Sunday, 28 October 2012

Meeting the Family

Reunion with family in Novato, San Francisco

the balcony at Andrews and Lizzies
Another walk around the leafy and very chilly streets of Chicago, before we make our way down to the airport.  The temperatures had plummeted overnight, and a mere 8deg this morning.
The journey time to San Fran is a comfortable 4 1/2 hours, but with 2 hours time difference  it was about 6.30 pm, as we left in the hire car.  Unfortunately we were stuck in all the rush hour traffic, got a bit lost and ended up skirting the bay, and finally drove over the Golden Gate Bridge in the dark, so couldn't see anything.  Finally arrived at the the apartment at 7.40pm!  Lovely to see everyone again and after a brief moment's shyness, Lily was at ease with us.  She seems to have grown a few inches since we last saw her and accompanies most of what she does with a little babbling commentary.  Adorable!  She cuddled up next to us on the sofa, and sat on our knees.
The new apartment in Novato, north of San Fran, is in a much quieter area, surrounded by pine trees, and overlooking a house with a small holding, with apple trees, a large fig tree and other fruit trees.  All the buildings in Novato are one or two storeys high, and you can see small hills rising up in the distance.  Very leafy and quite quiet.  The shops are individual and attractive, rather than just functional.  The cheaper brands like Ross and Target are out of town, and a short drive away.  There are numerous attractive restaurants and coffee shops.  I made a note to return to one of the cafes for a pecan pumpkin pancake.  They do the sweet stuff so well!!

On Saturday am., we all walked down to the Main Street in Novato for a Halloween gathering, put on by the shops and community.  All the children, of all ages, from babies to adults were dressed in fancy dress.  Lizzy borrowed a pumpkin costume from a friend for Lily to wear, with a cute little hat.  Shopkeepers were handing out sweeties, lollies, toothbrushes and even little books to fairy princesses, ghosts, cartoon characters and little cute pumpkins!  A trip to a superb Wholefoods Shop, was followed by a Mediterranean lunch, cooked by Andrew and Lizzy, - pimientos, meatballs, dried ham, cheese, dates in bacon, figs and tortilla.  They really spoilt us!  The afternoon was hot and sunny, about 28deg, but the flat gets all the sun in the living areas , whilst the bedrooms face north and stay nice and cool.  The architecture is interesting, less concrete and more wooden, clapperboarding.  Almost Wells Fargo style, outpost town, with wooden terraces and porches.

US Trip Oct 2012

USA trip October 24- November15  2012

The Cloud
Actually I came over to visit the family on my own in March, but it's our first trip together this year.  The family came over for a few weeks and stayed with us in August, whilst renewing visa, and it was great to be back together again in the UK.  Particularly special as I now have wonderful memories of Lily wandering around the garden, picking the heads off flowers, climbing the steps in search of more blackberries, standing on the platform at the top of the garden and shouting down to us, spending time with great grandma and visiting great grandparents in Lancashire - the list goes on!
The decision to fly via Chicago started off with a need to avoid the four hour journey to Heathrow and the following eleven hour flight.  Although longer flight time overall, at least we would break up our journey with two nights in Chicago.  Ian's been there before, but it would be the first time for me.  Much more than a diversion, we instantly felt relaxed and at ease in the city.  It is beautiful, with the trees all yellow and red, several open spaces and parks.  The city is particularly good for walking and cycling, with paths running for miles along the river and the shores of the mighty Lake Michigan- more like a sea than a lake!
Famous for its impressive skyscrapers, it has four of the biggest eight skyscrapers in the USA.  The city feels quite small and compact, and most places we wanted to visit were within walking distance of our Holiday Inn Express, the Hotel Cass, in the main shopping area off Michigan Ave.
The first day we walked down to the lake front and along the lovely river walk, past the Trump Tower, and on to the John Hancock Tower(second tallest).  You ascend the 94 floors in a few seconds, with ears popping on the way up! The views over the city are amazing.
The second day started early, wide awake at 5.30am, we bought a ticket to go around the loop on the train which runs above the road and then walked back through Millennium Park to marvel at the installation, "Cloud" , by Anish Kapoor.  A massive, highly polished steel cloud shape, sitting in the square, in which you can see reflections of the sky and clouds passing overhead and passers by gazing at it.  Absolutely awesome.
Back to the river, and we'd booked to go on a boat trip, about which Ian had heard good reviews, a guided tour of the architecture of Chicago from the river.  So what's there to learn about skyscrapers - they're very high and that's it!  How wrong could I be!  One of the most informative 90 minutes on Art Deco, Gothic, Modernist architecture, as we floated gently along the river, staring upwards.  We learnt of how modern architecture, like the Aqua building, designed by a local woman, manages the stresses and strains of winds in an aesthetic way, so wavy open balconies act like fins and break up the destructive force of wind, and look beautiful!  We both said we'd do this trip again, because it was so fascinating.  We'd missed the city by night yesterday, because we'd been awake for 18 hours and were in bed by 7pm, so went back to the hotel for a snooze for an hour, with the intention of staying up until dark!  We'd been lucky so far, it had been bright, sunny and very warm, unseasonably warm 80deg f.  But a blast of cold north air was forecast to bring heavy rain and a drop of 30deg f tonight, as we set off to Keefers Restaurant, one of the top 20 steak restaurants in town.  I had a delicious steak salad and Ian had fillet, with a delicious grilled octopus salad for starter.  We hurried back to the hotel through the chilly wind and rain. Well done we'd managed to stay up until 9.30 pm!