Well not exactly. In fact, my head and my heart actually battled on the lead up to San Francisco. I don’t shy away from being opinionated and the moment Monsieur Trump stepped into power I vowed not to step foot on American soil. The trip to San Francisco was a thank you from my company, a group of us had been selected to enjoy five days in the golden city and I was honoured to have been chosen.
Then came the real struggle of sticking to my morals… or accepting this all expenses paid once in a lifetime experience. After many discussions with family and lots of extra curricular reading up on whether to boycott the US of A or not, I decided to go. I’ll be honest I still felt a bit cheap for saying yes, but just like it did with Myanmar, my curiosity got the better of me. I was intrigued to see what it would be like. Would I even get in? Would I get questioned? Would I feel comfortable? And my all time favourite reporter Dena Takruri lived in San Fran, so it surely couldn’t be that bad.
A trip organised by colleagues from work, meant absolutely no stress from my side. We had some free time booked in for us to do as we please, but thankfully the agenda was well structured and honestly – they couldn’t have planned the five days any better. If you are flying over for a short trip I highly recommend using our schedule as a base.
I thought I’d share a brief overview here, and then dissect it day by day later, throw in a few tips here and there.
- Arrive in San Francisco
- Dinner and drinks at Top of the Mark
- Hop on – hop off sight seeing bus
- Golden Gate Bridge
- Haight Ashbury
- Union Square
- Drinks & snacks at the Kimpton Sir Francis Drake hotel
- California Academy of Sciences
- Fishermans Wharf
- Pier 39
- Free time – recommended activities: Sausalito – however we used this day to take the Caltrain to Silicon Valley
- Sunset dinner cruise
- Free time in the morning – I chose to go back to Fishermans Wharf and explore
- Lunch at Cheesecake Factory, Union Square
- Time to fly home!
Part of what made this trip so special was being able to stay in iconic four star accommodation, The Mark Hopkins Intercontinental Hotel and of course flying business class for the first time ever (it’s always quite funny thinking back to flying British Airways Club World and then my next flight being Ryanair. How the mighty fall… ?)
My favourite thing about San Francisco? For starters the most amazing part of the trip was probably finding myself in Silicon valley (not the boobs and ass implant type of silicone, I’m talking tech obvs). Never in my wildest dreams would I ever have thought that I would visit there. And although we didn’t have much time and some of the areas were closed, it’s quite cool to know that I’ve been, one more thing to tick off the bucket list.
My favourite moment however, was probably on Alcatraz. I love a good view and the one from this prison island is something else. We all had headsets and followed the audio tour, which meant most of us explored the island by ourselves. When I got to the point where it led me outside, I took a seat on the edge, pressed pause and just enjoyed the silence for a while.
From here, the whole bay was laid out in front of me. You could hear the water swishing back and forth against the rock, the wind was pretty intense and of course the seagulls made themselves known at every opportunity. But other than that there was no other sounds at that moment. I remember thinking about how grateful I was that I was able to have this opportunity and how lucky most of us are to have this freedom to travel. How strange it must have been to be a prisoner and to look out to shore and in the back of your mind know that you may never be part of that again. Almost felt like you were looking at a different world.
Ok feeling a bit emotional typing this now, so I’m going to ease off until I can give Alcatraz the dedication it deserves. I’ve had many opportunities over the last few years to look at the prison system in such a different light and I’m excited to finally pour my thoughts out in words.
I suppose looking back I did leave a part of my heart in San Francisco.
It was a place that surprised me. Almost felt nostalgic, as I realised some of my favourite childhood tv shows and movies were filmed there. My honorary big bro and I used to love Full House and of course who could forget the fabulous Mrs Doubtfire was also set here.
It was the first time I had ever been on a works trip abroad with people I knew of, but not much about. And to be able to spend so much time together and get to know everyone and have a group that was easygoing and happy to give all the activities a go was pretty unusual. It was the start of some great friendships, and since then a few of us have been on more adventures together.
And finally, when I did get the opportunity to chat to locals, they were all pretty wonderful and that’s usually the most heart warming moment of any trip.
I suppose it’s always difficult to keep the balance between disagreeing with a country and it’s political situation, but at the same time trying not to tarnish everyone with the same brush.
*** This was a winners trip courtesy of the company I work for, Clarity Business Travel, all flights, accommodation and (most) activities was paid for by Clarity. Just goes to show, when you work hard and are in a company that appreciates you, it can pay off!***