MEMs in San Francisco
by Emma Kelley -- March 13th, 2014
Life as an MEM is rarely dull and the end of February was no exception. I flew to San Francisco to finally see the other side of the United States and to attend The Economist’s World Ocean Summit. Before I jump into my incredible experiences at the Summit, I’ll share a bit about my first trip to the West Coast.
The flight to California was long, but gave me time to read and prepare for the conference ahead. I left Durham at the crack of dawn, but was in San Francisco by the afternoon.
My gracious host was fellow MEM, Megan Hayes, an Alameda local. We spent this first afternoon seeing her alma mater: UC Berkley. The weather was so warm and sunny that we ended up finding a spot to relax on the grass and kick off our shoes. Within a few minutes of sitting down, a group of students started a jam session with two guitars, bongos, and even a violin – not something I’ve seen much of at Duke.
The next day, we set out to see the city. We took a bus back over the Bay Bridge and started our walking tour. Our first big stop was Union Square, named so because it was used for rallies supporting the Union Army during the Civil War. We lucked out and had a bright and sunny day. Local artists packed the square, displaying and selling their art.
Next, we wandered up to China Town. I could write an entire blog just about San Francisco’s China Town. The main street was very similar to that of NYC’s China Town, with red lanterns strung across the street and vendors attempting to lure you into their shops or restaurants. We went into a few shops and found some inexpensive souvenirs for friends and family.
As we were strolling through China Town, we noticed police officers herding folks off the road. We asked one officer what was happening, at which time we were informed that the Dalai Lama would be passing through. Sure enough, a few minutes later a large motorcade sped by the corner. Unfortunately, it wasn’t a popemobile kind of situation, so all we saw were black sedans.
Next, we found a great restaurant called Grant Place. It was off the main road just a bit, with ducks hanging in the window and no one trying to pull us in. The food was incredible and I could have happily sat devouring dumplings all day, but the real fun was a few blocks over, in the real China Town. Here, the signs were no longer in English and the bustling crowds were more focused on getting their groceries rather than entertaining tourists. We went by markets with all kinds of interesting foods, like alligator leg. One shop had a wide variety of dried seafood, even octopus!
After buying strings for freshwater pearls for souvenirs, we wandered out of China Town and into Little Italy. From there, we walked down to Pier 39 and to my most anticipated tourist attraction: the sea lions! So many large sea lions were out sun bathing on the docks. Some were sleeping, while others were barking at each other. The view from the pier was spectacular. The Golden Gate Bridge was off in the distance and I could see Alcatraz very clearly.
We then checked out Fisherman’s Wharf, where we eventually returned for dinner and where I tried my first Dungeness crab. What surprised me most about this area were the live New England lobsters for sale right next to the native Dungeness crabs. Although I didn’t stop and ask, I can only assume these lobsters were flown across the country.
Our first destination of Day Two was Muir Woods National Monument. Megan’s mother, Diane, joined the fun and the three of us hiked through the redwood forest named after John Muir. The woods were very peaceful, with the sun shining through the tall trees. One interesting thing I learned about redwoods is a phenomenon which occurs when one tree falls but does not die. New trees will grow from the living remains of the fallen tree, organized in a neat circle. We saw these ‘families’ throughout the forest.
After Muir Woods, we headed to the Golden Gate Bridge. We stopped and took photos of the Bridge and the Bay before crossing over. I’ll let the view speak for itself…
Next, we stopped at the remains of the Sutro Baths. The Sutro Baths were a large swimming pool establishment built in the late 19th century, offering guests seven different pools. The complex burnt down in 1966 and the foundations are all that’s left now.
By the time we left the Sutro Baths, it was getting late in the afternoon. We drove through the Golden Gate Park, stopped for a quick lunch, picked up our bags, and drove to the Ritz Carlton at Half Moon Bay, where the World Ocean Summit would begin the next day.
Stay tuned for my next blog about the World Ocean Summit! But if you can’t wait, check out Sarah Hoyt’s blog now.