Believe it or not, I didn’t fly cross-country last week with the intention of falling head over heels for San Francisco. I actually went out to California to visit my college friend Susan.
Susan and I bonded first semester of college when we both signed up for the same freshman seminar: Archeology of the Bible. Everyone else in the class wanted to learn more about Jesus, while the two of us really just wanted to find out how to become the next Indiana Jones.
Susan was happy to skip out on her business school classes and play tour guide for me. We cruised around the Bay in her lime green VW bug, blasting Vampire Weekend. It was fantastic to catch up after several years apart, and along the way I was reminded that taking advantage of friends in their natural environments is one the top ways to travel. Here were some of the highlights:
The Golden Gate
The first place Susan took me to was the most iconic symbol of San Francisco. It had been raining all week before I arrived to bring sunshine to the area. Susan told me she’d never seen the bridge look so devoid of fog, as it stood out, solid and red against the sky.
Just half an hour over the Golden Gate you can stroll around in the land before time. Muir Woods, a Giant Redwood forest in Mill Valley is home to trees that are over 300 feet tall and 2000 years old. Yes, these trees are as old as Jesus and as tall as a 30-floor building. They are some of the biggest, oldest living things on earth.
If you’ve ever wanted to feel like an ant this is one of the surest ways I’ve found to experience supreme insignificance.
I’d never given the city of Oakland a single thought before Susan moved there. It’s not as glamorous as it’s sister across the bay, but it certainly has its charms. Lot’s of flowers, a central lake that lights up with fairy lights at night, and some gorgeous art deco buildings characterize the downtown. We ate well in Oakland. The highlight was visiting Fenton’s Creamery, a café and ice cream shop that can be seen in the movie Up! Susan also took me out to eat in Oakland’s Chinatown, which, while not as flashy or famous as San Fran’s, had some authentic and truly delicious food.
Friday was Susan’s birthday and we drove out to visit her parents who live on the Stanford campus in Palo Alto. After lunch on the posh main street, where I admired the fabulous Silicon Valley wealth (and looked for Mark Zuckerburg), Susan gave me a driving tour of the sprawling Stanford Campus she’d grown up on. Palm trees never fail to make me happy, and the luscious University Drive (?) did not disappoint on this front!
Perhaps most important of all, Susan introduced me to the California delicacy of an In-N-Out Berger, animal style. I have to say, it lived up to the hype!
We saw and did a lot in just 5 days, far more than I would have been able to see on my own. This is just one reason why visiting old friends can be so rewarding. Not only can you catch up with someone you care about, you can usually score free accommodations and a sweet tour guide as well! It’s a way to get a more unique and personal view of city or area.