Benicia, Hamlin and driving in the USA

April 04, 2012

Benicia, Hamlin and driving in the USA

I’ve now had two days of school visits in San Francisco and the Bay area.  I’ve also realised that I am the world’s worst navigator (despite managing to get around Melbourne with my publicist Dot last month with not one wrong turn).  Today I have failed miserably.  Granted that the stress level was somewhat increased by the left hand drive/wrong side of the road issue – which seriously I’m just getting my head around.
Well, the upside is that I’m still married – despite getting us onto the wrong freeway, from which our only path of escape was through a deserted industrial area, complete with redundant railway yards, barking dogs and cars missing their wheels – yes think Chevy Chase and some of his ill-fated Vacation routes and you have the picture.

Fortunately we arrived in Benicia in one piece – and what a gorgeous little town it is.  The main street looks like something out of a movie and apparently it was slated as the capital of California for some time before they decided to make it Sacramento.  There are historic buildings, cute cafes and antique shops where the prices are incredibly reasonable.  The real estate numbers would make any Sydneysider weep.


We visited Robert Semple Elementary School with the lovely Cindy McNutt who now owns the review website Compass Book Ratings (formerly Squeaky Clean Reads).  Cindy and I made contact via email and I had assumed that she had children at the school.  She did but her boys are now in Middle and Upper School.  She was so generous with her time and had arranged for me to talk to the Grade 1, 2 and 3 students.  The kids were fabulous.   I was asked lots of interesting questions about writing and Australia but my favourite was about my accent.  ‘Do you have to concentrate really hard to sound like that?’ 

Afterwards we visited Bookshop Benicia and spent some time meeting kids and signing books.  It’s a great shop that’s been in town for 18 years.

Fortunately the journey back to the city was a lot more straightforward.  Not a cross word was spoken!

Yesterday I visited a girls’ school in Pacific Heights called Hamlin which is housed in one of the old Flood mansions.  WOW! Apparently the Floods made their fortune as silver barons and tomorrow I am visiting Sacred Heart School which is in the other Flood mansion two door’s along.  The houses are very different so I am looking forward to seeing it too. Hamlin is beautiful and the view from the old solarium at the back of the house takes in the bay including the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz.  Truly breathtaking. 

I spoke to the girls in Year 2 and 3.  They were interested, asked great questions and reminded me a lot of the girls I work with at home.  The best question came from a little girl called Sophie who asked me if I could have any character from the Alice-Miranda books over for dinner, who would it be and why?  I said that I would have to have a whole dinner party – one would be too few!

Miss Debra Cardone the librarian made us feel so welcome as did Ms Amy Woodson, the Head of the Junior School.  We had only ever talked over the Internet but their warmth and generosity was heart-warming – I would love to go back again sometime and teach at least all day!  

Last night we met a lovely couple from South Carolina in the hotel bar.  They asked if we could fit in another school visit to Greenville – I suspect that we can’t L  It was a funny coincidence that they live an hour from my friend Dianne who we are visiting in Greenville South Carolina in  couple of weeks’ time.





Wow! Candelabras in the library at Hamlin!

Loved the question from Sophie and the comment about your accent! Great to hear that the kids are so welcoming and switched on.

Good luck with the navigating…

Kim 🙂

April 5, 2012 at 4:18 pm

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