A long over-due letter to one of my favorite cities. It’s been a few months since this particular trip but I found it hard to motivate myself to write a post about it back then. This city is bitter sweet to me. When I was younger, I would often visit with my family. Everyone – aunts, uncles, and cousins – would pile into a rental car to make the drive. My most vivid memory is the smell of Bánh Mì as I sat in the middle seat, hugged by my cousins on both sides. The air conditioner on the console in front of me blew straight into my knees, so I was shivering from the knees down but sticky with sweat everywhere else. It’s an odd memory to conjure up everytime I think of San Francisco, but it happens nonetheless.
Recently, when a brief interruption in my day to day routine brought me back to the Bay for work, I found myself inspired once again to type out my thoughts. As my friends and I were strolling around downtown San Jose, we stumbled upon a night market. I love weaving through the crowds, stumbling upon locally crafted treasures and making conversation with the vendors, so I was in heaven. An empty stage stood near the end of the street, playing 50s classics. A few couples were scattered in front, creating a makeshift dance floor. A wave of melancholy swept over me and I just knew that I needed to write about that moment. To kids these days I’d be deemed a “simp”, which is fine because that feeling finally motivated me to write this blog post…whatever it takes I guess!
So back in June, I visited San Francisco on a whim. My friend needed some help moving back home and I wanted to take one last break before wedding season started. In retrospect, it was the best idea I’ve ever had – and I’ve had some awesome ideas. Katie and I first explored Redwood City, a place I had never been before. The whole trip, I thought a lot about what home is to me and why I choose to stay in California. I love Glasgow. I love Budapest. I love Spain. So why do I stay in here? The answer is a work in progress but this blog post highlights some pretty awesome places in California that may contribute to the why.
First, Son and Garden! What a beautiful brunch location. I hate to say it, but I absolutely buy into the Instagramability (is that a word?) of cafes like this. Look at the floral ceiling. Look at the food. Look at the cotton candy cloud cocktail I bought for $16! (never again). It’s always nice to be able to enjoy meals like this and even better, I had great company! On our way to the cafe, we passed by a few neighborhoods that reminded me of my favorite place in LA, Brentwood. I loved just driving through these streets and looking at houses. Because my work revolves around planning minute details and making sure things happen down the the second, I’ve grown a greater appreciation for things that happen without a timeline, like finding a brunch place last minute or driving around in pretty neighborhoods.
Between brunch dates and coffee runs, Katie and I spent a lot of time at home playing with her dog Malia. Initially, Malia was not my biggest fan. She squinted her eyes, turned her head, hiked up her tail – definitely wanted to show she was the boss (and I can’t lie, she still is). Eventually, with a significant amount of her favorite treats, time sitting on the floor near her so that she can get used to me, and an absurd amount of friendly cuddles, she finally FINALLY warmed up to me. And I have to say, it’s the best feeling to gain the trust of another. Human or fur-baby, trust is earned and I am so honored each time when someone is able to say that they trust in me. On another note, look at that face and tell me that you don’t want to give her the world.
Each night, we would take Malia out for a walk. Every time, she acted as if it was the first time she was experiencing the outside world. Her excitement and curiosity had her bounding from bush to bush and lamppost to lamppost. My friend’s neighborhood is what you would refer to as “cookie-cutter”. Perfectly manicured lawns, safer than safe to explore at night, right by the bay as well. It felt like the Desperate Housewives set at Universal Studios Hollywood. It was that nice. And yet, I can’t ever imagine living in a neighborhood like that long-term. As my friends approach that stage in their lives and make those important decisions about where they want to live and who they want to spend the rest of their life with, I realize that I never really want to “settle down”. The word “settle” has such a negative connotation to me. I want to continue heading towards adventure and new experiences constantly. Maybe it’s the curse of youth or a fear of committing to the wrong things – I just know that I want life to continue to surprise me and I’m not sure “cookie-cutter” cuts it. Even if I do eventually settle down in a place like this, I want to channel my inner Malia. I want bushes to amaze me and lampposts to blow me away. I want to feel safe and supported by the person I share my nightly walks with. Maybe this is the moment where I choose a fur-buddy for life…
Eventually, Katie and I made our way into the city, where I, unfortunately, spent most of my time working. However, in between calls and emails, we went out to some pretty delicious restaurants. The meal on the left was at Dirty Habit, a rooftop bar in Union Square. The meal on the left was at 620 Jones, which was right across the street from my hotel. Both were incredible and I highly recommend them! It had been a while since I’ve visited Union Square, but it was just as I expected. I always dread shopping because I just know that I’ll be sucked into this vortex of consumerism. However! I did find a $10 dress at Anthropologie (the peach-y one that I’m wearing below) that I absolutely love.
Of course, my favorite day was the one where I got to explore with a cup of delicious coffee in hand. My friend took me to a neighborhood called Potrero Hill, which was so on brand! On a sunny Saturday morning, we just wandered. We visited some stores, walked everywhere and yet nowhere and just…went to the places that caught our eyes. With an outdoor table for brunch, I got to feel the sun on my skin, the breeze in my hair and the soft lull of music from the street market in the background. I was exhausted from work and had a million things to think about but at that patio table, I allowed myself to be content with just experiencing the day as it was. I go back to that picture on the left often. “You Belong Here”. Does that mean that I belong in that specific coffee shop doorway? Does that mean I belong in San Francisco? Does that mean that I belong to California? I’d like to believe that “You Belong Here” is one of those phrases that I can use to ground myself wherever I am. I am what I am. I am where I am. I am with who I am with. It just is. (Can you tell that I’m a Stoic?)
I took the pictures below during a walk around Salesforce Garden. In between the towering buildings, I felt like an inconsequential ant. Life is just happening so quickly that I forget to even breathe sometimes. As the days whizz by me, I try to constantly remind myself that I am the main character of my own story. I can write in my own narratives, complete with the rising action, climax and eventual resolutions. I can create as many peaks as I want. As an avid reader, I love immersing myself into other people’s lives and stories, but how much depth am I bringing to my own story? Would I even want to read about myself? Would I want to explore and get lost in my own world? I’m not sure of the answer and that worries me. In a lot of the stories that I read, grandparents often have these moments with their grandchildren where they share these amazing stories about trials and tribulations with such sincerity that it’s overwhelming. I want to be a cool grandma too, you know?
Fast forward to September, I’m back in the Bay for a work trip! These past few months have been incredibly hectic, but at the same time, incredibly rewarding. One of my biggest worries when I left university was falling into stagnant waters that would eventually turn into quick sand and before I knew it, I’d be drowning with no way out. In the time between my two trips to the Bay, it has felt like I’ve been white water rafting through life. Situation after situation has been slamming me straight in the face but somehow, someway, this raft that I’ve built for myself and the oar that I use to steer it has been holding strong and steady. I am so proud of the progress I’ve made but man am I tired. Moments like these make everything more worth it though. We shot this wedding near Saratoga that was absolutely beautiful. It felt like we were in the clouds.
Since I have a couple of good friends in the Bay, I hope to visit soon. I hope to eat more good food, drink more delicious cocktails and wander until my feet are blistered and sore again. Maybe I’ll be able to update this blog post soon with other must-do’s in San Francisco!