The British don’t celebrate Thanksgiving, I suppose the closest we have is our harvest festival and I’m not sure you could call it a celebration as such. Anyone with primary school children in the UK has probably been asked to donate a can of beans or perhaps some tea to be distributed to local good causes while the children themselves participate in a school assembly but that seems to be the extent of it for a lot of people. So we were excited to experience our first Thanksgiving in the US.
A good friend from our university days is currently living in Oakland and we planned to spend the day together, cooking the obligatory turkey and stuffing ourselves as if it were Christmas. As we drove up from Yosemite we found a large Costco and along with thousands of others, filled a trolley the size of a minivan with as much as we could cram into the car. Later, we found a Wholefoods store and repeated the exercise. With enough food to feed a battalion all I had to worry about was how to operate the oven in the next Airbnb.
We spent Wednesday enjoying San Francisco; mooching around Fisherman’s wharf, eating ice creams on the beach and watching the sun go down over the Golden Gate Bridge followed by the most spectacular moon rise we’ve ever seen. We should have been trying to build up an appetite for the onslaught the following day but instead we enjoyed dinner out and got into the party mood with the rest of the city.
I might have been a little giddy as I prepared the turkey brine that evening but I tend to find preparing a feast is much easier after a glass or two of wine. All things considered, I’d say that our first American Thanksgiving was a triumph! The oven did it’s job, although being British and paranoid about undercooking the turkey meant I sent it back twice just to be sure. We drank too much, ate too much and enjoyed the company of our old friend who gets to live by the bay permanently – lucky fellow! Above all, we all felt very thankful indeed for all that we have been able to do this year and all that was still to come. Perfect.
Now whilst we don’t have Thanksgiving at home, Black Friday has caught on and after the insanity of 2014 about which I have blogged previously, Nick and I decided to avoid all the shops and do something completely different. We spent the morning in Monterey Bay kayaking with sea otters followed by a night tour of Alcatraz.
Late November in Monterey is cold, albeit the skies were clear and the sun was out so the first challenge was to don a wetsuit each; easier said than done early on a fragile morning. Then in tandem kayaks, Nick with Alex, John and I together and Teddy and our guide, we paddled out in search of marine mammals. Irritatingly, Nick was very good at this whilst John and I looked more like Laurel and Hardy trying to co-ordinate on the water. Eventually our other guide took pity on us and attached a tow rope to our kayak. Soon the sea otters, harbour seals and sea lions joined us for a magical morning.
Having extricated ourselves from our
straitjackets wetsuits we were on a clock to get to Alcatraz for our night tour. I have no idea how we made it given the entire population of California seemed to be on the road and out to stop us but with minutes to spare we got to the boat. Phew!
Night tours are really popular – there is something a bit spooky about Alcatraz in the dark and the guides take advantage of the mysterious atmosphere by telling stories of the inmates and their escape attempts. We heard all about the Anglin brothers who escaped in 1962 and are still on wanted lists – not presumed dead until they would have been 99, Marshals are still looking for them. We shared conspiracy theories – did they move to Brazil, or did they drown in their attempt to swim to shore?
It was a great evening and I recommend it if you are in the Bay area. The Alcatraz tour was operated by Hornblower cruises who also provide the boats to the Statue of Liberty and the Niagara Falls cruise that we enjoyed – as far as hits go, they are 3 for 3!