Most people talk about San Francisco with a little glint of affection in their eyes. It’s a place that’s changed tremendously since Silicon Valley started to grow. It’s a town full of life and the barely living—somewhere between 7 and 10 thousand homeless people call San Francisco’s sidewalks and shelters home and there are thousands of tech startups in the city. Mark Zuckerberg lives a few miles away from Dolores Park, where you can reliably find and buy weed edibles. It’s also ground zero for the US’s HIV epidemic, at its height 30-40 years ago, and for today’s national debate on gentrification.
As for my experience in San Francisco? I had a blast. I walked, then I walked, and then I walked. I ate stuff. And then I walked some more.
I spent a lot of time with new friends, old friends, strangers-turned-friends and those famous sea lions. Nothing relaxed me more than listening to that smelly pile of mammals fight amongst each other for sunbathing space on the pier; I went to watch them twice. My diet while in the city consisted of tacos, ceviche, a Peruvian meat and rice dish, donuts, fancy American food, and a challah chocolate chip muffin. I got a little fat. It was worth it.
The downtown areas are very alive, and less in a hurry than your typical Manhattan street. There’s also the smell of the ocean, a ton of bikes and old-school trolleys, plenty of sunshine and a fair amount of artsy types walking around. When the sun is out, Dolores Park comes alive with every type of person you could imagine, and then some. The weekend brunch scene is intense; make reservations, or die (of hunger). While grabbing coffee in the Tenderloin, I watched a mentally ill woman rip the gas cap off someone’s truck in the middle of the day. While grabbing a drink near the Marina, I counted people in athleisure wear and a full face of makeup or done up hair. Eventually I lost count. I’m now very familiar with the entire line of Lululemon.
I also took some time to see downtown Oakland, the flowery, fantastical suburban areas farther out of Oakland (it’s like a secret garden on every street), the college area of Berkeley, and Pacifica Beach, a surfing haven and beautiful stretch of shore south of the city. I walked to the top of the twin peaks, two hills/overlooks south of Golden Gate Park, and saw the top of the Golden Gate Bridge peaking out of the ever-present fog. I took a boat across the water to Larkspur, where I ate one of the best pulled pork sandwiches of my life. I’ve eaten a lot of pulled pork sandwiches in my life. I plan to eat many more. All in all, I did my best to cover some ground. I think I did well, considering all things.
But I definitely see reason to come back. And not just to see those sea lions one more time, although that would certainly be on my next agenda. There are still museums to go to, more neighborhoods to explore, food galore to eat, and all the California sunshine to soak up. Earthquakes? Whatever. The highest rent in the nation? Possibly worth it.
Well, maybe not. But the idea of another visit or three receives a a big, fat, enthusiastic yes from me.