I left part of my heart in San Francisco in the summer of 1994, and since then I've been lucky enough to go back a few times and check that it's still there. I have cousins who grew up in Dublin but now live near San Jose, and a while ago I realised I could marry my husband's penchant for running long distances in new places to my desire to see cities other than our hometown. So on Sunday he ran the Big Sur marathon, and we made it a long weekend in California.
Last time we were there was only two and a half years ago, but in the life of a child that makes a pretty big difference. We decided there wasn't much point going into the city that time, as at the ages of three and almost one, there was nothing they'd really remember, and B and I had both been before. But this past Friday, we drove up from our hotel right beside the crashing Pacific and swooped down to and across the Golden Gate Bridge, immortalised in Monsters V Aliens. The kids, of course, were mostly unimpressed and much more interested in climbing on dangerous objects than posing for photos, but I did my best to inhale the vista of the beautiful bay.
on East-Coast time was also a great advantage, once we'd got through
the two hours everyone was awake before it was even daylight. We had
breakfast promptly at six, and were in the city before 9am, with plenty
of parking spaces right beside tourist attractions.)
Then we turned around, went back over the bridge, and headed to Lombard St, the twistiest street in the world. I had never been there, despite a summer working directly opposite it, so it was fun for all of us to wend our way down in our enormous rental SUV. (The smell of rental cars is the smell of California to me, even though I have rented cars in other states too.)
After that, it was up the other side to Coit Tower for some more views, and then a stop in North Beach for coffee in Caffe Trieste, where Francis Ford Coppola and his buddies used to hang out in the Beat days. The summer I spent in the city, I worked in a cafe just up the street, at Grant and Green, but it's long since been turned into a club of some sort,
because - ridiculously - that was 18 years ago and I was already an
adult back then. So whenever I go to San Francisco, I have to go to
North Beach and Columbus Avenue, because that's my part of town.
|That's an iced coffee, not a beer. I promise.|
After coffee we went to City Lights and bought a couple of books for the kids, and looked briefly into Vesuvios to be told that the bartender was not only married to a man from County Cavan but went to school within five miles of where we live in Maryland - we said we'd say hi to her mom for her.
|Beat poet central|
At this point, Mabel was well overdue for a nap by either time zone, so we bought the kids a bread roll each to gnaw on and went back to the car to drive south to my cousins' house. We even saw a cable car go by as we drove up the hill.
San Francisco is one of my favourite cities (not that I'm as seasoned a global traveller as many of my friends) and the opportunity to show some of it to my offspring - well, I think that's one of the reasons we have children, isn't it?