Falling in Love: San Francisco Edition

My very San Francisco day in a nutshell

My very San Francisco day in a nutshell

Oh me, oh my, hot damn. Guys, it’s been 2 months since I’ve updated anything on this blog. Sad face. I could sit here and make excuses (but I’m busy, when I get home I’m tired, writing means thinking, I didn’t wannnnnnnna), but really I don’t have a good one. The honest truth? I just didn’t feel like it. I’ve been trying to get my footing in a new city, getting adjusted to a new job, getting used to how shockingly cold my apartment is.

But it’s a new year and I’m determined to make as many resolutions as possible ’cause then at least one of them’s gotta stick, right? And among my many resolutions is a fixed determination not to abandon the blog. I like the act of making myself write, and I like being able to update people on what all I’m up to, especially now that I’m living across the country from almost all of my best friends.

Which brings me to the topic at hand–this strange city I’m living in on this strange coast. I’m the first to admit that it’s taken me a while to adjust to San Francisco, and that I’m a little hesitant to embrace it. I’ve already given myself over body and soul to New England and her bold seasons, to the vibrant whir of London life, to the buzz and hum of New York streets. Do I really have it in my to give myself fully to a new city, and one with such terrible public transit at that?

If I’m being honest, I don’t want to have to bike everywhere, to dodge this terrible city traffic. I don’t want to have a jacket with me at all times, even in the summer. I certainly don’t want to have to tune in at 4pm to catch a Celtics game, and to stay late at the office so I don’t miss the very end. And because of those things I haven’t embraced the city as fully as I could. I love the parks and the food and the attitude, but guess what? I loved those on the East Coast too! And I think at times theĀ  join-our-quirky-and-unique-city-but-don’t-you-dare-dislike-any-of-it-and-you-better-be-quirky-and-unique attitude gets tiresome.

But like I said, new year! Today I set out to explore more of the area around me in an attempt to embrace this odd city as my own. I’m living in Haight-Ashbury right now and I wanted to get beyond the pipe shops and vintage stores of Haight St to see what else is around me. I set out for Buena Vista Park on what can only be described as the most beautiful and mild January day I’ve ever had the pleasure of enjoying. Buena Vista doesn’t seem to have the same name cred as Golden Gate or Dolores parks, but it does boast a beautiful view for those willing to walk some stairs and hills.

After about five minutes in the park I claimed it as my own oasis. Fresh tree smell. Dogs everywhere. A place to sunbathe while reading a book (in Januray!). I was in heaven. And as I sat on top of the hill feeling the grass on my neck and the sun on my arms I think I finally got it: this is why people love San Francisco. Or at least why I will love San Francisco.

I spent a good hour and a half in the park, moving from there to Alamo Square where I once again sat myself down and read in the warmth of the January sun. A quick stroll over to Hayes Valley, and then I made my way back to my neighborhood, basking in the glow of a great day. It turns out all it took was some nice weather and a few trees to sell me on San Francisco.

I don’t know how other people have come to love the cities they’re in, particularly for those of you who didn’t always call that city “home.” I’d be interested in knowing if other East Coast transplants have had the same reservations that I have. And I still wonder if the constant refrains of “You’ll never want to leave San Francisco” will ever start to feel true. But at least for now I can honestly say that I’m starting to fall for this city on the bay.*

*Full disclosure: even writing “the bay” made me think of Narragansett bay. Apparently you can take the girl out of Rhode Island but you can’t take the quahog out of the girl..

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Bay Area Tourist Pt. II: Exploring Berkeley

When my museum plans were derailed yesterday, I decided I was still going to find something fun to do with my day. I did a little poking around online, put together a list of a few places in Berkeley I could check out and headed to the East Bay.

Berkeley was great (more on that to come), but what stuck out to me most about the day was how strange it can be to explore a city by yourself. I had all of Berkeley as my playground and to be honest it was a little bit overwhelming. Should I go shopping? Should I go to parks? Should I wander around the UC Berkeley campus and pretend to be a student doing surveys for a class? All very tempting options, and no one with me to help me decide.

