Every time I travel I find myself saying 'thank you' a hundred times over, every single day. It is the distance in which some would travel just to see your face, to spend an hour with you, to see you smile after taking your first bite of a delicious meal that you feel a bit unworthy and grateful to be recipient of such kindness.


Anyways, my recent trip to San Francisco, like most trip to the city, was a blast. Here's how you can too. Places listed are must visits and I try my best to avoid the usual tourist traps:

Thursday: Land at 8PM, forgetting that it's really 11PM in the east coast. Take a taxi and expect to pay $50 (icing on the cake). Arrive at your start-up pal's immaculate place by Dolores Park (2 blocks from Bi-Rite ice cream) and proceed to rally your host and Cali-transplant girl friend to take you out. "The Mission," (sorry, I have to use bunny ears because I am a SF noob) is full of fun dive-y bars waiting for your exploits. Think of it as the step-sister of the Lower East Side. We hit up Blondies, which inadvertently kills two birds with one stone as I was requesting for a place with live music earlier. The singer has a pompadour (or was that my imagination?) and sings songs reminiscent of Johnny Cash. The place is half dead but we liven it up with as much booze as we can. Make new friends at the bar, they are most likely harmless and work in tech (IT consulting to be exact). Indoctrinate new friends with shots. Shots. Shots. I remember chugging PBR at $5 a can. Not a bad deal.

We head over to Casanova's across the street for more because we are masochists. I believe the boys were sipping whiskey at this point and I refused the pungent thing, so they gave me a shot to wash down my buzz. I think its endearing when guys in their twenties try to drink whiskey.

There was a moment in which everything came in flashes. Sometimes you have to embrace them, sometimes you avoid them and pretend you're a mature adult. Tonight, we are young. In my flashes I saw myself, against my better judgement, hopping onto my new friends back and then us both toppling over, him on top of me, and twisting my ankle in the process. The second flash was a short clip of myself picking out the pepperoni off of the pizza the magically appeared before us. The last was saying goodbye and goodnight to the person who carried me all the way home. Thank you thank you.

Friday: Wake up to a pounding headache that doesn't drown the determination to carpe diem. Grab laptop, head to a coffee shop and attempt to be productive. Feel the rush of nausea come as soon as I try to focus on the screen and give up on the entire task. End up buying a handful of raspberries, grapes, coconut water and Advil. The day is spent recovering. Limping slightly, but that's a minor detail. Happy texts from friends the night before soothed the pain.

That night, meet with girlfriends at Flour + Water. Supposedly the best restaurant in the city right now. It lives up to its name. We get the pasta tasting menu and stuff ourselves silly. The girls are happy as they chat over bottomless cups of wine. I stick with hard cider.

The lull in between conversations during an intimate dinner makes you reflect back on your life a bit. The last few years. The ladies at the table were all recent transplants, moving west from east. It was great to catch up with them and see that California was treating them well. And like the major demographic of San Francisco, our table had representation from Facebook and Google. I always say, you throw a stone in New York and you hit 6 bankers, a model, and a handful of consultants. Here you get all techies in start-up. Thank you for making it out, for driving the hour to dinner. 

Saturday: almost went to waste as the time difference was finally catching up to me. Not to mention the dismal outing after the dinner on Friday. I was lethargic and sleepy. I met up with a friend of the lover for his birthday, all Wharton MBA's. I have a hard time delivering small talk. It's draining and sometimes makes me sad. They are great people, just not people I would volunteer to spend time with, which I somewhat ironically did. Anyways, a few motivational texts sent me out the door and to the Ferry Building for their famous food markets held only on Thursdays and Saturdays. The one thing everyone needs in their life is the Roli Roti porchetta sandwich, which is spiced pork wrapped in pork belly, and lots of crunchy pork skin. As a fellow lover of pork, I think Anthony Bourdain would be proud. I arrive and my friend has one in hand ready for me. I eat it as I get in line for another one. The chef is amused and we strike up conversation. He hands me more pork skin to munch on as we wait, I ask for extra skin on my sandwich. Dies. Thank you thank you.

The thing to do is rent a bicycle and ride across the Golden Gate Bridge. With my twisted ankle, bicycle was out of the question. Luckily, being nice helped introduce me to a new friend with a Ducati. So I strapped myself in on the back of his motorcycle and we rode to Twin Peaks (highest point in SF? pretty exquisite view) and across the bridge. I smiled so much my cheeks were sore. San Francisco is a break-taking city with the perfect combination of nature and concrete jungle. Did I mention the weather was a perfect 75 degrees? Back east, my contemporaries were freezing their little J Crew chinos off. Thank you for the thrilling tour.

