When This is Guiding You Home

The weekend before we left for Spain, Mr. WholeHog and I were in the Inner Sunset on a gorgeous sunny morning. The Inner Sunset gets a lot of deserved grief for its terrible, cold and foggy summers, but on those rare sunny days, it’s still one of my favorite places in the City to be.

We stopped at Arizmendi on 9th Avenue, where we are still recognized as regulars, and took our pastries up to the top of the hill at 14th Avenue and Moraga. From this vantage point, you can see the SF skyline and also the ocean. You can see Golden Gate Park — and how it divides the western side of the City — as well as part of the Golden Gate Bridge. You can see all the pastel-colored ticky tacky that makes up so much of the Outer Sunset. In short, it’s a lovely place to be on a bright, clear day.

“I love where we live,” Mr. WholeHog said that morning.

And he said it again as our flight path home crossed over Marin and we could clearly see the long arm of Point Reyes from the plane’s window.

This is one of the many delights of travel: it makes me look at my city with fresh eyes and it often reminds me what I love about where I live. Travel has the magic ability to make even the most routine elements of life seem new again. After just two weeks away, I marveled at aspects of SF that I normally take for granted. For example, have you seen our sidewalks? We have incredible sidewalks. They are wide enough for two people to walk side-by-side, they are generally free of feces, and you almost never see scooters driving on our sidewalks.

Or the air in SF. Have you noticed that it’s remarkably clean and fresh? That it isn’t permeated with cigarette smoke and diesel fumes? (After a month away from SF, my sister said the air seemed almost sweet to her).

Absence didn’t make me fonder for everything about SF, however. Waiting for MUNI was even more enraging after I’d spent two weeks riding public transit in different cities and countries where I’d never had to wait more than 4 minutes for a train. In Barcelona, a sign on the platform counted down to the next train: 2 minutes, 1 minute 30 seconds, 1 minute. MUNI predictions don’t often count down. It may tell you a train is coming in 5 minutes, then 4 minutes, 3 minutes, 4 minutes, 4 minutes, 4 minutes — until you’ve ended up waiting 15 minutes for a train that you’d been led to believe was just 5 minutes away.

But although SF (and the U.S. in general) still has lots of room for improvement when it comes to transit, I mostly came back with a renewed appreciation for SF. On those first days back, I relished the crisp mornings that melted into almost-too-warm afternoons. I battled my jetlag with strong, delicious coffee. I walked around the farmers market at the end of October amazed that there were still corn and tomatoes available. I had a bowl of radicchio with wheatberries, roasted beets, feta cheese and dressed in an oregano viniagrette at Cane Rosso — precisely the sort of food that I miss when I’m traveling.

I kept my camera in my purse and took pictures of SF as if I were a tourist during my first week back. All the pictures in this post were taken that first week as I stopped to admire the sunset out my office window, the city skyline seen from out on the bay, or the sun rise at the Ferry Building as I was setting up for the farmers market on Saturday.

On our first morning at home, I found myself awake too early. I was lying in bed and hoping I’d fall back asleep when there was an earthquake. And if I had any doubts about where I was, I knew then that I was back on the San Andreas fault line.

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