Making Adventures in Memphis, Pt. 2

Hiyoo! Today on the blog, I conclude my recap of my recent research trip to Memphis. In this post, you will find out if Beale St. is really as fun as everyone makes it out to be and why the National Civil Rights Museum should be on your list of museums to visit. Read on, fellow readers/bloggers! 🙂

Day 3: Presenting @NCUR, Bar-B-Que & Night on Beale St.

Friday was our most eventful day since we presented our research at the conference and spent the night on the town after. Armed with our research poster and business casual clothing, we made our way to the University of Memphis to share our findings with everyone. Looking back now, I had a wonderful time explaining our experiment and findings to those that stopped by our poster. While a majority of people had heard of Kinesio Tape, many were surprised to learn that the tape does not affect muscle recruitment. Basically, what we found was that using KT Tape solely to enhance muscle performance is not effective because our results weren’t significant enough to prove that it does have an effect. I am really thankful that I had this opportunity to travel to Memphis and present my research because it made me realize that research is a passion of mine and I hope to build more on it in the future.

After we presented, we went back to the hotel to look for a place to eat dinner. We decided on going to Corky’s Bar-B-Que. Honestly, I have nothing but praise for this restaurant. The waitstaff was so welcoming, the food was delicious, and the prices weren’t expensive at all. I ordered a bar-b-que pulled pork  sandwich with a side of hush puppies and my bill was less than $10! The portion size was very generous, I could barely finish what I ordered. If you are in Memphis and are on the market for some good food at an awesome price, check out Corky’s!

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Later that day, my team and I decided to celebrate by hitting the night on the town. A common place to visit that was recommended by our Lyft drivers was to go to Beale St at night. To say that Beale St is lively on a Friday night is an understatement. Beale St on a Friday night is LIT, literally! The street is closed off, allowing visitors to walk around and bar hop, but at night, the lights illuminate the atmosphere. It kind of reminded me of a mini Vegas strip. The live music and street performers truly made Beale St feel like the Southern version of Las Vegas. Because of NCUR, a ton of students were there to celebrate, drink, and dance the night away. My girl friends and I went to two clubs and danced the night away. We went to Club 152 and Jerry Lee Lewis; both had live DJs and both played Top 40, Hip-Hop, and a little bit of EDM. I gotta say though, when we were at Jerry Lee Lewis, it was so crowded that whenever the beat dropped and people started to jump, I thought the floor was about to give out (and we were on the second floor!). I’ll be honest and admit that the Memphis music scene (hip-hop wise) doesn’t even compare to California’s, but I commend the DJs for trying.

Day 4: Final Day of NCUR, Visiting National Civil Rights Museum & Memphis Zoo

With NCUR coming to an end, we attended the last plenary speeches. The first speaker was Terri Lee Freeman, the president of the National Civil Rights Museum. In the beginning of her speech, she explained the role of the museum is not only to share the culture and lessons from America’s Civil Rights Movement, but to also serve as a starting point and inclusive center welcome for all people to peacefully protest the injustices occurring. Throughout her speech Ms. Freeman talked about the importance of civil rights and political awareness and how both are imperative in order to progress society. Ms. Freeman emphasized that understanding opposing viewpoints, instead of naively putting your own opinions as the only viewpoint, is important in creating social change. I thoroughly believe this because if you don’t know or understand why different people have various convictions, you’ll never truly know if your own convictions are true in your mind. I thought this was a nice prelude to the second speaker, Daphene R. McFerren. McFerren is the executive director of the Benjamin L. Hooks Institute for Social Change. Not only did McFerren build on the points that Freeman made, but she even made calls to action to motivate and inspire us to be proactive in being socially and culturally aware. Freeman gave documentary recommendations, such as 13th by Ava DuVernay and encouraged us to talk with people that have different opinions.

I think it would be fair to say that we came out of the plenary inspired, because the next thing we did was visit the National Civil Rights Museum. I truly love visiting museums. Whether it be a science or art museum, there is something about witnessing art and learning about new concepts that I find cathartic. I am very glad we decided to go to the National Civil Rights Museum because I had never have I felt so angry, sad, yet motivated by the experience. Seeing the various exhibits and pictures illustrating the protests, violence, and struggle drew many parallels with what is going on today. If you don’t acknowledge the fact that history is repeating itself, then you need to check your privilege and change your perspective by taking yourself out of it and try to understand it from a different viewpoint. I really do believe that the National Civil Right Museum is a must see in Memphis because the experience is truly enlightening.

