This was my third visit to San Francisco: the first one was 11 years ago, the second one, with M, six years ago. I always thought that this city was really great and unique, but also that I hadn't completely gotten the real feel of it, the one that's outside of the tourist paths. I was really excited to go back, especially with LP who had been talking about it for weeks: cable cars! The funny crooked street (Lombard)! All of these crazy hills!
Our visit in Northern California started with a wonderful stop in Half Moon Bay, a small town about half an hour south of the city. We were meeting Lisa for lunch, and I was so nervous and excited; she's such an amazing, smart, classy lady. We met right by the bay at a restaurant where ALL of the seafood was local and amazingly fresh (might seem normal for some people; for us it's a real luxury!) and shared a truly wonderful meal and conversation. Lisa was so warm and nice and natural with the kids! (Not that I ever doubted she were, but I'm always so surprised and comforted by how meeting good "blog friends" ends up being exactly like meeting dear, "real" friends, because you know what, that's exactly what they are). We then walked around the piers and watched fishermen bring back big wild salmons to shore. That afternoon will always remain really special to me.
We then left Lisa to check in at our hotel, but we were meeting her again for dinner at a Mexican restaurant in the city that very night, along with Meg and her husband David. And I can't tell you how fantastic that evening was. Honestly, one of the few I've had ever since becoming a parent that had me wishing I had left the kids at home so we could stay longer, and longer, and continue drinking margaritas and having such a great conversation and time.
What did we talk about? Law school and the legal market (David is a newly minted attorney, and M also went to law school, although he never passed the bar). Balancing (writing) careers and life, including family life. The "strange" (David) or rather "awesome" (Meg) law we have here that prevents married women from taking their husband's name (David didn't think that wives keeping their name was weird, by the way, just that legislating something like that was going a little far). Our "such great" (according to them) social measures and relaxed attitudes towards things that are still sometimes marginalized in the US: unmarried (but committed) parents or partners, gay couples, nonreligious people... Traveling (including with kids, which is so natural for us that we don't even realize a lot of people just conclude that "it can't be done"), and of course our dear blog friends, especially the ones who live in the UK where David and Meg will soon stop on their way to Greece.
We also talked about the weather, because, well, we were in full-on thermal shock. Starting in Half Moon Bay, but especially in San Francisco proper, we had hit what is called the "marine layer," in which the warmth from the inner state hits the fresh sea air right above the hills of the city, resulting in lots of rain, and COLD. And it was COLD. Not just breezy or chilly. Rather rainy, windy and about 8-10 degrees Celsius. We were completely unprepared for that, coming from LA first, and because even though we are actually used to much colder temperatures here, these NEVER happen in the summer. Our summers are very warm and usually sunny, and if anyone robbed us of that, there would definitely be a major exodus to more comfortable places, because you CAN'T ROB PEOPLE OF THE SUMMER. It simply can't be done. Rob them of laughter, hope, and their will to live, while you're at it, because it's pretty much the same thing. Nice weather in summer is essential to one's well-being. But unfortunately the San Francisco marine layer hasn't gotten the memo. It's a very peculiar natural phenomenon, because as soon as you get out of the city, the sun and pleasant warmth you expect from California shows up again, and you can breathe a sigh of relief. On the other hand, though, it is pretty constant all year long, and the winter tends to be nicer, so I guess I could definitely live with that. And, just maybe escape somewhere else during the summer.
"Well, this is the worst time of the year," David said, resigned. They both come from LA, but he doesn't like brutal heat, so ho doesn't mind as much as Meg, who has a hard time with all of this summer bleakness. I have only been in SF in the summer, by the way, and I remembered it was chilly, but never that bad. Consequently, I hadn't packed appropriately at all (I just figured we would need a light sweater, but in fact we needed sweaters + jackets + jeans + socks + umbrellas + a wool hat and a blanket for the baby). LP, F and I were FREEZING, so we had to rush and buy some fall clothes. Women in the streets were wearing parkas, boots, and scarves. In July! It was the only time in my life I actually saw someone wearing both flip-flops and a thick wool winter coat.
Except for that, I was still very much in love with the city... It is completely different from any other in the US, I think, both because of its geographical location (sea+ hills) and because of its vibe, which was all at once very posh (I couldn't get enough of those lovely traditional houses/architectural gems!), very hip, very smart, very relaxed, very family- and nature-oriented, very imprinted with American counterculture, very imprinted with all kinds of other cultures, too. A wonderful mix, only made more interesting by the terrain and the harmonious urban planning. One can only wonder why people decided to build a city there, because in some places, they REALLY didn't have it easy!!!
Despite it being my third visit, I still didn't get a glimpse of the famous Golden Gate Bridge. Every day I was ever there, the Bay had been wrapped in a very thick fog, and this time was no different, which prompted me to think that maybe, it was only an urban legend? But while we left the city to go to Napa, we drove through it, and I guess I could only admit that I was wrong. But barely. Because that still could be just a ghost-like shadow or something.
All in all, summer weather aside, living in San Francisco must be fantastic, inspiring, and very enriching in the everyday life. If only it wasn't that expensive. Sigh.