That One Time I Lived In California
I've been trying to come up with the simplest way to approach this post. I've done so much during such a lengthy visit that I don't want to bore you with a bunch of text.
Long story short: I work in Atlanta, but my company which is based in Cupertino, CA, hired me to work on some stuff at the corporate office from January until May.
I moved in on January 15, 2017 to Hearth Place Luxury Apartments in Santa Clara, CA. Very nice community in Silicon Valley. I had a roommate named Alexis who came from San Diego for a similar purpose, but a completely different assignment.
I had been to California before, but not the Bay Area.
Anywho, I looked at this assignment as an all expense paid vacation (oh & a great learning experience) so I made it my goal to take advantage of every opportunity given.
I tried Dim Sum for the first time. I didn’t take a photo, but it was at New Port Restaurant in Cupertino. The food wasn’t nasty, but it really wasn’t for me lol. The Chinese food out west is apparently “The Real Chinese” food. Which I kinda believe because typical Chinese Food in Atlanta usually consists of some flavored fried chicken and fried rice lol. Update: after I typed this, I Googled “Dim Sum in Atlanta” And there are some spots here AND honestly the food looks better lol. I may try it again.
Fast forward to when I got my first weekend rental. Me and Alexis hit the city. Ayyyyyyeeeeee
Our first stop (well, we had a couple of first stops because we missed our exit, ended up at the wrong place, etc, etc) was typical. Golden Gate Bridge! Well, it was really Marin Headlands. At the top was a beautiful view of the bridge & the Bay and at the bottom…like at the verrryyyy bottom was this cool spot Alexis knew about called Kirby Cove Campground. Unfortunately, a lot of the parking areas were closed off so we parked at the top of this mountain thingy and walked who knows how far/long to get to this Kirby Cove. If I had to guess, I really would say we walked 2 miles one-way, but the end result was pretty cool. Next was Golden Gate Park where we took photos with a great view of the bridge. After the whole Golden Gate Movement, we went to Alamo Square to see the Painted Ladies.
Random Info: The parking in San Francisco is awful. Forreal. I parallel parked for the first time since I've been a legal driver. I did pretty well, but still. Everything requires street parking if you can even find a spot. If not, you’re paying sometimes up to $37 a day just to be in a lot. I got pretty lucky though. Well, I still had to pay a couple of times, but not $37!
On February 14, I did not have a traditional Valentine, but I did go to Jonathan’s Fish & Chips (Formerly known as Mama's) in Menlo Park for “Soul Food”. Some of the people from my office invited me out to lunch with them and the magic words were “SOUL FOOD” However….
So anyway, being from the south, my interpretation of soul food is that good stuff! Turkey, mac & cheese, greens, dressing, you name it! So of course I’m excited.
This place is not what I expected & after talking to friend’s with West Coast Soul Food experience, they all said “I should’ve warned you”. *eye roll*
This place definitely lived up to the fish & chips portion of their name but it was not soul food. They did have mac & cheese though! Before I ordered it, I asked if the Mac was creamy or baked & she told me baked. But maybe we both had our own experiences with baked mac & cheese because it was the creamiest! I ordered popcorn shrimp with fries, mac and cheese, and a crab cake(which used artificial crab, btw)….which also came with fries lol
All the food was extremely crunchy. I think they used 5 parts batter & 1/2 part food. I thought I was going to lose some teeth, lol. Just kidding! But it was decent for a fish fry, but I definitely would never consider this soul food. I hate I didn’t snap a picture of the mac & cheese. I think my disappointment wouldn’t let me. I did LOVE their hushpuppies though and I tried my coworker’s cat fish which was really good too. Overall, I just ordered the wrong thing. Smh
So, February 16th was my birthday! Heyyyy! & on this day I went to prison for the first time…ok, that was corny, but my office planned an outing to Alcatraz. I was glad because I was planning to go anyway…but out of my own pocket and the good Lord stepped in and took care of that for me lol. Alcatraz is a former prison basically on its own island in San Francisco. It housed popular criminals like Al Capone, George "Machine Gun" Kelly (The first Public Enemy #1) and Arthur "Doc" Barker. Look them up!
