The London Marathon 2017

Mileage for Week Fifteen
Mon – 3.7 miles
Tue – 0 miles
Wed – 2 miles
Thu – 0 miles
Fri – 0 miles
Sat – 3.1 miles
Sun – 26.2 miles
Total – 35 miles

Get comfy, this is a long read.

The week leading into the Virgin Money London Marathon 2017 was a quiet one. In reality the training had ended a few weeks back and it was all about resting and not overdoing it.

Following a couple of runs in the early part of the week I rested until we got to London. We travelled from Wales by train on Friday, arriving in London late morning.

London Marathon Expo

Once we had lunch it was off to the Marathon Expo to collect my number. The process was simple. Take in your form and ID and the race pack is handed over. The Expo itself is very big. IG – Me and my number

I’m glad we went on the Friday, as we were tired from the journey and then adding in all the walking around the Expo. If that had been the Saturday, then it would have affected my legs for the race.

Once you have your number you walk around the corner into the Expo proper and straight into the ADIDAS branded shopping area. There is a lot of stuff on display and I bought myself a blue London Marathon t-shirt which was £30. I saw it at Silverstone Half where it was a bit cheaper but I’d left my cash in the car! IG – Blue London Marathon t-shirt

I liked the look of the marathon jacket but that was £55 and I thought better of it. I’ll check the shop website in a few weeks to see if they are any cheaper… I’m guessing not but I’ll look anyway.

The Expo is filled with exhibitors selling their running related wares, there are also many races represented, from short runs to long ones and even the virtual races that you may have seen on Facebook and other social media sites.

Personally, I ignored the majority, the only medals that took my eye were the Disney ones. They look great and the Disneyland Paris Half Marathon has been on my list since it began a few years ago.

Southwark parkrun

Sarah and I had planned some months ago that we would run a parkrun somewhere near the hotel. The easiest for us to get to was Southwark parkrun, which was 4 tube stops away on the Jubilee line.

The park itself is lovely. A large green space, trees, somewhere for kids to play safely and even a pond with various ducks and other bird life. There are also some very friendly squirrels who are clearly used to being fed by humans.

The course was three laps, which included a couple of tight-ish turns but nothing to major. The attendance on the day was a record of 475. Sarah and I ran around together in 32:23. A nice leg stretch for me. The day was heavily populated by parkrun tourists. I saw runners from all over the country and there were even a few international visitors.

We followed the run with a lovely sausage and bacon sandwich in the little café in the park.

This is of course Millwall FC territory, there was a Millwall FC mirror in the café and Danny Baker lived his early years a stones throw from the southern end of the park. Having visited London many times but only sticking to the tourist bits, you don’t get to hear a proper London accent. Well we did in the café.

IG – Sarah’s pics from parkrun

Virgin Money London Marathon 2017

I have wanted to run the London Marathon since I was a kid. I remember watching during the 1980’s and seeing Ingrid Kristiansen’s domination of the race all while wearing gloves. That’s an image that has stuck with me.

I first applied for the 2016 race but was unsuccessful in the ballot, undeterred I tried again and was accepted for this years race.

I’ve run plenty of Half Marathon’s and say that at the completion of those I wondered how on earth I would run double that distance. From my one experience I can confidently say that it is all down to the training. You can’t take any short cuts to marathon running. If you put in the time you will get the rewards.

I was in the Blue start and had to make my way to Blackheath station. Our hotel was close to Waterloo East station where the train would go through on the way to Blackheath. That meant I only had a few minutes walk before I was on the platform. The train arrived quickly and I think within 20 minutes I was at Blackheath with a lot of other runners full of nervous energy!

The train travel is free for all runners, which this part of the journey so much easier and stress free.

Once out of the station we were guided by volunteers (big thumbs up to every volunteer!!) around to the left and up the hill towards the park and passed the magnificent looking All Saints’ Church.

I had to show my number to get into the start area proper, easier said than done. I was wearing my running top with number, a long sleeved running top, another long sleeve that I might wear in the pen and a jumper! I lifted all the long sleeves to show that I was allowed in. Walking through there was a photographer who took a photo as I repeated my pulling up of jumpers. Not very flattering.

As I made my way forward there was another photographer (there were many walking around) as he got into position to take the photo, I put my hand up and asked him to wait. I then took every top off bar my running top to at least get one photo that proves I was there.

It was a chilly day, so all the jumpers went straight back on. What I hadn’t taken to London were trousers, big mistake. There was at least 90 minutes before the race would start and I was getting cold. Plus I didn’t want to walk around for too long. I sat on the grass and removed a long sleeve and draped that over my legs.

During this time the big screen was showing various bits of marathon related news, and before long the wheelchairs, para-athletes and the elite women were setting off at their allotted times.

I’d used the urinals once and was now wandering around to get my legs moving. I found a spot where I could still see the big screen and was in amongst a small group where it was warmer than sitting alone on the grass. I spotted a woman called Sophie who I thought I recognised from Instagram but I had weak signal and couldn’t check my feed. Later I was able to confirm that Sophie was indeed on Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/runningonfullblog) and has since written about her day here (http://runningonfullblog.com/).

After another trip to the urinals (nervous and cold is not a good combination) I wandered down the length of the start area to see what was around. There was a changing room tent, somewhere to get a hot drink and at the bottom was the championship area where the fast runners were.

To my delight there were more urinals! One last stop before deciding when to put my bag on the truck. As it was chilly I was going to keep one long sleeve on and then ditch it once I got going. As I stood in front of the trucks there were only a few runners covered up, so I decided to go for it and only wear my t-shirt. A good decision as the sun broke through the clouds minutes after, it was forecast to be a chilly day but the weather gods had other ideas.

Bag handed in, sunglasses on and I was stood in Blue start Zone 9. The last zone!

My watch was playing up, it would keep restarting itself, not something I needed on this day of all days! Instead of having the time showing, I put the watch into run mode. The downside to that is I didn’t know what the time was and I didn’t want to keep getting my ‘phone out.

Maybe it was sentient? I had planned a while back that my watch, which I have been using since just after I started running, would be replaced with a newer model after the marathon. Sarah said that I should have bought the new watch before the marathon but even though I’m rarely sentimental, I wanted to stick with the watch that has seen me go from jogging down the canal towpath, to parkruns, to 10ks, to half marathons, to training for and completing a marathon.

We started to drift forward little by little. I thought we were just being bunched up ready for the start. I quickly checked the time and it was already 10:06, the leaders would have already run over a mile.

As always happens when I’m at an organised event, I needed a wee! I knew there were toilets about 600m after the start and then periodically along the course. However as we all moved forward there was a gap in the barriers and lots of men and women were dashing for the nearest urinal or loo. I dashed off too, better to go before the clock starts running.

