"There is no logic to San Francisco generally, a city built with putty and pipe cleaners, rubber cement and colored construction paper. Its the work of fairies, elves, happy children with new crayons." — Dave Eggers
"It is a rich, lusty city, rippling with people, with movement, with girls in summer dresses, with flowers, with color; one of the great and wonderful cities of the world…" -James Marlow
Because our Airbnb was located in Inverness, CA, we were able to make the short drive into the city for the day. I'm so glad we put in the effort to go back. I always feel like I never see enough of San Francisco. There's something about this city. I've made attempts but I'm unable to put a neat label on the box of emotions it brings to my heart's doorstep.
San Francisco is strange and thrilling. The food, the larger than life people, the architecture--every corner pulses with life and light. I was glued to the car window as we drove around, gaping and squeaking about everything, "look at how that tree is growing on the corner!" and the "did you see light on that staircase?" and "look, at the doorway, can you even believe how perfect it is?!" And though I know it's not unique to just San Francisco, I've never known a city to have the broken and beauty coexist and contrast so strongly in one place. I've been to many different places in the US and they all have their own atmospheres.
New York was shiny, fast and magical.
San Antonio was slow, southern and drenched in amber tones.
Savannah was warm nights, haunted by an era that echoes of the regal.
Chicago was neighborly and full of a unidentifiable, beautiful ache that still makes me homesick for it to this day.
Washington, DC was maturity and white walls and laying claim to "this is where our country has been and grows from".
Seattle was weird and fun, as if the city makes it own color to combat all the grey surrounding it.
Orlando was hot streets, palm trees with an unapologetic zest for life.
San Francisco is both very old and very young. Playful, full of stubborn light and rich in layered history.
I've learned in my short life that stories can be found wherever your feet take you, you just have to be willing to seek them out. But somehow it's easier to feel the stories here; as if the city seems to have a thinner veil on it's narratives than most places I've been to in my travels.
Just for fun, click the arrow to take a quick peek at our boy in the same spot back in 2016. Oh, how much changes in two years.
We made a quick stop for mind-numbingly good pastries from Tartine. I have no idea how they got that many layers in Jonathan's pain au chocolat and my almond croissant. It was insane. We also had to pause for a street side toddler meltdown. It's just really frustrating to have to hold mom and dad's hand on busy streets when you're three, ya know?
We somehow ended up at the Japanese Tea Garden and it turned out to be a shaded, muffled respite from the bustle of the city. Something I really love about big cities like this is how people put so much time, effort, money and thought into bringing nature and beauty into these urban habitats.
Something Jonathan and discussed (and laughed about) quite a lot on this trip was the idea of how "uncool" our generation feels it is to visit the touristy, overally iconic places.
There seems to be an eye-rolling, "well, everybody goes there", "it's been done" feeling when you mention you want to see certain places.
But Jonathan and I are of the mindset that says maybe those places are so crowded/full of tourists/frequently photographed because they really are that amazing and everyone wants to get in on it.
Exhibit A: The Painted Ladies.
We loved our stop here. We arrived in the morning hours so it wasn't crowded at all. Plus there was a beautiful, hilltop playground just above the Ladies with a gorgeous view of the city. The playground was Behr's favorite thing (especially that giant sand pit).
Yes, this location is kind of cheesy and overdone. We didn't care. We really want to fight the arrogance that can creep in when you have the privilege of traveling like this. We're simply excited that we had this opportunity and truly believe in the mindset that says, "who are we to decry one location over another?". There's a reason places like this (and many other we visited on this trip) are so popular. Don't let your pride get in the way of your finding out why for yourself.
Things I want to remember:
- How Behr exclaimed, "There it is!" whenever the Golden Gate Bridge came into view. We had been telling him about it for weeks and it was pure delight to watch him connect the dots between just pictures and reality.
- How Scout saw the whole city riding right there on my chest.
- Behr making "friends" with any kids that happened to be present where we were, even if he was too scared to actually talk to them, ha!
- The young woman sitting on the bench at the playground smiling and laughing at the texts she was getting on her phone. She was lighting up that corner of the world and didn't even realize it.
- The tiny daisy Behr handed me right as we were walking into the Japanese Tea Gardens.
I could write pages about that Californian, coastal light. Warm. Alive. Gold. Not shiny, but glowing. I drank up every particle of it. San Francisco has that light if you look for it. It's tucked into every alley, stoop and door frame. I'll carry it quietly, always. A flickering memory for me to keep.
One day, I know we'll be back.
Up next, the coast of Point Reyes, Cypress Trees and the last of our adventures at this location before trekking upwards to the Redwoods and mountains of endless pines.
Part four coming soon...
- This kind of feels obvious to say but: wear your babies. If you have little ones that are small enough to be put in carriers. Do it. If you're sight seeing in a city where you'll be hopping in and out of the car or making multiple stops, baby wearing is my favorite approach. Strollers are great but I love how wearing Scout enabled her to experience everything at our level right next to my heart.
- Do your research. Cities like San Francisco are massive and tricky to navigate. If there are any local restaurants/coffee shops/markets make sure they'll be open on the day you're there. Local businesses sometimes run on odd hours.
- Keep your expectations low and simple. I feel like this is the rule when doing any activity with children as young as ours are, but it's true. Pick one or two 'must-sees' and call it quits before the meltdowns occur. Our San Francisco list was humorously simple. I told Jonathan that I just wanted to see the Golden Gate Bridge, eat good pastries, and see the Painted Ladies. Anything beyond that was a bonus for us. Thus, we left happy and content without feeling like we'd missed out on anything or wasted the day.