Later in the afternoon, a friend and I went to visit the Memphis Zoo. It was a pretty relaxed afternoon seeing the various animals. It was here where I realized how heavy the Southern accent can be. The majority of the visitors were (I would assume) locals and their families. During my visit there, I couldn’t help but think if my Californian accent sounds just as strong to them as their accent did to me. It’s common to think that we don’t have an accent because we’re used to hearing it, but in reality, we have much of an accent as other people from different regions.

Day 5: Returning Home

The trip back home included a layover in Dallas and then straight to Sacramento. It was pretty uneventful, but I got a taste of “Everything is bigger in Texas” when I was at the Dallas airport. During our layover, I got hungry and went to Dunkin Donuts to get breakfast. They have a combination special that includes two donuts, a small order of tater tots, and a small coffee (hot or iced) for just $4.99! The amount of food in this combo is pretty mind blowing but what really got me was the size of my iced coffee. My small iced coffee would be considered a large by California standards and definitely an extra large by Philippine standards (and I don’t think that exists there tbh).

So that concludes my Memphis trip! Although it took me about 1.5 months to get around to writing it, I finished! I enjoy writing trip recaps because it allows me to express my creative energy and look back at my adventures. Now that I have graduated from college, I have more time to devote to my blog by going on more adventures and develop my writing. Speaking of traveling more, I am visiting London and Rome with my family next Month! I AM SO EXCITED, can’t you tell?! 🙂

Peace, love, and blessings,

Samantha

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Making Adventures in Memphis, Pt. 1

For my senior year of undergrad, I joined my professional fraternity’s (Phi Epsilon Kappa) research team. We studied Kinesio Tape and its effect on force output. In layman’s terms we were curious if KT Tape had any effect on one’s sport performance. This whole process lasted all of fall semester and most of spring semester. In the fall, our main focus was working on our IRB and abstract. The IRB is basically a document that describes our hypothesis, our experimental design, and our participant group. The abstract is a more succinct version of the IRB and was required to submit in order to present at the National Conference of Undergraduate Research. Our IRB was approved during winter break and our abstract was accepted by NCUR the beginning of spring semester. Long story short, we tested a total of 24 participants (12 male, 12 female), in three conditions: 1) No KT tape, 2) KT applied for facilitation, and 3) KT applied for inhibition. With the help of our research advisor, we analyzed our data using statistical analyses and found that in terms of muscle recruitment, KT Tape has no effect on force output. We suspected this in the beginning since there isn’t really a lot of research on this topic. Now we can share our findings with our peers and colleagues in Memphis!

Our research trip to Memphis is 5 days long: two of those days will be designated for the actual research conference and the remaining three days will be for exploring. I was quite excited to prepare for this trip since I am slightly obsessed with traveling. Admittedly, I was just excited to finally follow one of the many packing lists I have pinned on my Pinterest board! ^_^ Since I did the Project333 minimalist fashion challenge, packing for this trip was actually quite simple.

Day 1: Traveling to Memphis, TN

We flew out of Sacramento to Houston, then got on a connecting flight to Memphis. We were basically traveling the whole day since we had to drive up to Sacrament from Stockton (45 minutes). The flight from Sacramento to Houston took around 3.5 hours, but with the time change to Central Time, the flight felt longer. Something really interesting (that might not be the most accurate word lol) happened on this flight. I won’t go into too much detail (as it will be a chapter of my Brown Gal Chronicles), but it does involve racial generalizations.

Flying from Houston to Memphis took an hour and ten minutes, so it was shorter. This flight had a lot of turbulence, apparently remnants of the storms that Atlanta experienced that day. Other than the turbulence, this flight was pretty uneventful- I was able to fill out my reimbursement forms and get a little bit of sleep.

Day 2: Settling In- NCUR & Midtown

Once we got our stuff settled into the hotel and got a little more sleep, we went to the University of Memphis for NCUR. We checked in and tried to find the place where we would be presenting at the next day. As we walked around the campus, there were two things I noticed. The first was how spread out the campus is. The buildings on UM’s and Memphis, are physically wider and more spaced out than the buildings in California. This did not bode well for my feet and the black flats I wore, but I digress.