IG – Blue start

Something I didn’t like as we all moved forward was the throwing of bin bags or tops or whatever a person was wearing to stay warm. I was in the middle of the throng so was safe, but if you were left or right you were in danger of being hit in the head. I saw too many selfish people throwing stuff and hitting people. It’s not rocket science. Move over and dispose of it safely or ask the person next to you to pass it on.

Wow 1600 words and I haven’t crossed the start line yet. As I sit here and type, I don’t think the next bit (the marathon) will take that long as it was just running, so keep with me.

I approached the start line and actually got a bit emotional. A lump in my throat if you will. I was starting the London Marathon! I quickly put those thoughts out of my mind and concentrated on what was to come. I crossed the line at 10:15.

The three Royals who started the race were apparently waving at the runners, I know this because I saw it on TV, on the day I didn’t even see them. As I went over the start line, they would have been standing on my left, in fact I could have probably reached out and touched them, but I was looking to the right and the stand where all the noise was coming from. That’s where I thought they would be.

At this time Sarah and Lesley were just about in position in Bermondsey somewhere between 11 and 12 miles.

Sarah text me at 10:16 “At post. Your Left. Where the crowd thins out.”

I replied “Ok, just started, 4 mins run!”

I knew that by the time I got to them, where the crowd thins out would be full of people! Sarah had made a sign for me and they also had balloons for me to look out for but that was nearly 2 hours ahead.

Mile Splits
1 – 10:10
2 – 9:58
3 – 9:20
4 – 9:12
5 – 9:34
6 – 9:19
7 – 9:27

When I run I don’t really take particular notice of what’s going on around me. I notice the other runners and if they are about to get in my way but not the stuff that’s around me. What I’m getting at, is that this bit is going to be pretty bland!

Going into the race I knew there were landmarks: Cutty Sark at 6 and a bit, Tower Bridge at about halfway, Canary Warf at 18, Big Ben with a mile to go. Other than that I wasn’t really looking out for anything, I was just running!

Early on I passed a lady runner wearing a helicopter, later I would see a chap also wearing a helicopter.

I was prepared for the early miles to be slower than my target pace of 9:00 min/mile, what I wasn’t prepared for was for all the miles to be slower than my target pace! Not once did I get up to speed.

This was due to the amount of people running. I would speed up and the be confronted by a wall of runners and nowhere to go.

One of the highlights of this run for me is the Cutty Sark. I’ve seen it so many times over the years and have visited it as a tourist but this was clearly the first time I’ve run around it. To commemorate that I took a little bit of very shaky runner cam footage as I went around.

From there I kept going knowing that I would see Sarah in about an hours time.

Mile Splits
8 – 9:15
9 – 9:37
10 – 9:22
11 – 9:26
12 – 9:34
13 – 9:19
14 – 9:20

As you can see the splits remained pretty much constant. Again it was due to the volume of people running and there being no space. The miles were falling away though, I was feeling good despite the pace annoyance. It was getting much warmer and I was taking on my Cliff Bloks and water as scheduled. We had planned in advance that Sarah and Lesley would have a full bottle ready for me. I always carry a water belt with me, I like having a drink and knowing I can have one, not wait for a water station.

I just about finished my drink as I ran into Bermondsey. I’d looked on YouTube and Google Streetview to see what the area looked like, to make sure I would recognise it. I must say here that even though I’ve watched the marathon for years, it all looks different when you are running.

I passed the tube station and started scanning the crowds on my left. It seemed here, as in other sections of the course, that there were no barriers and the crowds had spilled onto the road, leaving a much more constricted space for runners. Crowds are great but stay on the paths please.

I couldn’t see Sarah or Lesley but kept on looking when I heard a shout of “Gary” I don’t know who it was but I looked and saw them both. I just about dived across to them, nearly taking out a runner in the process.

Sarah got some quick photos, I said my goal of 4 hours was probably not going to happen and Lesley said it didn’t matter, finishing was the goal. Which is quite correct. Even though we had planned to swap bottles, I was about to run off without it, despite Lesley saying several times to swap the bottle! A runners daze is what I’m putting it down to. Bottle finally swapped, a quick good bye and I was off again.

The next landmark was of course Tower Bridge. Which I forgot all about. I was still trying to find gaps in order to make up some time when we turned left. I remember thinking “what’s next” and there was Tower Bridge.

I’ve walked over the bridge previously and done tour where you can go up and across the thing at the top (forgotten it’s name) but running over it was great fun. The crowds had been loud so far but they were outdone the crowds here. Both sides were shouting and encouraging every runner.

There was a TV camera at the end which I waved at but having watched all the live coverage, I didn’t see myself.

Halfway and we were all headed to the Isle of Dogs. There is a section between Tower Bridge and Isle of Dogs where you can see the runners coming back from Canary Wharf on the other side of the road.

We are at 14 or so miles, they are around 22 miles. Some of them were flying passed. I saw James Cracknell (finish time 2:43:12) here and knew it would be some time before I too was on that side of the road.

Mile Splits
15 – 9:03
16 – 10:05
17 – 9:17
18 – 9:17
19 – 9:47
20 – 9:24
21 – 9:37

I distinctly remember looking at my watch and it being 15.5 miles and thinking that this was okay. I wasn’t in any trouble. The legs were great, the chest was great and I was just running. It didn’t feel hard. That’s the training.

I remember somewhere here (it was in the 16th mile, I just checked Google maps) that we could see the river Thames. Yes I know we’ve run alongside it and gone over it but I think this was the first time I’d seen it. Usually there were people or buildings in the way.

We went through some tunnels around here too. I think two? Maybe three, I can’t remember. I know why watch lost GPS and the Strava map is bit squiggly in this area.

I don’t know why mile 16 is slower than the others, I’ve looked at the route and can’t remember anything specific.

I still was feeling good. I was warm and getting tired but overall I was okay. Had there been an opportunity to speed up on any other day I would have taken it at this point. On this day though I was content to stay at the pace I was running and not risk hurting myself.

There were many people along the route being cared for by volunteers, officials and St John’s Ambulance. Some looked in a bad way, thankfully there have been no reports of fatalities.

I certainly didn’t want to join them, the pace I was doing was frustrating but I would run the marathon.

Mile Splits
22 – 9:41
23 – 9:52
24 – 10:02
25 – 9:50
26 – 9:49
0.5 – 9:29 – My watch was ahead all the way along.

The last 5 and a bit miles were tough. A battle of mind over legs!

