Three and a half years ago I visited a friend in San Francisco and accidentally fell head over heels for this diverse, kind of grimy but always lively city. I wondered if it could be my home someday, even though I knew that at that point a home wasn’t something I was particularly looking for.
Well, as those of you who read regularly know, a hell of a lot has changed in the past 3.5 years. I’ve had a total career and lifestyle overhaul, going from a single-girl cubicle dreamer to a self-employed travel writer (who, oh yeah, as of last month is also married). I was curious if I would still see San Francisco the same way on a return visit.
Actually, I see it completely differently now, and I may even like it better.
My visit 3 years ago mostly involved sightseeing, walking across the Golden Gate, exploring Muir Woods etc. This time we spent less time exploring the iconic sights. Although Mike had never been to San Francisco he was less interested in sightseeing and more interested in experiencing, so we spent just one afternoon sailing by the Golden Gate, eating sourdough bread bowls and walking along the embarcadero. All good fun stuff, but no way to discover if a city is livable.
What did we do instead? Saw friends, wandered around aimlessly, visited a couple of cool companies in the area . From the HI City Center we had a really central place to explore the city, so we spent a lot of time walking the steep hills, people watching and thinking.
I’ve joked to Mike a couple of times that my only real requirements for where we finally settle down are 1. proximity to an airport and 2. a variety of good ethnic food. San Francisco has both, actually it knocks the second one out of the park. We spent time exploring not just the famous Chinatown but Japantown and Little Saigon. Only this time, I was experiencing these neighborhoods as someone who had actually been to these countries. I wasn’t just gawking, I was running around, sighing at different smells and desperately trying to find legit Ramen like the kind I experienced in Tokyo.
Of course San Francisco has a lot to discover, even for seasoned travelers like us. One of our best meals (with Jodi from LegalNomads, the queen of ethnic food) was at a Pakistani restaurant I would have walked by in a heartbeat.
Then there were a few glimpses into a different, darker part of San Francisco. The copious amount of homeless people wandering around downtown, and the suggestion we’d better take a taxi late at night. For the very first time in my life, in broad daylight, I saw a man smoking crack on the sidewalk. These things unnerved me but didn’t deter me. After all, look at all the crazy going on in my hometown of DC.
My past article about San Francisco was titled “Flirting with San Francisco.” I’m not quite ready to take our relationship to the next level just yet, but I know it’s out there, a glimmering possibility for later. Luckily Mike seemed to agree. California, we aren’t done with you yet.
Disclosure: Both our harbor cruise and HI Hostel stay were comped, all breathlessly romantic opinions about San Francisco are my own.