Winter Holidays – Sacramento (Day 1)

Tuesday was the day we were going to Sacramento. We took the bus about 08:00 to the bus station and waited. We ate our breakfast in the station and eventually took the free bus to Emeryville station. The station had two platforms. To get to the second, you had to cross the first. Our train arrived at exactly the same time as the one going in the opposite direction. And our train was on the far platform, which meant crossing the platform in front of the arriving train to get to ours. The other train stopped further down the platform, however, so it was not too dangerous.

We boarded our train and found some seats together, and began the two-hour journey to the state capital. We got to see more of California and travel on a double-decked train. Downstairs is reserved for disabled travellers, so we sat upstairs. The journey was quite pleasant and we arrived near enough on time, only a few minutes late.

Arriving in Sacramento, we made it to the youth hostel where we were staying the night – it was only down the road from the station – and left our bags there, as it was too early to check-in.

We then doubled back, and we past the station to a part of the city called ‘Old Sacramento’. This is a mock-up of Sacramento as it would have been perhaps during the gold rush. We wondered down the streets, and stopped and had a light lunch in a café there, which was quite nice, and refreshing, as it was later than is usual for lunch. We went into the one-room Wells Fargo museum and then into the office. There, they suggested we go to the California State Assembly as there is a free tour around the building, and if we were quick, we could just make the next one. Interestingly, when we entered the information office, the man behind the counter asked where we were from. We went through the usual process – ‘the UK’, ‘whereabouts?’, ‘the north’, ‘whereabouts?’, ‘near Manchester’. And then the guy said his brother-in-law was actually from Knutsford, and we sounded just like him. Small world, I guess.

The walk from Old Sacramento to the Assembly building did not take long at all. We went through an underpass and came out near what looked like a shopping complex, before joining the mall down to the building itself. What struck us, though, was how quiet it was. There seemed to be very few people about at all. This was about 14:30 or 14:45 on a Tuesday afternoon, but still.

I admit that I was not overly keen on the tour at first. I did not think it sounded that interesting, but how wrong I was! When we arrived and went through security, we found where the tour was meeting (by a statue of Ronald Reagan). There was the three of us, two other guys (who disappeared off quickly), two women and another guy. The docent (tour guide) met us and proved to be an ex-government employee. He was particularly knowledgeable and answered all our questions (we had several). We got to see both the lower house (the assembly) and the upper house (the senate). Neither were sitting on that day, so we could go into the chambers and look down from above.

The State Assembly (80 members) and the State Senate (40 members) have colour schemes which reflect the UK Parliament: both lower houses are green and the upper houses are red. The inside of the building is very ornate, with a beautiful domed roof.

The state house had some rooms which were set up as they used to be, in 1906, for example. The rooms included old-fashioned furniture, desks, ink blots and pens and so on. One even had a stuffed eagle in the room (which was stuffed when the room was originally used), but the docent did not know why it was there. After the main tour was over, the docent let us – me, mum and dad – into one of the rooms and explained a bit extra. This extra bit was really nice to hear and it was nice of him to do it.

There was also a statue of Queen Isabella and Christopher Columbus (neither of whom have any connection with California).

We left the Assembly building thoroughly satisfied. The tour, actually, was far better than I imagined it would be, and was one of the highlights of the whole trip, which is saying something given the enjoyment of the rest of the trip. We then went to the youth hostel to check-in, popping into a church we passed along the way.

In the hostel, we explored a little and rested a little (there was a university party staying the night, but we did not see that much of them), then headed out later for food. We ended up eating in a Japanese restaurant again. We returned and turned in for the night, for our only night, in Sacramento and the youth hostel.

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