Wednesday, May 27, 2015

[SAN FRANCISCO] View from the Top

While most people refer to California as the Golden State, I actually see it more as that state of lost cousins who I only get to see every five to ten years or so. For our last hurrah, another cousin came all the way to Newark to pick us up and tour us downtown, as well as up above. Leaving at just around midday, we were in a rather tight schedule because my plane bound for LA leaves at 8 PM, meaning I would have to be at the airport at around 6 PM. In the end, everything worked out just fine.

Our first stop was Twin Peaks, which offers breathtaking views of the Bay Area from a higher vantage point. The place seems quite popular for locals and tourists alike, and several languages were present when we dropped by for a visit, from Korean all the way to German and Mandarin Chinese. In this place, camwhores come in all languages. You cannot really blame them because the bird’s-eye view of San Francisco is really something that your memory will hold dear for quite some time.

How do you get there, by the way? Sorry, but I have no idea, really. We went there by car and giving directions is not really necessary because most vehicles there, including rental cars, are equipped with GPS anyway. In terms of public transportation, I don’t recall having seen any public bus going all the way up those hills. I think your best bet would be to take a hike, although the ascent would probably take you a while. At least the roads are paved!

As for creature comforts, I did see a toilet up there, and there is also a viewing deck where you could probably hang out if there aren’t many tourists on that particular day. Otherwise, you would have to yield so they could take their souvenir photos. You might even end up being their de facto photographer! When we were done taking been-there-done-that pictures of our own, we then decided to go cruising along downtown, with a notable landmark being pointed out occasionally by our cousin cum tour guide.

After finding a parking spot, we then headed to find the Nike outlet store, because the other cousin has been looking for a particular pair of shoes he just couldn’t find. We didn't find the pair in the huge Nike shop either. Walking around downtown gives you a good feel of the city. Judging from the crowd, San Francisco seems like a really busy place to me, although probably not comparable to busier cities such as NYC. It still gives off that big city vibe, albeit friendlier and more diverse.

There was construction everywhere! We were told that it was part of a subway expansion project. I even heard of plans to link Los Angeles and San Francisco by bullet train. Wow. I really could not imagine the US being all train-crazy as Europe or East Asia. I mean, getting around China all by train is not farfetched. The train network there is pure genius, albeit dangerous. For the US, though, would Americans really embrace such a concept when they can just fly anyway? We’ll have to wait and see.

Cousin treated us to pizza! We got four giant pepperoni slices at Blondie’s, and even got another free slice! Perhaps this is what I wouldn't miss about the US. Food proportion is just humongous all the time, but perhaps this is what I really need to get fat? This is why despite dropping around $10 every time for a single meal, it still doesn’t feel as expensive as it should be because you can always just have the rest to go and make a second meal out of it. $5 per meal is not that bad, now is it?

We then passed through Lombard Street, that famous zigzag road where actual residents live. I think it is the only one of its kind in San Francisco, although inclined roads going all the way uphill are common. Another fun trivia we got to know is how cars here always have to park with the front wheels facing towards or away from the pavement. It makes a lot of sense, unless you want to chase your car all the way downhill. Crazy!

The next stop is first runner up as the crowd favorite for camwhoring. Yes, we have finally reached the Palace of Fine Arts, whose claim to fame is its architecture that sticks out like a sore thumb in this city where everything is new! I don’t know architectural styles, but I can simply describe this one as Ancient Greece lost in America. I think the main tourist draw, though, would be the lake, which offers a chill vibe despite the tourist invasion that occurs here on a daily basis.

Aside from camwhoring, you can also just chill by the lake. There aren’t so many benches, but I bet it will be easy to claim one. Most tourists here just snap a selfie and leave anyway. If you came here to chill, you can also just bring along a picnic basket with you and just lie on the grass by the banks of the lake! Swimming seems prohibited, so no bullying the ducks for you, sorry. Or you can just take a leisurely stroll if your itinerary is not so tight. Take a walk and let your imagination fly. Chillax!

For the artsy, there is some sort of exhibit indoors where you can take refuge from the cold wind, find the bathroom, or just learn more about the history of San Francisco. I wouldn't really know if the theme changes weekly or monthly, but I think there is always something interesting to see there. I think I also saw a café somewhere, but I’d imagine that the prices would be steep to take advantage of the tourist influx. Or maybe not? Just check it out when you’re there! Wi-Fi was also available by the way!

The Golden Gate Bridge is just a short drive away from here. As you might already know, you do not really have to be on the bridge itself to take a selfie. People just park their cars by the bay. Yes, there is a parking lot but it is almost always full. And then they all run towards the quay and snap the usual souvenir photo you'd see on the wall of someone who has just been to San Francisco. Be warned, though, that this bridge is quite shy. Most of the time, it will hide itself in a veil of thick fog.

We made it to the airport just in time, where the Delta representative answered me in Tagalog when I asked her about flight details in English. We Filipinos are really everywhere, and California is no exception. I think this is the state which serves as a second home to most Filipinos who have chosen to migrate here in the US. I like California. I love LA. I will definitely be back for more. Who knows, maybe this might also be my second home someday. You’ll never know.

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