Old Haunts: Return to the City by the Bay
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Friday, May 30, 2014

Old Haunts: Return to the City by the Bay

The Painted Ladies...
We were walking to the Ferry Building. It was déjà-vu. The food stalls were out. The chocolate store was there. The bay breeze was blowing. But something was different. Someone was different.

Just over a year and a half ago I visited California for the first time. Little did I know a family wedding would drag me back to San Francisco for round 2. 

I usually don’t visit the same places often, at least not so quickly. I haven’t been to England since 2009, and before that not since 2006. Italy in 2013 was the first time since 2011. Denmark, Sweden, Spain, and the Czech Republic haven’t had repeats yet. Germany has had me three times, but with mostly different cities and different beers each time.

There’s a lot to see in this world, and who wants to spend too much time visiting the same places?

Going back to San Francisco, everything was still fresh. After a trek along the pier, back in the Mission, everything was just as I left it. 

I remembered sitting at Pancho Villa chowing down on Mexican food with an assortment of salsa, inevitably picking one that was too spicy for me. Arizmendi Bakery was still there with its line and case of self-serve pastries. Bi-Rite still had the honey and lavender ice cream I remember tasting back in January 2013.


The streetcar...

As we moved around the Mission district and to other parts of town, it wasn’t easy to shake up the experiences. But in new company this time (a significant other, a sister, a father, a mother) the game was totally different. I was now the tour guide, a role I assumed with equal parts excitement and regret. I planned the meals. I chose the itineraries. I lead the way. I couldn’t just kick back…

A view worth the climb...
But then there’s that moment when you discover something through someone else’s eyes. Walking across the bridge with someone who hadn’t. Wandering into the fortune cookie factory with someone who had never been to Chinatown and having them ask you, “How did you know about this place?” Hearing the sea lions bark and waiting for someone else comment on the rank smell. It was an entirely new experience, a brand new way to revisit a place using someone else’s clean slate and being a part of chalking it up for them.

Coit Tower...
Muir Woods and the redwoods...
Fortunately San Francisco is big enough that I had my own fresh experiences to scribble on my own slate – ascending Coit Tower, riding the street cars, exploring the redwoods, and driving up the hills to catch arguably the most breathtaking view of the Golden Gate Bridge. But playing the local, the authority, forcing myself to know the route inside and out was a welcomed departure from my normal travel plan of “get there and walk somewhere.”

I feel like I know the city a little better, and we all benefited from it in the end. Our shoes might be a little worse for the wear, but those scuff marks and eventual holes will be reminders of our time together, and the look in everyone’s eyes as we struggled up Lombard Street...I’m such a kind tour guide…


Another trip to Alcatraz...


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