I realized I have not done a throwback post on my 2011 US trip, so here we go!
All I knew about this land previously had been through movies growing up and I have always wanted to visit since then.
I recall as the plane was descending into San Francisco, I could not quite believe I was actually going to be there in a few minutes. It all felt quite unreal.
All in all, I had a really great time spending 3 weeks in SF/Berkeley and then a road trip around the west coast, hitting up some of the best national parks I’ve ever been to. I hope to be back soon some day, and I am pretty sure there will be many ” I can’t believe I am here” moments then as well.
Enjoy – photo overload ahead!
Catching my connecting flight in Auckland.
The touch down in Auckland was amazing. The sun was setting, there was a huge lake / ocean which glittered and glowed like jewels in the sea, the plane was quiet in it’s descent, everything felt so peaceful and I thought to myself ” This has got to be the most beautiful touch down ever” It really was, and still is for me.
After 2 hours lay over, off we went!
13 hours to the land of the brave and free.
I don’t really sleep on planes, waking up at every slight turbulence / shake and ended up watching about 6 movies to pass the time, one of them being Planet of the Apes. Great movie shot in SF!
I remember feeling how apt it was watching this movie and knowing I was going to be there in a few hours’ time.
My friend S kindly picked me up and I went to her house in Milbrae where I could see SF airport from a distance.
Sun was setting and everything was basked in soft pink and orange hues 🙂
Followed S to Berkely as she was studying there and spent about 3 weeks exploring this place!
Trees were in their fiery reds and oranges lining the street. It was Autumn when I went. Too pretty.
TILDEN REGIONAL RESERVE (BERKELEY)
Did a lot of walking each day and decided to check out Tilden Regional Reserve on of the days.
Managed to reach Berkeley Park before turning back as it was getting dark. Sat here for a bit, watching dog owners train their dogs and took in the view at the same time.
Beautiful sunset. It still feels a bit magical thinking about it today.
I stood here, wondered what it was like for the people who lived here, if they embraced the stunning sunset and felt it on their skin every evening.
Tried the route again and managed to reach there before noon so I had a bit more time to explore. The reserve had a little farm with random sheep and cattle, wasn’t much to shout about but the scenery on the way there and back was absolutely stunning.
Great place to bring kids as they had educational posters littered at different sections
Winter was round the corner and it got dark pretty early. Quick rest stop for more me-time and reflection before I headed back.
Area near UC Berkeley. Again, Stunning!
Found a dandelion patch and got really excited
Made a wish for each one I blew into the wind. Don’t recall what I had wished for but I remember feeling happy to see the dandelion fly off in all directions, upwards and free.
Ashby, which was a few train stops of UC Berkeley, had a weekend market and when I visited, there were a plethora of vintage items to browse through while shaking along to the reggae-ton music played throughout the market. Great place to spend about an hour before hitting your next destination.
BIG C/ FIRE TRAIL HIKE (BERKELEY)
Pretty lucky to have found this hiking trail which I hadn’t known about previously.
This trail turned out to be one of my faves, moderately strenuous enough to count as a work out and the scenery along the way was again quite breath-taking, so much so I did it a few times in the 3 weeks I was there.
A little wander off the planned path, such a big reward.
Not an easy hike but keep going. I was rewarded with the view of Berkeley in the fog below and some mountain peaks above the clouds
So much fog. Though it added to the magic of this place!
It was a lot more magical seeing this in person, the top of mountains above the fog and the rest of the city below. Food for the soul.
After about 3 hours of walking among tall trees and rolling hills, I stumbled upon a dinosaur exhibition at the end of the trail, which turned out to be at the Lawrence Hall of Science. That day kept getting better!
Spent a few hours there going through the exhibits and I still remember reading that some dinosaur bones were actually found in China and went by the name of yangosarus. Too cute.
I hadn’t seen apartments with connecting stairwells in person until that day and got excited – “It’s like F.R.I.E.N.D.S.!”
Such a pumpkin, I know.
I didn’t think it was that cold after walking around for about 5 hours but when I got back, I couldn’t feel my hands at all and couldn’t turn the door handle. Managed to after a while and I immediately ran it under warm/hot tap water which probably wasn’t the wisest thing to do and breathed a sign of relief after a minute or two when I felt some sensation return. Phew! Gloves a must next time.
I thought I was pretty schooled in keeping warm with Melbourne’s winter being cold and icy but this was something new.
Loved this hike so much, brought Nana along on another day.
I remember sitting here with Nana, looking out into the distance, talking about life.
It was a sunny day, there was a slight warm breeze although winter was approaching (Weather’s a little erratic like Melbourne) and I sat there thinking, I really loved this – Sun, warm breeze, rolling hills. Was a moment of bliss.
Did a day trip to Oakland and walked along Lake Meritt while I was there.
Large lake in the middle of Oakland and was a tranquil place to spend an afternoon with your thoughts and to get some sun.
I think yogurtland became my afternoon snack stop.
They had chains everywhere, with many toppings to choose from, easy to grab and go and best of all, was only a dollar or two.
SAN FRANSISCO CITY
Thanks to Nana’s monthly bus card, I went into SF city quite a few times for free.
