San Francisco Day 1

As mentioned, no one leaves the ship until we have all been immigrated. They intend to start very early in the morning, so that our day is not unnecessarily truncated, although the excursions aren’t planned to start until nearly 11am, so they’re not in THAT much of a hurry. We have been instructed to go at 7.15am. This seems awfully early to little me, although those who intend to get up at 5am to watch us go under the Golden Gate won’t mind, I suppose.

Come to think of it, all that will be put back an hour, because the Captain announced last night we wouldn’t be arriving until 6am. So that’s 8.15 for immigration, presumably.

Mercifully, and surprisingly thoughtfully for P&O, they held back one of the hours of clock changes until the last night, so that we can have an hour’s extra sleep by way of compensation.

And yet, to wake me at 6.32am with an announcement telling people NOT to go to immigration yet, seems unnecessarily cruel. This announcement was repeated at 06.53 and again at 07.02 and 07.18, to ensure that everyone who had not been woken by the first one was definitely awake. Not able to go anywhere or do anything, but awake nonetheless.

Dear Lord. We set foot on land at ten to twelve.

I’ll say that again. We arrived at 6am and we got ashore at NOON. I thought I had witnessed the heights of P&O incompetence, but I hadn’t seen anything until today.

Not only were we “immigrated” by 10, so I had time to go back to the cabin and have a nap for an hour and a half, but when they let us off, we were only allowed to use ONE GANGPLANK.

Two thousand frustrated and angry people, who had been waiting to disembark for nearly SIX HOURS, trying to get off a single gangplank. They had two gangplanks in place, but they turned the disabled people who had gone to use it away from the lower one and made them go back up to the upper one, where they were expected to join the back of the queue.

Never in all my born days have I seen such monstrous incompetence. And this was only 2000 passengers, remember. The larger ships have three and a half, four, even five thousand. Just when I think P&O can’t possibly get it any more wrong, they do something like this.

We barged our way in and got ashore to meet our cousin. She took us to first to the Farmer’s Market and then to Gott’s for superb beef hotdogs for lunch. With proper lemonade! With free refills! I love the US!

Then we went to Macy’s and mum bought up most of their Clinique stock, and then we went to Bloomingdales and bought some more. Fran and I popped to the Discount Shoe Warehouse, where I bought two pairs of shoes and Fran got one. Then we stopped for tea (crepes and cakes and cold drinks in the basement food court of the Westfield shopping centre) before going to Nordstroms, where we bought nothing, sadly. It is all designer labels with matching prices. There were some nice Ralph Lauren pyjamas, but I’m not paying 80 dollars for a pair of pjs, no matter how soft they are.

We had intended to have tea in the Cheesecake Factory at the top of Macy’s but they accused mum of queue-jumping so we left and took our custom elsewhere. It was insanely loud and utterly packed, and there was a half hour queue just to get a table. I don’t care how pretty your decor or how good your cake, I’m not queuing for half an hour for the right to sit down, particularly when one of our party walks with a stick.

Fran took us to the Hunan Home Chinese Restaurant for dinner, where we stuffed ourselves on the loveliest Chinese food for a tenner a head. We had egg rolls (fat spring rolls) and mu shu chicken (which I now know to be a stir fry with egg, bamboo shoots and veg rolled into a pancake), followed by asparagus and chicken in black bean sauce, lemon chicken and chicken chow mein. All delicious.

We then headed back to the ship, at the end of a 13-hour day, truly worn out! But I got my second wind, so I texted Fran and she came and got me and we went to a bar in her neighbourhood called Specs. What a dive! It’s clearly a passionately loved local to those in the area, but, personally, I think you can judge how dodgy a place is by the fact that there are no locks on the toilet doors! Specs has a variety of memorabilia on its walls and ceilings. Flags and liferings from old ships, artefacts from African tribes, ivories, rude signs, Victorian photos of naked women, posters from the Second World War, all sorts of stuff, all crap. The drinks were cheap, though, so that was nice.

After we had put the world to rights for a couple of hours, we walked across the street to the City Lights bookshop. This is a bookshop that I think could only exist in San Francisco. It has every book on philosophy, politics, gender, race, psychology, religion, spirituality, history and music and every sub-genre thereof. It is also open 10am to midnight. It was founded in 1953 by Peter Martin and Lawrence Ferlinghetti, the poet. How cool is that?! The shopowner was very friendly and very knowledgeable. When I mentioned that I couldn’t find Will Self’s Psychogeography, despite the fact that Walking to Hollywood had pride of place near the till, he said that Psychogeography 1 and 2 had only been released in hardback in the States, and even that was hard to find. He certainly knows his stuff. I bought a Jonathan Franzen I’d been promising myself for a while and then Fran took me back to the ship. Home by half midnight. Better go to bed, I’ve got to be up at half nine!

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