San Francisco: My First Taste of the United States
Six months ago in September of 2011 I crossed the borders and found myself in San Francisco. Twenty years old, I had never been to the USA, even though it’s only a few short hours away from my hometown in Canada. September in Canada means that it’s starting to get a bit chilly, so it was with delight that I stepped out of the San Francisco International Airport into a warm, humid temperature. On this mini getaway, something was different. I wasn’t traveling solo this time, but with my auntie. Together we had planned a fun-filled, four day weekend in San Francisco.
For the first time in two years, I stayed in a hotel near the Fisherman’s Wharf rather than a hostel, dined in seaside restaurants instead of cooking in the hostel kitchen, splurged on red wine instead of cheap beer, and shopped to my heart’s desire in Union Square. After having a tourist day of seeing the painted ladies, the brightly colored Victorian townhouses, and driving over the Golden Gate Bridge, we boarded a cruise ship at dusk that evening that took us around the island of Alcatraz, underneath the Golden Gate Bridge and around the harbour.
We both had big hopes to do a tour of Alcatraz, a prison made famous for it’s imprisonment of notorious criminals but, unfortunately, we were too late in getting tickets and the tours were booked days in advance. To make our last day the best day, we hopped a local bus to take us to Ocean Beach. This was not just any ordinary day on the bus, let me tell you. It was a Sunday morning and a bluegrass festival was being held in Golden Gate Park. My auntie and I had hit rush hour on the bus it seemed. Every stop loaded on more passengers until it surely couldn’t fit anymore. But somehow it did, again and again for multiple stops until bodies were squished uncomfortably close to one another and the light smell of sweat lingered in the enclosed space. While this kind of public transport isn’t new to me, as I have had numerous experiences in overpacked local buses in hot weather, my auntie was not impressed. A woman who goes nowhere without her hand sanitizer, I was certain she would have a heart attack by this unsanitary situation.
The sticky bus ride was absolutely worth it once we reached Ocean Beach. This afternoon epitomized what I have imagined California to be since I was young. The soft sand, crashing waves being mastered by surfers and mountains in the distance, peeking over the low clouds. It was such a beautiful sight that we walked up and down the shoreline, picked a spot in the sand and sat staring at the waves for the entire afternoon. I have seen a number of oceans and beaches on my travels, but I have never seen one like this. I’ve never really watched the ocean’s roughness as it’s waves crashed continuously into the sand. Often times, the water is simply still and transparent. We found ourselves mesmerized.
I was extremely happy that San Francisco was my first destination in the United States. Four days flew by and were simply not enough. I found so many things that I wanted to do and see. After a brilliant weekend spent with family, sunshine, beaches and shopping, I wouldn’t be surprised if I found myself there again. I tend to judge a destination by whether or not I could see myself living there and I have to admit, San Francisco passed the test. How could a city that contains such diversity not pass the test?