Californian contrasts



At the end of our North American journey we drove through the whole California, one of the biggest US states. It is a strange place full of huge contrasts. Next to pleasant landscapes such as Redwood National Park with the tallest trees in the world, luxurious estates, ranches etc you can see plenty of poverty and dirt. The infrastructure, since our previous visit here, collapsed significantly. It is also more pricey than the rest of the country. At one of our campgrounds in CA we saw a lot of long-time campers living in hideous trailers. It turns out that due to the economic crisis here many Americans, who lost their houses, have been forced to live like this. It is a depressing picture, particularly when you lose everything so quickly.

Redwood and Point Reyes *
-1468692149735979A0 -19849192210C5549E6 -358905525682FEF56 293695834012BBF9C -14588023424814E299
5034765706110B2DE -7555710074C1F306B 172293497727F9D5DC -33208350440F5A621 18979755040BE916F1
-187796446967C3BC61 35209453900BF8CA7 -19805938456BCE0A33 -80684408532B72D31 -14544769664BB2FD76
-1040879270278DA2E7 -190921003129C2074 -17396022192B97F0B9 8801993810772962A 129937124206E666F

*For slide show of the above picutres, refer to the Polish version of this post.

A pleasant contrast to that was our visit to Napa Valley, north of San Francisco, known for its great wines around the world. Though produced here since XIX, the real fame of Napa Valley started in 60-70s of XX. After that rebirth the local wines would often be rated on top of the world wine rankings. Napa Valley is home to such well recognized wine brands as Robert Mondavi, Beringer, Domaine Chandon, Beaulieu Vineyards, or more common, entry-level Sutter Home.

Living in Napa Valley we could not miss a visit to a winery, wine tasting and observing its production. It is very interesting and can be summarized in a catchy saying that: “Great wines are made in the vineyard, not in the cellar”. In other words, it is hard to make good wine from bad grapes. The weather in Napa, like in many other places in Cal, is quite contrasting too. Mornings and evenings are chilly, while during the day it can be very hot. Apparently such a clime is ideal for vines.

*For slide show of the above picutres, refer to the Polish version of this post.

Enjoying Napa we did not expect this atmoshpere would soon be continued. Before coming to Los Angeles, we stayed for a few days with a Polish-French family near San Francisco. Irena and Jean Claude hosted us very kindly. At their place we experienced the best of Polish and French cuisine along with great wine tasting paired with succulent French cheeses. Irena’s passion for cultivating Polish culture abroad is unique. Inspired by that we helped, along with a large group of Polish parisioneers, to make delicious pierogi (over 7,000!), for a festival at the Polish church in San Jose. Jean-Claude served every evening better and better wines. To conclude our visit he opened a bottle of wine older than ourselves, i.e. Chateau Chambert, 1970!!

Meeting Polish immigrants we could not do without conversations from the series “Poland, quo vadis?” Unfortunately the picture of Poland among Polish immigrants is not the best. A happy Polish family, travelling around the world for one year, seems to contradict the stereotypes of poverty and pariochialism of our country. When they learn that Poland is our favorite place for living, they are very postively surprised and almost disbelieving.

San Francisco and vicinity*
17303842822A898F2 -3431886443BA46937 188687036454A0397C -1372842537307ADEED 34098939934852CBF
-2002939578295BA275 -931819194425772BA 10131145615B5342FF 2006902465744F1344 14366020645029B8B5
-186177707702215940 1005018351B1D2985 -33839275762064C82 10402164107B021CC7 -27736298713FDED0D
1461245166FD8927D 131987427608D462C3 -129712707321D03308 -18942946923ACC034D 44119394301B5264B
-13752673691AB0F690 -162371434533ACC6D5 2246945980F876C46 -74180844728833C8B 1736697537417F0CD0
14882505615A7ADD15 143417723221640013 -18670021603A5FD058 -1864201909535BA09D -3408175892F36460E
31178377048321653 82669914612DE698 -3695940227A29B6DD -17715844313258723 20529005656F002C93
1998827236730A7A65 2463290604EE51FD6 -208635932467E0F01B 131744944400DCC061 -35616477219D890A6

*For slide show of the above picutres, refer to the Polish version of this post.

