If you're going to San Francisco...
Trip Start Sep 02, 2007
8Trip End Sep 16, 2007
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I caught a slightly earlier train than necessary to Gatwick because before checking in I had to visit Lost Property. In the South Terminal I could hardly enter the airport from the train station because it was so heaving with families setting off on holiday. With some nifty dodging of trolleys and overtaking of toddlers, I forced my way through to find the lost property office. I'd left my coat in the departure lounge when I last flew to Edinburgh a couple of weeks ago. To get it back I had to pay a £5 admin fee, which ironically was more than I'd paid for it in the first place from a charity shop!
The first leg of my flight was 8 hours and luckily the plane was only a third full, so I got a spare seat next to me
The journey was quite boring except for the fact that I had an argument with the air host. When he served the food, he had no veggie meal allocated for me, despite the fact that I ordered one when I booked the flight, and when I checked in. He was really off-hand about it when I explained that I'd requested one and told me - 'I've got chicken'. He didn't offer an alternative or say he'd check to see if they had spare meals. I protested and he repeated that he just had chicken. I asked what else he could do for me, as he wasn't offering solutions. 'All I've got is Chicken'. In the end I accepted what he termed 'a cold plate' which is basically the extra stuff you get with the main meal - bread roll, limp lettuce, shortbread biscuit etc. I had a bit of a turn when he handed it to me and threw the napkin on the floor in frustration. He didn't seem to notice. I ate it begrudgingly.
When he came back 10 minutes later with the drinks, I couldn't let it lie. I said to him 'an apology would have been nice.' He coldly told me that he'd explained the situation to me. I repeated that I understand that mistakes happen, but an apology would be nice. There was no way he was going to say sorry to me and he carried on serving up the aisle. I shouted after him - 'Chicken's no good to me - why did you keep telling me you had chicken?'! At this point an air hostess intervened and asked me what had happened. I told her and pointed at the culprit. I felt like a child telling tales to the teacher
I had an uneventful 3.5 hour wait at Cincinnati, and boarded second shorter flight of 4 hours. At that length I assumed we'd get a meal, but in the States it's seen as a short haul flight, so I had to make do with snacks. That journey was much better though as I got to look out of the window at all the amazing landscapes we were passing over: city grids, thinning into towns with cultivated land in between, changing to huge plains covered in vast fields with only tiny settlements scattered miles apart, to desert, to mountain ranges and ski resorts, and finally huge stretches of vineyards in California. I took a lot of photos - 2 of which are in this entry's gallery.
I arrived in San Francisco at 7pm after 17 hours of travelling. My taxi driver, surprisingly, was a young Brazilian girl. She was in San Francisco as a student, about to take her masters in Chemistry. We had a nice chat about her home country.
As we approached the city, it all came back to me from the last time I made this journey, over 7 years ago - on the freeway, you come over a hill and downtown appears before you, the skyscrapers rising up from between the many hills.
A colleague had warned me that although my hotel was nice, the area wasn't and I should be careful walking around nearby. I thought at the time that she was being a bit over-cautious, but as the taxi approached and the main components of the street were massage parlours and liquor stores, I began to feel that maybe she hadn't been exaggerating.
I checked in to my very large room and chickened out of venturing out that night by booking a table at the hotel's restaurant. I had to wait an hour but then made my way up to the 49th floor and the restaurant entrance. Outside I notice a disclaimer, discreetly tucked behind a pillar, that said:
'Notice to patrons: the food served in this restaurant may expose you to chemicals known to the State of California to cause cancer, birth defects, and other reproductive harm.' Gosh.
Moving swiftly along, I took a seat at my table for one, which looked out over the city centre and financial district, lit up in the night, and in the distance the twinkling East Bay. It was very romantic (and posh) and it felt like such a waste to be there alone. But the food was gorgeous - I had the local speciality, Dungeness crab cakes - and they served me very quickly so my suffering wasn't prolonged!