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How We Accidentally Gave The Worst Tour of San Francisco Ever

Right after the holidays, Cassandra and her Slovenian friend Blažka arrived at our doorstep. Blažka was visiting San Francisco (and California!) for the very first time, and we were determined to make it a memorable trip for her.

We're going to take you to the best pizza ever.

And ice cream! We have to take you to this insane ice cream place.

Oh, and the sourdough. Gotta have that. And Mission burritos obviously and we have to go get gyros, oh and you have to try ramen and–

"Not to be offensive or anything..." Blažka cut in hesitantly. "But you guys have been talking about food 90% of the time."

*crickets*

Flabbergasted, one of us replied, "you mean to tell us there are things in San Francisco you want to experience that don't have anything to do with food?"
And so with the sudden revelation that San Francisco is actually full of iconic landmarks, we threw together a last minute itinerary for a proper tour of the city the next morning...

...except that we, the hostesses, didn't wake up until noon. Let's blame it on the carbload from the night prior, but NO REGRETS because the New Yorker pie at Tony's Napoletana Pizza is honest to heaven one of the best things this city has to offer. They just started offering delivery through UberEATs and so now my mind is blown, my diet's called off, and–

I digress.
On the top of Blažka's San Francisco wishlist was to see the hills that Mia Thermopolis drove down in her baby blue convertible in Princess Diaries (which is how I knew immediately that Blažka and I would get along swimmingly).

But instead of doing a simple Google search to see which specific hill that was, we decided instead to drive towards Lombard Street and then tell Blažka that every steep hill in Pacific Heights could be that special hill!

Rude, right? Except that we blasted Miracles Happen from Princess Diaries as we inched down Lombard in a gray convertible and hoped that it would appease dear Blažka. You win some, you lose some, is the lesson here.
Next up was the Ghirardelli Square/Fisherman's Wharf/Pier 39 part of town which was just as crowded and headache-inducing as expected, except that it was a stunning day and there were lots of mini donuts on offer and we force-fed Blažka stale sourdough shaped like a turtle, insisting that it was a San Francisco classic.

And then we found out you can get it at any grocery market in Slovenia.  
SO then we were all, time for the piece de resistance: the Golden Gate Bridge! And Blažka was rightfully super excited about it, readying her Spotify playlist for a bunch of San Francisco-themed songs.

...well.

We took a wrong turn and missed the Golden Gate Bridge. Traffic was awful so Cassandra dejectedly suggested tabling the bridge for the next day and hitting up Alamo Square to see the Painted Ladies instead. Which would've been fine and dandy except that Cassandra and I decided that a detour to our professor's house in the neighborhood was necessary. Little did we know, we chatted over coffee for so long that the sun had long set by the time we made it out of there... deeming the view of the Painted Ladies not so great:
Keen to salvage the night, we drove up to Twin Peaks to check out the breathtaking (but COLD!) view of the entire city before us. Thankfully, Blažka found it as special as we did. Afterwards, we turned off the GPS and drove all over the city, showing Blažka the Golden Gate Bridge in the dark as well as a lit-up Palace of Fine Arts. 
The next day, we were determined to make up for our shortcomings. 

The entire morning, we were only running about two hours behind schedule. First up was the Painted Ladies, this time actually visible.

Then, a leisurely walk on the Golden Gate.
Lest you think it was all smooth sailing from here on out, 

it wasn't.

Because we had a deadline to make (a New Year's party over in Oakland), we raced through all of these landmarks without ever feeding Blažka till like 4pm. The poor girl was starving, and so we promised her food at the Ferry Building farmers' market immediately after seeing the bridge. Except the universe had other plans, and instead directed us to drive over the Bridge to Marin, where we had to wait 10 minutes at a one-way tunnel just to turn back to the city. Hangry but not wanting to let the $6 toll fee go to waste, we chugged up to Hawk Hill for this incredible panorama: 
Finally, finally, finally we made it to the farmers' market where we loaded up on all the calories we could to bid 2016 a proper adieu. 
Blažka laughing dubbed this as the "Lazies Tour of San Francisco," a food-centric, always-running-behind, not-very-well-planned, quick!-snap-a-picture-as-we-drive-by, carried-out-with-the-best-intentions introduction of SF.

