Friday, November 6, 2015

Oakland & San Francisco Take-Out

Our two-day stop in the San Francisco area can be summed up in my AirBnb review of our stay with Melissa in Oakland, CA:
We needed a vacation from our vacation (time to relax and slow down), and Melissa's place was perfect. Very clean apartment with lots to look at: artwork, lego-work, cross stitch, books, and more. We ordered in food (via GrubHub) and vegged out on the comfy air mattress in our private room. 
Small bathroom amenities and towels were provided, as well as an apartment key and a wifi password. Cats are very sweet; the cat smell was noticeable when I first walked in, but my nose quickly adjusted. Would definitely stay here again should I ever be back in Oakland.

The train dropped us off at Jack London Square in Oakland, California, where my brother said his number one priority was to shower. Twenty-three hours on the Amtrak Train, we were both looking and smelling terrific. Unfortunately, we had a bit of time to kill before our check-in with Melissa. Burt's Bees Facial Cleansing Wipes have a history of tiding me over in shower-less overnight stays, and I gave myself a nice pat-on-the-back for bringing them. My brother, however, is a teenager and those wipes were not cutting through the grease. After some distressing "public shower" Google searches, we left Jack London Square in search of a Starbucks to distract and focus on priority number two: FREE WIFI.

Starbucks and I go back to when I studied in Paris, France. In the land of sipping espresso, Starbucks was where I could get a latte. And that was huge, even after just a couple of weeks away from home. It is amazing how wonderful that latte was. What a simple thing to be thrilled about, but it was familiar and tasted like home. To add a bit more, Starbucks in Korea was the same thing: a home comfort. I could get my cup of coffee as well as try the different Korean-inspired drinks and food items Korean Starbucks offers (bean paste). My Korean co-teacher re-emphasized for me that "Starbucks is Korean" when I mentioned my friend's and family's desire to "do Korean things" when they visited me. So, congratulations, Starbucks. I salute and appreciate you. And now I work for you, too. But back to Oakland...

We shuffled around the Oakland Starbucks until we found a suitable table and immediately plugged in. It was a good thing. I checked email and Buzzfeed and then went up and ordered a sausage and cheddar egg sandwich, a java chip frappuchino, and a strawberry smoothie. Samuel discovered the wireless charging stations, and I was only a lot uncomfortable by the man sitting next to us trying to engage in conversation. Society amiright??! But I am a young woman who looks younger than I am, traveling with my little brother. The security fence is up. And as I get older, my bugger off face gets taken more seriously.

The plan was to rent a car, and after some online searches, I found a car rental shop two blocks away. We ordered up the Chevrolet version of the Toyota Yaris and I only almost crashed it once: right as I pulled out of the parking garage where it was parked. I'm a good driver, I promise!! From there, we drove. We essentially had a whole day to kill, and there was a lot of "I dunno, what do you want to do?" Eventually we decided on food and a movie. The Internet told me about this Korean place in Oakland with the best Korean BBQ. Google Maps guided us to the "right" address, but the place was surrounded by two-story, graffiti-covered cement walls topped with barbed wire. We didn't even come to a full stop before driving away.

After a few unsuccessful looks at other restaurants, I decided I could be tided over with movie theater food, and Samuel said he didn't really care about eating, he just wanted to take a shower. So, to the movie theater! There wasn't a great selection of movies out when we were in Oakland, but we ended up seeing a scary flick that killed two hours of the day. As promised, I got the jumbo-sized popcorn, and I proudly tell you that portions of that jumbo popcorn travelled with us the rest of our trip, all the way home to Wisconsin. Frugal popcorn eater, that's me.

When the movie ended, we loaded back into the car, and Samuel navigated us out of Oakland to San Francisco, specifically to the middle of the Golden Gate Bridge. It is foggy there! We drove on, and ended up walking around The Golden Gate National Recreation Area. We found giant pine cones that we took back to Wisco for our little brother, and we watched people far better prepared than us for a day in the park. Finally we headed back to the car, drove back to Oakland and found our AirBnb.

Still early for our check in, the wait could have been worse. We sort of basked in the time to ourselves - after a week of staying with relatives and talking as much as I could, it was bliss to just sit and feel unobligated to make conversation. We listened to music and chatted, and then when the time came, carried our suitcases to the front door.

Melissa, our AirBnb host, walked up right behind us, let us in, gave a quick tour (which included the wifi passwords, as all tours should!), and mentioned she would be leaving for the city soon and wouldn't be back until the next evening. SCORE. Showers, take-out Japanese, and The Office. Perfection. That was it in Oakland and San Fran. And it was wonderful. I gently fought off that nagging voice telling me that I should be doing exciting things, because I know how dangerous that can be. Nobody should feel guilty about recharging and enjoying life. We saw the Golden Gate Bridge, and the next day, we saw the Redwoods at Muir Woods. Then more take-out, more Office, and more rest. It was perfect.

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