Back to San Francisco: Hills and happiness

Two months ago I jetted off to California. I’m red-faced that it has taken so long to catch up on writing about this wonderful state. I blame job interviews, novel completion and a holiday to Italy.

After a long break, I am back and determined to recapture the glorious days of sunshine and friendship that I revelled in back in May.

As a quick recap, I started off with a weekend of drinking and hiking with my darling cousin, before driving up Route 1 to Humboldt county to marvel at the redwoods.

I returned to San Francisco for an epic ten days of sight-seeing, family get togethers and wine. My good friend Heather joined me and we had four days before my Aunt and Uncle arrived in from Atlanta. We both wanted to pace ourselves but somehow we both end up squeezing every last drop there is to be had from a place – in a nice, happy go lucky way, though!

I picked her up from the airport and that first night typified the San Francisco experience beautifully. We meandered down to Polk St and found our way to Dunya, a gorgeous Mediterranean place. A couple of craft beers were ours as we waited at the bar for a table. We shared with four guys and the minute they clocked our accents, they wanted to know where we came from. I love the friendliness of San Francisco and we had a great time talking about music. They were musicians; we love music. It was a lovely introduction to the openness and warmth of San Francisco life. They were playing the Red Devil Lounge that night – we didn’t make it (jet lag!) but it was nice to be offered the VIP list.

Our sight-seeing began in earnest on Saturday morning. We headed for the trolley stop right outside our front door (top tip – the visitor transit pass is superb value – a single ride on a historic trolley car is $6 but a week long pass for them and all buses/muni was just $28) and waited for that happy ‘ding ding’. Heather is a sucker for a great musical so she couldn’t resist channelling Judy Garland and it became our theme tune for the week.

We went first to Telegraph Hill, as it seemed obvious that Coit Tower – a ‘must see’  – would be a great place to get our bearings with its wonderful views of the city and bay. On the way, we chanced upon gorgeous houses which we could only dream of owning, and stairway garden after stairway garden. Here’s a selection of snaps from that morning.

Coit Tower was a great visit. The views were superb but it was the murals and the discovery of my first of many great ladies of San Francisco that made it for me. First the murals. Supervised by Diego Rivera and painted by tens of artists, they are stunning. They depict life in the early 30s. I only captured a few but if you ever go to San Francisco, this place should be on your list.

And the ‘great lady’? Throughout my trip to San Francisco, I was impressed by the number of unconventional and interesting women who helped make the city. Lillie Hitchcock was the first. She smoked cigars and wore trousers long long before it was acceptable to do so. She also loved gambling and disguised herself as a man so she could do so. The best thing was that she helped firefighters out when she was fifteen, and ended up as the mascot of the fire crew. The tower was built from money she left to the city. She sounds one hell of a woman – has anyone written a novel about her I wonder?

From Telegraph Hill it was on to Russian Hill, which for me promised not just Lombard Street but even better, Macondray Lane, the inspiration for Armistead Maupin’s Barbary Lane in the Tales of the City Series. It was just joyful wandering around this part of the city and if I ever win the Lottery, I think I may just have to buy a room with a view there!

Here are my Russian Hill pics:

Our day ended at Grace Cathedral. We couldn’t spend long, as a wedding was about to start but what I saw, I liked. From the outside, I kept remembering the weird and wonderful cannabalism plotline from ‘More Tales of the City’ but once inside, it was all about the art, lighting and the warm words of welcome.

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Next time, SFMOMA, further adventure in Pinot Noir and back to the bridge.

By Carole Scott

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