San Francisco was probably the city most people said I had to visit when discussing my upcoming travel plans. It’s funny because there weren’t any defining reasons given – it was just somewhere I had to check out. Some cities are known for their nightlife, others for their coastline, or architecture, culture and so on… San Francisco’ defining feature for me is definitely the vibe of the city. People seem to have a uniquely different wavelength and everyone’s tuned right in.
Sure the city is easy to get around and public transport is good. The city is so well designed that I only took public transport once, on my last day as I had to carry 2 boxes of wine from the ferry to my hostel. It’s definitely a walker’s paradise with Market Street being the main strip similar to Broadway in Manhattan I guess. I arrived the day before Pride weekend and had 4 days straight of brilliant weather which everyone tells me is unusual for this time of year. I experienced the same in San Diego as well – maybe I’m bringing it with me…
I made some great friends in San Francisco and the hospitality I’ve received in recent times seemed to continue in uniquely different ways. Having met some great people through CouchSurfing in San Diego I decided to check out what events were going on in San Francisco. I stumbled across a small group looking to hang out at Pride together and formed a mini ‘United Nations’ with France, Peru, USA, Persia and Australia represented. It was great to check out the Pride festivities with such a chill group of people, we were all just going with the flow, walking around and people watching. Adrien and I seemed to form a good connection as we were hitting the vodka stations and really appreciating the dance music being played. I must admit, I very rarely experience poor music at gay events, and Pride was definitely no exception.
The day before the Pride parade, there were ‘low key’ festivities taking place around the Civic Centre. Once this finished up for the day, we were looking for a place to keep rocking and stumbled across a place called ‘800 Larkin‘ in the Tenderloin ‘Loin’ neighbourhood. This is where we met Shannon who really looked after our every need, and let us basically take over her bar. We shuffled through Pandora, made friends with locals and started to get pretty drunk. I’ve never felt so at home in a bar before, especially a place I only just literally found. Later that night we walked down Market and hit The Castro precinct, which is where all the action was once all the formalities finished.
I made a lot of friends in San Francisco. Random things happened. Like walking along Market walking towards The Castro and stumbling across a bunch of Berkeley University students drinking really foamy cups of beer from a vending stall in the middle of the street that had shut for the day. After quizzing them a little longer I learned that one of them knew how to tap a beer keg and there just happened to be one left that was half full. They also taught me that by wiping your finger on your nose and then putting it in the beer, the foam would disappear – well there you go. Completely random.
I did also manage to incorporate a winery tour of the Sonoma ‘Russian River’ region into the trip. I am so glad I did it as I didn’t know the northern Sonoma area was renowned for Pinot Noir which is my favourite. I had a great day with a great group of people and bought a bunch of wine which I wanted take with me to DC for the 4th July holiday.
I met a really friendly Canadian couple on the winery tour who kindly helped me carry the boxes of wine I bought to my hostel. They also told me about an insanely popular restaurant in Chinatown called R&G Lounge that they tried to check out a few nights back and it was too busy. Well I thought I would give it a try and the benefits of solo travel kicked in with a spare single seat at the bar (avoiding the minimum 1 hour wait). I tried the signature fried crab dish and it did not disappoint. The highlight of the night though was meeting a recently married couple – Andres & Yasmine from Miami. They got married last week and had been in Nevada checking out the Grand Canyon and were travelling around the US. They were looking for a chill bar to hang out in and I took them to 800 Larkin after dinner and we had an awesome night. I love being able to connect people and places that I enjoy, it’s definitely a great way of returning the hospitality that has been extended to me thus far.
I had a blast in San Francisco, it was so good that I didn’t even have any San Diego blues. These 2 cities are such a huge highlight of California for me and concluded my west coast tour.
So now I’m in the beautiful Virginia staying with some great friends Kay and Gabe. I also have friends from Australia here – Sam, Andrew and their gorgeous daughter Milla. Words can’t describe how beautiful it is here and how awesome it is to be amongst friends, particularly on the 4th July holiday.
It’s the change of pace I definitely needed.