The audio tour was great, actually. Better than I expected (I didn’t know what to expect). We took the 10am boat from Pier 33 to Alcatraz Island where we were greeted by a park ranger that gave the whole historical spiel and whatnot.
The audio from the tour was intense lol you could hear sound effects from fighting, stabbing, etc and it leads you to go into some of the cells and solitaire areas. I really don’t have much intel to add about this visit besides the fact that everyone should do it when they visit San Francisco.
After the tour, we walked down to Fisherman’s Wharf and had lunch at an Italian seafood restaurant called Alioto’s. I’m an extremely picky eater so I don’t want anyone to take my food reviews too seriously…but in my opinion, the food was okay. I like southern style seafood & I didn’t get that here of course given the whole Italian part. It was fulfilling, but not my favorite. & I consider myself to be a seafood lover.
Later on after the work shindig, my roommate & I visited a place in our neighborhood called Moo Bar. Moo Bar is a Taiwanese ice cream shop specializing in Milk tea...which I haven’t tried yet. Update: I'm back in Atlanta & I still haven't tried it, lol.
Instead, I tried the egg waffle with peanut butter cookies and cream ice cream. This was amazing! That peanut butter ice cream was well worth the extra .50! The waffle tasted just like a waffle from Waffle House! Like cake basically! Nostalgia, man. Although it's called an egg waffle, it doesn't taste like eggs nor have any filling <---- questions I asked before ordering. *face palm*
That weekend, I got another rental (& might I add this was my last time because it's expensive considering the plethora of commute options offered in California)...April update: It wasn't my last time getting a rental, actually.
I drove up to San Francisco and had brunch with my cousins, Aurielle & Zoe (Ugh, we didn't take a selfie!). We went to 'The Font Porch' which offers Southern Style cooking. Right up our alley!
The food was great! A lot of the menu items contained pork (which I don’t eat) so I opted for the Country Breakfast. Even that came with a pork sausage, but I substituted it for tater tots lol. .50 extra, again! Ugh. But anyway, my cousins ordered me Birthday beignets. Woop! & they were served with a candle. The food was really good to my own surprise. Cheese grits, tater tots, cheese eggs, and a biscuit. Nothin too fancy. After a little car turn up, I departed these lovely ladies and headed back home. About an hour drive back.
This is around the time I really started to get homesick. Honestly, I didn't think it was possible because I do things solo all the time. I think what affected me the most was the fact that I was in a dramatically different environment than I was used to, I didn't have any visitors & there was a significant enough time difference to keep me out of the loop with my friends.
Three memorable things happened for me in March: I tried Raindrop Cake, saw Hamilton live for $10, and I got to meet Tim Cook (CEO of Apple)
Strawberry Raindrop Cake (Moo Bar): the raindrop itself is made out of only two ingredients: water and agar. By itself, the cake is basically tasteless. But it was served with roasted soy bean flour (kinako) and strawberries, which added sweetness and texture. The end result is a surprisingly decent thingy which I thoroughly enjoyed. Raindrop Cake is apparently very popular in Japan because the raindrop itself is almost zero calories. (Even with the toppings, you’re looking at around 50 calories per serving.)
About the Hamilton thing...basically my roommate Alexis entered a lottery via Lucky Seat & after only 2 attempts, we won! 2 seats on the 2nd row for only $10! No catch! CRAZY, right!? I'm literally still in shock. Hamilton was AMAZING. I was also my first musical which may be a bad thing because the bar is set pretty high now. I thoroughly enjoyed the show & really wish I could see it a million more times...with the same cast...whom I had the pleasure of meeting after the show. LIT! I really dislike all my photos with the cast, but I guess I'll share them for the sake of this blog, lol.
I won't really go into detail about how I met Tim Cook, but that was surreal as well. He's really nice! May update: I actually got to meet him again before I left Cali!