As I went through mile 22 and 23, where I had seen James Cracknell earlier, there were still runners, walkers and rhino’s still coming through on the other side of the road. I must admit feeling a little sorry for them, as I was in the last section and they had nearly a half marathon still to do.

It was somewhere between 23 and 24 mile that I walked for about 30 seconds. I was feeling the distance a little by that stage, I was disappointed that I wouldn’t be under 4 hours and I just wanted to compose my self. I think it might have been at the top of a slight incline? I can’t really remember. I finished off my water bottle, got my head sorted and a volunteer at the side looked me dead in the eye and said “c’mon Gary, you’ve got this, you’re nearly finished” that gave me that little shove I needed to push on.

Several times during Friday and Saturday, Sarah, Lesley and I had crossed the Golden Jubilee Bridge, which looks down onto the Embankment and the 25 mile marker.

That turned out to be a mental disadvantage. Going through 24 miles to that marker seemed to take an age! I could see the bridge coming but it never seemed to get any closer. The split time tells us that it took me 9:50 to get there, if it had said 15:00 I couldn’t have disagreed.

Once passed that marker, and boy was I glad to get passed it, I could see Big Ben, oh ok, the Elizabeth Tower and the clock face said it was 14:20 and I knew I had about a mile to go.

By this time I was very salty on my face. I get that on really long runs, the white salt streaks. I grabbed a water bottle, took a sip and then poured some on my face and tried to rub off all the salt. Yes, at this point I was thinking of looking presentable for the finish line picture!! As Sarah can confirm, I didn’t do a very good job of cleaning myself up and was still all streaky at the end.

Turning right at Big Ben and it was a final plod down Birdcage Walk before that now iconic double right hander onto the Mall. It was pretty cool rounding that last bend and seeing the finish in front of me.

I saw there were photographers on the sides getting pictures, so I made sure to go left and leave a gap between me and the runner in front, in order to get a photo on the Mall. Which I did, there are a few with Buckingham Palace in the background.

As I rounded the final bend the big screen was showing the Royals handing out medals, the announcer said he wasn’t going to say which part of the finish they were standing at. If you aren’t aware, London has a finish gantry spanning the road, with three points you can run through. I headed for the middle one.

As I went through and did my double fist pump, I could see the Royals on my left. Their queue was massive. I wasn’t in any mood for hanging about, I wanted the medal and some water.

IG – Video of me crossing the line

So I kept moving and was given my medal and congratulated by a volunteer (I’m saying volunteer all the time, I expect they all are). From that it was the souvenir photo. I look very dazed in mine.

The process just keeps you moving along. Next up was the heavy goody bag, I checked my t-shirt was the size and as I shuffled onwards there was a results board which I grabbed a photo of as a reminder. More shuffling and a chap quite obviously used to dealing with tired runners said to me “Gary, go to your right for you bag” and I just replied “okay” and kept up my shuffle towards my bag.

The bag retrieval process is much like the Silverstone Half which I have written about before. As I shuffled along the path, a spotter called out my number and without breaking stride the bag was placed in my hand. Awesome.

Still shuffling! I made my way to Horseguards, eating what I could find in the bag and drinking water.

We had prearranged to meet at the letter G on Horseguards so I headed towards it, thankfully it was on the left of the parade square so I didn’t have to walk too far.

Sarah spotted me and came bounding over to give me a hug, I think my first word were “don’t squeeze to hard”. I look absolutely shattered in the photos.

Some of the other words out of my mouth immediately upon finishing were “I’m never doing that again” “I’ve done it now, I don’t need to do it again” “I was going to do an ultra, but I’m not”

We three made our way to the hotel, on the way Lesley bought me a McDonalds. Not something I eat very often, in fact it’s only when I’m at running events with Andrew that I eat McDonalds. I just needed something easy to eat and that fit the bill.

We once again got to the Golden Jubilee bridge and saw runners still making their way towards the last mile and a bit. I took some photos and a video, as I’ve run there now.

Back in the hotel room and after a delightful refreshing shower, I checked the progress made by those I was tracking on the London Marathon app and saw that most had finished in times they were expecting, so that’s really good.

IG – T-shirt and medal  IG – Showing off my medal the following day

Positives

I’m typing this on the 28th, so I’ve had many days to reflect on the run.

This was the largest attended run and the longest distance run I’ve been part of.

The organisation is excellent right from the beginning with updates, social media, emails, the magazine when you get in is very useful, the information provided is clear and concise. The Expo was brilliant, the train travel, the guides to the starting area, the baggage trucks and all the volunteers were wonderful.

Along the route there were very few places without spectators. They did a brilliant job of encouraging everyone along the route. Stick your name on your front and you are guaranteed to hear it a lot!! I’m at a loss as to why some runners were wearing headphones, you don’t need headphones at these large events, the crowd are great at motivating you to keep moving.

There was one point, I don’t know where it was but we went under a flyover and there were drummers on the right hand side and screaming spectators on the left. The cacophony of noise and bass from the drums couldn’t fail to inspire you to do your best.

The medal is fantastic, the best medal I’ve had so far. The t-shirt puzzled me initially, as it looks like an ice-cream until It was pointed out that the ice-cream part is actually 26.2 with the river Thames being the sauce and runner shaped sprinkles.

Everyone I’ve shown the medal too has been impressed by it.

Negatives

Personally I think the race is too big. If like me you think you can run it under 4 hours, you might struggle depending on which zone you are placed in. It was clear from the outset that I wasn’t getting under 4 and I eventually accepted that.

I’m not sure what London can do though. Staggered starts is an option but unlikely due to the times that are run in London. The cut off is 18:15, so maybe those expecting times of 6-8 hours could be set off later. 11am perhaps?  Thereby making it possible to waves to be sent off every 10 minutes perhaps? That would spread the runners out across the course. Boston does waves but would it work in London?

What next?

Despite that negativity, I ran the London Marathon. I’m extremely pleased to have crossed the famous finish line. I’m not putting myself in the ballot again for next year. I may in the future as I’ll go into it with the experience of being there before.

You remember I said “I’m never doing that again”? Well that was my thought until I woke up on Tuesday morning and thought to myself, I know I can go under 4 hours, I’m confident of that. I was researching marathons later that morning and found the Chester Marathon, held in October with around 10,000 runners, a lot less than the 40,000 at London. I’ve not committed myself just yet though.

Before that I have the following lined up:

May & June  – Brecon Athletic Club – Llanfrynach 3-4-5 mile series
June 25th – Swansea Half
August 6th – Brecon 10
August 27th – Severn Bridge Half
September 24th – Swansea 10K

Why do people come to Cardiff

Today I went to the National Museum Wales in Cardiff. I’d not been before and I had a few hours to kill before a film. The website said there was a Pop Art display, and after seeing Roy Lichtenstein’s work in Tate Modern, I was keen to see what they had.

