Car Registration Plates

One thing I noticed driving around California’s roads are the range of wild and wacky registration plates in use.

It seems there’s little restriction to what can be used as your car registration plate.

Here’s a couple of samples:

Luv to Sing or Luv to Snog?

PR Style

Travelling beyond California I notice it’s common across the USA…

Race Car Plate

Even individual States seem to get into the game, like “Sweet Home Alabama” as shown below, though some states seem considerably less imaginative…  yes, Georgia…

Georgia.gov plate

Typing at Altitude

The highest point in the British Isles is 4,409 ft.

For the last few days I’ve been camping out in the Sierra Nevada mountains at 7,200 ft, spending time kayaking, swimming, and hiking at up to 8,500 ft.  One of the first things you notice is breathlessness and next you notice the amazing views:

The vista’s here are out of this world.  Every turn you take is a view to die for.  Miles upon miles of alpine vista’s and mountain lakes.

One of the dangers though are the wildlife.  I’ve only come across gophers, chipmunks, birds and deer.  Apparently these woods are full of bears, rattlers and even tourists…

Hearst Castle

Imagine Rupert Murdoch finding a remote, inaccessible mountaintop and spending the next 15 years building a palace atop it.  Then, when completed, fill it with Roman, Renaissance and other valuable antiquities and invite the Beckhams, George Clooney, Scarlett Johanson, Tom Cruise and every other A-List Celeb to come stay and party there as freely as they like…

This is pretty much what William Randolph Hearst, the 20th century media baron, did from 1919 til his death in 1951.

Hearst Castle is a testament to opulence.  It’s a truly beautiful palace in a stunning setting.  Moving from room to room you are surrounded by items from around the world – mostly Europe.  15th century fireplaces taken from French Chateau, floor tiling from Roman villa’s, 2000 year old Roman busts, Gothic and Medieval hangings and flags from the British Isles. Roaming the grounds and palace feels like roaming Pompeii or another lost civilization, it is truly awe-inspiring.

I’ve put together a gallery of some of my photo’s from my day here.  I strongly recommend visiting the palace if you get chance, but one tip – try and avoid peak periods as the crowds can give it a Disneyland feel.  Such opulence deserves exclusivity.

El Paso de Robles

Paso Robles is an historical old town – by Californian standards.

Discovered in 1797 for it’s hot sulphur springs Paso old became a `real` town in the mid-1800s and even attracted the outlaw Jesse James to hole up for a year while he recovered from a few gunshot wounds.  A century later Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio also stayed here on honeymoon.

A peaceful but hot (think 100F days) town, the big attraction to many travelers over the years has been the healing sulphur springs.  The big attraction to me is the wine!  Paso Robles is now at the centre of a booming wine industry as Cowboys turn to wine-connoisseurs to make their money.  Everywhere you look someone has a tasty looking glass of vino in their hands and everywhere you go out of town, you come across stunning wineries with views or stunning views with wineries.

Staying in a `Spa-town` does have other benefits too… in this case my only private hot spring hot-tub on my balcony!

Roadtrip

Long weekend – what better reason than to get out of the city and explore some of Central California.

Surely one of the most scenic drives in the world is the Pacific Coast Highway down the coast and through an area called Big Sur.

Rural, rustic and rugged are three words I’d use to describe the area.  Here are a few snapshots I took on the way down:

 

 

 

 

Of the many twists and surprises the journey took, I’m not sure if I was more surprised by the beach full of Elephant Seals (boy, they smell!) or the 30+ German Harley Davidson bikers I came across (who also smelt) that had just driven across from Florida.

Hummingbirds

The first time I came across Hummingbirds was in 2003 whilst traveling in Mexico.  Being indigenous only to the Americas they were almost a pleasant surprise to see on later visits here and have since become my favorite little bird.

Now living in California I have chance to see them in their full glory on a regular basis.

What’s so special about them?  As well as being the world’s smallest bird I love the way they seem to hover as they fly.  They move so fast, apparently beating their wings approx 70 times per second (yep, PER SECOND! WOW!)

They also have the cutest of little chirps too.  The World of Hummingbirds website where you can listen to it describes it as a `Hey Look at Me` chirp.

Here are some more Hummingbird facts.

With the sunny Californian days I’ve been spending more time outside on my roof deck, where I’ve been having regular company from a pair of hummingbirds…

Meet Horace and Harriet!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Horace (adult male) is the one on the left with the red neckline.  Harriet (adult female) is the one of the right without the red neckline

Here’s hoping to lots of hummingbird-chicks fluttering around soon!

A Day Trip To Japan

A short hop across the road from where I live and I find myself in Japan…

Well, not ‘quite’ Japan but an area called Japantown.  It feels like Japan.  It looks like Japan, and, oh boy, it tastes like Japan!

Sushi was not particularly common in the UK, but over here on the west coast I find myself slowly succumbing to Sushi-addiction.  Honestly, I think the Sushi is my main incentive for leaving the house most days.  Here’s a sample of the latest ’round’ (sweet prawn and spicy tuna rolls):

Sushi apart, Japantown has a lot more to see.  As well as being full of Japanese decor, furniture and cutesy items in the plentiful Japanese stores, there is of course the largest branch of Daiso in SF!

Daiso is a Japanese Pound Shop.  Everything in there is $1.50 and they have really some useful gems.  How could you not ‘need’ a Banana case for example…

Commuting

In London my commute was a distance of 4 miles.   Usually in the rain… in traffic… weaving between buses and dodging pedestrians… it vaguely looked like this:

cycling to work

In California my commute is approx. 40 miles and looks like this:

Commuting Bus

The work shuttles provided are a progression from the Yellow School Buses you see pottering around the USA – they pick me up from the end of my street and deposit me at the work campus, returning me at the end of the day.

This being Silicon Valley though, the buses are fully equipped with (semi) hi-speed wi-fi internet and comfy leather seats.

Inside Work Shuttle

Normally it’s a nice journey under blue sunny skies… except days like this when the shuttle sets on fire…

Smoking Bus

Don’t worry, nobody was hurt, just an electrical fire this time…

My Day In Photos

Slightly different theme with this blog post….

I woke up to a sunny March morning with a most beautiful sky.  I leapt out of bed, grabbed my camera and my bike and went for an early morning ride round the city.  Here are some of the shots I took: