Wednesday, August 29, 2012

For all my geeky friends

I must recommend 'The Pirates! Band of misfits'. It is amazing. Queen Victoria pulls swords out of her hidden steel petticoat to fight the pirates and also Charles Darwin. So she can eat the Dodo.

Enough said really. Oh plus David Tennent as Charles Darwin and Hugh Grant as a pirate (it's animated, fyi). Brilliant.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

With flowers in your hair...

See no, speak no, hear no evil!
I met these monkeys on a seat on the edge of Chinatown in San Francisco, they were rather well done I felt- monkey sized and pretty life-like!

However I wasn't feeling like exploring Chinatown- to be honest they feel the same in most cities I've been to, I don't really see them as an attraction. Why not just go to China if you want to see Chinese culture?! I got a lift into an area called Union Square, which is the hotel and shopping centre so far as I gathered, and so I had to immerse myself in the American consumerist culture for a while, and wander around the many flagship stores they have. I even bought a few things, which I was rather glad of later on when the temperature dropped to unreasonably chilly! I can't say I wasn't warned, but I never thought it would get quite that cold, this is California in the middle of summer!!! San Francisco is known for it's microclimates, but they really are quite something!

After exploring the shops I had a bit of lunch, turns out I got lucky and picked an Italian cafe with reasonably authentic Italian food. And coffee. Mmm coffee. As a side note, Americans have an unfair reputation for bad coffee, it's nowhere near as awful as English coffee! I'm forming a theory that I might actually be able to drink espresso and macchiato in Italy, and that the reason I like it milky is due to the (poor) quality of the coffee. This is convenient as my stomach has taken a dislike to dairy after Russia, and goes on strike whenever I have coffee.

Anyhow, that has nothing whatsover to do with the pictures you can now see of the amazing cable car I went on. I have heard comparisons of San Francisco and Wellington before, and they are fair. Landing at the airport feels just as much like you are about to land in the harbour as it does in Welly, and then it has all the hills, and the sea, and a cable car. And as dearly as I love Wellington, and it's cable car, it's got nothing on this one! And yes, of course I got myself a spot standing up hanging off the edge at the front, where else would I go! Although I would advise trousers rather than a dress such as mine for this endeavour- the wind is another fair comparison with Wellington! I enjoyed the cable car a great deal, they do rather rule the roads wherever they go, half the stops seem to be in the middle of intersections. And one guy almost got run over by us- these cable cars go around corners and I guess he wasn't looking. Although they do make a hell of a racket, they have bells that the drivers ring with the skill and enthusiasm of a bell-puller calling Sunday mass!

I jumped off the cable-car at the top of the last hill, where I could peer down the infamously steep Lombard Street, which zig-zags downhill ruining the otherwise grid-like road maps. I attempted to take some pictures, but eventually realised that the bottom of the hills was probably a lot better place to try and take a picture of it than the top, so you'll have to settle for a picture of me instead. You can see the white 4x4 making it's way at a good angle I guess. Anyway, I didn't fancy walking down the hill only to walk back up it again, and I wanted to go down to Fisherman's wharf, see the famous chocolate factory, admire the sea and bum around a bit before getting myself up to Golden Gate park to wander about some more and have dinner.

Walking down the street following cable car tracks I encountered a rather amazing view-

I also briefly spotted what I believe was the Golden Gate bridge, hiding in it's usual cover of fog. San Francisco has many things, but more than almost anything else, it has fog. Lots and lots of fog. There was also another rather impressive bridge, called Bay Bridge, which goes to Oakland and Berkeley University. On the topic of universities, we are very close to Stanford university here, I am very tempted to try and visit. I only want a picture of the Metaphysics lab.....

And finally this rather sad looking picture is of a place called Sharon Meadow, in Golden Gate park, otherwise called the Summer of Love. In the 60's this was the place to be, if you believed in love and gentle people with flowers in their hair... it was honestly really depressing to walk around it. The place was almost completely deserted, the only person I saw was a guy who looked homeless and was finishing up busking for the day. It almost made me cry, to think that this used to be a place full of people with such love and hope for the future has become so forlorn, an empty space of scrubby grass. It wouldn't take much to maintain it, with those established trees and the rest of the park surrounding it. No wonder my generation has no hope for the future when you can see how such an energetic and loving generation, with such altruistic dreams have only this left as a memento of their enthusiasm.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Capital geek country

I don't actually know precisely where we are staying- somewhere in the proximity of San Francisco. And, it seems, geek central. I had a short, child-encumbered trip to Palo Alto the other day, during which I discovered there isn't much to see at 8am, that they have a pretty awesome twist on public art features, and that jelly-bean art is an excellent form of entertainment.

Altogether a pleasant geeky surprise for me. And it seems I have earned a day off, tomorrow I shall be entirely un-encumbered with children, and have the day to explore San Francisco. Or anything else I happen to be interested in, but San Francisco seems to be the biggest thing around to go and see. Besides, the more I hear the more I'm liking the sound of it!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012


is so very American.

I shall attempted to elaborate on that when I get over the jet lag. Possibly when I get back to London.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Dairy education

I am slowly coming to grips with the excellent variety of dairy products available in Russia. I was initially confounded by the sheer variety of what appeared to be milk cartons in the fridge. When I first asked, I had got a simple 'It's creamy milk for coffee' as an explanation. It appears that one doesn't buy milk and cream here, but rather a selection of dairy products to keep in the refrigerator and then select your dairy product of choice by fat content for each use. I am currently consuming frozen strawberries (they got kicked out of the freezer in favour of space for icecream) with 10% fat milk. It's better than normal cream, I think. The lowest I've seen is 3.2%-4% which I think is your normal standardised milk, but they only seem to go up from there! Not that I mind of course, but it is fascinating.

As for the other dairy products... I don't think the English language has words for half of them. I tried to get some butter one day (it was in a tub like margarine), asked one of the kids "Is this butter?" got a no and said "So what is it then?" Oh ummmmm........... no answer. It had pictures of cows on the front, and came in a margarine tub, it seemed like a reasonable guess! I think it is some sort of cross between cheese and butter, it's quite nice. A bit like cream cheese, but creamier, more buttery.

Altogether, Russia seems to have a greater supply of dairy products than France, although they claim they aren't as heavy- apparently they don't do 'cream' like the English! Certainly I'm not suffering that problem I had in France, where every meal seemed to be made of cream freche!

In other kitchen-in-Russia related news, there is a frog hopping it's way across the floor. I had better go and liberate it.