Inside I saw a Picasso, a Cezanne, a Hockney and a Peter Blake. Also on display were works by other artists I wasn’t so familiar with but still worth seeing. I explored the rest of the museum and found to my delight, a room full of Monet paintings, a Manet, a cast of Rodin’s The Kiss and elsewhere lots of Gainsborough’s.

I was amazed, I never knew that Cardiff had such a great collection of art.

As I left, sat on the steps of the very grand building were three young lads, one of whom remarked ‘Why do people come to Cardiff, it’s shit. You know Chinese people fly 24,000 miles to come to this dump, why?’ As I walked over the road, part of me wanted to go back and explain that they were sat on the very steps of one reason why people visit Cardiff, but I was on my way somewhere else, there were three of them, I’m small and rubbish at fighting if it came to that!

So as I walked away, I considered his point and came up with this list:

  • The very Museum whose steps they were sat on, a great collection of art and natural history.
  • The buildings and architecture in Cathays Park. Having never been that close, I’d not seen the massive dragon on top of one of them.
  • Bute Park, not too far there, an amazing green space in the city.
  • Cardiff Castle, more history, more architecture, more green spaces.
  • The shopping area, lots of big names all gathered in a relatively small and compact area.
  • The Millennium Stadium, take a tour, watch a game, watch a concert
  • Big name cinema with Vue and Cineworld, or not too far away a bit of art-house at The Chapter, while you’re there see a play or even more art.
  • Music and theatre venues of which there are many.
  • The Bay; food, entertainment or just relax and take in the sights.
  • The Millennium Centre: See a play or music or like I did, the Britain’s Got Talent auditions.
  • Not too far out the city is St Fagans and the Museum of Welsh Life, free to get in and so much history about Wales, and guess what, even more green spaces.
  • Llandaff Cathedral and the surrounding area, a peaceful haven away from the city.
  • Doctor Who & Torchwood locations; I’ve looked for them and no doubt so have others. I think there are even guided tours available.
  • A starting point to visit other places. I’m sure people come to Cardiff as it’s the capital and then travel to other places, Swansea, The Gower, Mumbles, Haverfordwest, into the Beacons where I live, up the coast and up North.

Not an exhaustive list but one from memory and not resorting to Google. I’m sure a quick search will reveal a huge list of things that bring people to Cardiff.

Those three lads will never read this but I hope that they one day realise what they have in front of them.

So…Am I Welsh Now?

25 years ago The Bartram’s packed up the flat at 56 Girtin Road in Bushey near Watford, Hertfordshire, and headed for Wales and the county of Powys.

I don’t know the exact date but it was early in May 1988 that we moved from Bushey to Cwrt-y-Gollen near Crickhowell, and even nearer to Glangrwyney.

I was 11 years old, short, shy, had a bad haircut and would occasionally swear to the amusement of others…not a great deal has changed in the intervening years.

When we left I was in two minds; I really liked the street we lived on and the area we lived in. There were a series of streets shaped in a large triangle, upon which blocks of flats stood. We had a large playing field and a park all within a stones throw.

It felt like a safe place to be, playing football on the field, riding bikes around the place and generally having a fun time with my friends. I loved being at Bournehall Primary school; I achieved my cycling proficiency there, performed in plays and believe it or not, I was a bit of a class clown. Always ready to do something silly for the amusement of my classmates.

The reason I didn’t mind leaving, and the main source of me being the quiet person I am today, is that I was bullied quite badly at my secondary school; Bushey Meads Comprehensive. A school famous for two former pupils; a certain duo who formed Wham!

Of the 8 months I spent there, I was bullied nearly everyday I attended, both mentally and physically, including the age old lunch money thievery.

For about 2 months in that 8 month period, I would walk halfway to school and turn back around, knowing that both Mum & Dad would be well on their way to work. I would hang out all day and leave just before Mum got home, so that I could also ‘arrive home’ on time. The school was run so badly that Mum even attended a Parents Evening and was told I was doing really well! Anyway I’ve delved into my psyche far too much recently, so let’s leave it at that.IMG_0002This is me aged about 10. So short & innocent. I never stood a chance against the bullies! The photo was taken by the only other Watford FC fan I know, James Giblette. Who if he reads this, will also recognise the places below, as he lived in a flat above ours.

IMG_0003This is the block that we lived in. Firstly in the flat bottom left and then we moved for reasons unknown to me, to the flat bottom right. We had also lived in this area a few years previously, in a block that was situated behind where I took this picture from. The white car belonged to my Dad and was a Daihatsu Charade. My friends and I would regularly climb onto the low roof in the middle of the picture and then climb up the first two levels of the small squares you can see.

I went back about 7 years ago to have a wander down memory lane and not much had changed, just some cosmetic things. That isn’t the case anymore though. The whole area has been redeveloped, I suspect it was sold off to a developer who did what developers do.

This is roughly the same view as my old photo.IMG_0004Looking down the street, the flats are on the immediate left.
And as it is now. You can see the tree on the right in both views.
Until Google update their imagery, it is still possible to see the old flats on the satellite view. Our block was the one nearest the ‘Girtin Road’ in the centre of the picture.

I was of course hesitant about moving to Wales..because it was full of Welsh people and I’d have to speak the lingo! Of course that wasn’t quite the case. We arrived in Wales and immediately bought Barbour Jackets that were all the rage back then, mine was blue.

IMG_0005This is 74 Gills Avenue at Cwrt-y-Gollen, a few years later humongous porches were built to cover the fronts of every house along the street, which were handy for jumping onto from out of bedroom windows, but seemed to serve no real purpose. From the left: Shed/storage, bin area, front door, kitchen window!

Of course time marches on and another of my homes has been knocked down and redeveloped. The street was flattened and where there was once a straight road, there is now a bendy one, so I think this is roughly where #74 stood!

This was another place I liked living, although I was very quiet, not so much when roaming the estate but definitely at school. I mixed with a small bunch but I never socialised with them or any of my class mates out of school hours, something that hampered me as I got older.

I’m quite bad at remembering names but I know I was dropped in to Mr Simms class. My friends from that class included: Julian, William, Stephen & Nigel (surnames left out ‘cos I can’t remember them all!) I kept away from the girls (nothing changes – I was scared back then too) but I had some proper serious crushes on a few, I’ve even friend-ed a few on Facebook over the years just to see how their lives turned out (they’re not all on my friend list now, in case anyone looks).

