Sunday, November 6, 2011: Last Day in California
Goodbye San Francisco, Part 1
I woke up early at about 7:30 am, rolled about in bed for another hour, walked downstairs to grab a scanty breakfast of blueberry muffin and buttered toast, and showered. I got a text message from my Kansas friend really early in the morning: “I just spent a grand tonight. Where the hell were y’all?!” Oops, my friends and I kind of left before entering, intimidated by the line of flashy party animals. We totally had the intention of going into the Cellar because it was certainly going to be a blast… Yeah, I was a bit bummed we didn’t end up at least checking it out before going to Atmosphere, since it was close by Union Square on Sutter… As I thought, we missed out on a fun and crazy night…
He and his friend were planning on Dim Sum in Chinatown and invited me and my friend(s). My friend Jing with me planned to go home to hang out with old buddies before heading back to New York. Virginia went home and Eric ran into a bit of an unfortunate problem late last night. I had a whole morning free before meeting with my cousin. Plus, I was unsatisfied after a cheap, measly breakfast; I was totally in the mood to explore the biggest Chinatown in America and eat Dim Sum!
I packed up my stuff, bid farewell to my friend, and walked out to a beautiful morning. I met up with my Kansas friend at his hotel, and together with his old pal, we trolled off to Chinatown. At the Dim Sum place, we chatted, drank chrysanthemum tea, and ate a slew of pretty decent Chinese food: shrimp dumplings, shumai, fried dumplings, egg custard buns, fried tofu, crispy pork buns, etc…
After a Dim Sum breakfast, we took a walk through Chinatown, not too much different from the one in Manhattan. There were plenty of souvenir shops, decorative lanterns, bakeries and restaurants. I was looking at scarves for the winter. I was also lured into a cute shop with cuddly stuffed animals and handy stationary, a very Asian store that played Asian music. I browsed around for cute cartoon key chains for decorating my backpack. My friend found these Pikachu slippers, except his feet were too big. We wandered up and down Grant Ave, Chinatown to find a bakery shop, so he can pick up some delicious pork buns back home to Kansas. On Yelp, the #1 hit was Golden Gate Bakery. We walked there to find out that it was closed! That was the famous Chinese bakery with such good food and drinks and business that the shop can afford to take vacations. Why a vacation now?! We turned back around to the next closest shop on my Yelp list: Eastern Bakery. Inside, it was nothing spectacular, not as nice as my favorite Taipan Bakery in New York. A pigeon even flew in and back out. Makes me wonder about health and food inspection in Chinatown San Francisco…We passed Ten Ren tea shop for bubble tea unfortunately. We continued looping around back to Union Square. By then, it was past noon time. My friend finished packing, who, for God’s sake, had more baggage than a girl (I came with a laptop bag economically packed with my laptop, First Aid, clothing, and essentials). We all left and proceeded to the Bart Station on Market Street, right by Parc 55 where I had to meet my cousin. We parted ways and bid farewell.
Goodbye San Francisco, Part 2
I met my cousin at 2pm outside Parc 55. We had not seen or spoken to each other for over 10 years, if not more, since I barely interacted with any of my cousins. Most of my cousins are a good decade older than I am. Anyway, it was both exciting and awkward to see him again. Our parents aren’t exactly the best of friends, so an impression has been made on the younger generation. As we took the bus to Fisherman’s Wharf, we talked. I was animated, engaging, and talkative (NOT from the effects of alcohol last night), but he was more taciturn. It was hard getting him to talk more and be more excited. That’s just his personality.
Nevertheless, I was happy he came out to spend the day with me. I was sure he could have been more busy with things, but he made time for me. He saw me carrying a lot of things (I’m a medical student, what more can you expect?). In one hand I had First Aid, in the other I had a box of cream puffs I got from Beard Papa’s. I got it for him and his friend from the other day as a token of my appreciation. I stopped by Westfield Mall right before meeting up with him to pick up a box of Beard Papa’s. I’m going to make sure I get some of those again next time I visit San Francisco!
Up by the Bay area, we went to the Ferry Terminal first. Out on the windy deck, I saw the Bay Bridge and of course, the Bay. Inside the Ferry Terminal, there were many shops. At this olive oil store, I dipped bread in different flavored olive oil! There were flavors ranging from citrus to fruity to spicy! Other shops specialized in gourmet coffee, cheese, bread, desserts, sandwiches, etc… Dim Sum still kept me full, so I was not too tempted.
Next, we took a CABLE CAR (finally!) straight to Pier 39. I was finally experiencing the cable car, a much better experience than NYC subways! I was glad to put my stuff down, because I was lugging around my computer, First Aid, and clothing in my bag. And it was taking a heavy toll on my shoulder. Next time, I really need to get a rolling luggage, if my mom lets me… On that cable car ride, we passed down all the piers. At Pier 39, we got off and walked around. Many tourists wandered around the shops and eateries there. With plenty of seafood and all, Pier 39 was the place to be. It was cold and windy by the decks, but I got some beautiful pictures of the Bay, Alcatraz, and even sea lions!
Fisherman’s Wharf: There was plenty of street side entertainment, seafood restaurants, In n’ Out burger, and Boudin Sourbread and Bakery. One funny story with the street side entertainers, there was one guy known as the Bush Man who hides and lurks on the sidewalk. When you least suspect it, he jumps out and scares the hell out of you. Out of me! I saw this guy crouching behind a makeshift bush in his hand, but still, he surprised me!
Aquatic Park and Ghirardelli Square!
