I talk about living in California so much that you’d think I’d spent my whole life there. My friends often quip me with “oh my god, were you in California?” even when I mention it in passing – you know who you are. They think that I had some sort of soul-searching there, which is true, I did learn a lot about myself and life after college, and that came from both good and bad experiences but that trip was only what I can describe as a partial catalyst to who I am now.
San Francisco, for a few short months, became my second home and even though I’ve moved out and lived elsewhere since, I don’t miss campus half as much as I miss the laid back vibe of the city by the bay.
I have always promised myself that I would return (you know, when the money comes rolling in as it is the second most expensive city in the USA) but having a glimpse of life there has really made me understand the value of travelling, living abroad, and total independence.
It’s been a year since I left the bay area and since my Facebook is inundated with J1ers finishing their visa, I’m feeling a little nostalgic, so I’ve decided to share the ten things I miss most.
- The view of the city when you cross the Bay Bridge.
So, note to anyone thinking of spending a deal of time in the Bay Area, this is a sight to be seen. If you take any bus over the bay bridge, going in the direction of San Francisco (I recommend the F bus from Berkeley), you will go over the Oakland/Bay Bridge. Once you cross the Oakland side, and go into a tunnel, you’ll emerge out the other side, with the city just bam, right there. It just appears unexpectedly and you’ll press your nose against the window and gaze. And as you get closer, the city just gets bigger and more vast until you are engulfed in it and brought into its depths. It is probably one of my favourite views from the entire trip.
3am. 2 cookies sandwiching ice-cream. 1 long, long line.
3. La Boulange (RIP)
Anyone who was around San Francisco and surrounding areas in recent years would be familiar with this little chain of coffee shops. La Boulange offered good food at cheap prices with coffees the size of bowls to match – they were served in actual bowls, as demonstrated above. The staff was incredibly friendly and their shops airy and bright, meaning that I spent about 80% of my time there. La Boulange set some sort of parallel between its own life and ours in SF – it closed down a week after we left the west coast citing Starbucks and Peet’s as reasons for its closure.
Anyone know anywhere else to get mochas served in bowls?
4. The girls and guys at American Eagle Outfitters
With all due respect to my other places of employment, American Eagle was the best job I ever had. Everything about it was nothing short of wonderful. The work ethic was fantastic, the people were down to earth, you were in a job that wanted you to be there, and I think it’ll be a long while before I find a job like it again.
The managers I worked with, and the girls in Aerie, made my job so enjoyable that I was devastated to leave. My commute was short, the area was well serviced, and it was about three blocks from Pixar studios.
Yes, I may have cried.
Overall, AEO gave me a sense of security when things were uncertain. If I had a bad commute into work (like when there was a bust up on the bus) or when an experience with a customer went wrong, AEO Bay Street made sure I left the shop smiling at the end of the day.
5. Berkeley’s Royal Ground Coffee
(Photo not available for the following reasons: I didn’t take a photo of it, there is no flattering photo on Google, I really didn’t fancy breaking copyright law to post a low quality photo but you need to trust me, this place is a student’s dream)
The central intelligence unit of my J1. I did everything from this coffee shop. I skyped, I wrote articles, we cried, we fought, we relaxed, we got hyped on coffee. More lived in than our sitting room.
6. The Irish Community
When incomprehensible things happen thousands of miles from home, like the Berkeley balcony collapse, a sense of community is inherent. And there is nothing quite like a community of Irish. The situation in Berkeley felt like a gaping wound that only seemed to grow bigger as we came to terms what had happened on our doorstep. But things would have been much worse if we didn’t have each other to hold on to. The Irish in Berkeley rallied together to make sure that no one suffered through that tragedy alone. It was heartbreaking at times, especially on the days where your entire perspective on life was flipped on its head, but sharing these feelings with others made the experience a bit more bearable.
7. Palo Alto
ie, my future dream home
ie, one of the most pleasant places I have been to
ie, the place you imagine when you think of kids going trick or treating at Halloween
ie, late summer parties and pink skies
ie, the best pancakes that aren’t iHop.
You get the picture
8. Teaching staff members Irish
Ok so this wasn’t me but there is definitely a pleasant surprise in hearing the high schooler serving you in Walgreen’s saying “Slán” or the lift attendant in Coit Tower saying “an mhaith”.
9. Haight Ashbury Street Festival
I have an undying love for The Grateful Dead, the same band my mother fell asleep through when I enthusiastically played American Beauty for her. And after studying the Counterculture in my American history class in college (the BEST module I have ever taken or will ever take), I dragged Yvonne to Haight Ashbury for the best rock fest going. You didn’t need to be on drugs for this one as it was pure joy from start to finish. From the smell of good food, to the psychedelic music, to the Jesus on the balcony throwing out hi-fives, there was quite literally something for everyone.
10. The patch of grass outside Ghirardelli Sq
Between Ghirardelli square and the Maritime park, there is this park that is slightly raised so you can see everything surrounding it, such as the Golden Gate Bridge. On a nice day, you can lie back and just relax. You can even sleep and get horribly sunburnt but it would be worth it.
In between snoozing, you can gaze at the famous sight and realise just how far you have come.