Another surprise to my Marvelous March was going to an NCAA game. I've never been a real sports fan but I can play the part, lol. It's growing on me. My roommate's dad surprised us with tickets to see University of Arizona play Xavier. BUT Arizona lost. I was actually hurt, lol
It's finally April & I'm so happy because it's my last full month on the West Coast. I planned a few activities to make the time pass quicker & right now (17:44EST on April 29, 2017) I can say that it helped & now I only have less than a week left!
On April 1st, I made my last visit to San Francisco. I made a list of places I needed to X off my list & I hopped on the Caltrain to execute it. I did soooo much walking this day! I started at Lombard street which is credited for being the "Crookedest street in the world", BUT I actually discovered that it actually isn't. Vermont Street is & it is also in San Francisco, but it's not as decorated and beautiful like Lombard...which is why I didn't check it out, lol. Lombard was one of those places that aren't really amazing, just something you can say you did. I wish I could've ridden down in a car, though. I walked.
After Lombard, I went to Pier 39 to stare at Sea Lions. I was more intrigued than I expected to be. Just listening to a billion of them make their little (or loud) sea lion noises kept me occupied for about 30 minutes, lol.
I did more perusing & stopped by the Palace of Fine Arts, and discovered a random beach called East Beach at Crissy Field that sits right under Golden Gate Bridge, but is also in the middle of a neighborhood.
After watching dogs play frisbee with their owners & literally swimming in the ocean (this was my first time witnessing swimming dogs lol), I walked (or maybe I took an Uber...can't remember) to The American Grilled Cheese kitchen & received the most amazing grilled cheese sandwich known to mankind...with Mac & Cheese!
This concluded my last visit to San Fran. Exciting, right?
Some notable visits to finish April included visiting Yosemite National Park which was about 3 hours away from where I lived. Alexis & I went during National Parks week & got in free! This place was on my bucket list & although I was not allotted the time to fully hike & experience every aspect, I was in love with every sight I saw. I love Apple products & the highlights were definitely some of the famous rock formations that are included in the Mac wallpaper stock photo gallery.
Finally, I planned myself a weekend in Los Angeles. Where do I begin? To make a long story short, I had been to LA before so I didn't need a lot of time or fancy accommodations. I booked an AirBnB for the first time & it was not a great experience. Basically, the property did not reflect the photos advertised & I didn't even spend 30 minutes in my room. I immediately left & ended up paying $300 for a last minute stay at the Holiday Inn Express in Inglewood. After just straight up leaving due to being uncomfortable in this smelly, sketchy, hot house (no A/C which is apparently a common thing there), I went back & forth with the host via e-mail about my experience & they didn't see what the issue was. They refused to give me a refund & I ended up having to escalate my issue to AirBnb directly....& I got my money back. I don't want to hold AirBnb fully responsible for my experience with their host, but if I ever use their services again, I will literally run from anything that appears or be too good to be true, doesn't have photos of the exterior, & has a no refund policy. You should too!
After this hot mess (literally), I did get to see friends. I linked up with two old work friends Ashley & Yemi. They moved to LA about 1.5yr prior to my visit. They took me to Roscoe's. I think the location we visited was the original one. The same one President Obama once visited! The food was sooooo good. I didn't even get to finish. Like, I was so full, that I didn't even want to keep my leftovers lol.
After we hung & said our goodbyes, I went over to the Melrose Trading Post to visit another old coworker named Mike (@writingsfrommichael). He makes & sells custom designed clothing there which I think is pretty amazing. He has made some things for Will.I.Am & some other notable figures. I bought some things from him to support & we caught up for a bit before I headed back to my hotel.
My LA visit was short & semi-sweet. I got to visit Lake Hollywood Park to see the Hollywood sign closer than I had the visit before, I went to Randy's Donuts in Inglewood, I took my obligatory lamp post picture at LACMA, relaxed at Santa Monica Pier, then Venice Beach & I bought some lemonade from a kid selling it in her driveway lol.
Finally, my time has come to head back cross-country. It was a bitter sweet reality because I had enjoyed my 5 month work vacation, but I also missed my family & the Atlanta culture. I've learned a lot about myself after being forced to be away from those closest to me & I gained a lot of professional skills to use in furthering my career. I also gained better eating habits, lost 15lbs & made plans to enhance my personal life.