After finding our presenting spot, my research team and I went to the campus’s art museum, where they housed mummies. This mini museum is probably one of the coolest museums I’ve visited because it had interactive exhibits about social/cultural normalcy, war propaganda, and an empty white wall adorned with the words “Who Run The World”. Of course this reminded us of Beyonce’s anthem and we had a mini photoshoot!

We decided explore off campus and go to Memphis’s Midtown and find a cafe where we could prep for our presentation. We used Lyft to get to Muddy’s Cafe & Bake Shop (on Young and Cooper) to study. Before deciding on Muddy’s, we also checked out the cafe, Otherlands Coffee Bar, which is a block away. Otherlands is the epitome of hipster cafe meets garden shop, meets bar. Their setup is both eclectic outdoors and indoors, with plants and couches inside and psychedelic murals on the exterior. Since this cafe was somewhat crowded, we decided on studying at Muddy’s. In contrast, Muddy’s is the ultimate charming Southern cafe because of the quaint interior design and rustic country exterior. I would go back for their Chai iced tea, but not to study because their wifi was spotty.

Once we felt ready and prepped for our presentation, we decided to walk South along Cooper St. to find a place to get dinner. As we walked on, I noticed that the locals don’t really get out and walk around, most drive. Due to the lack of cultural diversity and the fact that a group of young women with heavy backpacks, it felt like all eyes were on us as we walked. I could be wrong, we didn’t really see any Hispanic or Asian people apart from the students there for NCUR. For me, this lack of diversity it felt a bit strange because seeing and interacting with people of all different races was normal growing up.

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We decided to split ways for dinner: two decided to eat at an Italian restaurant and me and a friend ate dinner at the restaurant, The Beauty Shop. I would describe this restaurant as American cuisine, with a modern culinary twist, in a retro setting. The Beauty Shop is interiorly designed with vintage hair-dryer chairs and glass-brick booths. I ordered the Shrimp a la Plancha & Grilled Avocado and the Belgian Style Fries with the Truffle black pepper Parmesan. It was good, but not very filling since the shrimp was basically an appetizer. I was careful in choosing a dish that wasn’t pricey, but in hindsight, I should have chosen another dish because I would get reimbursed for it anyway.

I’ll pause the trip recap here, because if I go any further this post will probably be 2,000 words long.  From just my first two days in Memphis, I was pleasantly surprised by how nice the locals are. Every local I encountered was very welcoming, friendly, and approachable. You may be thinking “but Sam, you’re from California, aren’t Californians the nicest people?!” To that, I say we may be nice, but we’re not Memphis-nice…

Peace, love, & blessings,

Samantha

 

Travel Thursday: Spring Break in San Francisco

It’s Spring Break and pictures of Disneyland, Disneyworld, Cancun, and Vegas are spamming my social media timelines. As much as I would love to visit these fun, exciting places, I just really need this free week to catch up on my sleep and just lounge around the house. So that’s exactly what I did! I binge watched the first season of The Great British Baking Show on Netflix and consequently found myself baking again. Aside from returning to my homebody ways, I also had work on Monday and got to work with some cool patients. I also started my inpatient observation hours at the local hospital, perhaps I’ll recap my experiences in a later post…

Anyway, today my mom and I drove to the Dublin/Pleasanton BART station for a day trip to San Francisco. For those that aren’t familiar with BART, BART is one of the public transportation systems in the Bay Area. In my experience, it is much more efficient to take BART to San Francisco (or anywhere in the Bay Area) for day trips. What I love about BART stations in SF is that there are various attractions near each station. For example, at the Powell St. station, Union Square and the Westfield mall are a walk away. Today we got off at the Montgomery St. station and were able to walk to Yerba Buena Gardens, SF MoMA, and Chinatown.

Yerba Buena Gardens

These gardens are a public park on two blocks located south of Market St. It is also surrounded by the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, the Contemporary Jewish Museum, SF MoMA, and many more. The park itself is extremely clean and so aesthetically pleasing to the eye. All around the park were various types of flowers and beautiful art sculptures. My favorite part of the park was seeing the Martin Luther King Jr Memorial located behind the waterfall. Seeing Dr. King’s I Have A Dream speech etched on the concrete walls was humbling to experience and definitely inspiring, especially in the political climate today. I hope to visit again in the summer when the summer concert series starts!

