Californian contrasts

18.08.2011

 

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.

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Redwood and Point Reyes *
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*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.

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San Francisco and vicinity*
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*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.

Video:

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

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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 :). https://skydrive.live.com/redir.aspx?cid=aa01b1bcb711fa01&page=play&resid=AA01B1BCB711FA01!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 naszsabbatical.com. 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.

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

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