Foggy Morning, I remember getting all excited the first time I took the bus across the bridge- I was going downtown!
Light breaking through on one foggy morning
I haven’t really had Christmas in Winter and had only seen it in movies or on TV.
Seeing bare trees, Christmas trees line the streets while all rugged up, soaking in the festive atmosphere felt quite unreal – “Can’t believe I’m experiencing this” moment yet again.
Pier 39 to see the seals.
Only a few out that morning, guess it was too foggy or cold.
Checked out the famous Boudin Bakery and had some bread with their clam chowder.
Don’t quite recall if it was an extraordinary dish but the atmosphere and display items were fantastic.
Too cute these bear looking bread.
And then some turtles and alligators
Hello Fisherman’s wharf !
I had seen this man scare other passer-bys and even had a good laugh as well. Too funny seeing some of them stumble and shout in fright.
One of the days I walked by and was too caught up in my own thoughts, I saw a figure suddenly appearing in front of me and I immediately went GRARRRR before bursting out into fits of laugh. You just forget that he’s there. Good camouflage, love how he added laughter to the day (Well hopefully for most people at the receiving end)
Steep slopes galore.
Lombard Street – the famous crooked street
Golden Gate Bridge in the distance – Beautiful 🙂
Black Friday Sale. Even without the sale, things were sold at really reasonable prices – wished I brought an extra luggage.
To be honest, I found US to be quite decent in their prices.
Food, shopping, supermarket weren’t that expensive at all and the variety was extensive. This was 5 years ago though, who knows, things might have change.
Alcatraz in the distance
Bay bridge in the far distance. The one I cross each time from Berkeley to Downtown SF. Hills, water, bridge, short colorful houses, sky scrapers all in one place. SF, you are such a beautiful place!
And of course, Chinatown for my Chinese food cravings fix.
Built in 1848, this chinatown is the first and oldest in the USA.
I recall feeling like I was in China while walking around this area.
It wasn’t just one street or just one small area, it was actually quite a decent sized area where they had parks, hospital, museums, fortune cookie factories, housing, bakeries, eateries and random shops.
Good Mongkok Bakery. For the best pork bun ever!
The taste and flavors were so authentic and best of all, it was only $0.70 or $0.80 each then and the size of the bun was around the size of my palm!
Asian approved , Asian recommended.
Chinatown had a few HK eateries and when I entered one, I felt like I was transported to a typical cha-chang-ting in HK, along with the fragrant aroma of milk tea and baked goods being made 🙂
Had my fix of pineapple polo buns there. Again it was less than a dollar each. Too good.
Found this hilarious, how they diss other stores and the water across the ocean in the orient.
All my cravings for Chinese goodies! Chinatown satisfied them all.
Palace of Fine Arts Theatre
Day out with Nana and Flo 🙂
I started imagining everyone wearing long flowing pastel coloured roman dresses. What sort of life would that be in that period I wondered while exploring that place.
ACADEMY OF SCIENCES
After soaking in the beautiful architecture of the fine arts theater, we went on to the Academy of Science. Absolutely loved this place with the exhibits and planetarium.
The academy had a wildlife tropics section where you see all sorts of tropic insects from butterflies to frogs.
You could get so close to some of the butterflies like this Giant Owl butterfly. And the others in their vibrant blue and orange hues flying around freely, some even flying so close or landing on you.
And there was an underground aquarium as well!
Jelly fish section is always one of my favorites when visiting aquariums. They are simply beautiful, floating slowly around while changing colours with the light.
This one had a pretty funny name – Fu Man Chu.
Albino Alligator. We hadn’t had anything much to eat the whole day and the first thing I thought when I saw this was – Yums, a big white chocolate bar!
Took a long stroll down to the marina area and saw some Christmas trees being sold.
Back then, I hadn’t seen Christmas trees being sold and thought everyone only had artificial Christmas trees in their homes. Concrete jungle girl, much.
Made it to the marina after about an hour of strolling down the street and window shopping / browsing.
Was such a beautiful day. I remember clinking sounds in the wind, probably made by the the metal parts of the yachts hitting each other or bells on the yachts.
It was so serene, no one around, tinkling sounds in the wind, blue skies and you could see the outline of hills in the distance.
SF downtown in the distance 🙂
Berkeley hills behind 🙂 Everything here was so peaceful and tranquil.
Looking at these pictures make me want to visit SF again – Beautiful memories, Beautiful city.
3 weeks of Me-time and reflection while taking in amazing scenery.
I was done with college then and had been working for about 1.5 years when I decided to quit and move out of Melbourne. This big trip was a break, to reset again and figure out my next step in life.
If I could give an advice to the me back then, I would say not to worry.
Just enjoy the moment and people, there and then.
Things always work itself out eventually, you will always find something to do after.
Easy advice but hard to follow, especially for a control freak. It gets better with age.
Beauty of growing old, yes the outside will start to wear and tear, hopefully slowly and gracefully, but on the bright side, you only get more beautiful and stable on the inside.
You have more experiences to get through the next challenge, you know each season requires a different you.
I take comfort to say I like the me today, and I wouldn’t really want to trade the me today for the me back then. And hopefully each year brings a greater, stronger, better version of me.
Till the next time, stay gold 🙂