Chinatown

Every time I have gone to Chinatown, it was always to eat lunch. We did the same thing today but we really took our time exploring this part of SF since we walked down Grant St. from Market St. to see the Chinatown Gate. The walk itself was pretty interesting because I able to capture some awesome shots of the architecture are street art. On our way to the Gate, my mom and I stumbled upon a tree planting ceremony!

All the walking we did gave us a strong appetite for delicious food, so we found a random place to eat lunch. My mom and I ended up eating lunch at a restaurant called Hunan Home’s Restaurant. At first we were planning to get hot pot but after learning about the price add-ons for each ingredient (meat, vegetables, etc) we settled on the lunch special. My mom ordered the mixed vegetable lunch special and I ordered the kung pao chicken lunch special. Overall, the food was so delicious that we both clean off our plates!

Union Square

After eating lunch, my mom and I walked along Grant St. again but going back the direction we came, towards Market St. Instead, we made a right on Post St and walked straight into Union Square. Union Square is a public plaza that is surrounded by high end stores, hotels, and the theatre district. Since the Westfield Mall is a short walk away, we went there to eat ice cream after I took some pictures at the Square. We went to Haagen Daz to get ice cream- we ate it so fast that I didn’t bother taking pictures ^_^

That’s my SF day trip in a nutshell! I took way more pictures this time and will be sharing my favorite shots on my Instagram 🙂 One of the highlights of this day trip was receiving a free rose from a Uniqlo employee to celebrate the premiere of the Beauty and the Beast live action film this week. I definitely recommend all the places I visited today since I had a lot of fun exploring the city. I’d also recommend taking the BART instead of driving to the city and spending a fortune on parking. However, if going to Golden Gate Park, I would recommend driving only because the park itself is quite a way from the BART stations in the city. I really did enjoy my day exploring and can’t wait to see more of the city. Where are your favorite SF spots? How did you spend your Spring Break or where do you plan to go for your next trip? Let me know in the comments below! 🙂

Peace, love, & blessings!

Samantha

 

Travel Thursday: Playing Tourist in My Hometown

One of the biggest perks of living in the San Joaquin Valley, is being relatively close to the gems of Northern California. If you take a two hour drive west, you’ll reach the diverse dynamic of San Francisco. A two and a half hour drive east can take you to the crisp, cerulean waters Lake Tahoe or the majestic presence of Yosemite. Although Stockton may be the last town on someone’s mind when it comes to places to visit, there is more to this hometown of mine than being twenty minutes away from Lodi and being the second largest American city to file for bankruptcy during the 2008 financial crisis. Recently, research from the California Policy Center ranked Stockton 18th out of 116 cities on fiscally healthy big cities (more information can be found here).

I like to think of Stockton as an underdog city because many people overlook the rich history and strong sense of community it has. As a Stockton native, I cannot help but get a little offended when people look down on this town and its community. On the contrary, Stockton has a rich art scene with many art galleries and museums such as The Haggin Museum and the Elsie May Goodwin Goodwin Gallery. In addition, Stockton an extremely diverse culinary community: last year, Guy Fieri visited Stockton to tape an episode of Diners, Drive-Ins, & Dives.  I am extremely fortunate enough to attend the University of the Pacific, a university whose architecture has been used as a lanscape backdrop for Hollywood films such as Indiana Jones and Flubber.

Now I know I may sound like a tourist guide for my hometown, but I’m just being real here. Since I am a sucker for free things, especially free admissions to museums, I decided to explore Stockton like a tourist. Since Haggin Museum has free admission on the first Saturday of each month and I didn’t have any plans for my Saturday, I decided to go.  It was such a beautiful day too so I was more inclined to actually spend my day to go on a little adventure. I had originally planned on going solo but I brought my little brother along with me. To be honest, my mom and I bribed him to go with me by promising him a trip to the new ice cream parlor that had opened the week before. My mom even gave us ice cream money, so of course he couldn’t refuse the offer! Now this may sound like my little brother is 8, but he’s about to turn fifteen. I personally think my mom just wanted to spend time out of the house and not cooped up inside playing on the xBox. So with my camera and our ice cream money, my brother and I were off to spend the warm, sunny day out in our hometown!

