STATES OF INDEPENDENCE

Paul Simon was right: there is no such place as America. But the greatest wealth of the world's richest nation is its sheer diversity. Every corner of this huge country conceals a bewildering variety of experiences. You could travel the United States by popular song, from Bangor Maine to San Diego by way of Chattanooga (and all stations to Wichita), and still fail to find a place you can safely label as America.

Take one sliver of California, around San Francisco. Just like Otis, you can sit on the dock of the Bay (deftly avoiding the tourists at Fisherman's Wharf), then stretch your legs towards the Buena Vista where barmen yarn about how theirs was the joint which invented Irish coffee. In dim Chinatown basements, dim sum are devoured as greedily as alternative philosophies are swallowed by some of the locals; if my taxi was anything to go by, the role of the San Francisco cab passenger is to act as an amateur therapist while the driver indulges in a "program of self-actualization".

Turn the corner at Haight-Ashbury, the street intersection that changed the world, or at least altered the mind. Here is Golden Gate Park, with its own pack of buffalo; there is the world's biggest pyramid, the TransAmerica tower; and everywhere resides a sense that the rest of the world might as well go home when confronted by the splendour of San Francisco Bay.

Cross the world's most famous bridge, and Man's arrogance is quickly humbled by the giant trees and silent spaces of Muir Woods sprouting from the floor of a dramatic valley. A few miles beyond, off the spectacular Highway One, you stumble upon the lost resort of Bolinas, still home to the beautiful people (see page 19).

You soon discover you do not need to spend every night in an overpriced hotel or a dingy motel room, whose chief characteristic is anonymity. Don't fancy the Carlton Arms, the ultimate rock'n'roll hotel? Try an American bed-and-breakfast, classier than the British equivalent, and the decline of the dollar (even faster than the pound's) means that they are affordable, too.

The excellent value offered by the US this summer is reflected in the heavy bookings on transatlantic flights. As Paul Simon sang, we've all gone to look for America. Start a search for it in Boston, the most accessible city in the US: only six hours from Britain and, compared with much of America, a close enough approximation to the real world.

Simon Calder

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Arts and Entertainment
tvGame of Thrones season 5 ep 4, review - WARNING: contains major spoiliers!
News
Tottenham legend Jimmy Greaves has defended fans use of the word 'Yid'
people
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West, performing in New York last week, has been the subject of controversy as rock's traditional headline slot at Glastonbury is lost once again
music
Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Technical Supervisor

    £24800 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: As one of London's leading Muse...

    Recruitment Genius: Centre Manager

    £14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

    Guru Careers: Accountant

    £28 - 45k (DOE): Guru Careers: An Accountant is needed to take control of the ...

    Recruitment Genius: Hotel Assistant Manager

    £18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This hotel in Chadderton is a p...

    Day In a Page

    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

    Everyone is talking about The Trews

    Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living