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The city of hills, thrills, and intermittent sunshine. A week of my hair being constantly windswept. Honestly, if you have long hair, prepare to be windswept in every single one of your photos in San Francisco.

Even indoors.

We arrived in the afternoon, woozy from jetlag, but with the thrill of new adventures simmering in our bloodstream.

My friend Kate and I, after the 13 hour direct flight from London Heathrow to San Francisco International Airport (most of which we spent crying with laughter and trying to pause-unpause our in-flight movies so we could watch them at the exact same time), were wired. Tired but wired.

We stayed outside the city on our first night, a few hours drive away in Crockett. We were itching to get into urban civilisation by the second morning.

One tip I’ll give you right off is this: Stay with friends and family wherever possible. They know the city better than you do, all its sweet spots and hidden gems, and they’ll show you the real city – not the tourist city.

Driving into downtown San Francisco for the first time was magical. I’d been here before when I was a child, but this was my first time back as an adult. The vibe of San Francisco is electric. I was excited to hit the pavements, to hear American accents (no, seriously, I’m not kidding) in the flesh, to wander up and down those glorious hills, to see my cousins, my family. I wasn’t disappointed.

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San Francisco is a beautiful city. It’s American, no doubt, but there’s a kind of European flavour about it, some intimate closeness in its layout and architecture, that makes it familiar to me. Homely. I could happily live there.

On our first morning we overdosed on apple crisp cereal and almond milk with blueberries, staring out at the idyllic San Pablo bay from Sandra’s kitchen in Crockett. Sandra, the lovely bubbly Irishwoman that she is, is Kate’s aunt.

She spoiled us with the craziest spreads of dragon sushi, pulled pork burritos and taco salads. We went to stay with my cousins Jackie and Kevin in downtown SF too. We had carne asadas and fresh pho for dinner. SF is foodie paradise.

Our first stop? The Golden Gate Bridge, of course.

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Went downtown, explored the cringey Boardwalk – Fisherman’s wharf, Union Square, Lombard Street, Ghirardelli Square, The Painted Ladies, Baker beach

The ultimate hangover brunch cure – Kitchen Story’s “millionaire’s bacon”. Nuff said.

Kitchen Story. The Bay. San Francisco. Brunch.

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· Had iced tea lemonade vodka (yes)

A particularly American concoction.

A particularly American concoction.

We went to the Golden Gate Bridge to watch the waves lap at the shore and take in the glory of the construction in the misty fog. We people-watched (see: laughed at people driving past on Segways) and FaceTimed my uncle (who ironically is a city bridge engineer). Then we meandered down to Baker’s Beach, where we sat and meditated in companionable silence for a while.

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Kevin turning that smize on the camera.

Melissa illumelation. San Francisco. Wearing black hat and leather jacket.

When we stayed with my cousins we went out and had an incredible night, every night. They play the best music out there. Kate’s camera got lost twice in the night – and the second time, it was forever. Our precious nighttime photos were gone, but our memories remain. Blurry nights in R&B clubs and accidental J-walking. Family. Friends. Family. Friends.

The week blurred by, and then it was time to head to Los Angeles.

Mel Legarda

Melissa Legarda is the founder of illumelation. She has worked as a travel blogger, creator and writer since 2015, and has collaborated with well-known brands worldwide. She has helped over 1,100+ students improve their travel photography skills since launching her creative courses. Her mission is to encourage and empower others to travel and create more. Find her on Instagram.

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