Absolutely and stunningly beautiful in this area. And when you come to San Francisco, you have to indulge on fatty ice cream, even if you’re a fit and health-conscious future physician like me! You have to eat at the original Ghirardelli shop, where it all started! I ordered a Warm Caramel Sundae with everything: whip cream, syrup, cherry, whole fat ice cream. Oh so HEAVENLY! I did not want something too chocolate-y and when I said this to the cashier, he looked at me like, what?! huh?! It was almost like he wanted to say, “You don’t like chocolate? And you’re at Ghirardelli!” I cannot say I hate chocolate, I am more of a vanilla-type of girl. Nevertheless, it was a filling cup of ice cream and I made my cousin help me finish it. Oh so sweet and satisfying!
Golden Gate Bridge: My cousin Jack’s friend Franco finally came. He also has a bad sense of directions, so he gets lost easily. He eventually found us at Ghirardelli after a bit of wandering and scrambling. Now that there was a car, I could relieve my flat feet and crippled shoulders! From the Fisherman’s Wharf, we drove off to Golden Gate Bridge, another must-see place in San Francisco. It was already nearing sunset. The Golden Gate Bridge is very gorgeous either on a very sunny afternoon or at night, when it lights up like uranium. Around the Bay area was very cold, like frigid! I was shivering to my bones! Nonetheless, the view of the Bay and the famous bridge was spectacular and refreshing.
Muir Woods: We trekked on towards the woods. The drive never felt more sinuous and dangerous. Roads were narrow up the steep ‘mountains.’ There were sharp turns and edges that made me feel uneasy. But I trusted my cousin who has driven many times to Muir Woods for meditation. By the time we got up there, it was 5pm and getting dark. I mean, even in daylight, I think the woods are still dark because of the giant Redwoods. It was cold and dark, eerily silent and creepy. It was so dark that I failed to take halfway decent pictures of the park. However, it was still a good feeling to be somewhere quiet and natural, away from the hubbub of the city life. I like to balance my inner city girl with the natural world, and Muir Woods was a nice closing to my time in San Francisco. We walked up the paths, but not too far because the park technically closed. Going further would just be more darkness and silence.
On the way back, I was drained. I fell asleep in the car. I woke up and we were close to the airport. I was confused, like “Hey, I thought we were having dinner… why am I at the airport already?” Then I realized we were heading into Burlingame. There we were going to eat at Kabul, a delicious Afghan restaurant. The lamb and chicken dishes with rice were wonderful. It was a grand dinner that topped off my weekend of cuisines and excursions =)
I parted ways with my cousin and his friends at the airport. It was a pleasure meeting and hanging out with them. I bid my farewell and hoped to come back again. I wanted to stay back in California; I loved it that much. Unfortunately, I had to snap back to reality. I had to go back to medical school and studying. I had to catch up on Neurology, never mind the quiz due Monday afternoon. I got no studying done the entire weekend (as expected), so I had a solid 6 hours aboard my flight to catch up on studying (if I stay awake).
I should add a third casualty from my time in San Francisco: my calves. That’s my brains, abs, and calves, all took a hit. My calves got sore from all the hill-climbing and walking! San Francisco is all hills and valleys. Kudos to all the cars parked on a hill. You can even get a ticket for not turning your wheels out! I can imagine after a major snowstorm (if it ever snows like Alaska), people go skiing on the streets…
Needless to say, catching a red-eye flight back to New York was not a good idea. At the airport, I Skyped with my sister and tried to study Neuro. Except, my eyes were half-closing and sore; I was absolutely fatigued. I was slurring my speech and shutting my eyes. My head was hurting. My body was sore. I was dead tired. My flight back to New York was delayed 30 minutes, which pissed me off because I wanted to sit in a comfortable chair and sleep! Clearly, no studying was going to be done!
Oh gosh, to add to my misery, this black woman next to me was fussy. She was weird from the moment I saw her on the line, with 5 bags. I was lucky to have her sit next to me. She was dead tired too, but she was bitching and complaining about it. In my head I was thinking, “Oh gosh, why now? why here?!” I was planning to open my book to read or lay back to sleep. But with this woman fidgeting and yapping to the flight attendant, I was losing my patience. She called over a flight attendant because her seat would not recline. She wanted to be lazy and comfortable. Because we were in the fire escape area, the seats could not recline. Then she said, “What?! I can’t recline? Well, can I change my seats to First Class? I’ll pay extra, I promise.” A few minutes, the flight attendant came back and said all the First Class seats were full. The woman said, “Well, can I change my flight? I’ll pay for the fees and all… Could you check for me?” Well, it was either she get off the flight and get connected at the desk or she stays. The flight attendants were not going to go check for her, while the entire flight gets delayed, just for one lazy woman. The flight attendant came back and said, “I’m sorry ma’am, we are all booked. If you would like to change flights, we can do that for you. You can just come off the plane and we can arrange something.” The woman, “Well could you just check for me and let me know?” Again, not at the expense of all the passengers! All this time, the conversation was flying over my head. I had no privacy or space. When the flight attendant walked off, the woman next to me started mumbling “Ignorant! Ignorant…” Seriously, how rude was THAT?! She turned to the man next to her and asked “Am I being unreasonable?” The guy, speechless, responded, “Well, you can’t really blame her. She’s only doing her job…” In the meantime, this woman was putting her stuff in the seat behind to stake a reclining one. Then, another attendant who looked more like a security officer said to the woman, “Please come with me ma’am… we’ll change you over to another flight… just grab your things and come with me…” Good, I was happy she was getting kicked off the plane. I don’t have to deal with her kicking legs and fidgeting and bitching… I wanted my peace and quiet.
Needless to say, I slept the entire flight in the awkward seated position. I got off at JFK and went straight to school. I was the epitome of a red-eyed traveler. I took my quiz with a sore neck and dizzy brain. I went to afternoon class, half-snoozing and half-confused. I was not in medical school mode at all. Still apparently on California time. Never do that again… ever…