This city is magical. Where else do impromptu fireworks displays happen on a regular basis?
San Francisco, you’re what dreams are made of. Thanks for being the setting for the last seven years of my story.
I first discovered these incredible creatures when I visited San Francisco in 2007 and it was love at first sight. Their prehistoric nature, majestic wingspan and peculiar feeding style fascinated me. I spent hours trying to photograph them from the docks of Fort Mason and learned that near sunset every evening, thousands make their way west across the Bay – flying under and over the Golden Gate to nest on the rocks near the Sutro Baths.
Brown pelicans, San Francisco.
I was on the N-Judah train, headed east into downtown from Ocean Beach, on my way to meet up with an old friend from high school I hadn’t seen in 20 years. As expected, a local character boarded the train at Church and Duboce – just outside Safeway. He had a swagger in his step and was holding something inside his jacket. Fortunately, the expression on his face incited more curiosity than fear.
Within seconds, I had my answer as he pulled out a big pack of cold steak (straight out of the Safeway freezer) and tried to auction it off right there in the aisle. After a few unsuccessful attempts at shoving the large package of meat uncomfortably close to the faces of my fellow riders, he, of course, decided to plunk down next to me. He sat smiling, staring. Then he put out his hand for me to shake. Awkwardly, I gave him a little wave instead.
More smiling and staring.
Then, unprovoked, he looked at me and said “I don’t like you anymore”.
Oh SHIT. What did I do? What do I do?
“That’s because I LOOOOVE YA!”. Exhale. Cringe.
I faked a phone call and fortunately he got off at the next stop, but not before taking advantage of one last opportunity to get the attention of everyone on the bus. He strutted back around to my window, smiled and blew me a kiss.
The next stop was mine. As I got up to make my way off the train, the guy behind me tapped me on the shoulder and with an empathetic smile, handed me a red carnation.
“This is for you. You’ve earned it.”
As I accepted this thoughtful gift, a happy, knowing grin appeared across my face. Four words immediately came to mind : only in San Francisco.
I landed at SFO last night with a heavy heart. That was the last time arriving here would be arriving “home”.
In July 2008, I moved to San Francisco from Toronto with two suitcases, oodles of optimism and not much else. No job. No work visa. No friends. No address or phone number. Just a feeling in my gut that I couldn’t shake. A feeling that the next chapter in my life was supposed to take place in San Francisco. I just needed to get here and the pieces would fall into place.
I was a 30-something single woman looking for love. A teacher looking for a new career. A former travel junkie looking for a little adventure. More than anything, I was looking for somewhere new to call “home”.
San Francisco welcomed me with open arms. I took a huge risk on this city and she paid me back in spades. Amazing friends. Incredible adventures. A new career. A wonderful husband. And a beautiful baby boy.
Seven years later, and it’s time for a new beginning. In less than a month, I’ll be boarding my one-way flight east to start a new chapter in Asheville, North Carolina. A chapter that wouldn’t exist if I didn’t book that one-way flight to San Francisco seven years ago.
In celebration of all that this beautiful city has brought to my life, my posts over the next month will be dedicated to a long lingering farewell to my City By The Bay. I am not ashamed to admit I’m a total cliche. San Francisco, you will always have a piece of my heart.
For those of us who’ve attempted to learn how to ski or snowboard after the age of thirty and found the whole experience to be, let’s say, less-than-fun, I highly recommend snowshoeing as the perfect alternative. You can still get the fresh air and exercise, and feel you’ve earned your apres-ski time next to the bar and the fire, but without the stress. Instead of feeling frustrated at being the rookie who can’t keep up (and let’s face it, if your friends have been skiing since they were kids, you’re always going to feel that way), terrified about crashing into a tree, dislocating a limb, or getting pegged off by the neophyte snowboarders barreling down the mountain behind you, become an expert at something most of your ski and boarding friends have never tried.
The other major advantage to being a snowshoer instead of a skier or boarder is moving at a pace leisurely enough to capture the stunning beauty of a winter’s day. In my humble opinion, enjoying the outdoors doesn’t get better.
And in case you aren’t familiar with what snowshoes look like these days (I still imagined a tennis racket strapped to my foot), here’s a shot of my rentals from Solitude Mountain Resort in Utah.
And yes, they’re as light and comfortable as they look.
Intrigued? I highly recommend a trip to Solitude’s Nordic Center. They have an extensive plot of easy-to-navigate trails that offer unlimited opportunities to keep yourself entertained as you adventure.
And if you have other snowshoe destination recommendations, I’d love to hear about them!