Biking Across the Golden Gate Bridge!

Part 3 of my San Francisco: FUN posts!

The ultimate touristy thing to do in San Francisco is bike across the Golden Gate Bridge! Dangerous Dan and I decided to make a whole day out of it, although the actual bike ride across the bridge doesn’t take too long.

We wanted to check out the Presidio, a former military base and beautiful park in the northwest part of the city. We took the bus to the Presidio and headed to Sports Basement to rent our bikes (around $35 per person – the bikes came with a lock and a helmet!). The Presidio has lots to explore – such as LucasFilm studios, where a little Yoda fountain greeted us! (Just a note, we went inside and started taking pictures of the fun Star Wars statues but apparently that’s not allowed!)

The bike ride within the Presidio was a bit difficult for me on account of the cars and hills. Once we’d explored enough of the grounds, we headed towards the Golden Gate Bridge, taking a path along Crissy Field Beach. This path was nice and flat and wide, and there were great views of the bridge!

We had to head up a steep hill in order to get to the bridge, and this was where, amidst my screams of fear and frustration and confusion, Dangerous Dan taught me about the different gears of a bike! Once I switched to a lower gear, biking uphill became much more manageable. Our ride across the Golden Gate Bridge took around half an hour because we stopped to take pictures, biked very slowly to avoid hitting pedestrians, and we also walked parts of the bridge when it got too crowded.

We didn’t just cross the bridge for the sake of crossing it, though! We decided to bike all the way to the cute little seaside town of Sausalito. We originally wanted to follow this helpful guide and take a safer route to the town, but we weren’t able to find the path so we just took the main route. I was pretty nervous because I had never biked alongside cars before this point. (Suburbia allows me to bike on the sidewalk because everyone just drives and so there are zero pedestrians!) However, the roads are fairly wide, so we were able to have a care-free ride, even with cars zipping past us! The ride was pretty easy as well because it was mostly downhill.

That helpful guide we used also recommended a restaurant called Fish (such a cute name!). I really should’ve googled directions first, because we zoomed past the busy commercial area by the ferry terminal and biked and biked and biked all the way to the other end of the town! It took around 10-15 minutes after arriving in Sausalito to reach the restaurant, which is in a small parking lot-heavy complex by the marina.

The food at Fish was delicious and seafoody! We ordered poke with deep fried wonton chips, homemade rippled chips with a clam dip, and a tuna melt! Dangerous Dan went to wash his hands and I happily brought the food out to the outdoor picnic tables, when suddenly a flock of seagulls came and attacked me and stole some of my chips!!!! So I hurried back inside and Dangerous Dan and I enjoyed our meal far away from those aggressive creatures!

fish-restaurant-sausalito

The ride back through Sausalito felt much quicker. A wonderful service is available for those who don’t prefer biking uphill back to San Francisco. We left our bikes at Sausalito Bike Return, which helps visitors return their bikes for a small fee of $12 per bike. Then we took the ferry back to San Francisco and our tired legs were thankful for the break.

Well, that’s that for my San Francisco posts! It took me like 3 months to write all of them … what a wonderfully long-winded way to live vicariously through my own travels!

P.S. Here is my San Francisco at-a-glance post, if you’d like to relive the entire adventure once again!

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Sailing Around San Francisco!

Part 2 of my San Francisco: FUN posts!

Walking around town isn’t the only way to see the sights of San Francisco! There’s also lots to do by the water. Dangerous Dan and I went on a cruise tour and also visited two islands!

The Bridge 2 Bridge cruise tour was one of the options provided as part of our San Francisco SmartDestinations card. It took us around the bay and literally travelled from one bridge to the other. The Golden Gate Bridge is the iconic bridge of the Bay Area, but there’s lots to admire as well when it comes to the Bay Bridge! Our tour started off with Karl the Fog very much in attendance, but the sun came out to warm us up a little on such a chilly day. And although I dozed off a tiny bit, I’d still recommend some sort of cruise tour though – Dangerous Dan got plenty of beautiful shots of the city skyline while on the water!

San Francisco Bridge 2 Bridge Cruise

We also went on a day-long cruise tour of two islands in the Bay Area: the extremely famous Alcatraz, and the less well-known Angel Island. (We went with Alcatraz Cruises – the link to our specific tour is here. I would recommend going on the tour which visits Angel Island first, and then Alcatraz. There are more boats that leave from Alcatraz, so you can spend a little bit more time exploring that island if you finish your tour there!)

