One thing that we certainly overestimated was the size of the Californian state, leaving at an inhumane time, cruising down the Amtrak (minus any train heists this time) to hit Long Beach in time for tea. Cursing the LA traffic, all was forgiven by the time we stood in awe of the Queen Mary.
RMS Queen Mary was once the luxury cruise liner of the Cunard Lines for the rich and famous, crossing the Atlantic between Britain and New York in just under our days. Having survived the WWII, she later retired to Long Beach, where she sits as the prime attraction and floating hotel. Still complete with the art nouveau decor, one feels like Jack and Rose in the Titanic, just without the ice berg (although we did suffer a fire alarm in the dead of night!)
It was odd to be sleeping on quite an legendary British icon on the Californian coast; it’s Britishness was clearly quite a draw for many Americans and laid on very thick with Winston’s restaurant and the Diana exhibition. You could even by Mcvities Digestives at four times the normal price. I couldn’t control myself standing next to two middle aged American ladies peering at a old photograph ‘What a funny hair do! I think she’s some sort of English celebrity back then’… Yes, that would be Margret Thatcher. Keeping with the patriotic tone, if you ever wondered where all the red telephone boxes have gone, they’re all in the states; i’ve seen more here than actually in the British Isles. Patriotic rant over.
We have now also joined our fellow travellers and guide for the second leg of our journey. After ice breakers over the best Mexican so far, the chemistry is mixing well with a mixture of gap-yahs, continentals and a token Kiwi (her given nickname!) Chris, our guide a chap that has managed to turn a nomadic lifestyle into a job, is leader of the pack.
After a morning on beach, we strolled round ‘Old’ town San Diego, I use this loosely as it may have been old once! As with many things in the states, many of their more tourist friendly areas we’ve visited have had their natural charm distorted by efforts to draw in more commerce. So Old Town San Diego was more like a Spaghetti western set waiting for the entrance of Zorro to free the Mexicans from wicked Governor. Still kitsch fun, but didn’t feel particularly real.