After travelling for six months, J-man and I learnt never to judge a city by the way it looks when you arrive. The international bus station in Berlin is a cement wasteland in the middle of a beautiful, mysterious city. The train into Venice gives you a tour of the romantic city’s bowels, rushing you past the sewerage plant and factories. The station in Sofia is a dark death chamber filled with groups of toothless men smoking cigars and eyeing you off like they’re figuring out how to bundle you into their boot and sell you into sex slavery … OK, so that’s a pretty accurate indication of what that city is like.
The only place where the first impression was the right one was San Francisco. The day we flew in, a couple of weeks before Christmas, it was cold and drizzling lightly. We drove into the city, pointing out the views of the bay, the tall terraces, the colourful rows of houses and the crazy-scary hills. The airline had lost our bags, but our sweet taxi driver was playing Buddhist chants and I felt calm, inspired and happy.
I will conveniently skip over the following four days where I totally, irrationally flipped out over loss of said bags, walked through the Tenderloin district alone and in tears and spent an inordinate amount of time crying and watching 16 and Pregnant. I’m pretty sure J-man spent an inordinate amount of time researching the best route to Reno for a quickie divorce.
The reason why I’m writing about San Francisco now, after all these months, is because I’ve actually been unsure whether I can do it justice. Here, I’ll try:
We were lucky enough to be housesitting for a lovely family and caring for their sweet black cat. We made a temporary home and spent our days cooking, exploring the neighbourhood, eating, drinking and taking excursions to different areas. One day we spent an afternoon in Golden Gate Park, before becoming immersed in Haight Street and all its amazing shops and characters. Another day we went to Chinatown, wandered down some side streets and ended up in a bustling restaurant where we were the only tourists. We went to countless movies, and dissected them over food at Mel’s Drive-in while putting old Christmas carols on the juke box. I had my first, real American pecan pie. We celebrated our first, and probably only, solo Christmas; combining our family traditions and sharing them only with each other. We hired a car for a day with the intention to end our drive by going over the Golden Gate Bridge. We got caught in terrible traffic and by the time we drove over it, I couldn’t have cared less because I was BUSTING to wee. Later we managed to convince a guy at a garage to let me use the toilet by telling him I was pregnant. We got coffees and walked along the shore at Crissy Field. We saw in the new year by having a decadent dinner and then watching the fireworks on top of a hill. I had grown a little pudgy on our trip, so every morning I climbed the hill and walked while taking in a 360-degree view of the city.
Up on that hill, I thought about just how crazy it was that we made it right through Europe and drove across America to San Francisco. Steve, just a small town gal, was here in San Fran-freakin’-cisco. I don’t mean to be all “ah-ha moment” lame, but I started to think about our future and what might be possible. When we came home, some of those hopes came true.
San Francisco is definitely my favourite place in the world.