We moved to Brecon in August of 1997; the summer of Speed 2 & Lost World:Jurassic Park. I know that as I was suddenly in a town with a cinema! I think I went several times a week for months until the novelty wore off.

For the three Bartram’s that moved to Wales, it has proved to be our home from that day forward (not to say that wont change though). It’s also the place where we have all spent the majority of our lives; Mum and Dad both left their respective homes around 17/18 then moved around, only staying in one place for a few years before moving on.

The title of this post is ‘so…am I Welsh now?’    So after 25 years and 70% of my life in one country, am I?

Well the obvious answer is no, of course not, I’m English, a Yorkshireman no less, and will be forevermore, especially on Rugby International days.

That said wherever I end up, Wales will always be the place I call my home.

All my good memories are here.

My friends are here.

My Mum is here.

And there really aren’t many places that are as lovely as this country; both for people and scenery.

Here’s to the next 25 years!!

Last Day, Leather and a Long Flight Home

So it had arrived, the day of departure. We weren’t leaving until the afternoon so we still had a few hours to kill.

This was the view from my hotel room when I woke up, a bit misty or perhaps its fog.IMG_2006I headed for the Cable Car Museum, which was a short walk away. The museum itself is okay, it has the history behind the system but the most interesting part and the reason I went was this is where the cables all meet.

I have no pictures! but its pretty amazing to see the cables all at one spot, knowing they are pulling cars all over this area of the city.
Some others from the tour were also making use of their remaining time by visiting the museum.

On the walk back I got some pictures to try and show the angle of the streets; I’m not sure they tell the whole story.IMG_2007IMG_2013Near the hotel I finally captured a moving cable car.IMG_2015Once back at the hotel, there was just time to double and triple check the luggage before heading downstairs to gather with the rest of the group.

In my last post I mentioned the Folsom Street Fair and it’s leather clad devotees. When I got downstairs I regaled the group of my adventures across the city the previous night, the gig and the leather men on the bus.

As we headed towards the airport we went through the main part of the city, parallel to the streets that lead to Folsom Street. It was here that semi naked leather clad people started appearing, much to the amusement of the group, especially the ladies.

There were lots of men in leather and PVC, and some women too which appeased the husbands amongst the group! As we got closer to the area where the fair was taking place, the amount of clothing worn started to reduce dramatically. One guy was only wearing a hat, and everything was on show and swinging in the breeze.

My Youtube history makes for some interesting reading as I’ve searched for a video to give you dear reader, an opportunity to see what it’s like for yourself. Unfortunately the video wont play, it doesn’t appear to be age restricted as all the naughty bits are well pixilated. If I’m honest the video is quite tame compared to what we actually saw; but if you want to see it and more click below.

Click here for the video

The flight back was long, 10 and a half hours and I couldn’t get to sleep properly and only dozed a bit. I sat next to two young Americans who were interesting to talk to.

Back in Blighty, I rode the tube back to Paddington, before heading to my hotel in Waterloo. I wasn’t due to check in for another 2 hours but pleaded and must have looked tired enough for them to let me in early.  I literally crashed into bed and slept for a few hours.

I would have just stayed in bed if it wasn’t for the theatre tickets I had booked. It seemed like a great idea months before the trip but after the sleepless flight and only three hours sleep since we left San Francisco I was left ruing my purchase. At this point I had been nearly 24 hours without proper sleep.

The play I went to see was Hedda Gabler at the Old Vic. The star of the show was Sheridan Smith who is known in the UK as a comic actress, here playing the Hamlet of women’s roles. The performance was brilliant but I struggled to keep my eyes open, only just making it through. Once it finished I went straight back to bed, and as they say ‘was asleep before my head hit the pillow’.

An uneventful train journey back to Wales was followed by 45 minutes on a bus and then I was home.

Before we departed from the tour guide, the marvellous Roz who I have the utmost respect and admiration for, gave us an information sheet with various figures on it. I shall add them to my next post.

A Long Walk in San Francisco

I was determined to fill my last full day in San Francisco and the USA, so spent most of the 18 hours of the day on the go. This is going to be a long one, so bear with me!

Having had the briefest tastes of the Golden Gate Bridge I wanted to go back and have a better look. Before I went to bed, I researched the numerous bus routes in San Francisco to find the one that would take me near or better, over the bridge. As luck would have it there would be a bus just after 7am which stopped just down the block from the hotel.

So I was up early and ready for the day, and so were the workman doing whatever workman do, the issue for me was that they were working exactly where the bus should have stopped. So as I wandered down the street trying to work out where it would stop, it rolled straight passed me and back the way I came. I’d missed it!

As I trundled back to the hotel I re-assessed my plans for the day, perhaps I could get a later bus, or do something else instead but the thing was, I really wanted to go to the bridge. Outside the hotel were three taxis, who I haggled with in turn trying to see who would drive over the bridge, the sticking point was the toll they would have to pay on their way back. I can’t remember how much it cost me, let’s just say it was more than the bus.

I was dropped off on the north end of the bridge where the coach stopped the day before. DSC_0310I knew it was going to take a little while to walk across the bridge and I was fully prepared for it, or at least I thought I was. I’ve had an issue with heights for a long time, it’s not so much a fear of heights, rather a fear that I will throw myself off of a high structure. This isn’t a suicidal feeling more a ‘I wonder what it would be like’ feeling, I’ve written about this before. The French call it L’appel du vide or Call of the void.

I thought I had this feeling and the fear part in check, however they both came back not long into my walk across the bridge.

Walking across the bridge, you are over land for quite a way but still high up.DSC_0318 The day I walked across, there were a few other (more confident) walkers and lots of cyclists. The traffic moves across the bridge at a fair pace too.

Looking back towards Horseshoe Bay. It’s roughly at this point where I am only just about getting over the water.DSC_0329A long way down.DSC_0330This tanker gives an indication as to how wide this stretch of water is.DSC_0321A long way to go, the bridge is nearly two miles long. This photo is taken from the pathway that goes around the tower, what you can’t see and what happens in each of the photos whilst on the bridge, is my left hand gripping the railing. Yes, I couldn’t even stand there and take a photo. There are people walking, running and cycling passed me and I’m holding on to take a picture!DSC_0331This is the bridge patrol vehicle that travels up and down the walkway, as a sad reality of this bridge is that people commit suicide by jumping off into the water below.DSC_0339Dotted along the span are these signs.DSC_0353It may be crass but having an issue with heights, as I walked across what sprung to my mind was ‘how do people jump off, it’s so high up’ they must have an immense amount of courage to stand on the railing or on the wrong side of it before making that final step.

