A Quick Visa Run to California or How to Pass Four Days in San Francisco14 May 2016
Well, I did it again.
On a whim I decided to apply for a job in China and a week later I was quitting my job, packing up my apartment, and buying a plane ticket because I had officially been offered a teaching position with a school. In the final moments before my departure, I had to make a quick run to San Francisco which wasn't too bad considering my brother lives there so at least I'd have somewhere to stay.
My first day in San Francisco was primarily spent at the Chinese consulate to apply for my visa. For those who don't know, in order to enter China you must pay a hefty fee and turn in an application but, oh wait, they don't accept them by mail- only in person.
So I spent a good 4 hours standing in line literally just so I could hand a person some papers. After that it's a four day wait for the application to be processed so I decided to meet up with some college friends that had since moved to San Francisco. We spent the evening eating sushi, drinking wine, and catching up. It was absolutely refreshing to see them again!
The next day I snagged my brother's car and set out on a little road trip north of the city through some rolling mountains along the coast and ended up at Stinson Beach. With it being the early days of spring, it was too cold to enjoy the water but the beach was lovely all the same.
As I was leaving the beach, a surfer guy who was heading towards to ocean pointed at my camera.
"Hey, nice camera!"
Now, I'm used to hearing this when I travel but usually it's in a sarcastic tone and the person is mocking how large my camera is (I swear, it's really not that large or fancy, though). But this person was actually being genuine.
"You should head to Bolinas just up the way. You'll get some great shots!"
I was hesitant; I was almost out of gas and I was running out of sunlight and I didn't want to drive back through the mountains at night. But the surfer guy was so kind I decided to go for it.
Bolinas is just a short drive from Stinson Beach and is set on a tiny peninsula. The "downtown" was nothing more than a handful of shops but it was all sorts of charming. Surfer guy was right; I easily spent hours taking photos and walking the beach.
At this point it was getting late but luckily there was a sleeping bag in the car so that was my Airbnb for the night. I felt weird at first, laying in my car by the beach, but then some other cars pulled up next to me and I saw other people doing the exact same thing so I felt less awkward.
In the morning I initially planned to head straight back to San Francisco but I realized that if I had a car I should take advantage of it so I headed to Sausalito.
Aaaaand it was disappointing.
This town would probably be nice if I was super rich and in my 40's but otherwise not so much. After an ice cream cone and some strolling along the streets I decided to head out. Luckily there was an In-n-Out Burger nearby so this stop wasn't a complete waste.
Next I drove across the bridge itself which was cool to cross off my bucket list but damn is that toll expensive!
Continuing on, I made a quick stop by The Palace of Fine Arts in the Marina District to charge my phone and check out some beautiful Greco-Roman inspired architecture. It was pretty, but I wouldn't consider it a must see in the city.
Following that I decided to go the Mission District which is just one of the most gorgeous places in the world if you like street art. Each alley has murals which range from simple and cute to deep and meaningful and all of them tend to have some sort of theme of heritage and fighting against gentrification.
I also learned that the food here is absolutely on point! I stopped and got some chicken tostadas and they were just amazing. I some how ate the whole mountain that was heaped onto my plate.
The next day I got up and went to the Chinese consulate to pick up my passport. I couldn't believe it when they handed me my passport and in it was a valid visa. Not a single issue, despite the fact that I was applying so last minute. I was sure they would find some tiny flaw in my application and reject it but everything was fine! I could finally rest easy knowing my plans to go to China would not be ruined.
With my final day in San Francisco, I decided to do every touristy thing I had never done before and so the first place I went was to see the Painted Ladies.
Aaaaand what a let down. After being in San Francisco for several days, you've seen a hundred houses that look just like these. Why all the hype? I actually thought the houses just next door were much more beautiful.
Next I hit up Chinatown for some moon cakes and chocolate covered fortune cookies (which are way more mess than they're worth) in anticipation for actual China.
A bit off the typical tourist path but still in the heart of the city is Napier Lane, a beautiful, floral relief from the streets below. I couldn't find a single bad angle!
And finally I had to see Lombard Street, famous for it's tight, hair pin turns on a downward slope. The spot is lovely enough but ruined by the horde of tourists that don't care that this is an actual, functioning street and simply wander about while cars honk at them to get out of the way.
And that's how you pass four days in San Francisco when you realize you have to suddenly be in China in just a couple days!
I'll soon be putting out more info on my life here in China since I've been here fora month now!