I rushed home and rushed to dinner with my cousins who drove up from San Jose that night. It was only about 4 blocks away but those 4 blocks contained a steep hill. I ended up half wearing and half dragging my jacket. We dined at Esperpento for tapas and the most amazing seafood paella. It was great to finally sit down and catch up with West Coast family. We hardly get the chance so I cherished every moment. After dinner, they dropped me off at my next destination with cupcakes. Merci beaucoup!

The stage was set for a perfect evening, if not already. My friends and I got complimentary entry to AN21's set at Ruby Skye that night, the notorious EDM club in the city. I have been plotting and planning to go to this every since I heard he was playing. The best part was that my friends wanted to go too. I ended the night dancing non-stop for nearly 4 hours (taking advantage of daylight savings time) and trying to catch confetti in my hands, which dropped about 4 times. His whole set blew me away. Sometimes life's perfect little moments are worth chasing and you have to chase it for yourself. There comes a point where you decide what you want out of it, and you realize its up to you to make or break your night. I am grateful. I could end my trip here.

hands at wonky due to iPhone lag

Sunday: Yoga To the People was my favorite yoga class in New York. It's a pay-as-you-go yoga that I used to frequent quite a bit in St. Marks. I tagged along with Alex as he went to class on Sunday and we sweated it out in bendy yoga poses for an hour and a half. I highly recommend you check to see if there is a location near you and try it out. You can donate a $1 of that is all you can afford. Their aim is to make yoga accessible to every one regardless of income. I think yoga should be enjoyed on all levels by every one.

Dolores Park is where you get the infamous rice crispies and truffles. The smell pervades the air and it is a funny mix of stoners, hippies, and children. When we arrived at the top of the hill and live band was playing. I don't think it was planned, this kind of thing just happens unannounced here. Then suddenly before our eyes, a magical bringer of joy arrived (waxing fancies here), but this guy must have one of the most selfless hobbies, he made giant bubbles to the delight of kids and adults of all ages. I was enthralled for a good two hours. 

Then came the dungeness crabs that were the size of my head. This is what you eat in the west coast. They make Maryland blue crabs look like ants. My adopted cousin (long story) picked me and my girl friend up and we dined on two crabs at Thanh Long, the sister restaurant to Crustacean of Michelin star caliber. Apparently wherever there is seafood, there is garlic noodles. One glance at the tables around us, and we realized that they all ordered the same thing; Dungeness and garlic noodles.

We end the night with Bi-Rite ice cream. This was my second trip there during my stay and it was not enough. The icing on the ice cream? My flavor (non-gmo caramel apple) was only 37 cents that night. Thank you so much.

Monday (Last day): No trip is complete without Tartine, an infamous bakery in the mission that boasts long lines at all hours. Luckily I was just around the corner (I seriously stayed in a foodie goldmine), and was able to deal with only 10 people in front of me at 8:30 in the morning. I splurged and got the bread pudding, monkey picked oolong tea, chocolate and plain croissants, and a slice of quiche. Breakfast was made for indulging, my dears. 

My breakfast, with a side of Game of Thrones and leftover dungeness crab from the night before.

I met up with my gf, BH, whom I like to refer to as my Vietnamese Popstar because she literally is one. Of the Vietnamese friends that I can count on one hand, this one is the most interesting in terms of how we met. She came up from San Jose to go shopping with me and we had a blast chatting and walking around Haight & Ashbury. Stopped by Wasteland and Goodwill where I picked up a mint copy of A Heart Breaking Work of Staggering Genius for $1. Beat that, Amazon.
my spoils from shopping

The day was so full, but I had more friends to see. On the list were two old friends from college. One recently finished her masters and gave me a tour of her offices at Adobe. We caught up a bit in the brief time that we had and managed to have a heart to heart. I left smiling from her effervescence to dinner with another college pal and her boyfriend.

I had heard a great deal about him from my last visit and from seeing pictures of their exploits as they traveled through Africa, Asia and India (as if its not part of Asia). My intuition has always been spot on, and upon chatting with John and seeing their dynamic as a couple, I knew he and Teresa were a great match. Nothing feels more satisfying than seeing your friend find their counterpart. They balance each other out well and were too adorable together.

I returned home on Tuesday morning to below freezing weather and darkness at 5PM, appreciating the sunshine even more. Sometimes you have to make your own adventure and take it as it comes with open arms. I had the most amazing time this past weekend and am still glowing from the memories. When I think back on how this trip could have otherwise gone, I am so grateful for everything and every one who contributed to making my visit so memorable.