We started our day off on Angel Island, which is like the West Coast version of Ellis Island except instead of happily welcoming immigrants to the United States, it detained them. Upon arrival at the island, we embarked on a (very cold) tram tour, during which our guide explained to us fun facts about the island. Angel Island has played many roles, from military base to quarantine station to immigration centre.

Angel Island San Francisco

I would have liked a bit more detailed information about the history of the island, and I really wish I could’ve visited the immigration station! (I didn’t do my research well enough – it’s only open on Wednesdays to Sundays in the afternoon!) We did get a chance to meander around the immigration station, and I appreciated reading the names of Asian immigrants who unfortunately weren’t given the same opportunity as other immigrants to move to the United States.

 

After a quick lunch on the one cafe at Angel Island (I had soup and it really warmed me up because it was such a cold day!), we hopped back on our boat to travel to Alcatraz. Alcatraz is a must-see when visiting San Francisco, and for good reason! The first thing we did was go on the cellhouse audio tour, which was informative but also a bit scary. We walked through the jail, listening to the stories of former inmates and correctional officers. (I was amazed to hear an inmate say that he had never seen the officers’ quarters until he visited Alcatraz as a tourist. Who knows how many former inmates were among us on the tour?!?!)

Alcatraz

After the audio tour, we went on an additional walking tour. Our guide, Justin, told us about the military history of the island, as well as some really fun escape stories! (One prisoner did in fact make it to the mainland of San Francisco, only to be so tired out that he collapsed right on shore. Unfortunately, he’d swum all the way to the Presidio, a military base – the police simply picked him up while still unconscious and when he woke up, he was back in his cell!) We also learned about the very brief Native American occupation of Alcatraz in the 1960s, something I hadn’t heard of before. I love learning new things! It’s why I travel.

I hope you enjoyed this blog post! I have one more post left to write about San Francisco, and then I will have nothing else to write about.

P.S. Check out my blog post on the other guided tours that I went on during this trip!

Putting the Tour in Tourist

Part 1 of my SAN FRANCISCO: FUN posts!

Dangerous Dan and I were such eager beaver tourists that we embarked on not one, not two, but THREE guided tours during our time in San Francisco! We did other fun things too which I will also mention in this post.

*Just a quick note! We got a nice little discount on a lot of these attractions thanks to the SmartDestinations Go Card. We used the San Francisco Explorer Pass to gain access to four different attractions at a discounted price. The tickets were delivered to me via email, and there’s even an app you can download if you don’t want to print the tickets out! It was all very easy!

The first thing I do in order to get a feel for a city is go on the Hop On Hop Off Bus, which I affectionately like to refer to as the HOHO. Dangerous Dan and I used this beautiful big bus to get around and get a glimpse of some of the sights. We had a one-day pass so we didn’t want to dilly-dally, and we chose quick photo op spots to get off at, like The Painted Ladies at Alamo Square.

Big Bus San Francisco

It ended up being a good idea to get off the bus less frequently; we discovered it was difficult to get back on once you got off! So we stayed on the bus as we passed the government buildings, drove through Haight-Ashbury, and crossed the Golden Gate Bridge twice!

We did get off the bus to visit Crookedest Street. Nothing too special here, just a bunch of tourists and a winding road. We also visited Coit Tower, which gave us a nice view of the city! (One of my favourite parts of the trip was just looking up and seeing Coit Tower sticking out on the skyline. It’s like the CN Tower; you can see it from almost anywhere in the city! It’s comforting.)

Coit Tower and Crookedest Street-min

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Included in our Big Bus HOHO pass were free guided walking tours! We took advantage of the Chinatown one because we are Chinese. Our Chinatown tour was led by a man named Peter who knew so much about Chinese immigrant history in SF! He explained why Chinese people came to the city in the first place (not for the gold mining, but for the opportunities and economies that developed because of the gold mining!). We also learned that the 1906 earthquake is like the epitome of historical significance. (Yay for historical thinking concepts! I’m a history teacher; don’t judge me.) This earthquake was SF’s opportunity to rebrand itself as a less sketchy city, and it was also an opportunity for the Chinese to really stake a claim on their property in Chinatown. Buildings fell down because of the earthquake and then white people tried to take over Chinatown, but the people of Chinatown stood their ground and rebuilt their buildings to look obnoxiously Chinese to show that this was their turf! Man, I learned so much on this tour! I highly recommend!! To top it all off, the tour ended at the very famous Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory, which makes very interesting kinds of fortune cookies along with the classic type. We saw some giant ones (the size of your face!) and decided to be adventurous and buy some chocolate fortune cookies! (A little weird, but still fairly enjoyable!)

