BY: OYINDA SALAKO
As a born and bred NorCal girl, the transition to Los Angeles in high school was a definite culture shock. It's been about eight years, and I've finally gotten used to this city and its traffic. But there was something missing – my NorCal feels.
I was born and raised in Sacramento, Calif. – this state's beautiful capital. But it wasn't until now that I finally visited San Francisco – the Bay Area's finest. My friend decided to celebrate her birthday with a destination trip to SF. It was a small, knit group of three that set out to adventure the next global dig, Golden Gate Bridge's city.
The first day we explored Chinatown and the downtown area, ending up at the Westfield San Francisco Centre. We got lunch at Chipotle, where the food was $1 more and I wasn't even getting guacamole). Packed with museums, the downtown area had a great atmosphere of city living without the high-stressed speed. It's one of the most relaxed downtowns I've experienced. But this vibe is completely due to the people. They are literally calm, cool and collected. It was easy to strike up a conversation. Being on the shyer side of "social constructs," I can easily keep to myself and live in my own world, complete with my life's soundtrack. But up in SF, I felt on the same page as everyone. Maybe it's because I'm a NorCal girl at heart and “hella” best describes anything I'm trying to explain. There was a medium there between NorCal and SoCal – a medium that made sense to me.
When traveling to a city, it's easy to be a tourist, but we wanted to go beyond that and feel like we actually lived there. So, the best way to get to know a new place is to explore its neighborhoods. From our hotel in South San Francisco, we figured out the bus route and rode for an hour into downtown. Here in LA, I used to ride the bus ALL THE TIME – from South Bay to Long Beach, Downtown LA or Pasadena. There's always an interesting story that generates from riding the bus. For us, it was the amount of Walgreens we passed. It's like SF runs on Walgreens. It was our new punch buggy game – I mean that's outdated anyway, right? So, every Walgreens we passed, we yelled "Walgreens!" and punched each other. It was not that intense, but I'm happy to say I don't have any bruises. That day we took the bus and walked everywhere, ending up at the Full House location where we did the opening song credits justice by posing for our two seconds of smiles like we were part of the cast.
Our last day there was Friday, Inauguration Day. We took an uber from the south side to the Golden Gate Bridge. On our way, we had one of the greatest Uber drivers I've ever had – which is saying a lot because I've had some awesome ones… like the one that created his own beats and rapped in the car while he drove. So, we started up a conversation with this SF Uber driver about how we were from LA and we're spending the week up in SF for travel. Turns out, he was from LA. He'd lived in West Hollywood and used to travel between New York and LA for work but felt like there was something missing. He called it community realness; a distinct difference in the way of life, wherein the bay, the good vibes kept a balance with all the aspects of city living and its inhabitants, regardless of your job title. Originally from the south, he was able to find a home in SF similar to the good-naturedness of his southern culture.
Since it was Inauguration Day, moods were all over the place (but Michelle Obama's face said it for all of us). There was an anti-bullying march on the bridge, with many walking the stretch in purple clothing and purple ponchos. Our Uber driver, being the cool guy that he is, honked showing support. It was incredible to see first-hand the marches already taking place, making sure we all know where the stance is in beliefs of rights for all people.
Seeing the bridge for the first time was honestly one of the coolest moments of my life. That bridge was absolutely stunning, and the view of the bay – not much else to say about it. Beautiful. We drove to the end, said goodbye to our new friend, took some pictures and then decided to walk the bridge back. About a fourth of the way through, it started to sprinkle, and in two minutes, there was rain and the wind picked up. Then there was a full-on shower, and it felt like we had Beyoncé's fan on us. We were freezing, and our glasses looked like underwater goggles, but we were halfway so it didn't make sense to turn around now. By the time we got to the other side, we were beyond drenched, but mission accomplished.
It was time to leave, and I really didn't want to go. I know I'll be back, which is how I feel about every place I visit. It's never the last time. Digging globally is an endless adventure – the best thing about it. There's always more to do, see, feel and explore. And the only way to travel correctly is to do all of the above multiple times. So, yes, SF, I will be back one day for good so I can live in one of those compact Victorian houses and the bay can be my new home base.
PREVIOUS STORY: Experiences from 'Decadence' NYE