Our first stop on our little adventure was The Haggin Museum. Located in Victory Park, the Haggin Museum holds a special place in my heart because I remember coming here every week for a month during the summer when I was little. My mom had enrolled my brothers and I for an arts camp held at the museum; we had different themes each week, but my favorite was making a stained glass inspired piece out of glue and colored tissue paper.

During our visit, the Haggin had an an exhibit that showcased the artwork of students in the Stockton community. I always find it amazing to see children’s artwork and this was no exception. Some of the artwork had a theme of unity and inclusion due to MLK day having passed and the current political climate. One piece that made me feel so strongly was seeing a sixth grader’s portrait of a woman with the caption “When the go low, we go high.” For those that don’t already know this, it is a quote from Michelle Obama’s powerful speech that she gave last October. I remember feeling so emotionally moved when I listened to her speak and seeing a sixth grader portray what she felt and turn it into art was so incredibly comforting and empowering. After walking through the children’s showcase, I admired the several stunning paintings that adorn the walls of the Haggin.

Our second and final stop was getting ice cream at Dream Ice Cream Parlor. A new addition to the Stockton dessert scene, Dream is an innovative dessert shop that has a variety of ice cream flavors and toppings. Its namesake is an acronym for “Desserts Rule Everything Around Me” and I can totally relate, I have a massive sweet tooth.

My brother and I each ordered a puffle, which consists of a waffle, a scoop of ice cream, and two toppings. My puffle had green tea waffle with mocha almond fudge ice cream, topped with sprinkles and crushed oreos. My brother’s puffle was a chocolate waffle with strawberry cheesecake ice cream, topped with Pocky and Fruity Pebbles cereal. For the price ($6 each) I’d say it’s totally worth it: the portions are very generous and can be shared with another person.

Overall, we had a fun Saturday at home! I would definitely go back to both places, preferably on free admission day. Playing tourist in your hometown is a great way to spend the weekend because you won’t to drive far and you might even gain a new appreciation for your town, like I did! A museum in Stockton that I haven’t been to yet is the Filipino American National Historical Society Museum. I will always remain curious about Filipino American culture and history, so visiting this museum would be very fascinating. I am definitely looking forward to my next hometown adventure!

Samantha 

(More information about The Haggin Museum can be found here.)

Chasing Waterfalls in Yosemite

I went to Yosemite for the first time last weekend! Well, technically, it was the second time I’ve visited but I was three years old when my parents brought me and I have no recollection of that trip. The reason why I was able to visit Yosemite was through the professional fraternity I am a part of, Phi Epsilon Kappa. This weekend trip was our first brotherhood retreat and it was amazing! In addition to the absolutely stunning views I was able to experience in person, I also got to spend time with my friends away from school and home. To be honest, I forgot how different it is to travel with friends than with family. Don’t get me wrong, I adore traveling with family, but the travel experience is so different when you are with your friends. The closest thing that I can compare this experience with is having a sleepover with your closest friends minus the parental supervision. I could talk about the differences between traveling with friends and family but I digress; that’s another post for another time! I’ll be recapping my fast, but fun weekend Yosemite trip so if you are interested in reading about my experience and/or are curious to see some pictures, please keep on reading!

This retreat has been planned for about a good month beforehand, so we were able to get a good deal on Airbnb to rent a house nearby Yosemite National Park. We stayed one night in a spacious 4 room, 2 story house in Oakhurst, CA about 45 minutes away from Yosemite. There were sixteen of us that went on this retreat and we all fit in the house comfortably. Although I love to camp, I’d definitely recommend Airbnb instead of camping in the cooler climate months. Left campus Saturday morning to make the 2 and a half hour drive to Yosemite National Park, visited Glacier Point, and returned back home late Sunday morning. Although we only stayed one night, the retreat was just what I needed to get away from home and school to have fun in nature. Here’s a recap of how I prepared for the trip and what I did in Yosemite:

Friday night-Packing: Since my family avoids the whole hassle of checking in luggage, I have always been conditioned to pack light. By light, I mean that I only travel with either a backpack or duffel bag that can be a carry-on. My time pinning packing lists and folding techniques on Pinterest have helped me become a smart packer. When I traveled to Oahu two summers ago with my family, I was able to fit a week’s worth of clothes in just a backpack; I even had some clothes I didn’t wear on that trip and still think that I could have lasted another week. Anyhow, the picture below shows everything I brought for this weekend trip. I’ll recreate my packing list in a separate post that will be posted soon, but one thing that I wish I had brought was a proper pair of hiking boots. I had hiked in my old running shoes and it was fine, but at the end of the day, my feet were sore and my shoes were worn out and incredibly dirty.