Moral of the story: if you come visit me, you might want to hire a professional tour guide and then just ask me for food recommendations.

What do you think her review of us on TripAdvisor will be like?!

16 Going On 17

Well, shucks.

Looks like I really dropped the blogging ball, didn't I? To tell you the truth, the first half of December had me in a weird funk. For no obvious reason, I found myself disenchanted and veering away from the siren call of blogs and Snapchat and Instagram. The days were moving overwhelmingly fast, so fast that I didn't even have the opportunity to savor that precious window of Christmas movies and twinkling holiday lights. Then everything happening globally, in Aleppo especially, had me feeling so, so blue. On top of all that, work was busy AF, my schedule was nonstop, yadda yadda yadda <insert 20 million other excuses here>.

But then I turned on my OOO auto-responder, landed in Seattle, embraced my family hello and all was good in my world again. I took it upon myself to master the art of hygge - piecing together a 1000 piece puzzle with my brother-in-law, curling up on the couch catching up on The West Wing, watching movies with my sister, and venturing out to the snowy suburbs with my parents. The spirit of the season finally, finally appeared before my eyes, and oh what a seriously magical Christmas morning we had!
Before too long, I was back in San Francisco, ready to greet the New Year.

Cassandra arrived in town, with a friend from Slovenia in tow who had never before been to California. And so as our final act in 2016 and our first act in 2017, we took it upon ourselves to show her all that San Francisco had to offer (albeit in the laziest fashion, I'll tell you all about that later). Seeing this city through the eyes of someone visiting for the first time, and explaining our lives to her was the perhaps the most fittingly reflective activity to do on the eve of a new year.  
2016...

well, it was somethin', wasn't it? Let's just leave it at that.

On a personal level, 2014 and 2015 were big, flashy years of traveling the world and fancy internships and college graduation and a first job and more traveling and my sister's wedding and moving into a big city. There was no possible way that 2016 could be as special of a year. But I'll give credit where credit is due and say that 2016 stands out as a year of settling into "adulthood," into becoming more comfortable with the real world. It was a year of evolution and adaptation and learning, learning, learning.
My friends and I welcomed 2017 in Oakland with the clink of champagne glasses and a view of fireworks blasting off on the other side of the bay. The next day, we did absolutely nothing except admire that same view in the light with lattes in hand, nap, and help cook a meal.

It felt like that pause between the release of an exhale and the drawing in of air that follows directly after. 2017, we're ready for ya! 

Apologies that my thoughts are so all over the place in this post. It just felt weird to blog again without acknowledging the end of one year and the beginning of the next. 

Cheers!

Experiencing The Spirit of Sarajevo

From the most delightful teashop in all the land, Cassandra, Hanna and I ventured towards somewhere much more somber. While my memories from Sarajevo are certainly full of unimaginably delicious treats and a most vibrant art and culture scene, I grip onto most dearly the unforgettable lessons in humanity and history.

After burning our lungs with steaming salep at Cajdzinica Dzirlo, Cassandra led the way towards the Yellow Fortress. As we slowly inched up the incline of the cobblestoned pathway, our surroundings became less exquisite, less pretty. Away went the trinkets hung tantalizingly in storefronts and the cosmopolitan feel of a city center. The higher we climbed, the more we saw of crumbling exteriors frozen in time.

Up high, it was quiet. Silent for the most part, save for the occasional car whizzing around a particularly sharp turn, or schoolkids shouting while chasing a ball.

