For the first time in CSULB history, according to my more than grateful roommates, Thanksgiving break was just over a week long this year. Lucky then that this was the year I got to come out here. While many other students took the extra time as an opportunity to prevent last minute exam stress and start studying for Finals, I, like many other travel-crazed international students, took the time off as an opportunity to travel a little further away from where I’d been living for the past 3 months.
As I’m told by Californian residents, Southern California (or SoCal) and Northern California might as well be different states due to the vastly different general lifestyles, attitudes and landscapes of the areas. Deciding that California is such an enormous place anyway, I wanted to explore more of this place particularly and what better place to spend a few days away than somewhere so geographically distant as well as philosophically distant than Northern California?
So a couple of friends and I made the long (10 hours) journey to San Francisco, partly because we thought it would be beautiful so close to Christmas time and even at any time of the year, San Francisco is so full of amazing and only-in-San-Francisco things to see and do. There are tons of other places I still want to, and one day plan to, visit in Northern California, but they are so much further away from each other, so we decided that it would be best to spend the time we had fully immersed in and properly experiencing San Francisco.
Without the option of driving, and having left it too late to find cheap plane tickets, we took the longest train journey of my life all the way into the heart of San Francisco. We took Amtrak, which includes one bus journey, a train ride, and then another bus journey, and trying to find our bus in the busy and enormous Long Beach Transit Gallery was terrifying. We learnt to trust in the Customer Enquiries woman and ignore the drivers of other buses, who knew shockingly nothing about Amtrak as they gave us advice to walk 15 minutes for our bus arriving in 5 minutes and it turned out the bus came exactly where that first bus driver was parked (Stop A if anyone else gets the same service). When we finally got on our bus, the journey was super smooth.
The next 6 days were some of my favourites spent in California. True to my degree subject (Criminology), we visited Alcatraz Island as our first stop the next morning following our 2am arrival in our hotel. Six days in The Golden City meant we were able to experience everything from the most iconic, such as Union Square (including iceskating in front of Macy’s in true A Miracle on 34th Street style), Fisherman’s Wharf and Pier 39 (where it’s recommended to try the Clam Chowder and where another night we went to see the Christmas tree lighting), The Painted Ladies, a ride hanging off the side of a cable car and of course Golden Gate Bridge, to some of the slightly less well known but just as wonderful such as Delores Park (supposedly the inspiration for Delores Umbridge), a night spent toasting marshmallows and (pre-cooked, just in case) hotdogs on one of the fire-pits of Ocean Beach, a giant inner-city concrete slide, Ghiradelli Square (a place dedicated to chocolate, as Ghiradelli chocolate originated in San Francisco and San Franciscans are obsessed, also so, so pretty at night), the amazing views from Coit Tower which we reached perfectly just before sunset, the old arcade museum where you can play old age Pacman, Space Invaders and other classics hidden away at Fisherman’s Wharf, The Haight (origin of hippie subculture), and City Lights Bookstore (known as a hangout spot of Jack Kerouac and his friends during the Beat Movement). We also spent one of our days in Berkeley where we explored the University of Berkeley campus, met a couple of the students and tried out some of the famed local food spots in the area. That’s not even everything.
After our San Franciscan holiday, the travelling wasn’t quite over. As I talked about in my previous blog post, one of my other friends and I then travelled down to Bakersfield where we spent the next few days celebrating a truly American Thanksgiving with my roommate and her family.