Monday, June 18, 2012

Walking Tours: Bay Area Adventure - Week 2

Saturday, June 9
My cousin brought me to Lafayette Reservoir so we could burn some carbs before pigging out on chicken and waffles for dinner. However, after than 2.75mi walk, I was too tired to eat, so we didn't get to eat chicken and waffles anymore.

The place is so peaceful and relaxing. The views are spectacular. There are a lot of wildlife there; we saw different species of birds (ducks, canadian geese, crows, etc.), a coyote, and some deer. There are also some mountain lions there, but (thankfully), we didn't get to see one.

finish line after the 2.7mi mark
 Canadian geese that got left behind because of 2 goslings that can't fly yet

The trail we walked on is paved with asphalt. Every few miles, there are drinking fountains, picnic areas, and restrooms. It reminded me of my thesis and my thesis site, LPPCHEA. Oh, the potentials of LPPCHEA...

Sunday, June 10
My second cousin, who lives in Concord with her family, invited my cousin and I over for lunch. And so, we drove off to Concord on a scenic route.

Their house is fairly new and very homey. I admire how there's a foyer upon entering the house. I also like how the kitchen opens up to the sala and dining area.

Although the title says "walking tours", this was one of the days this week wherein I didn't get to walk around. I was pretty much a bum the whole afternoon while my cousin went to do volunteer work at this free clinic.

Monday, June 11
My second cousin and her son decided to drop by Walnut Creek to go shopping. They parked outside the apartment and I brought them to H&M. Thanks to last week's walk around the block and Google Maps and Street View, I was able to take them to the store without us getting lost.

Tuesday, June 12
Another bum day... or so I think. I honestly can't remember what we did this day.

Wednesday, June 13
It was SF Design Week and they had this Open Studio Tour event on the evening of the 13th. I invited two of my friends from church in the Phils, who now live in the area, to accompany me as I visit different design studios in SF. Thankfully, they agreed to join me, so I had companions and tour guides for the evening.

first time to ride the BART by myself

The BART reminded me of the MRT and LRTs back home, just because they're both trains. I kept wishing how the MRT and LRTs back home would be like the BART - how it's so spacious, how it's so organized, how they allow bikes and skateboards on the train, and how it has its own app, the iBART, which shows routes, schedules, and advisories.

It was my first time back in SF since I arrived on its airport around 2 weeks ago. But upon arrival 2 weeks ago, we went straight to Walnut Creek, so I didn't really get to tour the city. So, it was actually my first time to tour the city in 6 years.

We only got to visit 5 studios because the design studios were far from each other; most of our time was spent walking to the different locations around the city. Thank God it was cold in SF; that made walking around much more bearable.

Sadly, I didn't get to take pictures that evening. I think I was too engrossed with the beauty of the city that I forgot to pull out my (cousin's) camera and take pictures.

the only picture I took that evening

After our tour, we had dinner at this Thai place on Folsom called Basil. I was still kinda full from all the free food from the different studios that I only ordered soup. The waiter asked if I wanted to order anything else because what I ordered was just small. But by the end of dinner, I didn't even get to finish my "small" bowl of soup. It reminded me of how different American serving sizes are from the ones at home.

After dinner and after parting with one of our friends, some guy approached us and asked if he could have his picture taken with us. With my other friend being so friendly, she agreed, had our picture taken, and had a little chat with the dude. Americans are so friendly. Apparently, encounters such as this are not unusual here. But, my friend warned me never to agree to something like that when I'm by myself. Haha! Of course! I CAN'T do anything like that, thanks to my Filipino upbringing of never talking to strangers and being snobby while walking/commuting alone. But, I'm trying to change that! I'm still trying to get used to greeting people while walking on the streets.

Thursday, June 14
After yesterday's SF Adventure, I got hyped up to tour the Bay Area more, starting with downtown Walnut Creek. I checked Google Maps for points of interests and the way to get there and back. I didn't have a definite route; I just took note of the POIs and in which direction I was walking towards and I made sure that I would go the opposite direction somewhere along the way.

