The Wild, Wild West (Part 1. Fisherman’s Wharf, Lombard Street, Universal Studios, Yosemite Park)

My last trip to the US which was the most breathtaking trip I’ve ever experienced. Thinking about it makes me feel blessed.  It was more than three years ago and it was mostly of road trips with the older members of both sides of my family.  I like hanging out with older people.  I get to discover a lot of secrets!

Now here is my wretched effort, but an effort nonetheless, to help me remember.

Day 1-4:  August 4-7

MANILA TO SF IN THE EVENING

My mom and I left Manila on August 4 in the evening (My dad followed about a week after) and after 13 or so hours of sitting on my sore butt on the not-so-comfy plane seat, it was still August 4 in the evening when we arrived in SF. Awful plane ride (after raving on and on previously about how I like airplane rides).  Too many noisy kids and crying babies who just would not shut up.

Lovely, sunny California.  Their towns and places had nice, melodious sounding names like Walnut Creek, Pleasant Hill, Sun Valley… My first few days in California with my mom’s sisters were mostly about food tripping (cherries and chocolates!) and going shopping, shopping, and more shopping.  We went to a flea market, lots of Walmarts and Kmarts and drugstores and Macy’s and Marshall’s and Coscos and Trader Joe’s and probably all the local stores near my aunt’s place in Martinez.

Day 5:  August 8

FISHERMAN’S WHARF, SF BAY

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Vibrant Flowers at the Fisherman's Wharf

…encompasses the northern waterfront area of SF from Ghirardelli Square or Van Ness Street east to Pier 35 or Kearny Street.  The wharf has some of the most incredible views of SF Bay and the Alcatraz.  We didn’t stay too long though, just looked at the seals that were basking in the pier.  We walked around, occasionally going inside some of the quaint looking shops.

LOMBARD STREET – it’s cool to be crooked!

The eight sharp curves which switchback down the one-way steep hill past quaint Victorian mansions were created in the 20s to help pedestrians and drivers deal with the 27-degree slope. For someone who’s used to crowded dirty streets, Lombard Street was perfect. It was an explosion of colors from flowerbeds and residences’ gardens. There was even this bougainvilla that’s taking over a whole house!

Just like cotton candy

DRIVING THROUGH THE GOLDEN GATE BRIDGE

The bridge opened to vehicular traffic on May 28, 1937.  It is a suspension bridge spanning the Golden Gate, the opening into the SF Bay from the Pacific Ocean.  It connects the city of SF on the northern tip of the SF Peninsula and a portion of the south-facing Marin County headlands near the small bayside town of Sausalito.  The entire bridge spans 1.7 miles or 2.7 km.  The two towers rise 746 feet above the water.  Of course, I lifted that data off from the internet.  What? You thought I had it memorized???  Here’s more.

The color of the bridge is an orange vermilion called International orange.  The color was selected because it blends well with the natural surroundings yet enhances the bridge’s visibility in fog.

SAUSALITO –Spanish for “Little Willow Grove”

Enjoyed a scenic drive to Sausalito. Very nice, picturesque little town (Only filthy rich people allowed) by the sea.  Some people have all the luck. Oh well, at least my eyes had a taste of their cute little town for a few minutes.

Day 6:  August 9

ROAD TRIP TO LOS ANGELES

Left Martinez around 4am in my aunt’s 4W BMW. With the sun not rising yet, we passed many eerily quiet and beautiful terrains, as if we were journeying through another planet. I was half expecting curious life-forms to rise out of those formations. I don’t know what they were, just lots of slopes and curves in endless undulation, making them look soft and graceful. It felt surreal since I was drifting in between consciousness and sleep and I had no idea where we were.

UNIVERSAL STUDIOS

Fun! We had VIP tickets so we got to stay in front of all the lines to the rides all the time!  …tried the Back to the Future, a motion simulator ride where we sat on an eight-seater de lorean and then have our butts shaken and stirred as we go on a space ride in some universe… the Mummy ride (roller coaster)… the Jurassic Park, a water-based ride with lots of mechanical dinosaurs hissing, jumping, spraying and snarling at us. Almost got our heads bitten off by a T-rex before our raft plunged from a high waterfall! We got soaked!  At least we cooled down a bit.  It was so hot that day. Loved the Shrek 4D Movie.

We toured the back lot and saw the Psycho house, the War of the Worlds disaster set, the Lost World equipment, some cars from the Fast and the Furious and the Desperate Housewives’ houses.  Where are the half naked gorgeous gardeners?

–And the other large set of a basic city which has been a set for numerous movies like Spiderman and Bruce Almighty. It just takes a really good set designer and cinematographer to dress up the sets and make them look bigger on film.  Hated the Waterworld Show…hated the Terminator Imax/ride.  The Van Helsing Castle Dracula was so-so.  You just get to walk inside an air conditioned building (which was a relief because of the heat outside) with eerie lighting and designs and some mechanically operated ghouls. Some were just employees wearing Halloween costumes.

Day 7:  Thursday, August 10

HOLLYWOOD

 The movie capital of the world. Need I say more?

Stayed overnight at the Best Western Inn.  Where are all the stars?

DRIVING THROUGH RODEO DRIVE

Yep, just driving through.  Bulgari, Armani, Escada, Chanel… The oxygen’s probably designer, too.  My whole life’s earnings could get sucked out just to breathe that. 

DRIVING BY HOLLYWOOD STARS’ OPULENT HOMES

Which stars, we don’t know. But a tour bus was right in front of us and we followed it as it went around the streets.  So many rich people everywhere!

YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK

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When they say PARK, I never thought they were referring to a place as vast as a country! Back home, a park may refer to something that’s a hundred or so square meters with a seesaw and a rusty swing.  So one can (or can’t)imagine my amazement when we drove up and down and around the Park.

FAST FACTS

It is largely in Mariposa County and Tuolumne County in California, covers an area of 1,189 sq mi and reaches across the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada mountain chain.  Yosemite is internationally recognized for its spectacular granite cliffs, waterfalls, clear streams (spectacular, alright), Giant Sequoia groves and biological diversity.  The park has an elevation range from 2000 to 13114 feet.

It was a six hour drive from Los Angeles. What’s with their soil? What do they feed these plants and trees?  Why are they so big and healthy and beautiful?

The drive and the views while driving were truly spectacular.  So many lovely and graceful trees! I loved it all but I was exhausted so I was not really able to fully appreciate the sequoias.  I thought they were really pretty but my mind was slowly shutting down from tiredness.

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