By Andrea K. Hammer
Truth be told, I am not a fan of long plane rides. However, after 6 hours of feeling like a squished sandwich en route to San Francisco, this magical city made my mind cartwheel in everlasting delight. Now my bookend to Philadelphia, this New York-like blend of art galleries and posh boutiques — set on steep hills with palm trees —enlarged my scope of the country.
Golden Gate Bridge Vistas
With unending vistas stretching beyond the Golden Gate Bridge, the water views dazzled me from every angle. The perspective from under the bridge on a tour boat was equally astonishing from the lookout post on a highway shoulder. Popping out of a tour bus to photograph the majestic arch reaching across the glistening water has preserved that powerful image for all time.
Fisherman’s Wharf: Seagulls and Sea Lions
At Fisherman’s Wharf, bread bowls filled with seafood chowder encouraged seagulls, searching for afternoon treats, to perform swooping acrobatics. The sea lions, overlapping each other on floating boardwalk rafts, provided humorous entertainment as they jockeyed for position with powerful body bumps. Just as one drifted off to sleep, another was pushed into the water — allowing the victor to swivel up and claim his prized spot.
Later, during a leisurely walk around nearby shops, lively street entertainment and prized Ghirardelli chocolates delivered a delightful bonus.
Nob Hill Maze
In the maze of Nob Hill, curved streets winded around elegantly designed gardens. But when a taxi driver screeched to a sudden halt for a red light on a precipice, even the most courageous amusement-park rider was forced to grip the hand support — and silently pray for good breaks.
Although guidebooks described San Francisco’s rollicking hills, they were steeper than the mind could possibly have visualized beforehand. Similarly, stories about early-morning and late-afternoon temperature dips were absolutely true, despite a stubborn refusal to pack a heavy-duty sweater for sunny California.
During an excursion to Napa Valley, a joyful day with a fast friend from Australia was a good reminder of commonality discovered in California’s wine country. Sampling different vintage wines under a pergola overlooking the thriving crop, stories were exchanged about families, homes, and loved ones — with a sense of familiarity in knowing each other for years rather than just a few hours.
The next day, Sausalito offered a peaceful respite while relaxing at one of the many lunch spots overlooking the water. At an outdoor table, a leisurely meal allowed the mind to wander along the rocky cliffs as explorers looked for treasures by the bank.
Redwood Hills: Reminder of Proper Proportions
Climbing the redwood hills — while doing a back-bend to see the towering trees — provided immersion in a spiritual hush. In the presence of this seemingly ever-reaching height, Nature, once again, reaffirmed proper proportions in the world.
Lunch Al Fresco, First-Rate Dinner Spots and 360-Degree Views
Back in Union Square, lunch al fresco allowed for prime people watching: roller bladders swooshing by dawdlers, mimes entertaining children, and artists displaying watercolors. Just up the street, a national bookstore was a familiar haven — with a slightly different layout — during time away from home.
First-rate dinner spots were plentiful, with options for every palate. A bottle of champagne and dancing on the 46th floor of a hotel bar, with floor-to-ceiling windows, offered a 360-degree view of San Francisco’s shimmering lights.
These are just a few of my endless reasons to travel! What are some of yours?