I’m currently sitting on a plane on my way back to NYC, after a long weekend in San Francisco, visiting my friend Teague. I am paying an exorbitant amount of money for internet so I can be productive, but all I can think about is the beauty and magnitude of California. This was my first visit to San Francisco and I sincerely cannot believe I waited so long to go. Talk about a soul city.
A “soul city” is a term I’ve dubbed for any place that makes you feel infinitely comfortable and inspired. I’m talking about the kind of place where you take a look around, breathe in your first puff of air and feel instantly at home. Your trip passes by so quickly that you don’t even have time to record it all in your memory. Yet somehow, each and every moment is seared there as though you took the time to memorize them all individually with flash cards.
You know for sure it’s a soul city the moment you take off to go home, with the ton-of-bricks realization that you will spend the rest of your days scheming up ways to get back there for good, all the while knowing deep down that such notions are merely pipe dreams.
You return frequently, becoming a pseudo-local of sorts. You get to know people, places and secrets, and you navigate so decisively that tourists ask you for directions and recommendations.
You tell yourself each time that it will get easier, and calm yourself with the knowing that you can and WILL always return. Yet somehow, it never gets any easier. It always breaks your heart to say “so long — until we meet again.”
I have several such cities: Hyannis (Cape Cod), Jackson Hole (Wyoming), Barcelona (Spain), Rincón (Puerto Rico), Avalon (New Jersey), Edinburgh (Scotland), Budapest (Hungary), New Orleans (Louisiana).
San Francisco is most definitely a soul city for me. It’s unreal, it’s so flawless. Every angle you look at it from is beautiful. Even the tiniest details — appropriately disheveled flower boxes, ornate window embellishments, perfectly painted tri-color doorways. It took me less than 3 hours in that city to get swept up in the magic. And I never came down from my San Francisco high. Not once.
Highlights include, but are not limited to:
- Access to the Modern Art gallery at Banana Republic Headquarters. Apparently they have the largest private modern art collection in the USA. It was an amazing experience to wander the gallery and have the place completely to ourselves.
- Cole Valley. The Upper West Side of San Francisco (as I’ve come to affectionately call it). This is where I had the privilege of staying (with a view of the bridge to boot!). Loved it there so much. Coffee and work/journaling at the charming Cole Valley Cafe. Ridiculously delicious brunch at Zazie’s. Close proximity to the incredible thrift shopping and hipness at the Haight. LOVE.
- A woman stopping before us on the MUNI to scream “STAY TOGETHER FOREVER!” in our faces before exiting the train. A beautiful, bizarre San Francisco moment.
- Hiking all the way around the bay to incredible views of the city, the bay and the bridge. Not to mention the unique experience of climbing up a sand dune so steep that stairs couldn’t be built there. Instead? A rope tying wooden logs together, essentially a rope ladder as “stairs.” Unreal workout.
- Sunset at Tank Hill. Breathtaking does not even begin to describe that view. Then dance-walking down the hill with Teague to the Castro for dinner. Listening to “Global Deejays: The Sound of San Francisco” on repeat. A woman stopped us to tell us our laughter and glee had made her night, and she couldn’t believe anyone on earth was this happy. Yep, it was THAT good.
Needless to say, it was 5 days well spent. I will definitely be back. I hate to be trite, but I may just have left my heart…