san francisco // part two.

At the very end of my third day in San Francisco, after roaming the entire city on buses, cable cars and my own two feet, I sat on a bench just outside Ghirardelli Square. The Golden Gate Bridge was tiny, off to the left, and the water was sparkling with the sunset. I sat there and I thought, if I were to picture the most perfect city, this would be it.

The thought of leaving was heartbreaking. I have been to a lot of cities, a lot of truly amazing places. Never once have I teared up because I had to leave them. But I did. It sounds so stupid. I literally sat there and teared up thinking of leaving the water, and the vintage streetcars, the colorful walk up apartments, and the little street markets of Chinatown. I loved how everyone was outside. In the mornings walking to bus stops headed to work, sitting in parks in the afternoons, walking their dogs and going for runs. I even loved the wind and those godforsaken impossible hills. It is my kind of town I think.

I purposely booked a hotel one block away from Chinatown, and the very first thing I did after getting settled in was to wander up and down Grant Street, through all the little back alleys of Waverly Place. I steered clear of the souvenir shops and instead watched people shopping at the outside markets and stared up at those red paper lanterns lining the street. They reminded me a little of the streets of Hoi An, Vietnam, another town I love so much.

I headed across Grant Street to City Light's Bookstore where I spent an hour walking over creaky wooden floors and running my hands over three stories of books. I bought a ridiculously cute one for the nugget and then had a little self-timer photo shoot next door in Jack Kerouac Alley.

I walked even further up to Washington Square, a little patch of grass in the middle of the city, with parrots flying overhead and Golden Retrievers named Gibson to pet and love on. I rested for a while and then headed up to Coit Tower to get a 360 degree view of the entire city and my very first glimpse of the Golden Gate Bridge! I was excited and definitely caused some weird looks when I rounded the corner, saw it in the distance, and shrieked. I waited 28 years, it deserved a shriek.

DAY TWO! Today I crossed something off my "Amazing Things I Want To Do Before I'm Dead" list, took 54 pictures of the Golden Gate Bridge. Literally. 54. Some say maybe too many? I say, probably not enough. I had one of the best days of my entire life, pedaling a rented orange bike ten miles into the wind, stopping every ten minutes just to stare at one of the most impressive things I've ever seen. I listened to a song on repeat I added last minute to my playlist: David Gray's "Babylon", simply for the line I love most of all, "If you want it, come and get it, for crying out loud."

My legs were apparently not tired enough, so I returned my bike, and walked a few blocks and up one giant ivy-lined hill to the the bottom of Leavenworth and Lombard to see that crazy crooked street.

I stayed for a while, then walked back up to the cable car turnaround at the wharf, and took the Powell-Hyde Line back to my little room in North Beach.

DAY THREE! Alright. So today was the day I was going to test my usually horrible navigation skills. I was going to force myself to brave Muni alone, ride buses and streetcars outside of my little bubble to see the rest of the city. I found what I thought looked like a pretty dependable app (shout out to Mobile Muni!) and it hands down made my day so incredibly easy. I took a bus from North Beach to Downtown, and another to Alamo Square where I sat in the sun and took some pictures of those beautiful vintage painted ladies. I wondered if the people who live in them get tired of tourist taking pictures of their homes all day, and I thought if I was the one who lived there, I would definitely sit on my stoop and photobomb hundreds of people's travel photos. 

I took another bus down to that wonderfully tolerant Castro neighborhood and then another over to Upper Haight to stroll through Amoeba Music and the tiny forests of Golden Gate Park.

One last bus dropped me off near the Palace of Fine Arts (wow!) and after, I walked down to a little strip of beach near some rocks, sat in the sand, and watched the windsurfers in the bay.

It was about this time, as I sat eating butter pecan ice cream on a bench, feeling like a complete bad-ass for navigating an unknown city all by myself, where I became both happy and heartbroken. I pulled my phone out and texted everyone I knew that I was going to move here. And who knows, maybe I will. 

DAY FOUR. Last day. So sad. I woke up early, had a pretty little breakfast and a chai tea latte at a cute coffee shop called The Union on the corner of my street, and then there was nothing else to do but walk through Chinatown again. This time I found the Dragon Gate and went inside the tiny Ma-Tsu temple. I bought a small red pouch necklace with burned incense ashes inside, bringing safety to the person who wears it. As I walked out, I stopped at the buddha guarding the door, and asked him to please let me come back soon.

San Francisco. I love you. I love you. I love you.


Andrea Enos said...

When I went in April, it was my first time visiting SF. I was halfway moved there in my head by the end of my trip! So I definitely relate! The company I work for just built an office on Market St., so I was seriously contemplating moving there!! Glad you had such an awesome trip. I felt the same way about taking pictures of the Golden Gate bridge. :) What an amazing city.

abbie said...

I adore your self portraits! probably because I am so shy about taking selflies myself. do you do those with a timer or what?? PS San Fran is tied for first place in the contest called "where will I live next?"! it's between San Fran and Copenhagen!