In late 2019, in our last substantial overseas trip before COVID struck, my wife and I went back to the USA, building on previous visits that had taken in 23 states, now up to 25 after this trip. Our first stop also served as a convenient halfway point for a reunion with our son, who lives in Costa Rica.
We arrived in San Francisco from Sydney and went straight to the house generously loaned to us by friends who were away overseas at the time. This terrific inner-city residence put us within walking distance – or at most a cable car ride – of practically everywhere we wanted to go, which wasn’t far. We had done the rounds of the tourist attractions before, so we derived simple pleasure from living like residents, shopping at nearby stores and eating at local restaurants.
Our daily lives were acted out in an area bounded by Pacific Avenue, Polk and Hyde Streets, but we did revisit the impressive City Hall, Union Square, Fisherman’s Wharf and Sausalito.
We also walked up to the steep and winding Lombard Street, whose top end was not far from our house.
While in the quirky Haight-Ashbury district, the window pictured below took my attention.
After a most enjoyable week or so we took a brief side trip to the Monterey Peninsula and then flew to Jackson Hole where we began our tour of two national parks – Grand Teton and Yellowstone.
Jackson Hole and national parks
What can one say about Jackson? Described as the last real mountain town, both cosmopolitan and cowboy, it exudes charm and warmth. On Town Square, log cabins from the 19th century share the boardwalk with prime examples of contemporary Western architecture. Stetson-wearing men and women on horseback are a common sight, and galleries abound with artwork as diverse as downtown itself. Plentiful restaurants offer a wide choice of dining opportunities.
In a rented SUV we headed to our first accommodation, the Alpenhof Hotel in the Teton Village. From there the aerial tram whisks you up to the top of Rendezvous Mountain in about 10 minutes.
It’s also an easy drive to beautiful Jenny Lake in Grand Teton National Park, as well as the Mormon Row historic barns at Antelope Flats, near Moose.
We drove the length and breadth of both Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks, where we saw plenty of bison, some moose and a couple of wolves, not to mention the spectacular natural scenery. While touring the second park we stayed at the Stage Coach Inn in West Yellowstone, Montana.
Finally it was back to San Francisco once more for our flight to Honolulu, where we stayed for a week at the Ala Moana Hotel. It was many years since we had been to Hawaii and we were struck by how congested Honolulu has become, but once on the beach at Waikiki this was quickly forgotten.
We took the opportunity to drive up to the North Shore of Oahu – something we hadn’t done before – taking in Haleiwa, Waimea Bay and Turtle Bay.
After five glorious weeks away it was time to head for home, but this was not to go smoothly. Roaring down the runway at Honolulu International Airport, our take-off was suddenly aborted when a warning light indicated a brake problem. There followed 20 minutes of brake testing before a false alarm was announced, and then a further 40 minutes to let the brakes cool down before we finally took off and turned westward to Australia, almost 90 minutes behind schedule. Irritating at the time, such an event would be almost welcome today if it meant we were flying freely again!
Photos © Judy Barford