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10:39 San Francisco time
I'm sitting at the Millbrae Caltrain station waiting for my train to take me south to Lawrence station in Sunnyvale, from where I'll walk to my hotel for the next few days. Unfortunately the next train is almost an hour's wait, but thankfully I didn't miss the previous train by just a short time; it was over half an hour earlier.
Caltrain from Millbrae station
My plane touched down at 09:20 after the flight from Sydney, which departed a bit late at just after 13:00 on the same Saturday. I'd got up and left home a bit after 09:00, getting a taxi which took me to the airport in a surprisingly quick time for a Saturday morning. Usually traffic around the airport is crazy on a Saturday, but today it was fine.
When I arrived at the check in counters, a woman approached and asked where I was flying to. When I said San Francisco, she explained that travellers to the US had to answer a bunch of security questions and she proceeded to grill me on why I was flying to the US, where I was staying, what I was planning to do there, and how long I was planning to stay. Satisfied with my answers, she let me check in.
I had a complimentary Qantas Club lounge invitation from my silver frequent flyer status, and had connected it to this flight online last night. So after checking in, I headed to the lounge. It was very busy, more full than I'd seen it before, with very few seats available. I found one with a small table and proceeded to take advantage of the free breakfast buffet, loading up on fruit, small pastries, eggs, a sausage, hash browns, then gelato (chocolate and hazelnut flavours; the chocolate was a bit grainy but the hazelnut was smooth and nice). After a while they replaced the breakfast selection with a lunch buffet, so I grabbed a cheese plate and had a glass of champagne to wash it down.
I wanted to check my work email to see who from the Australian mirror committee was dialling into the ISO meeting in Cupertino and confirm their details with the secretary so they would be able to connect. But I had trouble finding a seat with a power point nearby (needed because my work laptop battery is dead), and finally ended up sitting near the row of computers that were available for use. That task done, it was nearly boarding time for my flight. I grabbed a liquorice allsort from a big jar and walked out of the Qantas lounge into the terminal and to my gate.
The seating area was fenced off as they were doing more additional security checks before letting anyone into the gate area. This took some time, but eventually we were through. I took up a spot right near the economy boarding gate, so I could get on quickly. Then they announced that boarding would be delayed by half an hour!
While we were waiting, a small child got loose from his parents and stated running around, underneath all of the security tape barriers. He was short enough to run at full speed underneath them without ducking, which meant he could easily evade parents and security personnel who were chasing him and had to keep stopping or ducking under the barriers. The kid thought it was great fun, avoiding being caught for some time.
Finally we boarded. I'd asked at check in to confirm if I'd booked an exit row seat, but it looks like I didn't manage to get one on this flight. I was assigned a centre aisle seat way back in the plane, just three rows in front of the rear toilets. The check in lady said it was a completely full flight. The three seats next to me, plus two in front of me, were occupied by a family: parents, two daughters plus one son-in-law. The parents introduced themselves as Sue and Peter from Perth, and said they were taking their first trip to the USA, spending time in San Francisco, Washington, New York, Los Angeles, and Honolulu before heading home after 4 weeks. I gave Sue some tips on visiting San Francisco.
I had the pumpkin tortellini meal and then tried to sleep as much as I could, but I think I was awake the whole time, with my mind just flitting around from thought to thought the entire time. Eventually after several hours breakfast was served and I had the hot choice, a spinach omelette. And then we landed shortly after.
After making my way through immigration and customs, I made my way upstairs to the BART station and tried to withdraw some cash from an ATM, but it refused to give me any money. I'd been relying on getting some cash to load up my Clipper card for the train ride to my hotel, so I needed to do it some other way. Fortunately the nearby information desk helped, the lady there adding $30 to my Clipper with me paying on Amex. Then I entered the station and waited ten minutes for a train the one stop to Millbrae, where I'm now still waiting for the Caltrain.
The weather here is fine and sunny, though slightly cool in the shade where I'm sitting. When I get to Lawrence I have a 40 odd minute walk to my hotel, so I'll get out my hat and put on some sunscreen while in the train. A train heading the other way has passed through and it was standing room only, with dozens of people standing up on board. I hope the one going the other way is not so full and I can grab a seat.
There were indeed seats available on the train, and I grabbed a window seat, without having anyone sit next to me. After a couple of stations, a man got on with three small children, and he spent his entire ride trying to herd them and keep them entertained by looking out the window and trying to spot various things.
