I Wish They All Could be Californian
Friday 29th July 2016
My journey from San Jose to Los Angeles today will take approximately 11 hours. I could have flown of course but have joined a few of the usual travelling Gooners in Business Class on Amtrak’s Coast Starlight train as it meanders south along the Californian coastline. Having just made a dinner reservation and with a wine tasting option looking extremely tempting it is all very civilised!
For now I’ve decided to lie back in my reclining seat and reflect on the last few days and my first ever visit to this part of the world, culminating of course in yesterday’s victory over the MLS Allstars.
Events began on Sunday with my flight from Gatwick to San Francisco via Reyjavik, a very smooth experience if no less tedious than every other long haul flight we ever undertake.
Arriving Sunday evening local time and the body clock asking the usual jetlag questions, a snack and a couple of beers were enough to make sleep essential and have you ready for the few days ahead.
With just the 3 full days in San Francisco to undertake as much as humanly possible it could probably be described as ‘extreme tourism’. A Fitbit (get me!) confirmed walking over 30 miles in what is an incredibly hilly city.
Throw in 10 miles on a tandem bicycle ride over the magnificent Golden Gate Bridge and I certainly don’t feel guilty for enjoying the numerous food and drink options during my stay!
Fisherman’s Wharf, the Ferry Building, North Beach, Chinatown, Nob Hill, Lombard Street, the sea lions at Pier 39, Union Square and Alamo Square were all taken in in addition of course to a trip over to the incredible Alkatraz. The tales and stories involving the likes of Al Capone and The Birdman were both interesting and spine tingling.
It is generally recognised that the whole hippy and free love period of the sixties started in San Francisco and in particular the area known as Haight & Ashbury. A visit here was mind blowing to say the least. Record stores of a size you wouldn’t believe, shops selling incredibly diverse clothing, bars and cafes galore, it was simply awesome.
And as for the people, they ranged from cool to the ridiculous. One old boy walking down the road naked apart from a sock on his chap begged the question is that strictly legal. “Oh yes” said the shopkeeper we asked, “as long as he is wearing ‘something’ he is fine. They changed the law about 5 years as total nudity was upsetting the tourists!!”
Thursday morning and matchday had arrived. Physically exhausted I might have been but I absolutely loved San Francisco. But for now it was goodbye and to the Caltrain station I headed to make the 1 hour journey south to the Silicon Valley city of San Jose.
With the guidebooks suggesting there wasn’t an enormous amount to see or do in the city there was nothing to persuade you to do anything other than enjoy the pre-match build up in the company of the many thousands of Gooners present, most of whom had travelled from all over the US.
And Jacks Bar proved a fine host in the traditional way.
The Avaya Stadium is the home of the San Jose Earthquakes. And on my travels so far, it is unique. It has just 3 seated sides to it, not something we haven’t experienced before of course, the likes of Braga immediately springing to mind.
But I don’t remember any ground with a huge and well stocked bar being available to all throughout, located directly behind the goal and at a height that gave you 2 options, both being quite appealing!
Not only could you purchase some refreshment and take your place on the small grassy sundrenched terrace but if you preferred you could simply stand at the bar and watch the game from there!!
Madness really but I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t enjoyable. The only negative incident we experienced was when an inaccurate shot in the warm up flew past the post and knocked a bottle of vodka off its optic!!
The locals certainly take the whole ‘Allstars’ thing very seriously and the pomp surrounding the period just before kick-off was quite something. Fireworks, music, colour and a fly past by a huge US military aircraft all accompanied the build up as the teams stood in the traditional way.
The US National anthem was next before it was time for the action.
I’ve said it hundreds of times before but pre-season matches are never crucial. But in recent times the whole events surrounding many of them have become quite huge.
And the MLS Allstars don’t tend to lose these matches. In fact, reading the Ox’s comments on arsenal.com it almost feels as though spoiling the ‘party’ is not necessarily acceptable. Sorry our most hospitable friends, that’s not how we roll at the Arsenal.
Given the inevitability that Drogba was going to score we all knew we would probably need 2 goals to be victorious. And with so many players still missing from our squad it looked a relatively tough ask.
But we done ok.
And having taken advantage of watching the action from the various vantage points on offer it was very pleasing to see everyone perform pretty well and even more so to nick a late winner.
Nobody likes losing. But the opposite of that is we thoroughly enjoy winning. And we did. End of.
And that pretty much has us up to date.
This Arsenal family we have is something to behold. And it is the same in every single country we visit. We are Arsenal. Victoria Concordia Crescit.
Next comes LA but for now I am going to watch the Californian countryside and coastline pass by my window before I head to the restaurant car for my 5pm dinner reservation.
I can do posh.
Come on you mighty Gooners.