Chinatown San Francisco

Dangerous Dan loves baseball, so we went on a tour of AT&T Park. Our guide was a grumpy old man who shared with us the history of the San Francisco Giants and their lovely stadium. (It is quite a pretty stadium!) The only thing I really took away was that the food options here are way better than what’s at the Skydome/Rogers Centre in Toronto. If you are a sports fan, you should definitely check this out!

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The last guided tour which I’ll speak about was a little more unique: a haunted ghost tour! This was pretty interesting and allowed us to visit a part of San Francisco which we hadn’t seen very much of yet (the Tenderloin district – what a name!). The first stop on the tour was also our hotel, so that was mildly discomforting. If you’re into spooky stories with a splash of history, I’d recommend this tour! (We also had a couple of free nights left unplanned; we actually booked this tour when we were already in San Francisco! It was pretty spontaneous by my standards.)

We also decided to “get out of the city” a little bit – not really; this place is just at the very far west end of SF – by going on a nature walk at Lands End. We took the bus from our hotel all the way across town to some random hospital, then awkwardly walked through the hospital grounds until we arrived at the start of the exciting Coastal Trail! We got some foggy views of the Golden Gate Bridge, but we weren’t able to see the shipwrecks which had been advertised on this very useful website! (If you ever decide to visit Lands End, definitely visit this website first to get an idea of what to do and where to go!) We walked up and down stairs, saw a labyrinth, climbed a rock, and slipped on sand.

The Coastal Trail also lets out in a fancy neighbourhood so we ogled some of the swanky mansions as well. Tucked away among the mansions is China Beach, which is just a very calm beach, also with a nice view of the Golden Gate Bridge (weather permitting)!

The last thing I will write about in this already very long post is the California Academy of Sciences! We spent a good part of an afternoon here, exploring the exhibits, making faces at rainforest animals, and (unfortunately) falling asleep in an IMAX movie. (We were tired from our long hike at Lands End!) I will say that I am very impressed by the talent that the science centre was able to procure – the first movie we watched was narrated by Lea Salonga, and the second one, which was about outer space and meteors (aptly named “Incoming!”) was, naturally, narrated by George Takei. (We did not fall asleep at all during the second movie!)

Well, that’s that for this blog post! It took me like two weeks to write, and there’s still so much I have to tell you all! (There’s just so much you can do in one week in San Francisco!)

Eating By the Bay

San Francisco’s touristy waterfront is full of fun and food, and since Dangerous Dan and I were in the city for an entire week, we were able to hit up multiple spots right on the water!

Fisherman’s Wharf is where all the tourists go – there’s food, gift shops, (giant) seagulls, and it’s where most of the cruise tours depart from. There are a whole bunch of restaurants at the wharf, all lined up in a row. It was hard to decide which one to eat at because they all served pretty similar foods at similar prices. We had no particular thought process; we ended up just choosing a restaurant at random!

We ate the classic clam chowder in a sourdough bowl at No. 9 Fishermen’s Grotto. We enjoyed our meal out on the patio, watching tourists run away from the vicious seagulls trying to snatch a bite of bread. I enjoyed the soup, although Dangerous Dan thinks it maybe comes from a can (preposterous!). The only thing I wasn’t a fan of was how soggy and wet the bread became at the end of our soup. It was yucky to touch and kind of cold!

sourdough bread bowl clam chowder san francisco fisherman's wharf

On a separate day, we decided to have lunch at The Codmother Fish and Chips. The truth is, I only chose to ate at this place because of the name. I can’t resist a cheesy pun! We ate a classic fish and chips (and also shrimp!) at this food truck. There is a bit of seating, but the location is nestled between souvenir shops and doesn’t provide a nice view of Fisherman’s Wharf. If you’re not afraid of birds, I’d recommend taking the food out to the picnic tables that are closer to the water. Either way, The Codmother in the area and it’s pretty tasty, so it’s not a bad place to stop for a bite!

codmother fish and chips san francisco

Down the street from Fisherman’s Wharf is Pier 39, an outdoor shopping centre with unique shops and sea lions! This was a fun place to visit – it had a carnival/fun fair-type feel to it, which I enjoyed! (I had to fight off my churro cravings and that was very difficult!)

