On our way to the USA!

San Francisco – Monday, 20 February 2012

Saturday morning 6.30 am… the alarm goes off… On a normal day we would hit the snooze button a zillion times, but not today. Why not? Because in 4 hours we are boarding an aircraft that will take us to our new home in San Francisco, California, in the US of A!

First part of the journey: a 9 hour flight from Brussels to Chicago with United Airlines. UA, as many other airline companies, has a very cruel aircraft floor plan. When you board the plane you first pass First Class where seats are so big that you can actually house a small family in them, then you pass Business Class where seats are somewhat smaller but still big enough to seat the heaviest person in the world. Champagne, little appetizers and soft music create the perfect atmosphere. And then you enter Economy Class… one word pops up in your head, SMALL. Small seats, small leg space and very small TV screens (seriously, 10 on 10 centimeters). Oh well.

Nevertheless, we arrived in Chicago pretty fresh and excited to get closer to our final destination. After passing customs and changing terminals we had to wait 2 hours at the gate and had our first taste of the American way of life. Example: whereas in Belgium people usually read books or browse their phones whilst waiting at the gate, in Chicago they eat pizza and sip extremely large cups of Starbucks frozen caffe latte moccachinato… Other example: Their was a big flat screen TV that was broadcasting the funeral of Whitney Houston which was interrupted by ads approximately every five minutes, very moving indeed.

Starbucks
Whitney's Funeral

The journey from Chicago to San Francisco was, despite of the small seats, amazing! Whilst they were playing “In Time”, the worst movie we have seen in a while, the scenery outside was astonishing. It looked like an advert for National Geographic.

Airplane view 1
Airplane view 2
Airplane view 3

At 6.30 pm local time we landed in San Francisco, the city that is going to be our home for the next couple of months. Pieter Gunst picked us up with his antique red Chrysler convertible which was just big enough to fit our 80 kilograms of luggage and ourselves. We had our first lesson on how to drive in the US and a few traffic rules were pretty different to Belgian traffic rules. You can for example overtake another car on the left and on the right. At a crossroad without traffic lights the rule is first come, first serve and even when there are lights, you can always turn right even when it is red. Somethings to get used to…

We drove to our hotel in Palo Alto which has the applicable name: “Hotel California”. After puzzling our luggage in the tiny room we went for dinner in a restaurant across the road where the food was yummy (big portions and a lot of seafood), the waitress was super friendly (she’d better be for the 15% tip) and the Californian wine was very tasty. But the 24 hour journey had taken our energy so a few minutes after saying goodnight to Pieter we were snoring in our little-not Queen size-bed.

After a jet lag-fueled night we woke up at 6.30, excited to go out and explore the Bay Area. Although the weather forecast told us that the weather wasn’t going to be good, we went outside and noticed that the jacket and scarf we put on weren’t necessary at all. Pieter picked us up with his roofless convertible and took us to Stanford University for a small tour and a big coffee and breakfast. Stanford University is a big green area with beautiful faculty buildings, palm trees and fountains. Not a bad place to get a diploma.

Stanford Main Quad

After sorting out some practical stuff we went to the farmers market in Palo Alto, where good looking and even better smelling food is sold by local traders.

Farmers market Palo Alto

We spent the afternoon in Stanford Mall with Pieter and Katie and bought ourselves running shoes (full of good intentions). Afterwards we had lunch/dinner (the portion size was big enough to keep us full all day) at a real American diner.

Around 5 pm we took a little drive to Mountain View, the city where we are planning on renting an apartment. The jet lag however was doing its work so we went home before dark and enjoyed our evening in the courtyard of our hotel fantasizing about all the things that we are planning to do in the Sunshine State.