in san francisco: doing the things we love to do at home

Bay bridge San francisco View from our hotel room

After a week in San Francisco, I’ve convinced myself that true happiness means living in the Bay Area. It would be difficult to choose what I love most about that city, but its vibrancy, its vivacity, and its multicultural-ness rank pretty high. This city is alive and it speaks many languages.

One of the best parts about this trip is that we had an entire week and I had already previously visited many of the tourist spots that one often feels compelled to see when visiting a new city. I decided to spend the week simply enjoying the area, with little rush and no exact plan. I always know I love a city when I find myself wondering what life might be like if I lived there and I begin looking at real estate listings just out of curiosity. When I pretend that I do live there and ask myself what I would be doing if I were simply “home,” rather on a trip.

For this trip, it meant a visit to a nearby thrift store and many destination-less walks with C. in the stroller and stops at several city parks. It also meant forgoing some of the “must-see’s” like Golden Gate park and the Golden Gate bridge in favor of less touristy and more “homey” areas of the city. We also found a Whole Foods near our hotel that we made our home base, preferring to get groceries or bakery items for most meals, often eating them inYerba Buena park while listening to live music, rather than splurging on pricey restaurant meals every day.

One of my favorite moments during this trip was actually completely mundane and something that could have occured anywhere: after T. finished his work portion of the trip, we had two days to enjoy San Francisco together as a family. On the first of those two days, we put C. in her stroller and set out to just meander the different neighborhoods around our hotel, from Chinatown to North Beach to Fisherman’s Warf. Between those stops, we found ourselves pulling over in a small park filled with school children, other families like us, and nannies accompanying their charges. A group of moms and kids next to our play area by the swings were conversing animatedly in Chinese. Another group, by the sandbox, could be overheard speaking Spanish. No cameras were out and no one consulted a guidebook. We had, in effect, infiltrated a regular park in a regular neighborhood, visited by locals simply going about their day.

Classic San Francisco City lights books

That moment, with us taking turns pushing C. in a swing, chatting about our day, listening to the happy shrieks of the children around us, and taking in the gorgeous city skyline evident just past the playground’s limits, was as close to a perfect travel moment as it gets. For just an hour, I lived in this magical city. I was a part of it and we had our own little life there. We would wrap up the play session, put C. back in her stroller, and walk home on the sloping streets to our own little two-story, beautifully colored Victorian. We might stop at a market on the way home, picking up vegetables and bread for dinner, waving to a familiar face as we made plans to go on a bike ride that weekend. We would take in the smells and sounds of a city familiar to us as we meandered home. For a moment, that fantasy was as much of a reality as the sun on our face and the sounds of foreign languages mixing with children’s laughter and birds chirping on that playground on some street in some neighborhood of San Francisco.

(As T. put it, we knew we were back in the touristy area of San Francisco when the Spanish and Chinese we overheared was replaced by German and Japanese.)


When reality recedes and fantasy takes over without as much as a pause, travel is no longer a destination but the journey and the process that takes us from home to new homes all along the way. We find homes in foreign cities and amidst different cultures and we envision ourselves a part of the communities we inhabit for the smallest fraction of time. We create false realities and we romanticize and speculate, but with that, we also open our hearts and minds to life and people and cultures other than our own and that, in my opinion, is a very good thing.


Other things we enjoyed in this magical city by the Bay: the wonderful SFMoMA and its current exhibit on Photography in Mexico as well as coffees on its rooftop garden, a carousel outside the Children’s Creativity Museum on Howard and 4th, the most delicious freshly-made cannoli with Illy coffee at Caffe Greco in North Beach, sandwhiches at Molinari deli (where we also made it onto a Travel Channel show featuring great delis across the country!), and – my second favorite moment on this trip – a yoga class in the majestic Grace Cathedral in Nob Hill. Which deserves a post in itself.

Grace cathedral in San francisco Yoga at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco


As we said goobye to this vibrant and beautiful city, I consoled myself with the reminder that when I last left San Francisco I had not expected to be back so soon. And so, I tell myself, I will probably return much sooner than I think. After all, a place with this much pull can only be resisted for so long. Enjoy your city, San Franciscans, it truly is a wonderful place! Thank you for allowing me to believe myself a part of it for just a little while.


More photos from our week in San Francisco here.

San francisco San Francisco

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{Bikes, a new baby, and the story of us.}
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6 Responses to in san francisco: doing the things we love to do at home

  1. Jessie says:

    Your trip looks absolutely lovely! We were also convinced that we should uproot tomorrow and move to the Bay Area. I think deep down my husband and I belong on the west coast (born and raised out there) — and not in Madison. Alas. It’s still nice to know that it’s there when we need to feel like home.

  2. DM says:

    Absolutely come and live in Northern CA! The Bay Area and environs are biking heaven. I also recently caught the SFMoMA photography in Mexico exhibit and loved it. Glad you had fun.

  3. Being from the New Orleans area, San Francisco reminds me most of home. Great city, great post, great adventures. Safe and happy travels!

  4. G.E. says:

    SF is probably my favorite city (I always thought I would end up there growing up in southern CA, but life took me east rather than north). I find it much more enjoyable when it’s just appreciated for its diversity, rather than visiting all the tourist spots. Those places can be fun to see, but I find the variety of things like corner markets, shops, and parks from neighborhood to neighborhood to be absolutely fascinating. Glad to read you enjoyed your time there… I don’t think you’re alone with wishful thoughts of ultimately residing in the gorgeous city either!

  5. Inder says:

    Hey, I live in Oakland! It’s pretty sweet. I mean, it has its inconveniences, but the Bay Area always pulls me back (I grew up in San Jose, but I’ve lived in New Mexico, New York, and Los Angeles). It’s definitely home for me. :-)

  6. Karen says:

    I love the Bay Area! I used to live in San Francisco and always dream that some day I will end up there again with my family. I’m happy that you had time to explore off the beaten path.

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