“‘San Fran?’ Let me guess, you’re gonna say ‘Frisco’ next?!”

Hello all!

I know I said I would talk about Canada, so I’ll mention two moments. I had a great time waking up early to watch our hockey teams take home gold last month, especially because of the naysayers around me. I was also thrilled to win tickets to a Leafs-Rangers IMG_1048game at Madison Square Garden. The overtime victory had everything: fights, pulled goalies, even the rare two shorthanded goals scored in the SAME penalty (sadly, against the Leafs). Before then I was not too happy about missing RRROLL Up, but as luck would have it there was a Tim Hortons in MSG! Had some Timbits and hot chocolate with the other Canadians who had also won tickets – courtesy of the Urban New York ticket lottery.

Now about my spring break

I was fortunate to come to Columbia on a Killam Fellowship, a great program that works in connection with Fulbright. Along with trips to Ottawa and Washington (the latter taking place next month), Killam also offers a grant called the ‘Cultural Awareness Program,’ which fellows can use to subsidize their travel within their exchange country. Because New York epitomizes immigration to the East, I wanted to go to a key immigration hub on the West Coast: San Francisco. SF is one of the most diverse and famous areas in the US, with a Californian feel and incredible list of attractions; it is ranked among the top cities in the world to visit by Trip Advisor. Hearing that I had been awarded a grant, I literally ran home and booked my hotel, flight and Alcatraz tour that same hour. Here are a few of the amazing moments I spent during my three days there.

The first real view of the city I got after exiting the subway (called the BART, for Bay Area Rapid Transit) was the city center. With gorgeous colonial buildings all around, I marvelled IMG_1260at city hall in the middle. The city hall here and in New York really contrast the more modern Toronto City Hall, most recently featured as the backdrop to the latest Ford drunken stupor video.

I was supposed to check in to my hotel, the Aida Plaza, but postponed to check out a couple of museums. One that blew me away was the generically-named ‘International Art Museum of America.’ The exhibit was small, but featured works from an artist I had never heard of before: H.H. Dorje Chang Buddha III. Unusual name I know, but if you want to see a really cool blend of ancient and contemporary techniques, I recommend checking him out, and looking a bit of his unconventional background! I walked around for the rest of the day.

IMG_1304 Seriously, this museum was one of the best finds of the day

The next day I planned to do a bike tour around the city, stopping at several famous landmarks: Golden Gate Park, The Golden Gate Bridge, Fisherman’s Warf, Sausalito, Alamo Square and Pier 39. I had a huge breakfast at ‘Brenda’s Soul Food,’ which served Southern food in colossal proportions. I also found out that I kinda like grits. I finished off the day by going to Twin Peaks and enjoying the stunning sunset over the city.

starting the day right

starting the day right

cherry blossoms in the Japanese Garden (Golden Gate Park)

cherry blossoms in the Japanese Garden (Golden Gate Park)

IMG_1616IMG_1598golden gate

view from Twin Peaks

view from Twin Peaks

On my last day, I planned a city bus tour in combination with a tour of Alcatraz. My friendIMG_1697 Tony flew in from NY and we did the tour together. An incredible, spooky place, this fort-turned-prison-turned-tourism goldmine presented some real food for thought about the prison system – which remains an issue in the States today – and about the nature of justice more broadly. Don’t worry, I won’t bore you with that as I’m already running long. Finished off the day by having rich clam chowder in a sourdough bread bowl, and a Ghirardelli hot fudge sundae. We went to a couple of bars on Polk Street before heading back to the hotel.

I had an unbelievable time in SF. The hotel was perfect, the sites were picturesque and the weather couldn’t have been better. And maybe I became a little more culturally aware in the process? Thank you again Killam for helping me with the cost of this truly memorable trip.

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Can’t believe the semester is more than halfway done, with so much left to do! Open offer: if you’re in the city give me a shout and we can talk/hang out somewhere fun. If not, I’ll be in touch in a couple of weeks.

Happy first day of spring!


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