Monkey riding Caltrain
After arriving at Lawrence station, I walked to Wild Palms Hotel. This was about a 45 minute walk, in the midday sun. I'd put sunscreen on on the train, and wore a hat to help keep the sun off. Although sunny, it wasn't very hot. The walk wasn't very interesting though, passing mostly through residential streets with nothing to look at but rows of houses. Thankfully it was very flat though. I arrived at the hotel about 13:30 and checked into a room up on the first floor, with a view across the street to a petrol station. The room is nice enough, and hopefully the traffic won't be too loud outside. There's a small swimming pool with kids playing and splashing around in it. The room looks recently renovated, although this is more of a motel vibe than a good hotel.
Wild Palms Hotel
After dropping my bags in my room, I went out to get some lunch, as it had been a long time since the breakfast on the plane. I decided to walk north-west up El Camino Real as the maps indicated there were various shops and food places along that road. As soon as I crossed the road I found an Indian kebab place called simply Biryani & Kabobs and was so hungry I decided to just go in. It was a bit of a hole in the wall and could have used some polishing up, but had several customers eating delicious looking food. I got a chicken boti kebab wrap, which was like a spicy butter chicken with salad wrapped in a naan, served with minted yoghurt. It was really good.
Chicken boti kebab wrap
After eating, I continued walking up towards central Sunnyvale. I expected to pass some shopping malls with ATMs and interesting food places, but everything was small blocks of shops separated by huge car parks. I noticed a lot of Indian restaurants and grocery stores, which presumably are the result of a large ex-pat population in this area. After reaching Sunnyvale without finding any concentrated pool of shops I stopped off outside a Starbucks to sit in the shade and use the WiFi for a bit. (I later discovered that I'd missed the "downtown" area of Sunnyvale, a row of streetside shops and food places on Murphy Avenue, by just a whisker.)
Then I continued on, walking south through Las Palmas Park, which I thought would be a natural sort of park with a lake and trees, but it turned out to be a large grassed area with a pond which was currently dry, plus playgrounds, and there were lots of people there having picnics and playing sports and stuff. One group was playing a competitive archery game, with arrows tipped with tennis balls, that they were firing at one another from behind inflatable barriers that served as cover. I continued to Fremont Street and then walked back along this to the hotel for a rest.
Las Palmas Park
I talked to M. a bit on FaceTime and then had a shower and flipped through the local tourist guide magazines in the hotel room. After a while I went out to get some dinner. I walked the other direction, east along El Camino Real. I didn't want Indian again, and there wasn't much other choice as I passed several Indian restaurants, including a few specifically vegetarian Indian places. I found a seafood restaurant which looked good and I fancied some seafood, but when I went in I discovered that there was a twenty minute wait for a table there, even though it was barely 6pm. Well, at least it was popular!
Nearby I found a place called Pizz'a Chicago, which made deep dish pizzas. I confirmed that they could make a single serve size for me, asking about the lunch time special which didn't appear on the dinner menu. When they said they could do that for me, I ordered a "Fridge" pizza with pepperoni, sausage, mushroom, and green peppers, plus garlic bread. The waitress asked if I wanted a full serve or half serve of bread, and I quickly replied that half would be enough. The bread had parmesan on it and came with a small bowl of tomato sauce, which I scooped on top. The pizza came in a small round pan about 15 cm across, and cut into just two semi-circular "slices". It was thick and delicious, but not as thick and full of sauce as I'd expected from seeing Chicago style pizza places on TV. I also had a glass of chianti to wash it down. It was all good.
Deep dish pizza at Pizz'a Chicago
After this I walked back to the hotel, stopping at an Indian ice cream place called Nirvanaah! (With the last two letters rendered in a different colour, so it looked like it should be pronounced nirvana-ah.) They had various kulfi flavours, but I picked two scoops of regular style ice cream, with flavours of mango and pomegranate, and fig and walnut. It was smooth and rich and really good. When the guy gave me my change, he slopped ice cream all over two of the dollar bills. He kind of half wiped it off and then said sorry as he handed them over to me, all sticky. I'd been expecting him to get me clean ones from the cash register! But no, so I had to wipe them clean myself.
Then I came back to the hotel to relax before bed. Jurassic Park is on the TV, so I'm watching that while typing this up. Soon I'll go to bed and hopefully get a solid sleep for the first time in weeks. (Sleep at home has been interrupted by our new puppy, Scully.)
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