Mickey and I recently returned from a glorious month-long trip to the states. How do we sum up such a trip to friends since returning to Sydney? Well, 'fun' and 'wonderful' are a couple of words that come to mind, but I feel I can describe the trip better by breaking it down into its four component legs: San Francisco (the part where I got sick, lost some Christmas gifts, but still had an amazing time), LA (the part where it didn't stop raining, but we had a mega-happy Christmas anyway), Cleveland (the family and food intensive bit) and Santa Barbara (the part where we actually enjoyed video games and initiated a new tradition).
I'll devote this post to our week in the San Francisco bay area.
The trip started off with joyful reunions with our dear friends Andrew and Alyssa (who just returned back to the states after teaching in Shanghai), Chris and Jess (who left Sydney for a new life in Denver) and Steph (who left Sydney for San Francisco). Because our hotel was located near the ferry building, we wandered there often for meals, snacks and gifts. The Saturday morning market was especially good to us; Jess bought a wreath and I tasted a piece of pure heaven: a gluten free cinnamon roll from Mariposa. I hadn't enjoyed a cinnamon roll since before my diagnosis and I couldn't believe how true to my memory of a real cinnamon roll it was. Mariposa drew me back a couple more times during my stay, but I wasn't able to sample every baked good they offer; gf ravioli, I'll be back for you.
Steph hosted a delicious Mexican lunch for us on Saturday afternoon. There we toured her gorgeous new home in the Mission and met up with more Sydney friends, Shannon, Mike and baby James. Though I lived across the bay from San Francisco for a couple years, I never really explored the Mission. It was a treat to peek in the neighborhood's numerous taquerias, panaderias, markets and any other shop selling colorful crepe paper piñatas. After the meal, Steph took us on a quick walking tour of some of the Mission's famous murals. Chris snapped some excellent photos of these.
The work week was quieter because everyone except me had to return to their homes and jobs. I spent the time binge watching MTV's 16 and Pregnant in the hotel when I was feeling ill (I had a nasty flare-up on this trip) and shopping and meeting up with old friends from Cal when I rallied. Mickey hosted me for lunch at the San Francisco office (they have a slide from one floor to the next!) and we enjoyed more delicious meals at Slanted Door, Ozumo and Shalimar.
Our dinner at Shalimar, a casual North Indian/Pakistani restaurant, was a bit more eventful than we would have wished. We were waiting for our food when I saw an employee run at full speed around the counter and out the door. We later learned that he was chasing two young men who stole cash directly from the register. He told us that he caught up with them, but backed down when they pulled out a knife. What's surprising is that this was the second theft I witnessed that week. I watched a homeless-looking man in his 70s steal a scarf from Kenneth Cole at a nice mall. Of course these things happen everywhere, but I couldn't escape the sense that America is more dangerous and desperate than Australia in the current economic climate.
On Thursday morning we said goodbye to San Francisco and drove down the peninsula to our new digs, the Four Seasons in Palo Alto, an extraordinarily elegant hotel. I dropped Mickey at Goog HQ and headed further south to San Jose. I visited Andrew and Alyssa's Rocketship schools and was reminded of my stint as a first grade teacher in a low performing school. Nothing about the day made me wish I had stayed in teaching, but I was delighted to assist Alyssa and give an impromptu lecture to Andrew's students on Australia.
I met up with my lovely friend Leah that evening and helped her students build gingerbread houses the next day. The two days in public schools were chaotic, but I left feeling tremendous pride in my friends who educate America's future.
It wasn't until the next day in the San Jose airport when I suddenly looked up from my Kindle and gasped. I had left an entire bag of Christmas gifts in our hotel in San Francisco two days before. Tune in soon to find out what happened.