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Saturday-Visiting Glacier Point and Hiking: So after we settled our stuff into the house, we finally made our way over to Yosemite National Park. What surprised me most about driving within the park was how vast the park was. I’ve seen the iconic pictures of El Capitan and Half Dome but actually driving though the park for almost an hour to get to Glacier Point really opened my eyes to the commanding, beautiful views that Yosemite has.

When we finally parked our cars and walked out to Glacier Point, I able to take in the sight of Half Dome in person. Being in a national park never fails to make me feel small in comparison to my surroundings, but I felt especially small, taking the sights from that far up. Half Dome’s majestic-ness honestly made me tear up a bit. I also couldn’t help but think, “How the hell did my dad hike up that twice without dying?!” I seriously give huge kudos to those that have hiked Half Dome before, that’s one impressive feat for sure!

 

Since there was a slight miscommunication within my group, me and a some friends broke off to go on a 2 mile hike to the Illilouette Falls. The hike was gorgeous as Half Dome can be seen from all angles for the entire duration of the hike. Understandably, the first part of the hike going to the waterfall was downhill, making for a very interesting (to say the least) hike back to Glacier Point. It took us a good 40 minutes to go down to see the falls, since the trail had some rocky bits and many switchbacks. We didn’t even get to go all the way down to the water because it was getting dark and we didn’t want to keep the other group waiting. Nevertheless, we were still able to see the waterfall and take some awesome pictures.

We left Sunday morning to make it back in time to rest and get ready for the following week of classes. Going on this retreat and experiencing Yosemite for the first time and being able to remember it definitely gets me excited for my next visit back. I’d like to go on different hikes and would definitely want to try backpacking in Yosemite. If you have any suggestions about specific trails I should go on, have advice about how to prepare for a backpacking, or even hiking boot suggestions, please let me know in the comments! Thanks for reading!

xo,

Samantha

A San Francisco Sunday: Fort Baker & Battery Spencer

If you haven’t already noticed, San Francisco is one of my favorite cities in the world. The endless variety of cuisine, culture, art, and things to see keep my mind craving for the next visit. By the time you are reading this, it will have been about a week and a half since I last visited this beautiful city. I went on a day trip with my parents to the San Francisco Bay Area to run some errands and we ended up spending our afternoon on the Sausalito side of the Golden Gate Bridge. We had originally planned to drive up to Muir Woods since it was the last day that all national parks would be free admission (due to the National Parks Service’s centennial celebration) but traffic was insane and we would not have enjoyed the park with the amount of people visiting.

So instead, we decided to spend time at Fort Baker and enjoy the rest of the day. We parked our car in Fort Baker and explored on our own, with my mom near the Fort and my dad ran on some of the trails. I walked up to the bridge and even walked on part of it, taking pictures of the scenery. Coming back from the bridge, I saw a trail leading up to an overlook of the bridge (which I later found out to be Battery Spencer). Curiosity got the best of me and I followed the trail, excited to go on my own adventure. I had gone on this trail before, during high school running camp but I was walking instead of running. One of the runs of the camp was to run across the Golden Gate Bridge and back. I have done this three times, so the fact that I didn’t walk across the bridge this time around was perfectly okay with me.

My walk up the short, gradual, uphill trail took me about 15 minutes to finish. I was feeling pretty liberated because I was unplugged from the rest of the world, letting my mind wander to the possibilities of traveling on my own. One of my dreams is to travel the world on my own, so whenever I get the chance to explore a new place on my own it’s like I’m living a small part of that dream. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love going on adventures with my family and friends, but nothing beats the complete freedom of trekking out on your own.

Overall, my Sunday in the Bay was the best way to end my summer and get that one last adventure down in the books before school. As I am writing this, I am reliving the awesome moments, making me miss The City. I am back at school and my schedule is getting pretty busy. San Francisco, I’ll be back before you know it!