There is a film I watched a few years ago called ‘The Bridge‘ by filmmaker Eric Steel, who had cameras recording the bridge which captured people making their final leaps. The film talks to the families of those who have jumped and even a survivor, as people do occasionally survive the jump albeit with terrible injuries.

DSC_0340DSC_0363Alcatraz Island in the haze.DSC_0352I made gentle progress across, feeling happier as I got over halfway, there was a gentle breeze blowing that felt like a gale, and I shrank against the railing nearest the road whenever anyone had to come past me.

A look into Fort Point which looks better than it did at the end of ‘Point Blank (1967)’ starring Lee Marvin, I’ve also read that it features in Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘Vertigo’ but I’ve not seen that – which is remiss of me as a film fan, for Christmas I bought myself the recently released Hitchcock collection, so I can rectify that soon.

DSC_0365Safely on the other side and terra firma. It took me about 45 minutes to walk from end to end.DSC_0372The man who built the bridge; Joesph B. Strauss.

DSC_0375 DSC_0376On this side of the bridge there are several hands on bits for you to play with. They show how the bridge works in different weather conditions, I think there were also examples of the different designs that were considered at the time.DSC_0379Getting up and out early, meant I hadn’t had any breakfast so I considered getting the bus back into the city but thought better of it and just kept walking.DSC_0385I walked along a path that followed the shoreline and ended up at the Warming Hut Cafe. I had a pain au chocolat and a hot chocolate. I sat in the cafe but the view just outside was pretty much the photo below, not a bad place for breakfast.

DSC_0395There was a Park Ranger along with lots of others on a wharf just to the right of this picture. Most were fishing but the Ranger was catching rather large Dungeness crabs with a line for a talk to some youngsters later in the day.

Fed and watered I carried on down the shoreline path. There were lots of people about now, running with and without dogs, walking with and without dogs, cycling with or without dogs, you get the idea. The weather was lovely just warm enough even though it wasn’t much passed 9am. I have to say, there were a lot of attractive women bouncing towards me or away from me in tight running gear, which made the walk even more pleasant.

Of course walking here you can always see the bridge, I stopped and had another look at it and saw the cloud closing in. I was thankful for two reasons; 1. I could get a cool picture of the bridge & 2. I wasn’t on the bridge in the cloud!

DSC_0408

Walking along I came to a sandy beach that was mainly full of dogs and their owners, I’m a little wary of dogs but I wanted a rest and to take in the scenery.

I approached the waters edge and decided to have a paddle. When we had our initial tour by coach, the tour guide reiterated something I was already aware of and that is the water is very cold here. With that in mind in gingerly stepped forward.

My feet were in that water for perhaps a minute and they were numb it was that cold. Which made me think back to the three guys who escaped from Alcatraz and supposedly swam or used an improvised boat to reach the mainland; well if they did and didn’t freeze to death in the process good on ’em.

When my feet felt like they belonged to me again, I carried on and I reached the Marina and Marina Park Green, a thin patch of green space along the waters edge. The houses that overlook the bay are really nice.

DSC_0414A San Francisco fire engine was parked up, I’m not sure why but the fireman with it put up the ladder and climbed it.DSC_0419DSC_0420If you’ve read everything I’ve written about this trip you’ll know that I was told to do random things; I played chess in New York and in San Francisco I played football or soccer as it is known here.

After taking photos of the fire engine I turned my attention to what was happening on the green, which wasn’t a lot. The only thing happening was six guys playing football. So I stood and watched, the price of being a football fan is that you will watch football anywhere regardless of the level being played. So I watched for about 10 minutes, as I was about to leave another player turned up, during a break in play asked if he could join in and he did. So now it’s 3 against 4 and I’m itching to play just to even it up.

Holding me back was my lack of fitness, the fact I’d walk nearly 4 miles and I didn’t know really how much further I had to walk and that I had on walking shoes that aren’t really meant for football. But I ignored all that and as the players stopped for a water break I wandered over and asked if I could play. I was welcomed into the fray and played for about 30 minutes which was just about all my dodgy fitness could manage.

I’m not a brilliant football player and the guys I played with were good, the only downside was a few of them were quite serious about it, and it only seemed to be a morning knockabout, which was another reason I cut short my participation. That and I nearly broke a someones forearm….with my face. Having played football with soldiers for 14 years, you learn to hit or get hit. The ball was near our goal, one of my teammates attacked it as did one of the opposition, and I came in from the side and took them both out, receiving a forearm across the face in the process, it didn’t hurt but the guy who hit me was howling in pain. All good fun though.

Here’s where I played football, which considering I’ve only played in a gym or football fields around Brecon and Crickhowell, ranks as the nicest and most picturesque place I’ve played, especially as it’s in sight of the bridge.

I left they guys to continue their game and headed onwards towards the city centre.

Looking down Filmore Street.DSC_0425I walked through a park which I’ve just found out is called Fort Mason Green, a really nice space but not enough shade for me to stop. It was getting a lot warmer now, having played football probably didn’t help my temperature either.

There were 4 maybe 5 guys playing a game here, I don’t know what it was but they appeared to be in two teams, and stood around a net or elasticated surface, they threw a ball down onto it and had to use their hands to knock it back down again until it was missed. I don’t know what it was called, the only thing I could think of was American Handball which is normally played against a wall and as they didn’t have a wall they used the net or whatever it was they had to bounce the ball off of.

DSC_0430Writing this months after the event, I was going to write ‘from here I went down Van Ness Avenue’ but because I took some photos of buildings around here I can correctly type; from here I went down Polk Street.

This building on the corner of Bay & Polk (or Polk & Bay I’m not sure which way around it goes!) caught my eye because of the fire escapes which are painted the same colour as the building.DSC_0431Of course once I’d seen one, I saw many.DSC_0434 DSC_0435For those that know San Francisco, or want to look it up, I walked from Bay Street all the way to California Street. I walked down this street for lunch, which I’ve remembered I had at the New Village Cafe which was a cafe recommended for our group to use, as it was good, cheap and just around the corner from the hotel. On they way, about a block from the cafe I went passed a place called Good Vibrations which is also the Antique Vibrator Museum. I didn’t go in but if I’m ever back in San Francisco I may do so, just for fun.

Once I had lunch I found a cable car to take me into the shopping area, which as I was now feeling a little tired, just kind of passed me by as I just wandered around. I wasn’t looking for anything and only went just to say I had. I missed a cable car to take me back up the hill, so walked up the steepest paved street I’ve ever walked up and caught another car back to the top of California Street and collapsed back into my hotel room for a well earned sit down….and the day wasn’t over yet.

