California

I'm not even sure where to begin writing up this trip but here goes!

This was definitely one of the most memorable trips we've ever been on, and certainly the most exhausting at times. It's also the first road trip (albeit a mini one) we've done as well, and the fact we could explore even more of the area by driving around really made the trip for me. Our main base was San Francisco, a city we have both wanted to visit for a long time. This was also my second proper visit to the USA, my first being our holiday to NYC over 5 years ago, so visiting the west coast has been on the cards for a while now. 

We spent five days in the city before heading out on our road trip, but this was enough time for it to leave quite an impression on us. I only have New York as another American city to compare to, but I have quite a bit of experience from the rest of world, and I can comfortably say that SF is unlike any other city I’ve been to before. It’s incredibly diverse. Each neighbourhood feels like a different city altogether, and they have their own charms and uniqueness about them. I’m very much of the opinion that you have put in the effort to truly discover a city, and be prepared to walk a lot. SF really does make you work for it though. You hear about how steep some of the streets are, but you really cannot appreciate it until you’re there (and have to walk them a lot!) The rewards are most certainly there to appreciate however. There are surprises and discoveries to make on every street. I don’t think I’ve been to a city that has so many different building styles in one street too, with some truly beautiful homes. It really makes most of our streets back home so dull in comparison.

After exploring SF for several days, we hired a car and headed south along the Pacific Coast Highway. Of course being in America, I was adamant about a classic American car, with a bit of spice. A Mustang, Charger, Challenger……any of these would have fit the bill. And what did we end up with? A jaguar! Yep…..we come all the way to America and end up with a classically British car. I couldn’t complain too much though, as it was a really fun car to drive, and it certainly didn’t hang about either! The coastal highway was spectacular, although I would probably would have enjoyed it a lot more if I wasn’t concentrating so hard on driving on the wrong side of the road. We stayed the night at Pismo Beach, and treated ourselves to a hotel with an amazing beach view.

Death Valley was the next stop. Unfortunately we arrived at our hotel much later than planned, but we, or should I say I, still had time to enjoy the amazing quiet roads. We didn’t have to wait much longer until the moon set and we could view the Milky Way from just a mile or so from our hotel. This was even clearer than when we were in the desert in Jordan, and it’s the first time I’ve seen it clearly with my own eyes. That’s one of my bucket list items checked off.

Yosemite was definitely one of the highlights of the trip. It is quite simply stunning. It was surreal to leave our camp and look up at Glacier Point ‘just’ above us, starting the trail that would eventually bring us there. I insisted we hit the trails early, just in case we had time to complete the whole 4-mile and Panorama trail back to the valley. We just made it! After 13 miles and over 3000ft of climbing we made it back to camp using our phones as a torch for the last mile or so. We only spent two full days there, but I could have happily stayed for another week.

We finished where we started, back in the city of San Francisco, this time staying at an amazing B&B right near Alamo Square. From here we discovered some of the more western and southern districts, again, each having their own unique touches.

There’s no doubt that San Francisco is definitely a city I would enjoy visiting again, and it couples perfectly with a trip to ‘nearby’ Yosemite National Park.  So many memories, these are some of my favourites….

All photos taken with a Fuji X-T1 and X-T2 with 23mm f/1.4 and 56mm f/1.2 lenses

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Hong Kong

I was fortunate enough to travel to what has to be one of my favourite cities in the world, for work. I was there for four days, and I was certainly going to make the most of my time off before and after work itself. I'd like to say I know my way around the city pretty well now, as this was my fifth trip there. I also spent almost two weeks there on holiday over Christmas and New Year a couple of years ago, check out this post to see my photo story from that trip.  

I love travelling to Asia, I'm always excited to visit new countries there. Hong Kong, despite being probably the most 'western' Asian city (which makes sense given its history), has to be my favourite. I used to hate big cities, but Hong Kong has a certain 'feel' about it. The chaos, the noise, and the sheer density of the place.....it had me hooked. In fact, upon returning home from our holiday there, my girlfriend said to me 'I could easily live there". One day maybe.....

I had a great time there, both at work and in my free time. The weather was not so great, very overcast and an almost constant light drizzle for the first couple of days. Things eventually brightened up, and sure enough, on my last day the weather was fantastic. I always seem to have the best weather on the day I leave!

Most of my wandering was either in central Hong Kong, where I was staying, or in Kowloon. The MTR to work passed right through here, and I was keen to visit more areas I hadn't explored fully before, particularly Mong Kok. There's also a brilliant camera shop there specialising in film photography. The guys there are super friendly, I was there for probably 20 minutes talking geek about various cameras, whilst trying not to buy another one! I couldn't walk out empty handed, so walked out with a couple of rolls of Tri-X for my 365 project, and some 120 film.

I can never resist a visit to the peak either for the best views of the city, but I wanted to try a new spot. The plan was to catch the sunrise, which was early enough for me to make the trip up and down in time to make it to work too. Once at the peak station, take a walk down Luggard Road for about 15 minutes and you'll reach a spectacular look out spot. In my opinion the view is better than at the top of the Sky Terrace, and best of all it's free! If like me you want to catch the sunrise, the peak tram isn't open that early, but a taxi from the central area to the top was about 70HKD. 

I took my 35mm camera with me, and had a great time shooting with that too. I hope the shots come out, as I finished 5 rolls! I'll post up a separate post for them when I get them developed. This set was taken with a Fuji X-T2 and 23mm f1.4  and 56mm f1.2 lenses. 

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The early bird.....

Our last day in the city got off to a promising start. Our room faced east, so I could see there was potential for a nice sunrise. Usual habits kicked in.....freshen up, get dressed, grab camera gear, out!

After being treated to a really nice sunrise over the houses of parliament, I headed into the city to take advantage of the quiet streets, and when I say quiet...I mean dead! Walking around during golden hour in such a normally busy city such as London was quiet surreal. I don't normally have the best of luck with sunrise photography, or getting up early in general to take photos! Thankfully this time it paid off!

The rest of the day was spent wandering around areas we had never been before, and enjoying the beautiful weather to cap off a great stay in London.