A Love Letter
To San Francisco
There are very few places I’ve known that can evoke memories as strongly for me, as when I hear the words, San Francisco. Although I grew up across the bay, and south a bit, San Francisco has played a major part in my life since before I was born. My parents met there, and dated in the mid-fifties. Both veterans of World War II they were older than most of their friends when they married in 1959. A favorite date destination was the Buena Vista Café for an Irish Coffee. Just a cable car ride away from the Financial District, where my mother worked.
My family went to the City often. For the Chinese New Year’s parade, and the St. Patrick’s parade. We would go to Japantown for the Cherry Blossom Festival and if Mom had her way we’d end up at Macy’s on Union Square. The ExploratoriumFisherman’s Wharf and so much more were destinations for our family day trips. Needless to say, our final days of our California vacation began in San Francisco.
Receiving a tip from a professor I know, we booked two nights into the Seal Rock Inn. Located in what is affectionately referred to as Land’s End, we were at the end of the Richmond District, close to Golden Gate Park. An added bonus was a restaurant on site, and free parking, which is rare to find in the City’s hotels. Though we couldn't see the ocean through the rain and fog, it was nice to know it was just across the street.
My first apartment, and many of the years I spent in San Francisco were in the Haight Ashbury. I knew, in spite of the rainy weather, that is where I wanted to have dinner. We drove to the Haight, and enjoyed an evening of browsing in a record store, and two bookstores though there was little left from when I lived there, I was happy to find one establishment still intact, the neighborhood tavern. Though the Gold Cane is now owned by the sons of the owner I knew, we were delighted to learn our bartender was familiar with Hanover, as a graduate of the Class of 1999 with a Visual Arts Degree. It made us both realize how much the Upper Valley extends beyond its borders.
Knowing that we had limited time to spend in the City, I opted to show my husband the San Francisco Conservatory and the Botanical Garden, both in Golden Gate Park. It was wonderful to visit both, and to discover the Aids Memorial Garden, a dedicated quiet space within the park with moving memorials to those lost to the disease.
I highly recommend taking public transportation when you visit a city. It is a great way to see things, without the distraction of driving, along with friendly tips from those who can easily spot folks from “away”. We took the 38 Geary bus from outside our hotel to Union Square, passing many familiar landmarks and enjoying the many languages spoken by our fellow passengers. Our next destination was Chinatown.
As a child, this area of San Francisco held the most magic for me. The sites of temple-like buildings, the exotic smells, and during festival times the sound of firecrackers all contributed to my love for this district. I was very happy to see little has changed there, unlike other parts of the City.
Another promise was fulfilled as we made our way to Jack Kerouac Alley and into the City Lights bookstore. Owned for many years by the beat poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti, this thriving bookstore is an anchor in the Italian section of the City, North Beach. Directly across from it is the famous Vesuvio Cafe, with plenty of pictures and moments from the heady times when Kerouac, Ginsberg and Ferlinghetti held court there.
With another overcast day the following morning, we lingered at Land’s End and Seal Rock looking at the history of the famous Sutro Baths and the Cliff House. My good friend gifted me a rare souvenir spoon upon my return after learning we had stayed at the Seal Rock Inn.
With a few tears as we crossed the Golden Gate Bridge towards our final destination, I knew I’d be back. It may seem sappy, but when I hear Tony Bennett sing I Left My Heart In San Francisco, I concur. A part of my heart will always be in the City by the bay.