Before coming to the US I’d made tentative plans to go to a bar and see a band, the lead singer of whom I used to listen to in a previous band. Up till that day I still wasn’t sure if I was going to go, but it would have been an opportunity missed. So I once again got familiar with the bus schedules and once again I was lucky to find that bus went from near the hotel, and I didn’t miss it this time.

I wont recount that part of the evening as I’ve already posted a very fawning account here. I’ll just add that I wrote it at nearly 2am, I’d had a few drinks and my alcohol tolerance is very low.

It’s not that far from the mark though, I really enjoyed the evening, getting to see, hear and meet Emily was a thrill and seeing Go Betty Go whose album has been played a lot since I returned was also a highlight.

Before the bands played I met some Americans in the bar. I was there early as I knew the bar sold food. I sat down and it was just like those bars you seen in films, long and with a mirror behind. I ordered a coke and a burger which was really really good. Already sat at the bar were three youngish people (I found out later they were 25 to early 30’s). They were slowly getting drunk and chatting to the barman. Someone mentioned music and Green Day, being a fan I listened in without looking at them. One of the guys said he likes the new Green Day stuff but as a fan of Dookie his teenage self wants to kick his ass, I found this funny because it’s true, I laughed and agreed with him and the ice was broken.

As I finished my burger and they realised I was British they joined me and we chatted about all things American and British; particularly guns. As we are now unfortunately familiar due to the recent events in Newtown CT, a lot of Americans own and bear arms. It was no different with these three people. They were San Francisco natives but two of them, a married couple, live in Arizona, and the husband has a gun collection, ranging from pistols up to automatic weapons. We went back and forth in a lighthearted manner about gun control and ‘did they really need them?’, what they found intriguing was the fact that British police don’t routinely carry guns, but as I said to them, they have no need to do that…yet.

As they were all ready a little tipsy, some drinks came my way. Those that are familiar with my drinking habits know that I rarely drink and it’s even rarer for me to actually buy a drink! Although that has changed, on a recent night out I went out with £80 and came back with £5.

Anyway, I kept dashing to and from the bar to check if the band I was waiting for had started. I told my new friends that I would be back later, but they had planes to catch in the morning so I wasn’t sure how long they would be staying. My intention had been to see the band I came to see and then leave but I ended up staying for the whole show. So when I got back into the bar, they had all ready left, and I felt a bit bad for not buying them a drink.

I’m going to flash forward a bit now to early November. As I felt bad for not buying a few drinks, or even saying good bye to the three very nice Americans, I did they only thing I could do, which was track them down on the internet! I could only remember one first name, that of the wife and what she did for a living, which is a specialised type of work for a specific multinational company. So I was able to get a message to her via LinkedIn, firstly to apologise for not buying a drink and secondly to thank her, her husband and brother for their hospitality and kindness, and to say that if they are ever in the UK, to let me know and I’ll return the favor.

Now back to September – Music finished and a little tipsy, I made my way to the bus stop. My sense of direction let me down a bit and I made a very wide circle around different blocks to eventually find it. The music level had left me a bit deaf, and the alcohol in need of the toilet. I was picking the bus up at the bus station, so made my way inside, only to make a very comic about face as their was a line of very burly and scary looking Police inside. I wandered around the outside to see if there was another way in, alas there was not. So I went back and as people were just walking in and passed the Police, I did too. I was now quite desperate and was looking for a sign that would indicate I had found the right place but I could see no sign, only more Police.

I asked one of them where the toilets were and he told me three times, remember I’m deaf, before pointing to a door about 20 feet straight in front of me. He didn’t look happy, but I was relieved…in more ways than one.

The bus journey back was uneventful, that is unless you call men dressed in a lot of leather getting on the bus an event. Well that’s what happened and no one batted an eyelid, this is San Francisco after all. I got talking to a man not dressed in leather; in hindsight I think he was chatting me up, but hey ho I’ll take the compliment. He told me that there was a leather and fetish thing on that weekend called the ‘Folsom Street Fair’. A lot of people would be attending, not just gay people but straights who like to go down and photograph all the naked people walking about.

As he spoke I was thinking that had we been in the city one more day I would have gone for a look; as luck would have it, if you can call it that, I and the rest of the tour group would get a close up look before leaving the city.

I made it back to the hotel sometime after 1am and before 2am, which is when I wrote my original blog post before crashing out.

My American adventure was nearly at and end.

Lou Valagran – Photo update

I wrote back in August about I trip I went on to the South of France. You can read that here.

At the time I wrote the post, I only had my photos, which didn’t feature me that much. Now all the photos taken have been collated and sent out.

I looked at them at the Youth Club with some of those young people who were on the trip, at home I had a better look through and didn’t see too many of me; which I wasn’t upset about as I don’t photograph very well! So knowing I wanted to update my original post, I looked through them again last night, and found myself in more pictures than I had done before, which was nice. For obvious reasons I can’t post a lot of them due to the young people being the main focus of the pictures.

The one’s I can are below.

This was taken on taken during the first day and it probably isn’t too long after we capsized. The two youngsters in my canoe had a tendency to take their paddles out of the water at critical moments, which they have done here, so I’m probably barking at them “paddle, paddle, paddle”DSCF9659Also on the first day, at a break possibly for lunch. I’ve no idea what I’m saying, although they had all been told to get out of the water, which is most likely what the PGL staff member on the right is saying too. That or I am telling them all what a good job they were doing – you decide.DSCF9644The second day, and the second leap from height into the water. I was trying to be different and spin myself around, at the same time playing for time and working up the courage to jump! Hence the looks of amusement from the three guys behind me.

DSCF9744About to hit!!DSCF9745Hopefully the trip will be on again next year, and hopefully I will be lucky enough to be asked to go. Then I can go down the river with the confidence that I’ve done it once, and can do it again!

San Francisco Days

DSC_0285We had arrived in San Francisco in the dark and we awoke to find a lovely morning with blue skies and sunshine. On our way up the coast, the forecast had been for some chilly temperatures but thankfully it wasn’t too bad. Only getting chilly when there was a breeze.

As is customary when we arrived in a new city, we boarded a coach and had a comprehensive tour. San Francisco was one of the places that I was looking forward to visiting. I knew we would be going to Alcatraz as part of the tour and there were a few things I wanted to do whilst in the city.

It wasn’t an expansive list; see the Golden Gate Bridge closeup, walk down Lombard Street, see the sea lions at Pier 39 & ride a cable car. I managed 3 out of 4.

Being a film fan the impression I had was of cars flying through the air and down hills. I always thought that was a little bit of camera trickery, making the angle of the hills a little steeper, well it’s no trick, the hills really are that steep.

