Hello, Goodbye: San Francisco

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After a very lengthy break, it’s nice to return back to some structure, as structured as a personal blog can be any way. I’m excited to say I’ve just come home from my first “grown-up” vacation. You know, the kind that isn’t family or school sponsored, and you go with a group of friends or significant other, crash in other peoples houses, maybe stay somewhere nice a night or two, and just relax? Oh yeah, that kind.

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My boyfriend Kyle and I had been planning to go to San Francisco for over a year now; I have family out there and his best friend had been living in Santa Monica at the time. Although we couldn’t scrounge up enough money to go last spring, after much toil scooping ice cream and tutoring at the WC, I was able to pull together the funds, though with very little to spare. And while I will always dread plane rides–the height, the idle time, the teeny tiny bathroom, the fear crashing to a tumultuous death–San Fran became the shining beacon of hope during finals season, and I’m happy to say that all my hard work was worth it. We had not a drop of rain, and came home each night with sore feet and smiling faces.

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For the first few days, Kyle and I stayed at the Hotel Rex–a quaint gem in a bustling city based on 20’s art/lit salons. There are bookcases in the lobby, a quote painted on every floor, and the restaurant/bar is dubbed “the Library Bar” in which each course was a literary style (appetizers were short stories, entrees were novels, you get the idea). The framed sketches and paintings on the walls were far from the usual hotel art. Plus, there was a live-in pug, Max, who has his own Facebook page.

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As for the rest of the week, we stayed with my step sister (above left), her boyfriend (above right), and their roommates (not in photo) on Treasure Island, a man-made island that was built in the late 1930s to host a World’s Fair, was claimed in the 40s as a naval base for the U.S., and then was relatively neglected from the 60s until the late 90s, when it was opened for public use (yay history!). Even when we weren’t staying with Jaime, she met us every day in the city, messaging us optional itineraries and being the best darn tour guide I could ask for; I rarely get to see her, and she’s lived in San Fran as long as I’ve known her, so staying with her made the trip that much more special to me.

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Kyle and I hit the usual touristy spots (and rode a cable, which can be a little scary if you’re hanging on, traffic-side, going downhill): Fisherman’s Wharf and the Sea Lion’s Den, Ghirardelli Square, City Hall, the Ferry Building, the craft fair/farmers market, Union Square, the Bay and Golden Gate Bridges, the Palace of Fine Arts, the Full House house, the Haight, and the Castro. On the less ordinary side, we participated in Nightlife at the Museum, a child-free science museum/aquarium visit with cocktails and tunes, saw a bunny on a leash in Dolores Park, and went to Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia¬†at the American Conservatory Theatre (Arcadia is my favorite work by Stoppard, and probably one of my favorite plays so if you can’t see it, certainly read it).

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Overall, my favorite spots in the city were:

The Spice and Tea Exchange: A shop located on Pier 39 at the Wharf (and apparently there’s also one in Mystic, CT) in which we could smell and sample nearly everything in the store–spices, sugars, teas, salts, herbs, mixed blends, etc. The two girls working there were certainly foodies, and not only were they very helpful, educating us on pink Himalayan salt and Hawaiian red salt, but we also traded a few food blogs to check out. Though we could have bought much much more, Ky and I came home with caramel sugar, a vanilla tea, and hickory salt, which I can’t wait to add to a Fakin Bacon BLT and a baked potato.

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Human Rights Campaign: Not only does this store promote and provide information about a civil rights cause that sits very close to my heart, but I’m a bit of a Milk fanatic. Unfortunately I had no idea who he was until the 2008 movie came out (excellent cast by the way), but I was deeply moved by this man’s story and have difficulty expressing what he means to me. I got chills driving by City Hall and, without realizing it was the same building as his old shop/headquarters/apartment, 575 Castro Street.

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The Love of Ganesha: The Haight was filled with stores that I could have spent the whole vacation wandering through instead of simply an afternoon. Though I didn’t have time to see everything, I spent nearly two hours in this particular shop. The people who worked there were exceedingly caring and helpful, the type of people you could tell had heart. We were even offered lemonade and banana chips at the door. After cruising the crystals, incense, and garments for a few minutes, we spotted the meditation room. Kyle and I peeked inside, commented on how nice it was, and were told to feel free to use it. I glances at the no shoes, no bag, no photos signs as Kyle slipped his backpack off, leaving it beside the nearest clothing rack, and ducked inside. I followed suit. Behind the beads was a narrow white room, slightly longer than a storage closet but with above-average tall ceilings. One wall had statues, waterfalls, incense and offerings, hanging tapestries and prayer flags, while the other was lined with pillows. On this side, the walls were plastered with words–letter written to the shopowners thanking them for use of the room, poems and sayings created while meditating, pictures drawn by children. Meditating in the middle of the Haight as well as the middle of a busy vacation, was an overwhelmingly peaceful experience, which I prefer to keep the details of to myself. I left with a clear head and a neat pair of pants.

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Golden Gate Bridge: It’s a BRIDGE, which on it’s own endlessly fascinates me. And it’s ORANGE. Enough said.

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Oh and the food, the food! Some highlights include fried tofu and the best veggie pad thai I’ve ever had, a mouthwatering and fruit and watercress salad, a BBQ tofu burrito from the Senor Sisig Food Truck, a kick ass falafel and greek apps, pickled onions and sourdough bread, fresh apricots and grapefruit, and, to top it off, “chicken” fried tempeh with a mushroom gravy. Let’s not forget all the avocado feels.

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San Francisco, while I don’t know if I can see myself living on the west coast, I love your rolling hills and not-land-locked city lifestyle. I can certainly see myself returning. Until then, I will keep you with me, and try to figure out how to make that lip-smackin tempeh.


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