Sometimes, you go to a place and it speaks to you, body and soul. That’s what happened to me when I went to San Francisco.
I’ve been wanting to visit the city for as long as I can remember. I kept putting off the trip for a bunch of different reasons, all of them bad. But last week, I finally got on the plane.
On the second flight from Seattle to San Francisco, I sat next to an older couple. The woman (who looked a little like Jessica Walter) kept looking over at me and smiling, and at one point, she looked out past me through the window and told me that it was Oregon. Good to know.We ended up talking at the end of the flight, and I told her that it was my first time visiting San Francisco. “You’re going to love it,” she said. “That’s where I met him,” she said, pointing to her husband. “It’s where I made a life for myself.”
I know it sounds like an exaggeration to say that I felt at home the minute I stepped off the plane, but it’s true. I felt the same way I did when I visited France for the first time. My instincts told me I would like it there.
And oh, did I. It all started when I went to the Mission and visited La Tacqueria. I ordered a chicken burrito with avocado and took a bite. I almost blacked out. It was that good. Using food as my landmarks, I walked from La Tacqueria to Bi-Rite Creamery, an ice cream place that my friend Carly recommended. I was still full from the burrito, though, so I sat in Dolores Park for a while people watching. Then, when I could walk again, I went and got a honey lavender and mint chocolate chip cone. I walked with it back to the park and ate it on a hill in front of palm trees.
Then I wandered around the city for a few hours. I think the best way to get to know a place is walking it, so that’s what I decided to do. I saw Bernal Hill from a distance and I walked until I got there. The view from the top took my breath away. “Lyz,” I texted my friend who lives in Santa Barbara. “I can’t believe this. People get off work and walk around here.” “California is real my amiga,” she answered.
The next day, I woke up and decided to go to Tartine. I have been dreaming about this bakery for years, and I tell everyone who goes to San Francisco to enjoy it for me. Now, I could finally experience it for myself.
I ordered a cappuccino, a double pain au chocolat and bread pudding with nectarines and blueberries. I took it to a table and sat down and stared at it. I felt tears coming to my eyes. I saw a guy across the table look over, and we made eye contact. “I’m about to cry,” I said. “Fuck yeah,” he said.
He ended up giving me some great tips about sightseeing in the city. He also seemed to understand and accept my obsession with food, which is unusual but appreciated.
After I ate, I took a bus to the Golden Gate Bridge. When I got off, it was kind of cloudy but I could still see over the Bay. I started walking and I put in my music to drown out the sound of the cars passing by. All of a sudden, Bob Dylan’s “Chimes of Freedom” came on. I started crying.
It was just one of those moments. I felt so free and happy. I could barely believe I was there. I spent the rest of the day hiking to Sausalito, which is a small town across the Golden Gate Bridge. I ate a delicious avocado shrimp salad, had some ice cream, explored and then took the ferry back to downtown San Francisco.Then, later, I walked around Valencia Street, which has lots of good shopping. I ended up talking to a shop owner, and I told her that it was my first time in San Francisco. She looked me up and down. “So when are you moving here?” she asked. I laughed. “How did you know?” “I can see it on you,” she said. “You look the same way I did when I first moved here.” “When you do,” she continued, giving me her card, “let me know.”
After walking around a little more, I walked down Valencia to Market Street to have dinner at Zuni Cafe. I’ve read so much about Zuni, but sitting there having dinner was an experience I’ll never forget. I had avocado toast with caviar for an appetizer and rare ahi tuna for an entree.
But the dessert is what brought me to tears: Gateau Victoire, or flourless chocolate cake with sherry ice cream. The waiter came to check on me and started laughing. “I’m about to cry,” I said for the probably 30th time on the trip. “That’s okay,” he said. “It’s the kind of cake you eat alone in a dark room, weeping.” He got it.The next day, I went and explored Golden Gate Park. I went to the Japanese Tea Room and got some jasmine tea.Afterward, I walked around the Botanical Gardens. It was so peaceful, I could have spent the whole day there.
Then, I went and met up with my friend Lyz, who drove up from Santa Barbara to meet me. We went and got pizza from Delfina, and had an amazing avocado bibb lettuce salad. Then we walked around Dolores Park and hit up Bi-Rite again…one time just wasn’t enough. This time I got orange blossom and chocolate coconut ice cream.
The next day, we went to Bar Tartine for brunch. It was one of the best meals I’ve ever had in my life. Everything was fresh, and the flavors were perfectly crafted. We had an asparagus salad with chickpeas, rare tuna, and my favorite part, the yogurt with berries and rose petals. I had to compose myself because I didn’t want to embarrass Lyz by sobbing in front of everyone.
That night, we had dinner by the marina at a vegetarian restaurant called Greens. We got lucky and had a table by the window, and the views over the water were amazing. Everything glowed on the Bay as the sun set. We ate delicious food, but my favorite part (again) was dessert: flourless chocolate cake and salted caramel ice cream. This city knows how to do flourless chocolate cakes, that’s for sure.The next day before Lyz had to leave, we went back to Tartine. I ordered a candied orange cake with sesame seeds and ginger. It was so many things at once: fluffy, yet dense. Sweet, yet zesty. It was like the friend you’ve always wanted to have.After Lyz left, I walked around the city more and went to the Palace of Fine Arts by the water. Then I walked along the beach for a while. I left a message in the sand.That night, I wanted to do something unplanned for dinner. I remembered seeing a small restaurant called Hillside Supper Club near Bernal Hill, and I wandered around for a while until I found it.
I ate a beet pistachio salad with goat cheese and some scallops. I didn’t save room for dessert, because I had seen an ice cream shop in the car on the way up to Bernal Heights.Humphry Slocombe is an ice cream lovers dream. I got something called “Secret Breakfast,” which is bourbon ice cream and cornflakes. I can see why you’d want to keep it a secret.That night, I took a train down to the waterfront and looked at the Bay Bridge all lit up. My friend Lyz’s cousin recommended going, and I wasn’t disappointed. I was sad that I had to leave the city the next day, but at the same time, I was happy. I did almost everything that I set out to do in San Francisco. And I had some surprises along the way.
I know I’ll be back sometime soon. Once you fall in love with a place, you can’t stay away for long.