Our coach kept mostly to the flat parts of the city, only venturing down hill when necessary, and going down hill in San Francisco in a coach is an experience.

My plan for the day was as follows: Coach tour, Alcatraz before walking to Lombard Street. Thankfully for my legs the coach stopped at Lombard Street a.k.a the most crooked street in the world.

I’ve seen pictures of this street, even gone down it via Google Streetview and it was something to see. There were a lot of tourists around here, it’s a definite must see if you visit. The one thing that is difficult to do, is photograph it, I was trying to stand in the road and get a similar angle to the Google car but there were a lot of cars coming down.

This is how it looks on Google Maps:

Now these weren’t locals driving down the road, I doubt many do, these were all tourists. Many had a front seat passenger filming their descent – much like this.

DSC_0205
DSC_0208The tour moved on, we walked down the hill to the waiting coach. The tour guide pointed out some tourists walking up the hill (not fun) and said it’s always best to get a tour guide who knows the city as they make you walk down and not up.

We traveled along the famous Haight Street and passed the cross street of Haight-Ashbury the centre of hippy culture in the late 1960’s. The plan was to continue on to the Castro District one of the first gay neighborhoods and where Harvey Milk had his headquarters. That was the plan and as they say about the best laid plans of mice and men…they go awry.

The coach driver turned right onto Masonic Avenue and that’s where we stopped for the best part of an hour. Unfortunately for the driver where a drain was situated had created a drop by the kerb and the back of the bus got stuck.

IMG_1986I didn’t take any photos to spare the blushes of the driver, that is until a transport authority vehicle arrived, it’s the milk float looking thing.

The unscheduled stop meant we were able to grab a coffee and a bite to eat at the People’s Cafe, a very trendy hangout. I think the regulars were a little bemused as 35 tourists bundled in.

As I was enjoying my coffee and muffin one of the ladies from the group came over and said “have you seen that woman dancing in the window”, I looked out and across the street but couldn’t see anyone. “Over there, she’s dressed in white”, and with that I saw her. Well I’ve never seen anything like it, so I went over and had a better look.

IMG_1985I wasn’t the only one looking, most of the men in the group made their way across to have a gander. The photo doesn’t do her justice, so here is some video.

The first voice is our tour guide, the woman is Sue one of our group, the next is Ernie who is Sues hubby and finally with “That’s just bizarre” is me. At the end of the clip there is a man walking from right to left and that is Tony from Cardiff.

Oddly no one went into the shop, so I did. It was a very hippy trippy shop, lots of tie die stuff. I had a chat with the dancer, whose name I can’t remember (next time I go away I’m writing this stuff down as it happens). I asked her how long she had to dance for, she told me that she dances for as long as she wants, she chooses the clothes and the music. Seemed like a good deal to me.
IMG_1991bEventually a tow truck arrived and wow what a vehicle. Not like the puny ones you see over here. I didn’t get a photo but Sue who was also on the tour has kindly let me use one she (or Don) took.

tow truckIt made short work of the problem and had the coach free in no time. The city tour was cut short as we had to get to the Alcatraz Ferry, which we made with minutes to spare.

Once on the ferry I made my way to the front to get some pictures of the island as we approached, and also a quick snippet of video. You may want to turn your sound down, as the only thing you will hear is the wind.

As we got closer it was easy to see that the island isn’t that big and it’s a long way from the main land; so could those three prisoners who escaped in 1962, as seen in Escape from Alcatraz, really have made back to the main land…hmm I’m not sure.DSC_0228DSC_0247DSC_0244The island has been used as a lighthouse base, a military fortification, a military prison and most famously a federal prison from 1933 to 1963. In 1969 the island was occupied by a large group of ingenious Americans and there are hints to there occupation around the site.

This sign is located at the dock.DSC_0259The easiest way to find out about the history is to take an audio guide, which is narrated by former guards and prisoners. Alcatraz is a very busy place, so there’s a fair bit of jostling to actually see inside the cells, or the information boards. I went around the Island & Prison with my two fellow single travelers; Peter & Pauline.

DSC_0265DSC_0273DSC_0290Eventually the tour takes you outside into the exercise yard. A lot of visitors just stood at the top of the steps leading down into the yard, but I went and had a look around.DSC_0277It was incredibly windy as I walked across the yard to the one doorway that leads to another part of the island. The wind was so strong that I had to fight my way back across to the steps. Quite cool to think that Al Capone probably sat on these steps.

As we made our way to the obligatory shop I wondered about all the films shot here, and that there hadn’t been a mention of them, other than the real life escape as portrayed in the Clint Eastwood film ‘Escape from Alcatraz’. So I was happy to find a section of the shop that had film posters displayed.DSC_0293I bought some souvenirs here and a book all about films based on the Alcatraz legend.

Before I left I got a photo taken with the Dragon.DSC_0305Alcatraz is certainly a must see if you visit San Francisco, and I would certainly visit again as the National Park Service have guided tours, which I’m sure would be very interesting.

Once back on the mainland we decided to try and find some food, as I started to type this sentence I couldn’t remember where we ate but memory is a wonderful thing and it has just come back to me!!

So we wandered along passed Pier 39 which is full of restaurants and shops but they were all pretty full so we kept on going, and going and going, until we spotted a cable car stop. In the morning we were all advised to buy a pass that would enable us to jump on and off the cars during our stay, so we got into the queue and waited, and waited, and waited until finally it was our turn to board. They don’t move fast that’s for sure.IMG_1996We went as far as we could before we got off to walk to the next stop that would enable us to get back to the hotel. As far as I could tell there is no defined timetable for the cars, they just appear when they like. So we sat at the stop for a while before riding the car west up California Street. Peter and Pauline sensibly sat inside the car, while I rode the outside, which was an experience. Standing there hanging onto the rail as we went up and down the inclines, with cars alongside that were so close I could have just put my feet on them was amazing. I only did it the once though.

We were staying at the Holiday Inn Golden Gateway on Van Ness, so the cable car was handy as it stopped at the top of California which is a street leading onto Van Ness. The following evening would be our last in the States, and the tour guide had arranged for a meal at Grubstake one block down from the hotel. I wouldn’t make that as I had other plans, and as it was close we decided to check it out on this evening instead.

The family that run it is from Portugal so the food is very good. I had an everything omelette which contains the following: 3 large egg omelette with cheese, vegetables, mushrooms, ham, bacon, sour cream, spinach & sausage. Plus home fries and toast.

I managed the majority of the omelette and some of the fries, this being the States the portion size was large, but it was amazingly tasty.

Food done, it was time to chill out and I think I went to bed early! But not before planning the start to the next morning.