Friday August 4
It is a pleasant change to enjoy some warm weather, here in Berkeley, California, after some rather cold weeks in Adelaide. The flights to Sydney and then across the Pacific were comfortable, but jet lag is a challenge. The Qantas flight was an hour late in departing Sydney, but we landed in SFO only fifteen minutes later than the scheduled time. Passport control, or Customs clearance was inordinately slow, certainly when compared to Singapore, Dubai, or even India, which is a bureaucratic nightmare. Over an hour to get through that process, including some probing questions as to why I was visiting the US.
I had pre-arranged my transfer from SFO to the hotel, the Rose Garden Inn. It has been over two decades since I visited San Francisco last, so my recall is limited. The first visit I flew in and the second visit I drove from LA. The Rose Garden Inn is different and quaint accommodation. It is made up of a main building with about a dozen separate two-story ‘houses’ with forty or so rooms. It is only fifteen to twenty minutes walk from the Berkeley campus where I will be spending the next week. With a bit of negotiation I was able to gain access to a room before the normal check-in time of 3pm thankfully, as I was bushed and needed a sleep.
Late afternoon, showered and refreshed, I did my normal orientation walk around the area. My practice when travelling is to get a lay of the locality, discover the food outlets, and transport options, where I can and shouldn’t walk alone and generally get a feel of the place.
By 6pm I was peckish and found an Italian restaurant that seemed reasonable. The entree size pasta dish was bigger than a normal meal back in Adelaide. Tipping: the bane of my life. I don’t like it. Okay, I understand why it is done, you tip after good service. To me the key factor is after. However, now the practice seems to be you tip when you pay, not after the meal or service and it is expected.
Saturday August 5
A wonderful night’s sleep. Breakfast at the Inn was plentiful and filling, but certainly salty and sweet.
I spent the morning wandering around the University of California Berkeley campus. It is huge and a beautiful setting. I located where I have to go on Monday, so I shouldn’t get lost. There were loads of people about, family groups and people on guided tours. Then I realised that this is the Australian equivalent of the summer break and the start of the new teaching year. Families tour the facilities with their son or daughter who will be commencing their undergraduate degree in a few weeks. The system is quite different as the majority of students come from far and wide to study at a university and live away from home for their three or four years of study. I spoke with one family and their son, not quite 18, is moving here from Cleveland on a botany scholarship.
My iPhone has been in the wars. I have dropped it so many times the screen is a little challenging to read at times. It works well, but in some lighting conditions the distortion is frustrating. In Australia the cost to repair it is over A$300 and could take up to a week to fix. Here US$101 and done in two hours. I dropped it in at a corner store at 11am and I’ll pick it up (hopefully) in 15 minutes. The gentleman I left it with is a former physics professor. His library in the workshop/office is impressive. He let me browse, but I didn’t understand the titles let alone the contents. One book on trivia caught my eye. I opened it and yes it was trivia, but the trivia of physics. However, I did know that Albert Einstein was considered retarded by his school teacher and was told not to return to the classroom and was then home schooled by his mother. iPhone update. All fixed for $100 US–no receipt, not tax, no worries.
The entree in the US is what we call the main course, that’s why it was so big.
Tipping is expected in the United States because of the atrocious wages there where workers are paid a really low minimum wage of around $5 an hour and expect to make up a reasonable living wage out of tips. You are expected to tip at least 15% of your bill and usually that amount is added to your invoice before you get it, irrespective of the xtandard of serice. Diners are simply making up the difference that these employers refuse to pay.
In Australia I don’t tip unless the food has been really good and then I give it direct
to the chef, otherwise the cash tips are pooled and shared around, irrespective whether i wanted it to go the the smiling waitperson. I go to a place for the food, not service. However when im in the States i bow to the local custom, after all, they’re getting exploited….
Enjoy the trip and more posts please.