I know there are lots of people who like to travel by themselves. Just do a quick Google search you’ll find endless blogs recounting fantastic adventures of those who are alone but not lonely, tips on solo travel and what to bring (a door stop) and ways to meet up with other people traveling alone. One of my favorite bloggers even said she and her husband agree to always spend a day alone when traveling. It’s not something I’ve given a lot of thought to, but yesterday got me thinking about whether I’d actually enjoy traveling alone. (Note: I’m not delusional to think the 20 minute drive to Berkeley constitutes “traveling” alone. Exploring? Yes. But certainly not traveling.)

I found that the parts of my dad that I enjoyed the most were when I was doing something: walking through the Berkeley campus, strolling through Cesar Chavez Park at sunset, reading in a Starbucks.* Eating, shopping, trying to make decisions–all of that was less fun by myself. In general I’d say I enjoyed my day, and I loved getting a feel for the city, but there were times I wished I had someone to share it with. Particularly when I was getting glared at by the waiter in the Indian restaurant I ate at. Apparently they don’t get too many solo diners.

My best tips for exploring a new city alone?

  • Take advantage of being alone to do what you really want to do. If you’re a museum person like me you might jump at the opportunity to wander through a museum without being hurried along by that friend who’s really only there to say that she went. If you’re a runner go for a run through the city you’re in to get to know it (being extra careful for sketchy people who abduct runners..). Just take advantage of being unhindered by anyone else to do what seems most fun to you instead of what you “should” do.
  • Get lost. This really works better if you have a smart phone or a map, because otherwise getting un-lost can be hard. But sometimes just picking a direction and walking for a while can be a good way to stumble across new places, shops, etc. You’ll also get a better feel for how the city is laid out when you un-lose yourself.
  • Forget plans. You aren’t accountable to anyone else, so if you don’t feel like planning your day out then don’t. A loose plan is good, but since you’re totally alone you can go where the day takes you.
  • …but also plan a little. Like I said, I looked up a few things to do in Berkeley just to have a good idea of a starting point.
    You don’t want to have to rely on strangers to tell you what’s worth seeing in the city.
  • People watch to your heart’s content! I took advantage of my brief Starbucks break to people watch and I think it’s such a good way to get to know what the vibe of a place is. And let me tell you, Berkeley did not want for good people watching subjects. There were some definite characters.
  • Ask shop owners/workers for suggestions of places to eat. I asked a woman in one of the stores I was in where a good place to eat was and she directed me to the aforementioned Indian food. It tends to be easier than asking someone on the street, since the person on the street inevitably gets frazzled or caught off guard and sends you somewhere really weird. Or abducts you. Jokes I don’t really think I’m going to get abducted in Berkeley.
  • Don’t be afraid to look stupid. This is really just general life advice, but sometimes you’re gonna look stupid when you’re somewhere new and have no idea what you should do with your day. I walked back and forth down the same street about 5 times because I forgot something, and then decided I wanted to see that area, and then changed my mind. The whole time I was thinking “If anyone were watching me right now I’d look really dumb.” Except no one was watching me. Because who in Berkeley cares about the movement of a plain looking twenty-something?

As for my actual day in Berkeley? A pictorial overview. There are no pictures of most of my wandering because I didn’t want to be the weirdo taking pictures.

4th Street Shops

Because I can’t just not go in a book store when it’s there. That would be rude.

Okay I know it’s just trees but look how many trees are on the UC Berkeley campus!!

And I didn’t even spill it on my white pants

The bay from Cesar Chavez Park

There was this great older couple in matching wide-brimmed hats with matching puppies and they were too cute. Hence the awkward picture of two people walking.

OmG awk selfie! Just to prove I was really there and didn’t jack these pics from the interwebs

And the beautiful flowers I came home to from Patrick

*You can yell at me all you want for going to a Starbucks instead of a local coffee shop but I really had to pee and then thought “Eh, why not have some coffee and read.” Could happen to anyone.