Dangerous Dan and I enjoyed a fancy-ish dinner at Fog Harbor Fish House, which is on the second floor of Pier 39. Crab cakes, mussel fries, and a delicious mixed grill with salmon, shrimp, and Pacific cod. The mussel fries were soaked in a delicious garlic aioli that I wanted to drink straight from the bowl! (I’m a monster!) Dangerous Dan insisted on getting dessert, and when we asked for the dessert menu, our waiter greeted us with a huge platter covered in all the desserts available! We decided on an apple crumble and it was so tasty!

Fog Harbor Fish House Pier 39 San Francisco

Finally, the Ferry Building is another short walk south from Pier 39. While exploring the area, we stumbled upon a little outdoor gallery which explained the history of the Embarcadero (which is what this section of the waterfront is known as). I learned that the Embarcadero used to be a highway that separated the Ferry Building from the rest of the city. Since no visitors were able to get to the building very easily, the Ferry Building fell into disarray and got divided up into boring little office spaces! A fortuitous earthquake caused the highway to crumble, and the Embarcadero was turned into a regular road, thus allowing San Francisco residents to enjoy the beautiful waterfront!

We enjoyed a fancy dinner at The Slanted Door, which serves delicious Vietnamese cuisine. Apparently the thing to get here is the beef, but it’s expensive and Dangerous Dan and I are poor newlyweds!

the slanted door san francisco

Instead, we had noodles with crab, amazing rolls with just a hint of mint, and some spicy corn! The food came surprisingly quickly, and we were able to finish our food in time to get ice cream from Humphry Slocombe next door in the Ferry Building, right before the store closed. We were the very last customers, and their Vietnamese Coffee flavour was totally worth speedwalking out of The Slanted Door and back into the Ferry Building!

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Do you have any favourite spots in San Francisco? I probably won’t go back for a while, but there’s no harm in prematurely creating a list for my next visit!

San Francisco: FOOD

The food in San Francisco is fantastic! While planning the trip, I knew there was a huge food scene in the city, and so I scoured Instagram for yummy (and beautiful) food recommendations. Here were some of my faves!

FARMHOUSE KITCHEN THAI CUISINE / 710 Florida Street, San Francisco / website

I found this place on Instagram! We landed in San Francisco in mid-afternoon, so after dropping our things off at the hotel, we took the bus down to Farmhouse Kitchen, which is in the Mission District neighbourhood of the city.

Despite being in a quiet residential area, the restaurant is super busy, and we had to wait a while for a seat. Lyft cars (which have essentially rendered all San Francisco taxis obsolete) were constantly pulling up to the front door to drop customers off for a meal, and the restaurant was packed the entire time we were there. We ended up taking a seat at the bar because of how full the restaurant was! The whole atmosphere of the restaurant is really fun. Servers are dressed up and made up, and I think the whole feel of the restaurant is supposed to be reflective of Thai culture.

The food was amazing; I think it was Dangerous Dan’s favourite meal of the trip! We shared two dishes: Hat Yai Fried Chicken and some noodle dish that I can’t remember the name of. (I really should start taking note of the names of the items that I order …) Both were really tasty, but that fried chicken was just out of this world! The curry, the roti, the exciting BLUE RICE! It all just came together so beautifully.

farmhouse kitchen thai cuisine hat yai fried chicken san francisco

CHUBBY NOODLE / 1310 Grant Avenue, San Francisco / website

I also found out about this place on Instagram. I saw a photo of those smooth, white baos and I knew I just had to come here! (My own pictures will not do the food justice, unfortunately.) We visited the North Beach location simply because we were already in the area, having just visited Coit Tower.