Walnut Creek Library on the right
in Civic Park
flagpole and gazebo in Civic Park
I remember this bridge from 6 years ago

It was hot outside, but thanks to the dry climate, I didn't sweat as much as I would back home, even if I was already walking for over an hour.

Friday, June 15
Today was the day that my cousin flies off to the East Coast to chaperone his students' field trip. Because I was going to be alone for a week, my second cousin decided to take me in while my cousin is out.

Before bringing me to their home in Concord, I brought my second cousin and her kids to H&M and Forever 21 for shopping. I love how the downtown area is just a walking distance from my cousin's apartment.

H&M was on sale! But, I didn't get to buy anything there because the clothes that I need to buy (those that can be used for work), aren't on sale. I did buy something from Forever21 (yay, new belt and tops for work!), in spite of not being on sale. I might drop by H&M and Forever21 again soon to buy pasalubong for my sisters. Hopefully, they're still on sale when I come back, and/or hopefully, I could find some cheap yet nice clothes for them.

Two weeks down. I am loving the Bay Area! I can imagine living in Walnut Creek and working in that awesome design firm in San Francisco. Oh, the dream... err, one of the dreams. If only they were hiring; if only they could hire me. 

Sunday, June 10, 2012

First week in Northern California

Saturday, June 2
I woke up at around 9am. My cousin and I went grocery shopping to stock up on food. I'd say the best purchase was a tray of huge strawberries.
Forgive me; I'm not used to seeing strawberries as big as these.
The highlights of this day were seeing a bluejay from the dining room window and going to the Art and Wine Festival in Heather Farm Park.

Due to the lack of a good camera, this is the only picture I have of the bluejay.
Spot the tiny blue and white object on the branch by the lower left portion of the picture.
Heather Farm Park is such a pretty place. There were a lot of geese, among other birds and wildlife, there. They were pretty comfortable with people coming near them and taking pictures.

At the festival, there were a lot of food stalls, wine & beer stalls, and of course artists selling their crafts. There were also bouncing castles, a rock climbing wall, and a concert happening right in the middle of the park. I noticed how it's American culture to have such kinds of festivals in parks. It made me jealous that these kinds of festivals aren't as popular in the Philippines; probably coz of the heat, occasional rains, and shortage of well-maintained parks. But, I think it would be pretty cool if there would be a lot of similar festivals back home.

On my first 24 hours here, I was surprised to see the sun still up at 8:30pm; sunset was at around 9pm. Back home, sunset would be at around 6pm; it was already unusual for us if the sun was still up at 6:30pm.

Sunday, June 3
We had to wake up early because we were meeting up with my cousin's friends for today's activities. I woke up at around 5:30am and was surprised to see the sun already up. Back home, 5:30am would still be pretty dark.

We met up with my cousin's friends and we headed out to Suisun to go cherry picking.

I was never really a fan of cherries, so I was a bit hesitant about this activity. But, I have to say, those cherries we picked right off the trees tasted nothing like the cherries that I'm familiar with - the ones in cans and placed on top of ice cream sundaes and banana splits. They actually remind me of sineguelas, in terms of its taste and its seed.

I learned that taking the stems off the cherries would make the cherries rot faster.

After buying our hand-picked cherries, we decided to stop by the Jelly Belly Factory in Fairfield, which is in the same county as the cherry farm.

They have a sample bar, where you can try different flavors of jellybeans; from the official 50 flavors, such as very cherry and lime, to the BeanBoozled flavors, such as barf, centipede, pencil shavings, and toothpaste, which really taste like their namesakes. Aside from jellybeans, they also have other candies, such as peach rings, chocolates, and the classic candy corns, all of which you can also try at the sample bar.

The Jelly Belly Factory has free tours daily from 9am-4pm, but when we were there, the factory wasn't doing any candy production. Cameras are not allowed during the tour; hence, I don't have any pictures of us inside the tour area, above the factory floor.

Part of the tour was showing off artworks made out of Jelly Bely jellybeans. Actually, upon entering the building, you would already see such artworks scattered everywhere.

