SeaSalt Chronicles 3: Tales of San Francisco
I’ve reached the end of my first quarter at UCSB – hurray! It has been three months packed. Constantly busy. There is always something to do, always something happening. I’ve met a lot of people, made friends for life and am happy to say that I’ve managed to travel a fair amount of times around California. These were probably the three most intense months of my life in the past year. I’ve never experienced adrenaline at this height before.
With Thanksgiving around the corner and to celebrate the end of a quarter, my friends and I decided to go on a weekend trip to San Francisco having the excuse to go to the Chainsmokers’ concert.
01:00 AM, Friday: We arrive at the Greyhound station Downtown Santa Barbara, suitcases in hand, all set. When we pull out the tickets to show to the driver, we are told these have expired. We were supposed to have checked in a day before. Wait a minute, what? I feel a shiver down my spine and am petrified. I couldn’t understand how we managed to miss the bus. We are all shocked and worried. We don’t want to lose the money of the hostel nor of the concert, so we decided to get a taxi back to our dorm and think of a solution that could get us to San Francisco at least, in time for the concert.
Essentially, we spend the whole night looking for an alternative in fear of being left without transportation because it was Friday after Thanksgiving day.
3 AM: We managed to buy tickets that would get us to San Francisco around 7 in the evening. After what happened, I just couldn’t relax. I was nerve-wrecked and exhausted. We had about an hour sleep
6 AM: We woke up, same day, again to get to the bus stop, this time hoping we get there in time for the bus. We are going to Bakersfield, and from there we’ll get a train to Emeryville and then a second bus to San Francisco. We walk to the roundabout bus stop at UCSB and as soon as we got on the bus, I fell asleep. It took 4 hours to get to Bakersfield and the bus stopped several times during the journey. Sometimes, I wake up wholly stunned and wonder if I was still in California or somewhere else. Closer to Bakersfield, we even get the chance to see a mountain range covered in snow – yes it does snow in California, apparently!
Midday: We arrived in Bakersfield and waited a bit at the station, before spending the next 6 hours on the train that would take us to Emeryville. On the way to Emeryville, there wasn’t much of a landscape to appreciate except, closer to San Francisco. I look outside the window, on the right-hand side, I could see, at a distance, the mountains from the Yosemite National Park. I managed to sleep some more on the train.
Evening: We arrived in Emeryville and got on a bus that would take us, more or less of an hour to finally get across the bridge to San Francisco. As the bus crossed the Oakland Bay Bridge, like the name suggests links Oakland to San Francisco, you could see the skyscrapers and tall buildings illuminated from each side of the bridge. Unlike LA, I didn’t find this perspective intimidating. I instead felt as if a swarm of fireflies was coming towards me and would light me up. At this point, the adrenaline and excitement started kicking in and I am not feeling tired anymore. As soon as we got to San Francisco, we dropped our luggage at the hostel and got a taxi to Chase Centre for the concert. It felt like Mission: Impossible.
We managed to get just in time for the main act. The concert was phenomenal! The leading artist was The Chainsmokers but they also invited 5 Seconds of Summer to be their co-artist and they even performed together at some point during the concert. The venue is enormous and it was packed entirely with mostly hysterical teenagers but surprisingly, there were some older people too. The different acts were full of light and special effects on the background, occasionally some fire. Mainly because they are a DJ duo, there were a lot of electronic elements. There was this act with a giant metal sphere descending onto the stage and some motorcyclists got inside and started to ride around in circles, making loops and twirls as they move along. Outside the metal sphere, there was smoke, while the lights changed colour. Towards the end of the concert, there was this one act in which the leading artist, Andrew Taggart, climbed up a suspended stairwell that would move around and bringing him closer to the audience. At the end of the concert, we took the streetcar back home and, as soon as I got to our room, I knocked off on the bed.