Dangerous Dan and I shared some Korean Pork Tacos and Steamed Pork Buns. The couple beside us ordered a side of kimchi and the smell was too much for us; we immediately ordered a BBQ Pork Fried Rice with a side of kimchi! I was already kind of full after those first two dishes, so it was tough to finish the food but it really did taste very good. I was a little bit sad that we didn’t get any noodles at a place that has the word “noodle” in the name, but such is life!

chubby-noodle-north-beach-sanfrancisco

MAMA’S / 1701 Stockton Street, San Francisco / website

My sister told me to come here! Apparently everybody else’s sister told them to come here also because there was a significant line when we arrived about an hour after the restaurant opened. (We knew the line would be long so we didn’t plan anything for the rest of the morning.) Mama’s is known for being a family-run, cozy brunch spot! We went on a cold and foggy (typical San Francisco) day. Servers came out with hot chocolate and coffee for people who were so cold, they paid for drinks before even entering the establishment! Dangerous Dan used this waiting time to catch Pokemon, and I read my book! We also took turns exploring Washington Square while the other person waited in line. I got a nice photo of some middle-aged Chinese ladies doing a dance!

Once inside the restaurant, there was another line to stand in – this time for ordering food! I used this time to admire the cooks working in the open kitchen. Several eggs were used in the making of the breakfasts.

I ordered one of the specials of the day, a French Toast Sampler. Dangerous Dan had a salmon omelette. We also shared a really tasty hot chocolate! It wasn’t too sweet, and that’s what made it better than so many other hot chocolates that I’ve had.

mama's brunch san francisco-min

PPQ DUNGENESS ISLAND / 2332 Clement Street, San Francisco / website

People always seem to talk about dungeness crab in San Francisco. We’d made half-hearted attempts at eating crab throughout the trip – some crabby noodles here, a crab cake there – but we decided to go all out at PPQ Dungeness Island. We had the peppercorn crab accompanied by garlic noodles, and I enjoyed cracking the crab legs and really putting effort into getting my food! We are descendants of hunters and gatherers, after all!

ppq dungeness peppercorn crab and garlic noodles

THE FIRST SWENSEN’S ICE CREAM STORE / 1999 Hyde Street, San Francisco / website

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Our original plan was to stop by Swensen’s and happily slurp our ice cream while walking down Lombard Street, the crookedest street in San Francisco and maybe the world! Despite how cold San Francisco can be, our ice cream melted at an alarmingly fast rate and we were forced to finish it on a random street before arriving at Crookedest Street. (Just for context, Crookedest Street is about a 5 minute walk from Swensen’s.) Regardless, the ice cream was delicious and it’s just cute to be in an old-fashioned ice cream shop!

MR HOLMES BAKEHOUSE / 1042 Larkin Street, San Francisco / website

Everyone talks about this place and how tasty and special its famous cruffins are! (That’s a croissant and a muffin put together!) All of the websites and blogs that I had read about this celebrated cruffin warned against long lines, and so Dangerous Dan and I woke up early to reserve a spot in line. But when we got there … the store was practically empty! We’d arrived about 40 minutes before the cruffins were meant to come out of the oven (9:00 AM), so we ordered a savoury pastrami croissant to satisfy our stomachs as we waited for the cruffins to finish baking. And then the next 40 minutes of my life were kind of embarrassing! We started the line for the cruffins, but no one really joined us until about 10 minutes before it was time. Basically, what I’m trying to say is if you visit Mr Holmes Bakehouse on a Thursday morning, you don’t need to go early in order to get a cruffin.

The cruffins only have one flavour each day, so if you don’t like the flavour of the day, then too bad for you! I was actually really nervous about this because I’m very picky when it comes to desserts. The flavour of our cruffin was chocolate cherry almond, and it was messy to eat but oh so delicious! The filling just oozed out of the croissant and it almost made me forget about my worthless 40 minute wait!

I have another San Francisco food post coming soon, but in the meantime, I hope you enjoyed drooling over my delicious foodie travel adventures! A lot of eating was done on this trip and it was all totally worth it.

Seven Days in San Francisco

golden gate bridge cloudy grey

Actually, it was more like eight days … but travel days don’t really count, right? (Also, alliterations are awesome!)

Dangerous Dan and I got married back in October of last year, but what with school (and vacations with our families), we didn’t go on our honeymoon until August! It was also the first time we’d ever gone on vacation completely alone, which was very exciting!