-Samantha 

A Broke College Student’s Visit to San Francisco

As August rolls on, the need to get some last minute exploring before school starts is at an ultimate high. While everyone is out raging at HARD Summer Music Festival and Outside Lands, I’m just here sitting at home, thinking of ways to enjoy the last of my summer vacation. I can only binge watch shows on Netflix and Amazon Prime for so long, you know? For me, vacation is more enjoyable when I am outside exploring new surroundings. Having this sense of wanderlust is not particularly accommodating when most of my budget is going towards my college education. So while I am saving up for my dream backpacking trip to Europe (I really do keep my change in a glass jar labelled ‘España’) I have to settle on exploring my home of Northern California until that opportunity manifests.

Family wise, my mother and grandmother are currently enjoying their vacation in the Philippines for the next two weeks, leaving my brothers and I with my dad. This past week has been pretty eventful for us as a whole: my dad went on a hiking trip with his friends at Yosemite National Park to climb Half Dome (his third time to date) and my brothers and I stayed with our aunt in the Bay Area. Luckily, this short trip presented the perfect opportunity to explore San Francisco. During our 3 day stay, we got to spend time with our little cousins and explore San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park by ourselves, just the three of us! We went on Tuesday because several museums in the park have free admission on the first Tuesday of the month. Thanks to free admission, my brothers and I were able to visit the de Young Museum, Shakespeare Garden, the Conservatory of Flowers, California Academy of Sciences (the gift shop, to be explained), the Legion of Honor, and Land’s End Labyrinth. Here’s a recap of our free adventures!

de Young Museum: This was our first stop after parking the car. From previous visits to the California Academy of Sciences, I was always intrigued by the exterior design of the museum, but never had the chance to go inside, until now (and for FREE). The de Young Museum has something for everyone, from modern paintings and murals to artifacts from Africa and Europe. Another enjoyable part of our visit here was going up to the observation tower to take in the foggy, vast view of San Francisco. I highly recommend visiting this museum; the fact that we didn’t have to worry about paying for admission made the trip that much more fun and enjoyable!

Shakespeare Garden, Conservatory of Flowers, and the California Academy of Sciences: After our visit to the de Young Museum, we walked around Golden Gate Park and visited the places listed above. Shakespeare Garden is literally right next to the Academy of Sciences (on the  right side, towards the music concourse). This garden is small but so peaceful and beautiful; I can understand why some would choose to have a wedding ceremony here.

We then continued walking to the Conservatory of Flowers. If you walk across the concourse and turn right onto JFK Drive, the conservatory is just a ten minute walk away. The line for the Conservatory of Flowers was so long, we didn’t go inside (which is fine because we have been there before with our parents) so we admired the bright atmosphere.

After a solid couple of hours standing and walking around, we made our way back to the concourse to get lunch. There are various food trucks centrally located, but it’s expensive (from a college student’s perspective). We decided to venture out of Golden Gate Park to search for a cheaper place to eat. In the end, we found a little Vietnamese shop that sold banh mi sandwiches for $5 each. Let me tell you, those sandwiches were so delicious that it made the half hour walk totally worth it! After lunch, we made our way back to the park. Along the way, I decided that we should make a visit to the Legion of Honor and Land’s End Labyrinth since it was only a 10 minute drive away. Once we returned to the parking lot, I realized that I need to get change because the pay station didn’t take bills over $20. I was able to do this at the gift shop of the California Academy of Sciences.

Legion of Honor and Land’s End Labyrinth: We ended our SF adventure by making a stop at the Legion of Honor and Land’s End Labyrinth. You guessed it, admission to the Legion of Honor Museum was also FREE and we had to look around! This museum is quite aesthetically pleasing to look at in terms of design and architecture. I felt like I was in Europe as soon as we walked in the courtyard (and we weren’t even inside the museum yet!) The various exhibits themselves were also beautiful, with Rodin’s sculptures and a plethora of painting collections.

The final visit before we headed back to our aunt’s house was a short 15 minute walk down to Land’s End Labyrinth. From the Legion of Honor, we walked through the golf course and followed the path that lead down to the trails. There is a gate that separates the golf course from the trails, but you can climb over or under it. Keep going straight and turn right on the path. From there, you will see a staircase that leads down to the labyrinth. Follow the stairs, and turn left to continue down to the labyrinth (then make a right, the path is clearly marked). You can also go straight/right to climb a hill to get an overhead view of the labyrinth. For those that haven’t heard about the Land’s End Labyrinth, it is a labyrinth made of small stones and is off of the Land’s End Trail. It is also worth noting that the stairway leading down the labyrinth is quite sandy and steep (at some parts and especially going back up). From the labyrinth (or anywhere on the Coastal and Land’s End trails) you will get a spectacular view of the Golden Gate Bridge and the Pacific Ocean.

