Around the Bay with a Local

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.

Muir Woods

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.

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25 Responses to Around the Bay with a Local

  1. Andy Hayes | Sharing Travel Experiences April 25, 2010 at 8:27 AM #

    Several of my San Fran favourites – esp Muir Woods followed by In N Out. 🙂

    Thanks for the Sunday smile.
    .-= Andy Hayes | Sharing Travel Experiences´s last blog ..Catch a Train: World’s Best Model Railways =-.

    • Steph April 25, 2010 at 1:16 PM #

      Yes that was really the perfect day!

  2. The Jetpacker April 25, 2010 at 10:32 AM #

    In-N-Out burgers must be laced with crack. Yesterday I decided to be healthier and walk to run some errands. But when I passed by the In-N-Out, with its salty, meaty scent wafting in the air, I was lured in like a fish to bait. In-N-Out is a powerful force not to be reckoned with.
    .-= The Jetpacker´s last blog ..6 Strange Bacon Concoctions (And Where To Eat ‘Em) =-.

    • Steph April 25, 2010 at 1:17 PM #

      haha, perhaps it’s best we dont have them on the east coast, sounds dangerous.

  3. Christine April 25, 2010 at 12:44 PM #

    YES you have experienced In & Out burger! I rarely eat there, but as soon as I leave California, I immediately crave it. Like right now, I would kill for a #3. Guarantee that will be my first meal in November!

    • Steph April 25, 2010 at 1:17 PM #

      I love how universally everyone seems to love them!

  4. ehalvey April 25, 2010 at 6:14 PM #

    I loved Muir Woods! I can’t believe something so old and pristine can be so close to a major city.
    .-= ehalvey´s last blog ..Kramerbooks & Afterwords =-.

    • ehalvey April 25, 2010 at 6:15 PM #

      Also forgot to mention I nerded out with the Up! reference 🙂
      .-= ehalvey´s last blog ..Kramerbooks & Afterwords =-.

      • Steph April 25, 2010 at 7:53 PM #

        I got so excited about the Up! restaurant, I made us go home and watch it again.

        • ehalvey April 25, 2010 at 11:31 PM #

          I could watch Up! every day. Now I’ve got something else to add to my mini Emory reunion in SF/Napa in September.
          .-= ehalvey´s last blog ..Kramerbooks & Afterwords =-.

        • Steph April 26, 2010 at 8:10 AM #

          I didn’t know you went to Emory, did I? I’m class of 2007!

        • ehalvey April 26, 2010 at 12:43 PM #

          I was that random person that was referred to your blog by Emory Alumni at a prospective student interview event 🙂

          I’m the class of 06.

  5. Nancy April 26, 2010 at 5:00 AM #

    Looks like you had an amazing time!! I fell in love with San Fran too. Too bad our visits didn’t coincide. 🙂
    .-= Nancy´s last blog ..What Comes First? Finding Yourself or Finding Your Voice? =-.

    • Steph April 26, 2010 at 11:12 AM #

      That’s the only thing that would have made it more awesome!

  6. Gray April 26, 2010 at 11:13 AM #

    I must have eaten at the world’s worst In-N-Out Burger in Laughlin, NV, because I still can’t figure out why people rave about these things. It was the worst so-called burger I’ve ever had: A tiny, bland, pre-pressed patty on a bun. Worse than McDonalds (and that’s saying a lot). I’m going to have to try one again in another location, to see if I like it better.
    .-= Gray´s last blog ..How I Became a Solo Traveler =-.

    • Steph April 26, 2010 at 12:32 PM #

      That’s a shame! Definitely worth a second try I think. I particularly enjoyed the fries myself….

  7. Becs April 26, 2010 at 6:36 PM #

    I am the only native Californian that is meh on In-N-Out. For what it is, it’s expensive! I never crave it and usually groan when people suggest it. The fries and shakes are okay (and I do like how they have a secret menu) but I hate how the world bows down to it. It ain’t that good.

    So glad you had a great time! My sister lives there, so I travel up from LA a lot to visit her. Funny you should say that about Oakland, because 20 years ago if you said “I’m going to Oakland” the typical response would have been, “Don’t forget your bullet-proof vest!”. But now it’s the poormans alternative to Berekely. And a good one!

    • Steph April 26, 2010 at 10:20 PM #

      the idea of a secret menu just baffles my brain! It was pretty good but not better than 5 Guys on the East Coast.

  8. Johnny Vagabond April 26, 2010 at 8:20 PM #

    Oh my God, Fentons! Please mail me a sundae, STAT!
    .-= Johnny Vagabond´s last blog ..The Game is Afoot – Prostitution in Phnom Penh =-.

    • Steph April 26, 2010 at 10:20 PM #

      That Sunday kicked both of our asses! Amazing but HUGE!

  9. jim April 27, 2010 at 9:15 AM #

    In-N-Out burgers are incredible, one of the things I wish they would export to the east coast!
    .-= jim´s last blog ..Carnival Cruises Past Guest Recognition Loyalty Program =-.

  10. Joya May 2, 2010 at 12:26 AM #

    I’m so glad you had a good time in SF. You’ve just inspired me to visit Muir Woods my self.
    .-= Joya´s last blog ..Three Travel Bites of the Week =-.

    • Steph May 2, 2010 at 11:16 AM #

      You definitely should, its gorgeous and only $5

  11. Cornelius Aesop May 5, 2010 at 9:51 AM #

    I love In-N-Out burger, I miss is so much. When I go out west I eat there and when I go to Texas I have to have a WhatAburger.
    .-= Cornelius Aesop´s last blog ..New Brew Tuesday: The Battle of the Modelos =-.

    • Steph May 5, 2010 at 11:55 AM #

      Here on the East Coast we are partial to 5 Guys. In fact, I’m craving one now…

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