Everyone said that a week in San Francisco was really long, and even the border patrol agent at the airport interrogated us as to what we’d be doing in the foggy city. Our trip ended up being really relaxing (still a bit of a novel concept to me, since my trips growing up were jam-packed with sightseeing and educational experiences), and we were able to see some more unique sights and attractions because of the long length of our stay.

Of course, eating great food is a necessity when going on vacation. We ate all over the city, but we obviously hit up the touristy spots too – mostly Fisherman’s Wharf and the surrounding area!

sourdough bread bowl clam chowder san francisco fisherman's wharf

Speaking of touristy things, Dangerous Dan and I went on a bunch of guided tours, from Chinatown to AT&T Park.

san francisco chinatown lanterns

We also ventured out to the bay to take a look at the beautiful bridges and interesting islands! (I am going strong with this alliterating!)

Finally, we did the really touristy thing and biked across the Golden Gate Bridge to the neighbouring town on Sausalito!

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Not that this is a guide, but I did want to leave you with some tips for transportation. We bought the 7-Day Visitors’ Pass for MUNI (which takes care of all the buses, historic streetcars, and ridiculously expensive but super fun cable cars). It was really great to use public transit to get all over the city without a care in the world (i.e. without paying each ride). However, the different bus routes can sometimes share bus stops and things like that, so it’s important to wave the correct bus down just in case the driver thinks you’re waiting for other buses. Another thing to note is that the vehicles/drivers don’t like to consistently tell passengers which stops are coming up next, so you really have to follow along with a map. It would’ve been really difficult to navigate without Google Maps! (Our generation has it so easy!)

More detailed blog posts will be coming soon, if I can organize myself enough to write them within a reasonable time frame! Either way, they’re coming!

P.S. I also read about San Francisco while in San Francisco! Exciting, I know.

Reading My Travels: San Francisco

I’ve decided to do a fun thing where I read a book set in the destination that I am visiting during a holiday! (Wow, what a sentence that was!)

I recently went to San Francisco, and I brought along with me Sourdough by Robin Sloan. I’d read his first novel, Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore, and had really felt the city of San Francisco come alive in that book. I found out that he’d written a second book that was similar and so I went to the library the day before my flight and checked it out! (I know, I know – taking library books on vacation? I like to live on the edge.)

sourdough robin sloan san francisco reading my travels

What’s the book about?

Sourdough tells the story of a tired robot, Lois, who leads a monotonous life in San Francisco. (She’s not actually a robot! She works with robots. But her life at the beginning of the book is so boring that she might as well be a robot. She even eats slush!) However, things change when she is gifted a mysterious sourdough starter from an even more mysterious pair of brothers. Lois starts to bake loaves and loaves of delicious bread, and eventually finds herself on the fringes of a food revolution, where food and technology come together and the things we eat start to have a mind of their own!

What did I think of the book?

I enjoyed it! The story was fantastical and interesting, and the descriptions of food were poetic and romantic. Sloan is a pretty talented writer, in that he was able to make me feel feelings – fear, wonder, affection, etc. – for a LUMP OF BACTERIA. (Yuck!) The story was exciting as well, with its twists and turns. The main protagonist Lois is pretty excited about her bread, and her excitement makes it easy for the reader to follow along for the ride!

How important is the setting?

Some authors choose an arbitrary setting for their books, while others use the setting as an essential element to the story.

Brooklyn Nine Nine Sex and the City new york fifth character
In the wise words of Captain Ray Holt from Brooklyn Nine Nine, New York City is the essential fifth character in Sex and the City!

Sourdough needed to be set in San Francisco. Where else would the world of the technology/startup industry collide with the world of bread?! San Francisco has a love affair with sourdough bread – it’s the preferred medium for the city’s famous clam chowder bread bowls – so the important role of sourdough bread in the book really only made sense if the story was set in San Francisco!

Reading a book set in San Francisco while planning a trip to San Francisco actually had a tiny effect on my itinerary! There were some buildings and places that I wanted to visit after having read about them in the book, and I was constantly saying to Dangerous Dan, “This street was mentioned in the book! This is where that character did that thing!” It was probably very annoying for him. I probably wouldn’t have even noticed the prevalence of sourdough bread in the city without this novel. Overall, reading Sourdough while in San Francisco enriched my experience while there, and I’m so glad to have read it where I did!