 

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So that concludes my guide to exploring San Francisco for free! I know there are many other places in San Francisco to visit, but there is so much to do in Golden Gate Park. The park itself is so big, my brothers and I only got to walk around a small part of it. The total cost of our day was about $45 for the three of us ($29 went to parking since we parked at the parking garage underneath the Music Concourse). If we had gone the following day we would have easily spent at least $100+ on admission tickets alone. In all, for those that want to explore San Francisco on a budget, I HIGHLY recommend going on the first Tuesday of the month since many museums don’t charge for admission. What also helped us was having a relative that lived 30 minutes away from the city and leaving early in the morning to beat the afternoon crowds. At the end of the day, we were all so tired but our adventures were priceless (well $49, but you get the idea!).

Summertime Fun at Lake Tahoe

So my summer has officially started! Now that my summer class and internship at an outpatient clinic has ended, I was able to relax and explore the wilderness of Lake Tahoe with my family and our family friends. We went camping for 2 nights at Tahoe Valley Campground on the south side of Lake Tahoe. Here is an itinerary of our adventures thi past weekend:

Friday:  We arrived at the campsite around noon and got settled in on our campsite. This included setting up our tent, grill, etc. By the time the two families that joined us had settled in, our campsite looked like a village! Once everything was set up, we ate dinner walked around the campsite and slept late into the night, ready for the next day’s adventures.

 

Saturday: So this day was jam-packed with activities! To start off, my mom and two younger brothers went to the American Century Celebrity Golf Championship Tournament at Edgewood Golf Course in Stateline, NV (this was about a 15-20 min drive from our campsite). They went with one of the families and watched Steph Curry, Justin Timberlake, and Alfonso Ribeiro play 18 holes of golf.

While they were celebrity watching, my dad and I hiked with the other family at D.L Bliss State Park. On the way there, we drove past the beautiful scenery of Emerald Bay. Once we arrived, we started the Rubicon Trailhead hike going south towards Emerald Bay. During the beginning of the hike, we were treated to fantastic views of Calawee Cove and the indigo and turquoise waters of Lake Tahoe. The Rubicon Trail is 4.6 miles, ending at Vikingsholm, but we only hiked about a quarter of it since we were anxious to swim. We made our way back and hiked down to the water. From here, I swam with my friend and her cousin to the cove. The water was freezing at first, but super refreshing as I acclimated to it. I really enjoyed swimming in Calawee Cove because it wasn’t really crowded and the water and sandy rocks added to the already relaxing atmosphere. I think the reason why it wasn’t so crowded was that parking was about 3/4 of a mile from the actual cove, so you have to walk on the downhill path leading to the cove and trail. After swimming, me, my friend and our dads ran back to the parking lot to our cars so the rest of the family didn’t have to walk back up. It was a struggle running back uphill and in higher altitude, but I made it!

At the end of the day, we all met back at the campground to eat dinner. We also decided to check out the night scene at Stateline so we went to Harrah’s Resort and Casino.While the men stayed in the casino and the children played in the arcade, I went with the moms to walk down the night strip. During our brief time there, we had the pleasure of seeing Alfonso Ribeiro do a lip sync performance of some popular songs.

Sunday: Our last day in Tahoe! We woke up, had breakfast, and took down our tents and chairs for a good chunk of the morning. In my experience, taking down a campsite is much quicker than setting up but in this trip it took us longer to fit everything back into our car. Trying to fit everything in the car was like playing Tetris!

After we packed up and checked out of the campground, we made our way to Round Hill Pines to swim in the lake again. This beach was much more crowded than Calawee Cove because of it’s close vicinity to the various hotels and resorts but the views were also amazing. The water was fantastic; I found that the further I walked away from the shore, the sand was softer. Round Hill Pines is the place to go to for people watching because you can observe the various boats that float by the dock.

Overall, camping at Lake Tahoe over the weekend was the perfect way to celebrate the end of my summer class. The next time I go back here, I would definitely do the full hike of the Rubicon Trail, stand up paddle board, and maybe even try backpacking!