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Carmel mission graves

California’s overlooked mission history

We often forget that California history goes further back than the “49-ers,” the gold prospectors who hurried to California once gold was discovered in 1848. The first European settlers in California were not “49-ers;” they were Spanish. California belonged to Spain from 1769 to 1821, and then to the Mexicans until the US got it back in 1848 after winning the Mexican-American…

a row of Victorian houses

Haight-Ashbury nostalgia

  Back in the 1990’s, I lived in San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury neighborhood, the birthplace of the hippie movement and the epicenter of the Summer of Love. When my daughter was born in 1992, I decided not to go back to work right away. Paying for childcare would have cost much of my take-home pay, so…

Awesome customer service!

“I’ll have a bagel with cream cheese and lox and a diet Coke.” “Awesome! I’ll get it for you right away.” This is a typical exchange with a server in a restaurant here in San Francisco. It’s also the same at a store. “I’d like to buy this shirt.” “Awesome! That’ll be 13 dollars and…

view of Ghirardelli factory

Ghirardelli’s chocolatiers

Ghirardelli Chocolate Factory, a tourist destination in San Francisco, is offering something new: a “chocolatier” program. The “factory” isn’t really a factory anymore. Ghirardelli’s chocolate production has moved to a more modern factory out of town and the historic buildings near Fisherman’s Wharf are now a complex of shops, with an emphasis on everything chocolate….

street art in San Francisco

Spotted in San Francisco

I moved to the Netherlands from San Francisco about 17 years ago. The last time I visited was only two years later. Now I’m back, and I’ve spent the past week rediscovering this fascinating city: wandering through different neighborhoods, reconnecting with old friends over delicious food from all over the world, and generally playing tourist…

San Francisco city skyline

Being a Tourist in San Francisco

Pier 39, Fisherman’s Wharf, the Ghirardelli Chocolate Factory, views of the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz: these are typical tourist destinations in San Francisco. Those of us who travel a lot like to see ourselves as something other than tourists. Some use the term “traveler,” or “visitor,” for example. We avoid like the plague any…

view over Lake Tahoe

A quick trip to the Sierra

Old Sacramento You’ve probably seen it in a hundred cowboy films: a main street lined with wooden buildings, fronted by a wooden sidewalk shaded by a roof. The storefronts say “Bank” or “General Merchandise” in formal, old-fashioned lettering. Cowboys stumble out through the swinging doors of the saloon. Women of ill repute beckon from a…

How Americans see the Dutch

(Nederlands vertaling beneden) When I posted about how the Dutch see the Americans, it wasn’t particularly complimentary, so I promised to write the opposite post: how the Americans see the Dutch. Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links. If you click on one of them and spend money, I will receive a small percentage of what…

10 Things the Dutch Think about Americans

“You’re not like most Americans.” A student of mine, a trainee English teacher, said this to me.  I laughed, and the conversation moved on to other topics, but I’ve been thinking about what he meant by this. What the Dutch think about Americans – and I dare say this applies to other Europeans too – is…