Returning to this hearty, coastal city

I have the faintest memory of San Francisco. From our family vacation to California a little over a decade ago, I could vaguely recall staying in the City by the Bay for more than twenty-four hours and what a bummer that had been for the future Charmed and Princess Diaries fanatic in me. Sure I remember passing by gorgeous Victorian houses lined up on one side of the road and the glorious Golden Gate Bridge on another. I owned and overused an Alcatraz shirt, drove through and had a picture taken with "the crookedest road," that section on Lombard Street, and got lost exploring Pier 39 with my siblings.

But aside from these ten-year-old tidbits, I don't have anything else to be able to keep this chilly Californian city etched in my memory for long. Goes without saying that for quite some time now I have been wanting to go back and reintroduce myself to this city I was once lucky enough to step foot on yet unfortunate to be slowly forgetting. And thankfully, on the cusp of Christmas month, return and create new, fond memories is exactly what I did.

At first it was really just about meeting and spending time with relatives and friends in the northern California area. But finding out that San Fo was America's Best City in 2012 really sparked my curiosity, making me want to teleport there right away. Understanding, however, that I don't have the superpowers of my much-adorned Charmed witches—Prue Halliwell's astral projection and Paige Matthews' orbing—and that these things take time and planning, I had to wait it out and weigh my options. Good thing that during my SoCal visit in September, my Tita Lalee invited me to hang out with her in San Jose for a weekend, even offering to tour me around forty-five-minutes-away San Francisco.

So after looking for affordable means of getting to San Jose from Huntington Beach/Anaheim, finally opting to take the nearly seven-hour bus ride, snagging yet another promo ticket, and patiently waiting for December, there I was alone and on the road, surrounded by passengers speaking a language I never heard before. Later I found out they were conversing in Vietnamese, explaining the banh mi sandwiches the bus conductor was handing out for free. I sat comfortably on my window seat, spending half the trip enjoying the views and half of it on my wifi-enabled phone (How amazing are buses these days, equipped with Internet and all!).

Tita Lalee and Tito Thanh fetched me from the bus stop and showed me some areas of Downtown San Jose. On the way to their apartment we grabbed burritos, chimichangas, and chili fries for takeout and, as soon as we got home, devoured them while lounging on the sofa, watching Tita Lalee's all-time favorite, Pride and Prejudice. After the love story of Elizabeth and Darcy, we took off and searched for a nearby dessert place at that late hour. We settled for the only open Korean cafe and had milk tea, fruit shake, and more fries before calling it a night.

The next day, Saturday, we got out of bed later than planned, forcing us to prepare a little faster and make slight adjustments on our San Francisco itinerary. Soon after, we were on our way, hoping to dodge traffic while we were at it. After the quick and smooth drive, gray, gloomy skies, cable cars, and uphill streets welcomed us to the beautiful city—just the way I remember it. I must say, the place still looked pretty despite the fog and I was willing to stroll block after block despite the cold winds and high chance of rain. We stopped by the stalls at Fisherman's Wharf for some fish and chips and clam chowder lunch.

We reached Pier 39 and kept walking until our feet got tired, entering a wide variety of stores we found interesting. There was the typical souvenir shop, selling items with I Heart SF prints on them, then a chocolate store, a taffy store, and the quirkiest one yet, a left-hand store, which had anything and everything for lefties: notebooks, scissors, and other office supplies, even kitchen tools, you name it!

We walked further down, passing by the carousel my siblings and I loved back then, towards the deck overlooking Alcatraz Island. We caught a glimpse of the Golden Gate Bridge and were at a good distance from the sea lions. Later we wanted a closer look of the bridge so we drove over there and took a lot of pictures. Sadly, the fog proved to be unfriendly and kept me from capturing nice-looking shots of the historical landmark.

It started to drizzle and we took refuge in the elegant Palace of Fine Arts, someplace I haven't been to before. A favorite spot for weddings and photo shoots, the area has also been shooting locations for movies and television shows (including an episode of Charmed). Being there was like jumping inside the mythology books I read in high school; I half-expected Greek and Roman gods to come out of nowhere with their big voices echoing through out the dome.

My San Francisco bonding day with Tita Lalee and Tito Thanh ended in busy Chinatown, where we ate a handful of siomais and xiao long baos for dinner. After, they dropped me off at the wharf area and I made my way to the Irish pub where a few of my college friends and the rest of my weekend adventure were waiting... To be continued.

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