Sunday, 15 July 2012

It's cold and it's damp ...

Chicago's first stop today was the John Hancock Centre which is the second tallest building in the city with 360 degree views and a narration of all that you can see from the familiar voice of David Schwimmer - Ross Geller from Friends. As a Chicago resident himself, hearing him talk about Sue, the T-Rex makes you think he must have been a shoo-in for the part of the palaeontologist.  
The other sightseeing event was the Museum of Modern Art which was impressive and the theme of the current exhibition was skyscraper architecture as art with a number of poignant works devoted to 9/11. For me, the highlight was the Andy Warhol piece based on pictures of Jackie Kennedy taken by press photographers on the day of JFK's assassination. Very moving. 
Then number 3 was desperate to go back down to the beach for a last swim in Lake Michigan before we were loaded into a taxi by the large-than-life hotel porter, Carlos who, by the way he and my beloved were bonding, may be turning up at the little house on the prairie some time soon.
And finally, returning to the skin of our teeth travelling methods, once we were at the airport having been scanned, and in my case, patted down, I checked the departure gate whilst my beloved laced up his shoes, rethreaded his belt and so on. Foolishly, as it turned out, I had assumed we were flying to San Francisco so we trundled down to gate B20 and waited to board. At the head of the queue, we were told "You're boarding the wrong flight!" so back to the desk and a sprint back to gate B3 where we made it on to the flight to Oakland, San Francisco by, yes, the skin of our teeth and are scattered around the plane in the only available seats. Ring any bells?!   
We have checked into the Fairmont on the top of Nob Hill in San Francisco which is lovely especially when they checked us into a suite (which turned out to be a short-lived pleasure as they had overbooked and we are now in a normal room). Anyway, me with my time clock all wrong again and I was up with the lark at 6.30am and waiting for the rest to emerge from their shells like tortoises by 9.00. I'm not sure I'm very good at this time zone thing as I was wide awake at 1.00am last night too. If I fall asleep during the baseball tonight there will be trouble! 
Having fallen in love with the hot sidewalks of Chicago, San Francisco is going to have to be on a big charm offensive to make me love it as much. It's been a cool, foggy old day here so we walked down to Union Square and after grabbing a scrambler (note use of lingo - clever huh?) we bought tickets for the hop-on, hop-off bus to have a lightning tour of the sights. It may have been an error to sit upstairs on an open-topped bus to go across the Golden Gate Bridge on a day when it was damp, windy and chilly. By the time we reached the far shore we were, as we say in God's own county, nithered. The other thing which I always find stupidly amusing is how proud our hosts are about anything that's more than 100 years old. Crikey, if I lived here I'd nearly be an antique! 
The main event of the day was going to the ball game, as they call it here. My beloved had booked tickets to see the San Francisco Giants play the Houston Astros at the spectacular A T & T Park. As almost the only people not wearing orange (the team colour) we stood out somewhat until my beloved and 3 and 4 donned orange wigs (sorry, but I have limits) and we sat on the bleachers with the 50,000 or so crowd. 
Now the thing about baseball, from a British sport-watching perspective, is that more seems to go on off the field than on it. There is so much crowd entertainment - music, big screen, food - in unrelenting and unbelievable quantities and varieties - that the dozen or so guys wearing grey and orange on the far side of the pitch are almost incidental. The Americans want us to enjoy their very family-friendly sporting event. The man in front of us was one of three people who did their best to explain 'rounders for boys' as I see it, and we got the hang of the scoring - because there aren't many rules to this game. He also quoted Mark Twain to us which definitely summed up the weather: 
"The coldest winter I ever saw was the summer I spent in San Francisco."
Anyway the Giants won, everyone made their way back through the crowded streets with scarcely a policeman in sight and we learnt a bit more about this great American city.  

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