Updated 12/3/2020. This was originally written in 2019, before the pandemic. We thought it would be fun to remember the holidays in times past!
Everyone knows what the holidays are about. No matter what you believe in or what you celebrate the holidays, along with the rest of the year should be about helping those who are less fortunate and spending time with the ones you love. However, kids don’t care about anything like that, they usually just want to open presents. My parents always said that we could go on a trip, instead of having our traditional Christmas celebration.
In 2017, we decided to visit San Francisco.
My parents visited there on their honeymoon 25 years earlier, my brother is fascinated by Alcatraz, and I wanted to learn more about Harvey Milk…and see the house from Full House. It was the perfect destination, with something for everyone. My brother, Jeremy, and I had never been on a plane before, so we were both a little anxious. We arrived at the Charlotte Airport very early in the morning. It was cold, we were tired, but the excitement cancelled those things out.
As we get to security, my mom starts talking about her boots.
Seems strange, I know. “I love these boots so much. They are trustworthy…I could walk through a puddle and my feet would stay completely dry…these will be my favorite boots forever.” She went on like this about her beloved boots until we got to security. After we passed through, she put her shoes back on, but they felt different. We started walking through our terminal, and the sole of her boot fell off. I mean it fell off…completely. We had already checked our bags and none of the stores were open yet, so the only thing she could do was wait until we landed in California. She was annoyed, but everyone else thought it was hysterical…and honesty, I still do. The whole boot situation allowed us to have a laugh and relax a bit.
We boarded the plane, and somehow I ended up sitting a few rows away from the rest of my family. I was totally fine with this, because I wasn’t embarrassed by my dad’s snoring. The plane hadn’t even taken off yet, and he was asleep. The flight was rough, but I didn’t think anything of it. I always heard my mom’s complaints about how much she hates flying, so I assumed all flights were like that. It wasn’t until the flight home, I realized that flights are supposed to be smooth and calm.
After we landed, we headed to the hotel – with an unsafe taxi driver, so we decided to walk to lunch.
We wandered around for a bit, and ended up in Chinatown. We even stopped at a bakery! Then we took a cable car to Fisherman’s Wharf. By the time we arrived, I think we all had the same realization – we were freezing. We packed for the temperature, we didn’t really take the wind, fog, and proximity to the water into account. I think I bought a new layer of clothing everywhere we stopped.
The next day we bought a pass for a hop-on, hop-off bus.
We ended up being able to explore a lot of the city that day – without walking so much. Our first stop was the California Academy of Sciences. We’re a family of nerds, and we aren’t ashamed. It was extremely interesting. We explored exhibits about the rainforest, butterflies, aquatic animals, and earthquakes. Then we hopped back on the bus and headed to the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood. We found a lot of bookstores, record shops, and vintage clothing stores. We all got a new pair of Doc Martens… so my mom had a new favorite pair of boots.
The next day was Christmas Eve, and we decided to divide and conquer.
The boys went on a tour of Alcatraz, while my mom and I headed to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. I really enjoy visiting museums, especially in new cities, but I get bored easily. Somethings in art museums are interesting to me, while others make absolutely no sense at all. I understand that’s the beauty of art – it’s all how you perceive it, but we like to play games to keep ourselves entertained. One person, very quietly and respectfully, points up a piece of artwork , and the other has to come up with a backstory or title for the piece. Obviously the game is easier when there are people in the art, as compared to a blue square on the wall.
It’s strange to be in a different city on Christmas.
I had never experienced that before, but I loved it. New memories, with the people I love most in the world. We spent the entire day with a tour hysterical tour guide named Phil. He wanted to learn about each family on the tour, and we were up first. He asked us for our names and where we were from. I told him we are from Columbia, South Carolina and he told me he has friends here. He was talking about how he went to a party in the “four corners” of Columbia. (He was definitely talking about Five Points).
The first half of our day was spent in the Muir Woods National Monument, and it was simply stunning. It felt surreal as we were walking through. After we left the forest, we headed to Sausalito for a lunch break. Our next stop was the Palace of Fine Arts, built in 1915 for the World’s Fair. Then we saw the Golden Gate Bridge from every angle you could imagine. We ended our Christmas at a Thai restaurant ,that quickly became a favorite of the trip, and headed back to the east coast.
San Francisco is a gorgeous city where so many groups of people are allowed to be their authentic selves.
Cities like this are welcoming and attractive to people seeking opportunity, love and support. When it comes to travel, try not to have expectations. Your trip is never going to follow your itinerary perfectly, so take some time to engage and embrace your surroundings. Learn something and talk to someone who’s different, because you can change your perspective from one conversation, whether it be across the country or down the road.