The last big stop on my American road trip was, of course, San Francisco. If you hadn’t noticed already, 70s style is kinda my thing, so I was dying to visit the home of hippies. By the time we reached San Francisco my compulsion to photograph everything had died down a little (can you believe it) so I have slightly fewer snaps from this part of the trip. I loved the painted ladies – Victorian townhouses decorated in a variety of pastel colours. There was a lot of construction work on the street opposite the houses, so it was hard to view them from a distance, but there is so much beautiful architecture throughout San Francisco to make up for it.
The Japanese Tea Gardens also found a special place in my heart. Despite all the “tourists with selfie sticks” (as a to-cool-for-school guy muttered at me, carrying my two cameras and a go pro on a selfie stick tucked into the jacket around my waist) it was delicate and serene and soothed me of my home sickness. We made friends with the koi carp and drank green tea under the cherry blossom trees. James found comfort in South Indian curry, his favourite thing in the world. I have never seen him so happy as I have in Udupi Palace (see photo above!) The food in San Francisco was generally amazing – I couldn’t get enough of the vegan brunch at St Francis Fountain. I’ve had a longing for coffee (‘a cup of Joe!’) from a glass, round bottomed jug in a diner ever since overdosing on Twin Peaks and Gilmore Girls. Unsurprisingly, there aren’t a huge amount of authentic and vegan friendly diners in California, but I found it in San Francisco. I loved the diverse influences on different Californian cities – there’s clearly a thriving Mexican community in LA and the East Asian community has a big presence in San Francisco. Cha Ya Japanese was an amazing experience, as was the fully vegan restaurant we stumbled upon in Chinatown. Loving Hut is one of my favourite chains and I was delighted to find they served Thai Iced Tea which I have been craving (and failing to recreate) ever since I returned home.
Another reason I was so excited about San Francisco is because we met up with Tori here, a good friend of mine from my MSc who lives in the States. As a Bay Area local it was handy to have her to show us around even though she was unfortunately sick for some of her visit. We walked along fisherman’s walk to see the seals, along Lombard Street, the “crookedest street in the world”, up Colt Tower, to City Lights bookstore and through Chinatown. I had been trying to restrain my vintage shopping needs for James’ sake, but in San Francisco we spent a long lazy day browsing the vintage and thrift shops along Valencia Street and Mission Street. San Francisco is heaven for thrift shopping. There were so many gems, so cheap. If only I had more room in my suitcase! I also fell for the pricier Wallflower Boutique, filled with beautifully curated vintage, handmade brands and 70s denim. In there, I finally found a nicely fitting pair of denim cut offs. Bring on summer so I can I wear them!
We drank a lot of beer and decided we prefer pubs to fancy after work beer bars. I made a meal of trying to tip at the bar. I was planning to tip when we left like you do at a restaurant but I think the bar man expected a tip every time he served me a drink, so he was kind of cold and I felt awkward. The whole tipping thing really gets me. If only everywhere paid a living wage and then I wouldn’t have to go through the torture of figuring out these unfamiliar social norms, haha. I stocked up on American Apparel undies to take advantage of the lack of import mark up. Little did I know that AA, the only sweatshop free brand on the British high street, would soon crumble.
Honestly, San Francisco was a dream but I didn’t fall for it like I did with LA. It was a total surprise to me – everyone had told me I would hate Los Angeles. We met some of the nicest people in San Francisco (shout out to the waiter at Patxi’s Pizza who was so confused by my ordering a “half” beer he just gave me one for free – safe to say we did remember to tip him) but also a lot of cool but self-conscious and unfriendly shop assistants. It is definitely the most European-feeling of all the American cities that we visited and I feel like that has something to do with it. For me, it wasn’t as unusual and unexpected as Southern California. That’s not to say we didn’t have a blast – San Francisco is still on my list of the best trips of my life. As usual, there is much else I would like to see if I returned. I love that San Francisco’s a city you can explore on foot or by bus and we spent most of our time there wandering around, rolling down hills and making friends with dogs.
Thank you for following along with my holiday stories – my next California post will be my last! Keep your eyes peeled for photos from Monterey, the Madonna Inn and Beverley Hills.