Welcome to SF, bitches – The first 24 hours in the US.

We landed in the US at the end of August. The flight was smooth and easy as we had upgraded ourselves to Business Class to celebrate the fact the moving would finally happen. Also, we didn’t spend a penny on the upgrades, as we had collected enough miles with FlyingBlue over time. So what better use for the miles than upgrading to a more comfortable travel experience?

Upon arrival, we were told to go into a separate room at the airport to clarify/clear our immigration status. I had heard about this room before and was actually a little scared during the wait, especially if you don’t have access to water and snacks and are not allowed to use your phone during that time. But, thanks to flying business class, I was filled with good food, so I was not hungry. And I do carry a bottle of water with me wherever I go anyway, so that was not an issue, luckily.

Luckily, after two hours, we were good to go, and we could finally leave the airport and breathe some fresh, clean Californian air. Still, thinking of this moment gives me chills. It felt so good to be in the States again, finally, the place I always dreamed of, during my worst times in Singapore and even in life before the pandemic.

Rental car for the first couple of weeks

We had rented a mid-size SUV via Sixt, and after virtually no waiting time at the counter, we received a brand new Bronco (OJ Sympson Car, lol) that would drive us smoothly to our temporary home in Alameda. Daniel’s new employer was kind enough to provide us with a house in a cute little area in East Bay. Since the drive was surprisingly long, we had a quick pit stop at Starbucks, where I got myself a Cold Brew with coconut milk – simply for traditional reasons; as a true coffee lover, I don’t necessarily appreciate Starbucks that much, oops, but it just emphasized the we-made-it-to-the-states feelings!

Our accommodation

The house we would be living in was quite spacious and very American – and had a cute little patio that welcomed us with bright sunlight. The kitchen was also stocked up with essentials and food so that we technically could have gone to bed straight. After all, it was way past midnight in Europe at this point. But we were so excited to explore the new neighborhood that we walked to a little Mexican restaurant nearby where we had tacos and burritos and guac and margaritas… we felt quite American already, ha. 

After that, we quickly went to the local grocery store to buy gallons of water and more food and, after that, went finally to bed.

The first morning, we woke up to bright sunshine. California weather never disappoints, does it? I counted my lucky stars once again when I found out that the kitchen was stocked with lots of coffee too, and after having a cuppa, we went to Julie’s Coffee & Tea Garden – a cozy little coffee shop with excellent barista coffee and breakfast snacks. There, we sat in their cute and spacious patio between plants and succulents and enjoyed the calm morning.

Exploring San Francisco… or not

We had a busy schedule ahead. We had planned to drive over to San Francisco to explore some neighborhoods and maybe even visit some apartment complexes already and get an impression of our new hometown. After all, we hadn’t been in San Francisco, let alone in the States, for a long while now. Primarily thanks to Covid, but also because San Francisco had – frankly – never been our favorite city in California (yet).

In order to get to San Francisco from Alameda, you have to take the I-80, which happens to be the Bay Bridge too. Honestly, if you are ever in town, take that route and thank me later. Driving right into the heart of the city and being surrounded by the beautiful bay was insane and gave me once again chills. Those were killed pretty quickly, though, as we somehow managed to take the exit that would drive us straight into Tenderloin, San Francisco’s worst neighborhood and home for many drug addicts, homeless, and mentally ill people. It was honestly devastating to drive up the 7th street that was all dirty, full of trash and looked like an invasion of whatever. I don’t mean to talk bad about the city in any way, as I developed a genuine love for it over the time being here already, but let me say straight out that it was absolute hell. I can’t and won’t ever recommend to anyone to come near that area, not even in a car. It’s very sad and shattering what the pandemic has turned the city into. Once again, I was thankful for our very safe and clean life in Singapore, which I had condemned so often while being there. And even though I still don’t plan to move back to the island city-state anytime for various reasons, I do appreciate how they handled the pandemic, at least in that matter.

Welcome to SF, bitches! This is how it’s done in the city.

Filled with dismay, we kept on driving up north and landed at Fisherman’s Wharf. A place that is so known for San Francisco as the Golden Gate Bridge is. Fisherman’s Wharf is also the place where the famous In-N-Out Burger has their only branch in San Francisco, so we obviously had to go and buy a few cheap-but-oh-so-good burgers.

Since we didn’t have any cell phone plan or data yet, we embraced being in an area that we kind of knew already and parked our car at Beach Road to stroll a little around. A massive mistake, as we learned later. DON’T! EVER! PARK! AT! BEACH ROAD / FISHERMAN’S WHARF! Ok? Not with a rental car anyway! I am telling you, as no one had told us, and we had to learn the hard way. When we arrived back at our car after not even an hour, the rear window was broken, and the car was in an island of glass and shards. I just mentioned that we didn’t have any data or service and were pretty much screwed in that situation, as we didn’t know what to do, where to go, or how much this minor incident would cost us. And after the experience of driving through what looked like absolute hell on earth minutes earlier, it kind of felt as if our new hometown would scream at us, “Welcome to SF bitches, this is how it’s done in the city”. 

After the incident, we didn’t see any other option than driving back to the airport’s SIXT station where we had rented the car from. There is a small outlet at Beach Rd too, but I guess we would have been too lucky if that had been an option (we tried anyway). In any way, in every curse, there is a blessing, and so in this case, as we did get a Volkswagen Tiguan SE as a replacement, which I preferred miles over the Bronco. It did come with a sunroof too, which only supported the Cali vibes. And as we had driven far down to South San Francisco anyway, we decided to drive down the coast further to Half Moon Bay and enjoy the rest of the day at the beach.

Turns out, this was a great decision, as we not only got into fully CA swing as the CA-1 drives along the coast. It’s one of the most popular routes for road trips in the US for a reason, and the views on the ocean and the cliffs never get old. 

The day turned out to be very beautiful, as we had a lovely afternoon in Half Moon Bay where we made new friends, got some tan, and could relax for the first time in probably 24 hours being in the US.


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