Resident tourist

Last Friday my parents arrived. It seems like only a short while since I’d seen them last, because it was. Which is an unusual feeling to have, living as I am a third of a world away, though I was reminded by my recent trip back that I am only sixteen or so hours away, which really isn’t much. I realise now that I can’t even imagine a world where two people can be – truly – months or years apart.

Anyway, philosophy aside, the important thing was to get right down to it and get all touristy. :) I figured the first thing to do would be a bit of a scenic drive; get mum familiar with the area a bit, see what it’s all like, and also allow for the possibility that they’d both be pretty knackered and not so inclined to actually do much of their own accord. Typically when I fly back here I feel fine and awake, more or less, but can’t find much motivation to do more than just watch some movies.

So, we briefly visited my current abode, just so they wouldn’t be able to complain I hadn’t showed them, before heading up into the hills to have lunch at Alice’s. There weren’t that many people there, compared to a weekend, though there were still plenty of nice bikes and some quite okay cars – a few Ferraris, you know, the common folk.

From there we took Skyline up to 92 or whatever it is that cuts across to Half Moon Bay, which we visited, though there was such cloud and generally miserable atmosphere that it didn’t seem too appealing. But at least I’ve been there now, and I reckon I’ll check it out again once the weather starts to improve; hopefully it has some nice beaches and whatnot, and I’ll actually spend some time there over summer.

From there we drove up 1 to San Francisco, past Golden Gate Park, up and around and through China Bay and thereabouts, then over the bridge to the point (where we stopped for long enough to take a handful of photos, and not much else given the wind and the cold), then back… then over to Lombard to drive down the wiggly bit, as all tourists are Required to do by Californian Law, then over to Coit tower – it was well dark by then, so although pretty in lights not a whole lot was visible – before ultimately heading back to Palo Alto to grab some dinner. We had intended to go to somewhere in China town – and I thought about stopping in North Beach, as we drove through on Columbus street or whatever – but unsurprisingly [Friday night] parking wasn’t readily available, so rather than waste all evening driving in circles, we said buggerit.

After all that I dropped then back at their hotel.

In the morning I arrived spot on 9am, as arranged, and then waited an hour and a half for mum to actually get up, get dressed, get ready. :P We did finally get going, heading up to S.F. once more to see it in daylight, and with the prime intention of visiting Alcatraz (hopefully the authorities are lenient on us despite not doing this the very first day, as mandated ;) ). The weather was actually pretty clear, not too surprisingly given the wind, but that and the general lack of significant heat deterred mum quite a bit, so she was done with being a tourist on Alcatraz before dad & I were even half way through the audio tour. :) We caught up to her in the gift shop, where dad accidentally bought a Golden Gate Bridge pen – after marvelling how they ‘accidentally’ sold him that Alcatraz pen below list price :D – before we headed back. We wandered over to Pier 39 for food and to, again, be idiot tourists and follow in the footsteps of all our peers.

Surprisingly, though, I didn’t mind it this time. Previously when I’ve been there it’s either been the height of summer and just ridiculously busy, or in similar conditions in winter with virtually no one there and nothing open. This time, though, it was all open – even the carrousel was running, for the first time that I’ve seen, I believe – and so it was actually quite enjoyable. We swung by various shops, as mum was attracted to their warmth and windbreaking capabilities, which ultimately resulted in my purchase of a pair of chocolate truffles, as well as a tuple of English chocolate (Flake, Crunchie and Aero). So I have now tasted what genuinely appeared to be real English Cadbury’s (and Nestle’s), and so I can fairly say that the Englishmen’s claim of its universal superiority is pure poppy-cock. It tastes somewhat different to what I remember of the Australian equivalents – slightly heavier, richer, tad less milky – but in fact pretty much exactly the same as Ghiradeli, which is to say, quite nice, but no substitute for good old Aussie Cadbury. This I rule with the authority vested in me by the many times my own weight in chocolate consumed by myself, in my brief time on this Earth. :)

We ended up eating there, or near there anyway – some quite nice restaurant on the waterfront there – before heading back home.

Sunday morning I again arrived right on 9am (I’m not sure what the odds are of me being punctual two days in a row, but it’s got to be less than 1st division Tattslotto), and once again waited on mum to actually get ready. :P Once finally so, we headed down to Santa Cruz first up, to pretend it wasn’t hopelessly foggy and rainy and that it was in any way attractive in such weather. You could still make out the pier from the lookouts towards the lighthouse point, grey as it all was. I managed to find UCSC and go to the very same spot that Simon took us all those years ago (well, two), but alas you couldn’t see a thing. I also gave my car a good underside knuckling over the rotten ground there, though to no ill effect that I can discern.

After much driving in circles – Santa Cruz has been, is, and always will be a right bastard to get around (though perhaps not quite as bad as Monterey) – we finally circled in on the main street, or at least parking therefore, upon which we wandered as briefly as humanly possible given the weather, which again drove mum into a random warm shop, again resulting in purchases – in this case a new coat for her, and dad also picked up one because the collar on his previous one was just too “daggy” :P – before ultimately ending up, for lunch, right back at the place we in fact walked through from the carpark to the main street. Yay for variety. :)

After being there for quite some time, we headed down to Monterey to visit the aquarium. It’s quite a long drive down there, when put on top of that to Santa Cruz [from Redwood City], especially when it’s raining constantly and, given how relatively rare rain is here, you’re not really familiar with how your car handles in it. Not that we had any issues, but I was constantly guarded, and that’s surprisingly tiring.

Also, I forgot to mention, it hailed briefly while we were in Santa Cruz, while we were driving up to the lighthouse point. Kind of amusing. :)

We made it to the aquarium eventually, late as it was (just after 4), but we did get to see pretty much all of it in at least cursory detail. Though that’s sadly not very hard, as there’s relatively little to it once you throw out the children’s crap and the educational but very sterile posters and whatnot. The penguins were cute but basically stationary, which isn’t in my rights to complain about but nonetheless isn’t particularly exciting. They did have some baby otters, though, which I didn’t see when I was last there, and which are undeniably cute. They’re basically cats – kittens – with extra big tails, and the exact same instinct, when playing with things, to make things unnecessarily difficult for themselves. :)

That and all but one of them were asleep. Further proof of their relatedness. :D

It’s something of a shame that Monterey’s, like most aquariums I’ve visited, doesn’t have anything in the way of larger animals – dolphins, big sharks, whales, etc. Seals we saw at Pier 39, dark as it was – you can still hear ’em no problem, and probably smell them had we hazarded so close – so that’s fine, but… it just seems strange to me, still, that the biggest actual aquatic show I’ve seen here was at an amusement park (Six Flags in Vallejo), not an aquarium or zoo. :/

Anyway, after that it was dinner time naturally, so we had that, stopped at another chocolate shop briefly afterwards in order to again purchase sweet, sweet candy, before heading back. The drive back wasn’t too long, really, though again in the rain and dark about as boring as such a thing could be. I really do need to get myself one of those Leerjets, like all the other cool kids.

And that covers the weekend, cursorily. It was hard to be excited, or to actually do a lot of things, given the weather, but on the flipside of that is the snow it dumped up in Tahoe, which all going well we’ll visit next week for at least a couple of days, so, perhaps it’s all good. It’s really not the season to be visiting here as a tourist, alas, though I wouldn’t change having my parents here, especially for Christmas.

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