SFbridgeWhen I saw the question posted in the Ask a Traveling Mom about what to see and do with tweens and teens when traveling in San Francisco, my heart swelled with fondness and a bittersweet memory of the 13 hours I spent in San Francisco with my daughter, then age 15, in summer of 2008.

I had been planning our trip for months — I was taking my daughter to meet my best friend. Friendship is probably the most important thing in a teen’s life and I wanted my child to know the person who had been my “BFF” throughout high school. I wanted her to see how, as friends, we had managed to maintain our closeness even though we went to different colleges and ended up living on different coasts.

Following my friend’s advice, I made plans for us to tour Alcatrez, explore downtown, Fisherman’s Warf, see a dinner show, shop, and just take in this colorful and fascinating city that was so different from the small college town where we live. Our plans included doing some things on our own and spending time with my friend on days when she was not working.

We departed Greensboro, changed planes in Charlotte, and flew USAIR to SFO. We passed the time on the plane, reading, writing, watching movies, and sleeping. After the plane landed and we could turn on our cell phones, I learned from a message left in my voice mailbox that my mother, who had been ill, had passed away. My daughter an I sat in the next-to-the last row of the plane, shocked and saddened, unsure what to do next. We deplaned, got our luggage, and waited for my friend to pick us up as bits and pieces about what happened came to us via conversations with family back home. When my friend pulled up curbside, she got out of the car, took one look at me and asked “What’s wrong?” I had not shed a tear until that moment. My friend hugged me, tears came, and I was comforted and relieved by her embrace. Moments later, we were able to shift into strategy planning mode about what to do next. Eating and calling the airline topped the list.

I hated booking a return flight within the hour of our arrival. I did not want leave San Francisco and go home to face what was waiting. Reluctantly, I called USAIR and was relieved to discover how easy they were to work with! I appreciate everything the customer rep did to work with us on getting back home the next day. Our flight was set to depart at 7 a.m. That gave us the remainder of the afternoon and evening to squeeze in as much of the city as we could. It didn’t make sense to sit around and do nothing or wallow in sadness. We were with people we loved and they’re the ones who see you through tough times anyway. We hit the road and saw as much of San Francisco by car as we could. My friend drove and my daughter recorded the short journey in photographs. Thirteen hours from the time we landed and 320 images later, we were back on a plane headed home. So, I guess my answer to the question about what to do in San Francisco is to embrace the city and the people your with. It’s not always what you do, but who you do it with that matters most.