Almost twenty years ago I landed in San Francisco for a short summer vacation that became inadvertently my new home. I came to visit my friend Tom. There is nothing like a native to show you around and allow you to see a place’s soul. I undoubtedly fell in love with San Francisco and stretched the stay till now. However, San Francisco is no longer foreign to me, it’s my home even if I don’t have an actual home as I write this.
Ten things that made me fall in love with such a unique city:
- Ocean beach. I start here because it’s where I first landed, next to the beach. It’s vastness, chilly waters, fog and unpredictable warm days made any day, as I told my Dad in a hand written letter back then, a good day.
- Golden Gate Park. I started running in this beautiful park. I walked out my door and there it was, waiting for me. A park filled with joggers, bike riders, children, parents and on sunny days: dancers, skaters. It is also home to two amazing museums: De Young and the California Academy of Sciences.
- The Castro. As we drove through this area when I first got to SF, it was like any European city. People out on the streets enjoying sidewalk cafés, shopping, people watching and most importantly, it was the diversity I enjoyed. I loved the fact that this was the place where people were proud to show their pride of who they were. Simply: people.
- The food. Every single food from all over the world has a place in this city. All flavors and at reasonable prices. A hole in the wall restaurant may have the best “Thai Food.”
- The Embarcadero. Walking along the Embarcadero up to the GG Bridge is an amazingly beautiful walk. They finally restored the main Ferry Building where you may now find coffee shops, pricey organic foods, and restaurants. The walk to the magnificent bridge from the Embarcadero is breathtaking as you walk through the famous Fisherman’s wharf, from where you can see the Island of Alcatraz.
- The Golden Gate Bridge. It’s not just any bridge. Its magnificence as you walk, drive or ride through, is breathtaking, especially when the fog rolls in. Nobody ever tires of it and is never taken for granted. It’s no wonder some chose to make it their last visit. (Sorry!)
- The hiking trails in Marin. Just across the Golden Gate Bridge is the home of the sequoias and magnificent redwoods, standing tall and proud after many years. There is one trail that is my first and most beloved, the Dipsea Trail. As you hike or run through it, it’s like walking through a fairytale setting, especially as you hit Muir Woods followed by Steep Ravine Trail. I’ve walked it over a hundred times and it’s still my favorite hike.
- The coffee shops and independent books stores. San Franciscans love their coffee like no other city. It’s not all Starbucks. It’s home to many real great roasters like Peet’s Coffee, Philz and Blue Bottle. As for bookstores, although some started to close down due to the e-book fad, now they are sprouting back and some, like Green Apple books, are still standing.
- A city that welcomes everyone. As an oddball myself, I always felt at ease from the very start. Everyone blends in and welcomes you. The guy on the bus with a T-shirt, a baseball cap, and shorts may be the CEO of one of the largest companies and you would never know.
- A city with a soul. It’s hard to explain. A short visit could not really capture this. You have to live in it or stay for a while to feel its beating heart, its pulse, love, and uniqueness.
As I write this I am in Florida visiting with my sister. I’m in a place now where when I get back, I am temporarily staying with friends. Yet, even this being the case since the city’s housing is ridiculously expensive, I will go back and am willing to search for a room and live with 10 roommates if I have to just to experience and stay in the city that welcomed me with open arms so many years ago. There is a price to pay for LOVE.