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A bit of CA1

It is a strange feeling visiting a country you’ve seen so much of but have never actually seen with your own eyes before. The man at the car rental desk is a good example.

He was very pleasant and helpful, recognized my name as Icelandic (despite me having a Swedish driver’s license) and that wouldn’t have surprised me in Sweden but struck me as somewhat impressive here - but then he does work at the car rental service at a very large airport so perhaps it’s not. But that wasn’t what struck me about him, it was the way he spoke and the way he expressed himself and moved - it was so extremely familiar and I had no idea why. As I was driving the car to the first hotel, which happened to be near the airport and was easy to find, I contemplated it but couldn’t quite get why he was so familiar. It wasn’t until I woke up, way too early of course, that I started connecting the dots.

He reminded me of one of an actor who plays in MASH - the guy who gets Colonel Henry Blakes nice desk. He talked like him and moved like him in a way that now seems stunning, but would probably not impress me if I actually had the episode in front of me while speaking to the man at the desk.

He was pleasant and when he heard I was in the States for the first time he insisted I get an American car and so I got a nice red Chevrolet. I love it.

My second impression was the furniture. At first I thought the “old fashioned” feel of the furniture at the hotel was just the style of it, but now I’m beginning to suspect that it’s not. And the carpets? There are carpets everywhere - I haven’t walked on so many carpets since I was a little girl in Iceland and our whole apartment was carpeted. It hits me how important such a small detail is - like the furniture you’re surrounded with. Everything so far has been dark wood, mirrors with extravagant frames and big fluffy drapes with various patterns. It’s very different from the Swedish - IKEA meets John Pawson - style I'm used to.

What is truly incredible here is, of course, the landscape. God, how I love it! The hills, the trees mixed with the shoreline that’s being constantly bombarded with the Pacific Ocean’s awesome waves. The vast beaches and the road that goes on forever like a snake through the landscape.

The first thing I did when I woke up, way too early, was drive to the Golden Gate Bridge.

Well, that’s a bit of a lie - the first thing I did was have a Skype conversation with a friend of mine in Iceland and then I had breakfast. It was an unimpressive breakfast with a stale bagel (though the peanut butter was tasty) and a very cold egg and orange juice. The danish was delicious though.

Then I drove to the Golden Gate Bridge. It was early and I figured there’d be early morning Monday rush, but it wasn’t too bad. Driving into San Francisco’s was an experience. You’ve seen the hills in the movies, but driving them? Boy, did the Icelander in me get giddy - and horrified to think what might happen if it’s ever below zero in this city. I would not want to drive those hills when the roads are slippery, that’s for sure.

The four-way stops were somewhat new to me too. There seems to be an "every other" policy here, which is nice and seems to work perfectly. People were waking up, getting their early morning coffee from Starbucks. I saw a perky woman with a curly, chestnut brown hair prance out of one of those establishment accompanied by a very proud dog that had the same hair she did and I saw a group of men, way too many men, wash a car with such ambition I’ve rarely seen anything like it.

The GPS (I’m using NAVMII app) took me through the streets well and adjusted to my misses with ease. And I ended up in a nice park not too far from the Golden Gate Bridge. I parked and walked to the shoreline, took a photo of people running, people who seemed to be taking an early morning meditation in the park, despite the somewhat stark (almost rain and cold winds) weather.

The bridge was covered in fog so I only saw the lower half of it, which made the photographer in me very excited. The bird life at the shore also amused said photographer and I walked around there, just taking in the hills and the trees and the bridge I’ve seen a gazillion times before though never “up close”.

I had been planing to drive over the bridge but figured I’d wait and get back to it later, when hopefully I’ll get to see the bridge without the fog. And so I started my drive towards Monterey via Route 1.

The NAVMII works very well with offline maps, though it was really pissed off at me for not taking the highway so each time I stopped to do something else with the phone it rerouted me to the highway if it could. Only once did it fool me however, which led me on a very nice forty-five minute detour which ended in the highway at which point I decided to head back to HALF MOON BAY which seemed like a nice little community. I loved the farmer’s market signs and the “pie” temptation on the roads there.

It was hard not to stop at every parking lot I saw to get out of the car, stretch the legs and take a picture of the Pacific Ocean. What incredible beaches they have here - only matched of by one or two beaches I’ve seen in Europe (one near DUNE DE PILAT where the Atlantic Ocean shows all its power and the other one near SANDHAMMAREN in Sweden - I’m no beach bunny). Between the hills and valleys, cliffs and the growth I get why people would never want to leave this place.

The beauty about traveling alone is that you get to completely decide what you want and don’t want to do. There is no timeline, no compromise and no demands. You completely rule the pace and the tempo yourself. So when I started to get hungry I decided to try and find a grocery store instead of doing the American thing and seek up a restaurant. I stopped in Santa Cruz, drove through the city for a while and was again struck by the beauty of the American Houses. I love how the houses seem all to be at contrast with each other and yet there seems to be a common line that makes the cities whole instead of just becoming a miss matched mishap. I’ve seen so many cute houses I’ve lost count long time ago and I’m writing this at the start of my third day here (that's counting the day I landed).

I found a grocery store and spend some time roaming around, looking at the selection. Then I found a sandwich, some fluids and snacks and went on my way. I ate the sandwich by the boardwalk where people were running, strolling with their dogs and I saw kids on strange skateboards swooshing by.

When I was finished I set the GPS to Monterey and drove forward. By that time the jet lag was setting in and I did less stopping, just wanted to get to the motel/Inn I had booked so I could walk the tiredness away. It’s not fun feeling sleepy behind the wheel.

The Inn I had booked was not quite what I had anticipated though fun in itself. I immediately imagined the Brother’s Winchester (I've watched too much SUPERNATURAL) staying in the next room. The place is small, has wall climbing plants everywhere and the doors to each room faces the parking lot. The man at the desk was clear and effective and the furniture matched the one I’d experienced in the hotel before, though somewhat less fancy.

It’s cold here too, whereas the first hotel was so warm I felt uncomfortable walking through its halls. I prefer the coldness of this place, snuggling underneath the blankets is to prefer to the suffocating heat and I much prefer the drapes in this place too which have a funky green/tan pattern going on which seems to somehow match well with the outside view of the wines and the cars.

I managed to stay awake till 9 pm - then I caved.

The American measurements are puzzling to me of course. The car shows temperatures in Fahrenheit and of course speed limit is in MpH instead of Kilometers but it works for me, though I’m not great at translating between the systems I kind of let go of knowing exactly what 50 MpH means in Kilometers. I am happy to just follow the speed limits and swoosh on (though now that I write this I can’t help but to google the converts).

I woke up early again, though somewhat later than yesterday morning. In my future I see a breakfast somewhere and then I will explore the area, drive to Caramel and explore more and maybe do some shopping and then I’ll drive down to the Big Sur. I’m looking forward to that.

(I am not updating the blog on my site because I compromised and left the laptop at home in favor of the camera and the iPad. The iPad app for WIX is non existent and using the iPhone app or the browser to update it is just too irritating to bother with (apologies) but Wordpress serves me nicely as always.)

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