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Full Circle

Day 232: Carmel to San Francisco

San Francisco, California, USA 
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San Francisco. Sunset over the Bay.
Michael Palin - Full CircleA beautiful morning, the sort of morning that should be deep-frozen and used again. I walk two blocks down to the ocean past discreetly rambling clapboard houses set in flower-filled gardens behind fences half submerged in purple bougainvillaea. Palms, pines and eucalyptus provide a generous greeny cover and the shore is lined with white sand. A general air of discreet good taste prevails.

Bill Fink, the Morgan dealer from San Francisco (who rowed for Oxford University in my last year there - 1965), tells me that this is no accident. There is a Carmel 'book', a book of rules for preserving the character of the neighbourhood. Trees must be pruned to the correct height, houses can only be painted certain colours, even house names have to be approved.

I fantasize a visit from Clint Eastwood, tipping back his hat and telling it to me straight. 'Michael, folks round here don't like "Dunromin". You gonna have to take that sign down or be on the next train out of town.'

Just over an hour north of Carmel, the countryside flattens out and in the wide fields outside Salinas we pick up one of the trails we left behind in Tijuana. A hundred Mexicans are picking strawberries. They work their way swiftly along the rows, picking directly into green plastic punnets which are then pushed on miniature wheelbarrows and loaded onto waiting trailers. As each box is delivered, the foreman punches a hole in the picker's card. They are paid one dollar forty a box. Picking has to be done bent double and most of the pickers have tracksuit hoods or scarves pulled over their heads as protection against the sun. Not a word of English is spoken.

Late in the afternoon my Morgan passes beneath the soaring orange arches of one of the icons of the modern world, then stops. Even on the Golden Gate Bridge, it's rush hour.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Full Circle
  • Day: 232
  • Country/sea: USA
  • Place: Salinas - California
  • Book page no: 303

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