June 14th- June 18th
When we got to San Francisco Tuesday afternoon it was a beautiful sunny day. We drove to Lynduh’s, one of my good friends from B.U. who convinced me to move to San Francisco after college and then conveniently went off to Paraguay in the Peace Corps. Her place is conveniently perched on the top of Nob Hill. She lives on the 7th floor with an amazing view of the Bay. The biggest worry was what to do with our heavily packed car on the streets of San Francisco. She arranged for them to valet park it in the apartment building. It was obvious that the parking attendant was amused by our “home on wheels” and our plastic “luggage.”
We took advantage of the beautiful weather and walked down to the Embarcadero where we had a happy hour glass of wine with Lynduh on an outdoor terrace overlooking the Bay. The terrace was packed with Financial District professionals enjoying an after work drink with colleagues and friends. Then we wandered up through China Town, one of the largest and most decorated in the U.S., where we stopped in at a traditional restaurant for dinner. A nice start to our SF visit.
Lynduh left early Tuesday morning for work and Fabien and I took it easy and started to arrange our schedule. We left late in the morning and walked down Hyde Street along the famous trolley tracks. We watched several of these charming vehicles make their way up the steep hill. Then we walked down the twisty Lombard Street towards Hyde Street Pier where we poked our heads in at the San Francisco Maritime Park’s Visitor Center and learned a little about the important maritime history of the region. Outside on the pier, we saw a beautiful old sailing ship. We walked towards the Golden Gate Bridge past Aquatic Park and through Fort Mason. We popped into the Marina Safeway to pick up some picnic makings and then had a picnic on the Marina green. We started our way back to the apartment, walking through the wealthy Marina district and its fancy little shopping areas and finally back to Nob Hill. We took it easy…I did some laundry and we waited for Lynduh to come home from work. That evening, we met my friend Brian at a bar in the Mission district. When I lived in San Francisco, I lived in the popular Mission, and frequented the restaurants and bars on Valencia Street. When we came out of the BART station at Mission and 16th, we were overwhelmed. There were bums hanging out everywhere, trash on the ground and some kind of impromptu heavy metal concert. The atmosphere had changed from Nob Hill, but it was soon easy to see that this was still a popular area to go out. On a Wednesday night, the bars and restaurants were packed. After some pre-dinner drinks, we went to a little Peruvian restaurant which served dishes family-style. We had some yummy ceviche and other Peruvian specialties while catching up with Brian who’s still living the San Fran fast life.
We set out on foot on Wednesday to explore some of San Francisco’s neighborhoods. We walked through the Tenderloin (with some classic architecture – the Civic Center, several museums and the Symphony Hall), then up Market Street to the Castro, then the Mission (with a visit to my old house), Mission Dolores and Noe Valley. We finally walked back up Fillmore. I’m still amazed out how compact and accessible the city is. Each neighborhood has its own charm. For dinner, we met up with my old friends, Roma and Jeff and Cesar and Mara, at a Mexican Sports Bar near the baseball stadium. This gave Fabien and I a chance to visit the other end of the waterfront which has grown tremendously from the time I lived there. We reminisced about old times, and caught up on our current plans. I think that Fabien and I both left feeling a little more confident about our future in the States.
Our time in San Francisco alternated between spending the days exploring the city and the evenings catching up with friends. Lynduh had Friday off, and proposed to drive us up to Land’s End for another view of the city. We hiked from Ocean Beach to Baker Beach. Along the way, we had some beautiful views of the Golden Gate Bridge. We also saw a tug boat rally with a cargo ship. A special captain jumped aboard to guide the ship under the bridge into the tricky bay. The wind started picking up and the fog rolling in- the first fog we had seen since our arrival in San Fran. We hiked back to the car and drove over the Golden Gate Bridget to Sausalito, a rich little boating town, where we had an ice cream in a sunny area protected from the wind. Next stop was the Marin Headlands for another view of the bridge. The wind was so strong we were almost knocked off our feet. It was getting chilly so we went home for a little break before dinner. This time we were meeting a French colleague and her family for dinner in the Haight. They had been sent to San Francisco as expats. We had a lovely dinner (French style) and got other Europeans perspectives on living in the States. Happily, most of their impressions were positive. They were also fascinated with our trip and had a million questions for us.
Admittedly, I was in no hurry to leave the city. It was fun to have a break from our usual travel routine, and I was enjoying the time spent with old friends. We met up with Becca, my old Prague roommate, for brunch on Saturday morning near her place in the Mission and then went to the North Beach festival, an outdoor food and music festival in San Fran’s Italian neighborhood. Saturday evening we hung out at home with Lyndhuh, eating pizza, drinking Napa sparkling wine and watching a DVD. It was just what we needed after a busy week.
With our spirits recharged after a fabulous stay, we were ready to get back on the road Sunday morning. Next destination: Sequoia National Park.