All great things pass quickly. After another great visit and hospitality it was time for us to head for Los Angeles (LA), from where we will soon leave for Fiji. Like the whole state, LA is a city of big extremes. The glamour of Beverly Hills, Santa Monica and Venice promenades, Griffith Observatory, Holywood film studios contrasts largely with the rest of the mostly concrete desert, smog-capped throughout most of the year. Driving out of LA at 4 am to Phoenix, AZ to return the rental car, the 16-lane freeways were already full of slow-moving vehicles.

Unlike the great hospitality in Calgary, Vancouver and Morgan Hill in California,  we will not miss LA at all.


*For slide show of the above picutres, refer to the Polish version of this post.


Redwood National Park

Sprint car racing in Calistoga, Napa Valley

Visit to Sterling winery, Napa

Amusument Park in Santa Cruz

Driving down Lombard St, San Francisco

Pierogi making at Polish parish, San Jose

Guest ballet performance at Irena’s and Jean-Claude’s

Wisteria Lane

Earthquake in San Francisco

Ten wpis został opublikowany w kategorii English, USA i oznaczony tagami . Dodaj zakładkę do bezpośredniego odnośnika.

Jedna odpowiedź na „Californian contrasts

  1. Bogdan Szuta pisze:

    Dear Wojtek,
    Only yesterday I discovered your blog and the fact that you ARE on a very long vacation. What a wonderful idea indeed! Lucky you and obviously not for this single reason alone.

    We were very happy to have you at the parish. I had a blast with Wojtek Junior, as we played piano duet; unfortunately,single hand only on my part :).

    Anyway, I wanted to share few things from my side of the lens …. in part literally . Here are some pictures from the Saturday before last, when you and your family visited Polish Church in San Jose during our „make-as-many-potato-pierogi-as-possible” action.
    I hope you like them. I have me favorites of course, but will late you pick yours too :).!2008 (hopefully, the link will show without need for major tweaking)

    As far as your thoughts on America and Polonia you shared above with all of us. Hmmm….

    1) You are one of very few who can now attest that America is not only full of rich people, and money does not grow on trees indeed. There are PLENTY of people who suffer, maybe even more than most in Poland, and often very anonymously. California unemployment (13%, according to the official stats) is much higher than the one in Poland (on average). People have lost houses, and many live in despair. Today, America’s economy is in much worse shape than the one in Poland. There is no reason to deny it.

    2. Having said that, I would also like to address the issue of how Polonia views Poland and its citizens, and how some of People living outside Poland may see your personal situation.
    What we know doesn’t come from the local news media (you many not noticed, but NOBODY talks about Poland in US media, unless a President goes to our homeland). It comes from the Poles themselves. We hear what Poles themselves tell us, how THEY fill about the economic, political situation in their own country. Some of us visit our relatives in Poland quite often. We also observe, listen the same way you do/did throughout your journey. Obviously most of us do not meet people of your situation, but as you may very well realized by now, your are not the norm, your are the happy exception… which is very fine with most of us (there will always be somebody jealous who is going to complain, do nothing to improve him/herself). We don’t view Poland and Poles less worthy or deserving. Sometimes we even try to help and suggest things. Unfortunately, many times we meet with hostility and resentment, just because of that.
    C’est la vie as some Russian may say. 🙂

    I better finish this entry, before some limit hits me hard, and I will have to start using my backspace key with a furry.

    I wish you all the best during your journey. Please continue taking A LOT OF PICTURES, making youtube movies, and sharing them via your blog entries, here on After all, your adventure is very inspiring to so many, on so many levels.

    Stay safe and don’t forget about us, as we will certainly not forget you, and your lovely family.

    I will pray for all of you from time to time. God Bless.

    PS. Let me know, if you have problems accessing the pictures.


Wprowadź swoje dane lub kliknij jedną z tych ikon, aby się zalogować:


Komentujesz korzystając z konta Wyloguj /  Zmień )

Zdjęcie z Twittera

Komentujesz korzystając z konta Twitter. Wyloguj /  Zmień )

Zdjęcie na Facebooku

Komentujesz korzystając z konta Facebook. Wyloguj /  Zmień )

Połączenie z %s