Fun fact: Jelly Belly beans were the former US President Ronald Reagan's favorite snack.
They were the official snack of the White House during his time in office.

One notable artist was this guy named Peter Rocha, who pioneered the Jelly Belly bean art. I realized then, after watching the video about those art in the tour, that I am not sure with the pronunciation of our last name. Is it ro-CHa or ro-SHa? We might have been mispronouncing our last name for generations.

During the tour, we were given samples of their jellybean in its different stages, from the initial soft jellybean without the outer shell, to the next stage with the unpolished shell, to the final stage with the glossy finish, in order for us to better notice the differences of those stages. At the end of the tour, we were given freebies.
a crayon filled with jellybeans and a sample of energizing jellybeans

After the tour, we headed to Davis to have lunch at my cousin's favorite sushi place, Fuji. It's an eat-all-you-can resto with a sushi-boat bar. My cousins loves that resto because the food tastes pretty good for a sushi buffet and because it's relatively cheaper than all the other Japanese restaurants that he knows.

After walking around the college town of Davis and letting the food digest, we went to Old Sacramento, a state historic park in Sacramento (no, duh).

Most, if not all, of the buildings here are restored historical buildings.
cobblestone walkway
Steamboats on Sacramento River
old and new
It's amusing how they kept (some) modern street objects, such as garbage cans and newspaper dispensers, hidden in wooden boxes to keep up with the old-town theme.

When we got back to my cousin's place at 3:30pm, I was still full from our sushi buffet. I slept as soon as we got inside and woke up at 9pm. After reporting to my family and friends back home until midnight, I went back to sleep and woke up at 9am the next day. Talk about food coma!

Monday-Friday, June 4-8
My weekdays were uneventful. Since my cousin was working during the day, I'd be left alone at the apartment in an unfamiliar territory. I'm afraid to take on an adventure of my own in this city; I don't want to get lost. However, I did walk around the block one afternoon, but the block's quite small as compared to the whole downtown area. But majority of time, I would just watch TV and sleep.

I think the most eventful thing that happened this week was visiting the Walnut Creek Library after eating dinner at The Cheesecake Factory last Tuesday.

A LEED-certified building, the library is said to be
the most expensive civic structure built in the county.
Different artworks are scattered throughout the library
Mural says "Shh!"
(The farther you are from the picture, the better you'd see the image)

Oh, another (significant) event was when we went to Hayward to buy this $100++ special shampoo set at this Korean beauty store. We had a nice chat with the store owner, a Korean, who was shocked to find out that my cousin and I were Filipinos, because all of the Filipinos she knew were small. My cousin jokingly said, "That's why I'm here; they don't want me there!" Haha!

But, that's not the significant event; it's this...

AAAAH! <3 <3 <3
After 6 years, I've finally had another In-n-Out burger! It was our dinner last Thursday, but it felt more like merienda because the sun was still up. I'm still not used to having dinner before sunset.

[EDIT] I just remembered another significant event. It was when my cousin made me drive his car from the In-n-Out in Pleasanton(?) to his apartment in Walnut Creek; my first time to drive on American roads. It was nerve-racking. Driving here is different from driving in Manila; nakaka-culture shock. First off, the speedometers here are in mph as opposed to kph. Although the kph equivalent can stil be seen underneath the mph values, the text is quite tiny. Other differences are how uncrowded the roads are, how fast the cars are, and how sensitive the brakes are. Cars would be going at 50mph (80kph) and would still be able to stop, even without slowing down (as much as the cars at home would). But, I think the most notable difference, for me, is how drivers and pedestrians diligently follow the rules and practice road courtesy (I'm still not used to cars stopping for me as I am about to cross the street).

In spite of it all, I managed to get us back to the apartment safely.

Hm... It was an eventful week after all.[/EDIT]

So, I've been here for over a week now. Overall, it has been a pretty good week. I can't wait for more adventures to come in this unfamiliar territory. I promise that this coming week, I'd explore the area more.