Today we had planned to drive to San Francisco and do touristy things. Instead, since our arrival, it has become necessary to take a PCR test to re-enter the UK. The first struggle was to find a reasonably priced test – the first test I Googled was $449! We finally find somewhere near the airport that only costs $69 so set off for our ‘5 minute’ drive-through appointment. After we have paid, we have to scan a QR code. Daughter no 1 has a Huawei phone – it doesn’t do QR codes, so I pass her mine. This will only scan if connected to wifi, so the man goes to his hut and returns with his wifi code. Next, we must enter an email address. It will only accept addresses which end in .com, my email address ends in .co.uk, so we add daughter no 1’s address. Next we must click a link sent by email. Daughter no 1 cannot do this without wifi access, so the man must go back to his hut (again) for his wifi code. Next we must complete an online form with personal details. Our phone numbers have the wrong number of digits, so aren’t accepted and we cannot proceed past the address page without selecting a US state, despite not living in the US. In addition, we think our test results should include passport numbers. There isn’t a space for that. So the man suggests entering them in the address column, which wouldn’t accept our address anyway. Eventually we’re ready to take our test. The results will be emailed in under an hour, which is almost less time than we spent in the test centre!
Finally, we can depart for San Francisco. We park on the beach by Golden Gate Park. There is a (black) man standing on a car covered in quasi religious slogans shouting at some (white) surfers. At first we’re not sure if this is a specific altercation or just general preaching. It turns out to be the latter. The theme of his sermon is that all white men are racist and therefore exactly the same as Donald Trump. As we pass, he shoots us a scathing glance and adds “and white women” So our day, which started with a bureaucratic nightmare, has descended into racist, sexist insults.
We walk to the entrance to Golden Gate Park, consult the map and list the places we want to visit. We have grossly underestimated the size of the park. A mile later, we haven’t even reached the first item on our list – the buffalo paddock. This is, in any case, an anti climax as the buffalo are all in a shed with just one buffalo arse protruding.
We decide to drive through the park, stopping at the attractions, put pretty soon the road is blocked. We exit the park and try to re-enter further down, before coming to the conclusion that most of it has become pedestrianised since our last visit.
So we park up again near the far end and visit the final few things on our list; the Conservatory of Flowers, the lily pond (which has no lilies) the winter lights (which aren’t lit) and the ‘holiday tree’ which is basically a tree which someone has shoved a star on top of.
Final stop, the De Young Museum to visit the sculpture garden and pick up wifi to get our Covid test results.
Then we set off towards Fisherman’s Wharf. We stop briefly to take some photos of the Painted Ladies (a row of colourful Victorian houses). I get side-tracked by my love of public art; there is a row of billboards further down the street, each displaying a piece of art encouraging people to get vaccinated.
We park up and go for a wander by the piers, stopping at Ghirardelli’s (of course) and a seafood stall to buy a crab cake sandwich. We sit and eat, closely observed by a seagull the size of a goose. Then one final stop at Pier 39 to see the sea lions (and visit the fridge magnet shop).
There is a slight difference of opinion; our parking bay has a 2 hour time limit, so we only have time for either the magnet shop or hot chocolate at Ghirardelli’s. I win and we return to the car, me clutching my new magnet, and drive through the rush hour traffic to Palo Alto. Back at the flat, we spend the final evening of our holiday with a fun filled combination of uploading our Covid test results, booking day 2 PCR tests, completing Passenger Locator Forms and checking in. Oh and there might have been wine…