monday was Tollef's first day at work, and I joined him there before I headed out on my own to do some sightseeing and shopping. I walked past the pyramid and through Chinatown, saw the tram and checked out the bigger shopping areas. I got a new suitcase for hand luggage that I needed for my planned trip to Palm Springs, and a few nice pieces from Victoria's secret and Aerie store, both of the stores being a lot less expensive than I expected.
I had rented a car beforehand, and Tuesday morning I picked it up at the airport and headed south toward Palm Springs. It took most of the day to get there, but it was kind of nice to get an experience of the motorways as well, even though it was not that exciting. Some of the views along the roads were quite nice though, and it was fun to see what I later identified as orange fields. The roads were OK, not as good as I'd expected. Also I used some time to figure out how to fuel, as none of my cards worked at the gas station. When I finally arrived in Palm Springs it was pitch dark and no street lights, really weird.
There had been some misunderstanding about the rental car and GPS, so first thing Wednesday morning I headed to the airport in Palm Springs to sort things out. From there it was only a short way to the riding stables, so I decided to drop by and have a look, which ended by me getting on a two hour ride in the desert. It was a rather slow ride with only walking, but nice to see the desert and nearby oasis from horseback. I talked to the owner afterwards, and got a really good impression of how they keep the horses, making sure they are all well cared for and get enough rest both on a weekly basis and a longer break during the summer.
After a couple of relaxing days in Palm Springs, Tollef flew down from SF and met me. On Friday morning we first visited the Living Desert Zoo (quite OK, apart from the wolves and big birds in way too small spaces), then he took the Aerial Tramway while I did some shopping. I am not really a shopping person, but it was high time for some new clothes, and I managed to use a good handful of dollars before we left for LA and Hollywood. LA was surprisingly easy to navigate, very nice, and we walked the Boulevard in the evening, identifying a few of my favourite stars. The Beatles were well hidden, and we had to look them up the next morning, as we went to take photos of the Hollywood sign as well.
After lunch and a walk on Santa Monica Beach, we headed north for a couple of hours, planning on doing the Pacific highway the next day.
Sunday was our big driving day. The breakfast at the motel we stayed at appeared to consist of coffee, muffins and sweet orange drink (not juice), luckily we had leftovers from the dinner the night before. Going north on the pacific highway we saw the Morro Rock, Moonstone Beach, sea lions, a waterfall in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, Bixby bridge, and finished with a dinner in Monterey. The highway was no really that spectacular if you are used to driving Norwegian coastal roads, but it was a very nice drive. I would have loved to stop and see more of the national parks and Hearst castle, and Monterey in daylight, but it wasn't time to see everything. Maybe next time.
On Monday it was actually fairly sunny, so I rented a bike from a place nearby, and biked through Golden Gate park, where I saw the really nice Japanese Tea Garden, the playing fields for the dogs, and at last the beach on the other side. In the evening we met some other friends of Tollef for tapas, they were really nice and almost, but only almost, convinced me that SF might be a nice place to live.
On Tuesday I had a nice and quiet day, mostly packing up and getting ready to leave. On Wednesday we checked out and left for the office, where I left my luggage and headed out for some last minute sightseeing. First I headed up to the Golden Gate Bridge, and took some photos of Alcatraz from "the other side". Then I took the bus back, and walked across Fort Mason to the Ghirardelli Square and Fisherman's Wharf, getting some gifts for my family. In the evening we took a taxi to a hotel near the airport, and finally arriving there, it appeared we was re-booked into another hotel a bit further off. The hotel was noisy and the rooms was cold, so I was quite tired by the time we went to the airport to check in, and discovered that my booking did not exist. Too early in the morning it was all I could do not to cry. Luckily it solved in time for take-off, and we got both to New York and further on to Oslo without any incidents. Tollef's luggage didn't, it was sent to Sweden and used another day getting home. At least we didn't have to drag it on the airport bus home...
You can see the photos here: