Last week I went back to the U.S. for the first time in over a year. My friends and I met from all corners of the world in California to celebrate the union of two amazing people I’m lucky to have in my life.
The most remarkable thing about seeing old friends is how easy it is. No matter how much time has passed, how far you live apart, whatever persona you’ve created in the new social context, there is almost always a seamless transition back to exactly how things were before you parted. These are the friends you have that are like family. And even though I never lived in San Francisco, the company I returned to made it feel like home.
We spent a day driving around, eating and laughing and running random errands at our own pace. We had In-n-Out Burgers, Animal Style, which if you haven’t tried, I highly recommend it. After, we went to World Market to pick up remaining pieces for the wedding. My eyes were overwhelmed by things I hadn’t seen in such a long time. I stocked up on some simple luxuries:
The next day we drove to Santa Cruz for the bachelorette party. It was my first time to the city and it did not disappoint. Ever since I saw the 1980’s vampire classic, Lost Boys, I imagined Santa Cruz as a desert beach town filled with roughed up adolescents wandering the carnival-illuminated boardwalk. It turned out to be sleepier than I thought, the main bar and restaurant area dominated by a hip university presence. We ate tacos, got mani-pedis and shopped along the main strip to find pieces to complete our 20’s themed costumes.
After a very restful sleep at the Bay Front Inn, I woke my friend up early and we borrowed bikes from the front desk and set out to view the coast. We passed the pier where an important vampire battle scene from Lost Boys took place. Further along the beach we saw the fins of several breaching dolphins.
We loaded the cars and got brunch at a phenomenal Brazilian restaurant. Brunch. What a beautiful concept. After living in Japan where the breakfast culture consists of fish over rice and the occasional pancake, I was ready to indulge in a hearty, late-morning meal. I got poached eggs over mushrooms and spinach with a black bean sauce drizzled on top. My friends got their famous and beautiful Acai berry bowl which had bananas, strawberries and granola over an Acai yogurt mix. It was just as tasty as it was beautiful.
After filling our bellies, we separated into cars and took route 1 up the coast to watch the ocean as we made our way back toward the city. I couldn’t believe the view of the coastline. The road winds around the natural curve of the cliffs, which drop suddenly several meters down to rough crashing waters. On the West Coast, a light fog hangs on the horizon of the sea, making the colors really subdued but warm. No wonder Californians love nature.
We turned down a flat road into a old, sleepy mining town, Pescadero. Apparently, the general store had an artichoke bread that brought flocks of foodies from the city. The town really lived up to it’s Americana of the West atmosphere, complete with hand-painted wooden signs and a tiny farmers stand that sold big pumpkins, mini avocados and bushels of brussel sprouts. We bought pumpkins and a big loaf of sourdough artichoke bread to try in the car. The inside was still warm when we dug into it.
That evening there was a party hosted for friends of the bride and groom. We had delicious fajitas and wine by the campfire. I sat on a blanket in a full-bellied stupor among people I hadn’t seen together in years. I was exhausted but I didn’t let myself fall asleep. In that old house in a forest of Oakland, it was such a rare and perfect moment to be all together. I wanted to savor every moment for as long as possible.