California is my happy place. I first visited San Francisco on my GAP year with Caro – we did all the tourist-y things; visiting Alcatraz, shopping around Union Square, checking out Fisherman’s Wharf, and taking a cable car, before Greyhound-ing across America.
I tipped up there again two years later for a summer via the BUNAC (British Universities North America Club) scheme when I was at uni – it gave me a reciprocal working visa for three months and I did all manner of jobs, including maitre d’ing at a long defunct fine dining restaurant called Ariana (they hired me because of my accent not my skills), interning at a entertainment free sheet in Potrero Hill, and cash wrap girl at Anne Taylor in the Embarcadero and in Corte Madero (mainly notable for my ability to leave the security tags on under layers of gift wrapping).
Although on that trip I didn’t do much in the way of sightseeing out of the city, living like a local was enough.
I bought my groceries in the Italian delis in North Beach, and in Safeway in the Marina, (yes, people really do chat you up in the produce aisles and take your number), studied in the library of the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley (what better place to research a paper on attitude to homosexuality in the Christian church?), ate my first burrito in the Mission (actually life-changing), drove a Crown Victoria automatic up and down the terrifyingly vertical hills and on the freeway delivering media packs for the magazine (I thought I was going to die, more used to a Citroen 2CV and never having driven a car less than twenty years old and certainly not on the wrong side of the road and with a gear lever on a stalk from the steering wheel), and saw the Dead play at Shoreline (before Jerry died).
Since then I’ve returned to California more times than I can count, including the epic road trip I took in when I was on sabbatical after leaving The Wall Street Journal. (The first post is here.)
I’ve lived in Los Angeles, in KoreaTown with a band (sleeping in the room above their rehearsal space), experienced a minor earthquake, hiked everywhere from Runyon to Torrey Pines, experienced the turn-of-the-century resort splendour of San Diego’s Hotel Del Coronado, bought produce in the farmers’ market in Santa Barbara and Santa Monica, driven the PCH in everything from a Toyota to a Ferrari California T, shopped vintage in Burbank, filmed otters in the Monterey Aquarium, wallowed in mud baths in Calistoga, tasted sparkling reds at Domaine Chandon in Napa, danced my socks off at Coachella, walked the red carpet at a Twilight premiere in LA, visited eight of the California Missions from La Purisima in Lompoc to St Anthony de Padua on Fort Hunter Ligget Base, luxuriated at the Hotel Bel Air, gawped at Hearst Castle, gazed at the stars at the Griffith Park Observatory, driven a Bentley 100ft sideways down a sand dune in Palm Desert, haggled for bargains at the Pasadena Rose Bowl Vintage Fair, squealed over the glory of seals lolling on a beach from La Jolla to the Central Coast, eaten all the cheese at Cowgirl Creamery in San Francisco’s Ferry Building, attended an Apple Event where Sia performed, taken a private jet over the desert, and slept in an open air treehouse in Big Sur.
But what I haven’t done is driven further north than Calistoga for Jill’s wedding (just north of wine country above San Francisco), or further east than Los Angeles (apart from Palm Springs) or San Francisco. That’s mainly because I’m usually road tripping on my own and hiking National Parks on my own doesn’t appeal from a safety point of view. And, as much as I thoroughly enjoy my own company, I’d want to share the glories of nature with someone. Equally, I am far more motivated to do the outdoor activities with a friend.
So I am beyond excited that Rach and I are heading out to San Francisco and then immediately East and then North for two weeks at the beginning of September on a NINE DAY HIKING ROAD TRIP!!!! We are bookending either side of the road trip in SF; on the way in because it’s Rach’s birthday so we can eat at The Slanted Door for dinner (one of my favourite restaurants in the world), and on the way out because of flight timings.
Then we are heading to Yosemite (even though Rach has bear phobia). We are booked into a hotel because we love hiking, but we aren’t climbers, and aren’t looking to camp overnight under our own stream. We don’t want to bother with wilderness permits and we don’t have the equipment for it this trip. (No bear canisters here!)