Next morning: We woke up, had breakfast and decided to take the streetcar to Pier 39. It’s such a rainy day, and when we got to the pier, it was windy. The pier has two floors in arcade-style and is filled with shops. At the entrance, there was a massive, tall Christmas tree and the whole place was decorated with bows and other Christmas decorations. We spent part of the morning walking around and going inside all the different shops. Then we meet a friend of mine, who’s taking a year abroad at Berkeley and we walk together to the Fisherman’s Wharf. On our way to the wharf, we spot the Alcatraz prison island at a distance and if it wasn’t for the fog, the Golden Gate bridge too. We had a nice lunch at the wharf and then we decided to walk a bit further to a place called Lombard Street, known for being a steep one-block section with eight-pin turns in San Francisco. We go through very steep blocks up the street, until we get to the top or, what I believe, is one of the city’s highest points in which we could get a clear view of the whole city and its structure, as well as the river and the Golden Gate bridge at a distance – again, a “clear view” if it wasn’t for the fog! Walking these streets actually make me feel very much in connection with the city. There is a certain familiarity with the place and I think I know why. It happens that actually, San Francisco resembles Lisbon in many ways. The city’s structure and architecture, the seven hills and even the bridge are all very similar to Lisbon. San Francisco’s twin sister, as some articles prove to say. We then walk down and decide to go on a ride in the cable car from Fisherman’s Wharf, up and down the city’s steep hills, passing by the traditional San Franciscan version of British Victorian houses and the long streets until we get to Union Square. We decided to go to the Museum of Modern Art for the rest of the afternoon and ended our day exploring China Town, doing some shopping and eating some dumplings.
Sunday: We are at the other half of the lower part of the city, and after a lovely brunch at Lori’s Dinner we went to Crissy Fields for the Golden Gate Bridge. In Lisbon, we have the 25 de Abril bridge, which has a slightly different design from the Golden Gate but it was designed by the exact same architect. After spending a fair amount of time contemplating the bridge and taking some good photos, we walk to the Presidio Park, to get to the famous Walt Disney Family Museum. We are leaving later on that day, this time taking back to Santa Barbara the bus we should’ve taken in the first place, so we decide to spend an afternoon at the museum. We saw two exhibitions, one about Walt’s background and life as an animator, and the second about his Mickey Mouse drawings and concept as well as the other characters that are very much part of the Disney world. As a big Walt Disney fan myself, I am glowing and it is also very thrilling to learn about animation and the entertainment industry in such an interesting way.
Later that day: Before leaving for Santa Barbara, we had another little adventure with the bus. After collecting our luggage from the hostel, we got an uber back to the address that was on the ticket for the bus stop. When we arrived at the supposed station, it looked like a desert and there was no one there. We decided to go back to the Amtrak bust station, where we were left on Friday night and asked around to some people that were waiting in line. This man indicated us the Greyhound bus stop that wasn’t on an actual street address but upstairs inside some random building that looked like a mall. We had just 15 minutes left to get to the bus stop before the bus departed without us. We ran as fast as we could to the wat we were directed to. We got to the building and first, we couldn’t find someone to ask questions, then we saw this security guy that indicated third-floor platform 5. We got to the third floor but the doors wouldn’t open. How the hell are we suppose to get to platform 5? 10 minutes left to get to the bust stop. At this point, my patience is running out and I swear I’ve gone pale for a while. My legs are shaking but I keep on walking fast. We went down the escalator, got to the floor we were before and got a lift back up again to the supposedly third floor, we were meant to be. We got to the third floor but couldn’t find the platform. Finally, we saw a man in a yellow vest and he told us that Greyhound was actually on the second floor. I am hysterical. We run, go through the escalators back to the second floor. We go to the information desk and ask for information on our bus and thank God, it is late! I wonder what would’ve happened if we had missed the bus and got stuck in San Francisco? Actually, on second thought, I don’t want to know.
The bus finally arrived, we hopped in and just made ourselves comfortable, as it is going to be an 8-hour journey back to Santa Barbara. To be honest, I think this was the first time I’ve ever really felt homesick since arriving in California. This past quarter has just been too much, too much of an adventure, too much of motion and literally an emotional roller coaster. I was in desperate need of a break. As the bus drove away over the Oakland Bay Bridge, I said goodbye to San Fran, laid my head on the window and fell asleep, thinking about how ready I am for a Christmas break back at home.
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