As I lay in bed the night before departure, I thought about the differences between Northern and Southern California. As I did this, I thought it would be a fun conversation to have with Bella as we drove to the airport. I planned to use the word “hella,” thinking she would get a kick out of hearing it, quite possibly for the first time.
The next morning, Mom and I thought she would be over the moon when we picked her up, but she was asleep.
“What’s the matter, Bella? Aren’t you excited?” Mom probed.
She returned a limp nod before saying how tired she was.
“Why’s that?” we followed up.
“I was watching Netflix on my phone all night,” she said before resting her head against the window.
We arrived at the Long Beach Airport a bit early for our flight. With nothing to do, we started goofing around. Bella, now full of energy, had her phone out and wanted Mom to “Dab.” To our amazement, she obliged, and even let us take a Boomerang video of it. I couldn’t believe Mom knew the dance move. Then I remembered she’s a middle-grade English teacher.
When we landed in San Francisco, we decided to take the BART into downtown to give Bella the experience of riding the subway. It took us a while to figure out how to buy tickets on the kiosk machine. It’s more complicated than you might imagine, much harder than using the Uber app. Luckily, a kind man was there to assist us.
After eating, we walked. I realized a few things as we did. First, I should have brought a jacket. Second, the cities architecture is gorgeous. We walked and walked until reaching the Ghirardelli Chocolate Marketplace. The hot chocolate warmed our cold bellies.
Battery Spenser’s location is on a hill overlooking the harbor and city. It used to be an important military battery, serving as the main protection for the San Francisco Harbor in the early 1900’s. One of its three guns was moved to another battery in 1917, and the other two were scrapped in 1943. Today, it’s a tourist attraction for its terrific view of the San Francisco Bay and Golden Gate Bridge.
The fog was severe into the late morning and early afternoon, and it was way too cold and windy on top of that hill. We went with it though and took our pictures with chattering teeth and windblown hair. At one point, I was trying to get a good shot of the bridge when a wind gust blew my phone out of my hand. I saved it right before it slid down the embankment.
From there, we wandered a bit. As we caught Pokémon with our phones, someone shouted that we should take Bella to Lombard Street. The only problem was that to get to Lombard Street you had to climb a super steep hill. The younger of us charged it, and the elders took a cab.
After puzzling over the strange snakelike street, we continued walking.
“It’s what you do in the city, Babe?” someone answered.
As we began to tire, we stumbled upon this place called, Cornology. The sign on the window read, “100% organic Non-GMO popcorn,” but it was the smell that brought us in. It seemed to be a perfect place to rest.
The tall man that greeted us reminded me of, Doc, from the Back to the Future movie trilogy. He was wearing a white lab coat and had white hair going every which way. Before we knew it, he was handing out samples. The popcorn tasted as delicious as it smelled. The Chocolate Drizzle was my favorite.
That night, as a few of us talked about going out, Bella told us her Snapchat video idea. She had bought a funny looking green dinosaur onesie on one of the streets and planned to wear it in the hotel lobby. She knew she would get some good reactions, and she was right. The video was a success.
Four of us ended up at, ENO Wine Bar. We sipped red wine and ate olives and bread talking about life and loss. Conversations get deep when you travel with the elders in my family. Our server was quite the conversationalist as well. He taught us a thing or two about wine and the reason why there are wine glasses of many shapes.
A visit to the city wouldn’t be complete without some drama. On the short walk back to the hotel, a scuffle broke out on the street, right in front of us! It was crazy. A man and a woman were in each other’s faces about to go to blows. And of course, Aunt Carole, always the peacemaker, rushed towards them without a thought to break it up. Thankfully, there was plenty of security to squash it.
And just like that, our San Francisco escape was over. Instead of the BART, we opted for the car service to get to the airport. The quick flight was just long enough for me to listen to the final episode of Malcolm Gladwell’s podcast.
“So, what did you think of San Francisco?” I asked Bella as we walked through the terminal to the luggage pickup.
“It was okay,” she responded nonchalantly before going back to her phone. I smiled and put my arm around her shoulder.