Inches from Obama...

Trip Start May 22, 2010
Trip End Jun 28, 2010

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Flag of United States  , Washington
Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Chinatown in San Francisco is supposed to be one of the best in America. We only had a little time in the morning before we had to leave for the airport, so Shane insisted that we walk there. I was sceptical.

"I think it's a really long walk..." I complained. “I don’t want to be late for the shuttle.”

“Ok, so we’ll just have a bit of a wander through the city,” Shane appeased me.

So we wandered through the streets of San Francisco – the first city that we really spent time in here in the USA. The day was sunny and warmer than it had been, but we were about to depart for the rainiest city in the States.

There was a crowd of people gathered around an intersection that was cordoned off. Police were manning the barrier, and there were all sorts of official vehicles along the street. But NO traffic.

“Shane!” I cried out in my excitement. “I think it’s Obama!”

We’d heard on the TV that morning that Obama was in San Francisco, to visit a solar power plant. He was supposed to be leaving that morning, and the traffic man on the local news had been telling drivers to expect delays because streets were being blocked to allow his departure.

“Oh, who cares?” Shane grouched, and stormed off. Reluctantly I followed. I’d missed probably the only chance I would get to see the President.

We kept wandering.

I glanced at my watch. “Shane, we really need to turn around now – we’ve got to get back to the hotel.”

We turned up an incredibly steep street, and began our hike back to the hotel. I had my eyes on the pavement, making sure that I didn’t trip over everything and slide back down to the bottom again.

“Oh look!” I heard Shane a few steps ahead of me. I looked up. The gates of Chinatown loomed over me.

Shane rolled his eyes at me. “Too far to walk, huh?” he asked, a smirk on his face. I had to admit I’d been wrong – for the first time in my life. If we’d headed straight for Chinatown we would have had time to take a stroll through. But as it was, we barely had time to snap a few pictures of the gateway before we had to race back to the hotel.

Our shuttle dropped us straight at the check in counter for Alaskan Airlines, which to our surprise was actually OUTSIDE the terminal on the sidewalk. For domestic flights they don’t really weight checked in luggage – in fact, hardly anyone checks in luggage on domestic flights in the States, because they charge a baggage fee.

Our travel agent had warned us about this, and had also said that we could TRY asking if the airlines would waive the fee, but she also warned that it was highly unlikely that they would let us get away with it.

So we were shocked to speechlessness when the attendant just nodded and said “sure, there’ll be no fee,” when we asked.

We had been totally paranoid about airport security in the States, so we’d made sure that we were at the airport two hours before our flight, even though it was only domestic. We found out that in reality it wasn’t any more involved that flights in Australia. Except for one difference. You HAVE to take your shoes off when you go through the metal detector. Even if you’re wearing thongs, which for the first flight in my life I wasn’t.

So in my socks I walked through the detector.

“Where’d you get that, Miss?” the woman monitoring the x-ray machine called out accusingly. I looked around, wondering who she was talking to.

“You, miss – where’d you get that?”

To my horror, I realised she was talking to ME. I could feel the blood draining from my face. What did I have on me that was contraband? Was there something in my bag that I’d forgotten about?

I gave the security lady a confused and probably terrified expression. She smiled at me.

“That top – where’d you get it?”

I looked down, at the San Francisco Giants top that I’d bought specially for our baseball trip, and I allowed myself a small breath. I hadn’t done anything wrong.

“Um...Fisherman’s Wharf?” I said it like a question in my nerves. The woman nodded sagely.

“It’s cute, I like it. How much was it, if you don’t mind my asking?”

I shook my head, the rest of me shaking in relief. “Thirty five dollars.”

The woman quirked her mouth. “That’s a good price.”

I quickly grabbed my bag and shoes and scuttled away before she could ask me any more questions.

Our departure gate was the first one on the other side of security, so we plonked ourselves straight down.

“Attention passengers on Alaskan Air flight 305 to Seattle. Your flight has been delayed due to the departing flight of President Obama. Please check the nearest screen for your new boarding time.”

I turned to Shane. “It WAS Obama in the street this morning!” I shouted at him.

Shane grunted. “Damn President, making my plane late.”

Since we had a longer wait for our plane now, I snuck off to use the ladies room.

You can probably all tell that I am a bit paranoid about security in America. Well, imagine this – mid stream, I heard a shout, just outside the door to the restrooms.

“Freeze! Freeze Sir!”

It was just lucky I was already in the correct place for peeing when it happened – I didn’t have a spare pair of jeans in my carry-on luggage.

I washed my shaking hands, wondering if there’d been some sort of terrorist threat – a possibility made more likely by the presence of the President at the airport.

Outside the restroom, I had another shock. Big doors had been shut to keep the threat of whoever 'Sir’ was who had been breaking the rules out of the main part of the terminal. Only problem was, the doors were now also between ME and the rest of the terminal – and my travelling companions!

Fortunately it was only a matter of seconds (seconds that felt like hours to me, let me assure you) before the big, tough African-American woman in security getup spoke into her walkie-talkie and the distinct word “CLEAR” came back through. She opened the doors once more and I was able to race back through to my husband and friends, who stared at me in equal shock.

“What happened?” I asked them. They all shrugged.

“We don’t know – we were hoping you could tell us.”

Thankfully the rest of our time in San Francisco Airport was much less action-packed...

...Seattle didn’t really appear out of the sky until we were almost on the ground. Just as I had hoped. The clouds and fog were thick, and there were little spit spots of rain here and there as we left the terminal and made the drive into the city.

A quiet night was on the cards – we had some washing to do (in the bathtub like peasants in the Ganges). We did manage to take a quick walk into the main area of the city – Pike Place, home of the world famous Farmer’s Markets. They were closed, but we planned on finding time for them some time before we flew out of Seattle.

Dinner was at the first restaurant that both Shane and I could agree on. He was ok because there was beef on the menu. I was ok because I just wanted something spicy to warm me up from the icy Seattle air. The restaurant was African. Shane got his beef, and almost burned his mouth off on the thousands of pieces of green chilli in his meal. My lamb curry was delicious.

Back on the street, we stumbled across what from the outside looked like Willy Wonka's factory. Rocky Mountain Chocolate Company's specialty is candied apples. In about seventy different flavours. We simply HAD to get some.

We walked out a good few minutes later with a Rocky Road Apple and a Mud Slide Apple, sliced and ready for us to eat back in the hotel. (It would end up taking us a couple of days to get through them both).

We went to bed early – our next day would be one of the BIGGEST of the holiday. The MAEVE TAG Pilgrimage to the Holy Land.

Bet you can’t wait for the next post people!!!
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lyn on

Glad you went to the Castro. So it might rain in Forks?

Den on

My breath is bated with breathless anticipation! xx

Tim on

Hey guys,

Been reading your blog- so far, quite interesting!


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