A Very New England Thanksgiving

Can I just say... a Bostonian November is what blogger dreams are made of?! Lingering foliage, representing all the hues of fire. Clear, blue skies with a bite in the air. Christmas tree farms on the coast, lit with simple garlands of festive white lights, looking like a page out of a Madewell catalog. Strolling down Newbury Street with my sister, admiring the charming brownstones while counting down the footsteps remaining to Shake Shack. Greasy fingers in a little shack off of the Massachusetts coast, crates on crates on crates overflowing with fried onion rings and fat, buttery lobster rolls and fried scallops and clams and bright red lobsters.

New England in the fall makes my heart sing. It's so classically Americana, almost like how a Thanksgiving was always meant to be celebrated, in quaint homes made of stately brick and black shutters, leaves piled high and raked to the side of frontyards. "This is the type of neighborhood I imagine is trick-or-treating gold," I commented to my brother-in-law.
My brother-in-law's family graciously invited ours up to New England for the long weekend, and spent the entire time proudly showing us around their beautiful hometown.

We started at the top of Prudential Tower, admiring Boston's wide expanse. Dan's father, a true Boston native, told us about the storied past of any building, park, or street we pointed out from way up high. It also felt overwhelmingly profound to be in a city so important to our country's beginnings on this holiday of thanks and in light of the election–the observatory highlights immigration and Paul Revere and America's firsts and the Freedom Trail, and it was all a bit sobering.

Seattle Stopover and a Gratitude List

Three cities, seven days. That right there describes my Thanksgiving week. For the most part, I was in Boston–comically without appropriate cold weather wear, might I add #californianwimp–with my family and my brother-in-law's clan celebrating Turkey Day. But because I was feeling particularly ambitious about pursuing quality family time and also (mostly) because I was missing my furry nephews something bad, I decided to pop on over to Seattle to crash at my sister's for the first half of the week. What can I say–I can never resist America's northern corners.

So, if we're talkin' "thankful" as a general theme, then a job with the flexibility to work remotely has got to be at the top of my gratitude list. And donuts, too. Donuts do well on this list, especially the creamy custard-filled, sugar-coated donuts from General Porpoise.
Hard-working, kind, brilliant coworkers who I'm genuinely grateful and excited to see every day–that goes on the list too. I like them so much that I managed to peel myself away from the aforementioned furry nephews to make it to our "Work from Seattle" cafe day. Also, the fact that enough of us were in Seattle to warrant a workday there is kind of incredible... really speaks to Seattle's allure, doesn't it? 
Sweet, cuddly furnephews who trick me into offering them double doses of treats OBVIOUSLY I'm extra thankful for. All the furry friends in my life who bark and meow, actually, but these two have me wrapped around their dainty little paws and get a special mention. 
My sister's apartment with the insane view that makes me go "wow" and dart outside every thirteen minutes for a photo of the Space Needle under sliiiiiightly different lighting. Waking up to this scene is crazy unreal. Never gets old, no matter how many times I visit.

Magic, that comes in the form of Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them as well as the chocolate-drizzled popcorn that accompanied it. A total goosebumps filled two hours that brought back many memories of waiting in line for Harry Potter movies in high school, countless nights hidden under the covers reading the latest installment. 
Fancy schmancy dinners at chic steakhouses.

Crunchy, salty fries dunked into aioli.

Rainy day hotpot lunches with siblings who scoff at the idea of sharing. Go big or go home, as we say.

Cooking with them too, all crowded around the pasta bubbling away on the stove. 
Most of all, I'm thankful to have the means to do something as perplexing as waking up at the crack of dawn to fly to Seattle for a couple of days and see my sister and brother-in-law who I'd see two days later in Boston. I'm thankful that I have these good, loving people in my life who I'd endure seven-hour flights (and more) to see. I'm thankful for warm hospitality and an abundance of food always and modern technology and lively cities to explore and my own cozy bed to return to after the excitement and the travels. So very thankful.

And lest you forget, know that I'm thankful for you and for this small slice of the Internet to come to and share my adventures with. How / Where did you celebrate Thanksgiving (if you celebrate)? What are you thankful for? What's your pie preference?