101 things to do in sf: twin peaks

A while ago, the SF Chronicle published a list of “101 Things to do in San Francisco with Kids.” I read the list and thought, even though it’s for kids, most of the items would be just as fun for adults. Having grown up in Northern California, I have already done several of them, but after crossing those off, still have plenty left.

I had a rare free weekend earlier this month and decided to knock a few items off the list, starting with a trip to Twin Peaks in the city’s Castro District.

The Twin Peaks are two (get it, twins???) hills located in San Francisco. At 925-feet high, they are the highest points in the city proper. You can drive up a paved, albeit windy, road to the top where there are restrooms, viewfinders, and busload of tourists, but I decided to hike up, from the midway point.

2014-07-12 13.51.01My walk started in a neighborhood … the kind of neighborhood SF is famous for. Multimillion dollar homes were built into the hillsides and I parked at a 90-degree angle.

When I started walking, it was warm. The sun was out and I was on asphalt, but 10 minutes in, it started to get really windy. By the time I reached the summit, I had to pull my hair into a ponytail or risk total blindness.2014-07-12 13.36.50

I huffed and puffed my way to the top … and this is after getting back to running! The entire thing made Coit Tower seem like a breeze (no pun intended), but when I finally made it to the top, it was so worth it. The 360-degree views are incredible.

2014-07-12 13.36.57-1Energized by the view, I continue hiking up to the south peak, which is much less touristy. There I could see south to Candlestick Park, east to Oakland, north to Marin County, and west to the Pacific Ocean.

2014-07-12 13.41.12After admiring the views for 20 minutes or so, I headed back down the peak to my car … again in disbelief that I now call this place home!

making friends and giving back

I am mildly-obsessed with a SF-based 80s tribute band known as Tainted Love. I first became a fan in college. My friends and I would meet up in downtown Chico when home for the holidays and from time to time, would visit La Salles, where TL were regulars. As the years went on, their fan base expanded and I would catch them at shows in Los Angeles and San Diego.  They may or may not have been part of the reason I moved up here.

Anyway, shortly after I arrived, my mom told me that she knew someone who was organizing a fundraiser … featuring Tainted Love. I asked her what the fundraiser was for and she said, “Active 20/30.” Having no idea what she was talking about, I Googled the group and discovered that it a national service organization dedicated to helping children. Added bonus – they like to have fun! I was hooked and emailed the local chapter president.

Less than two weeks later I found myself on the 101 north heading to the Financial District for an Active 20/30 Meet and Greet. I immediately fell in love with everyone and declared myself a member.

Last week was my first volunteer opportunity. Five of us met at the SF-Marin Food Bank where we spent three hours packing produce for needy families. When I walked in, I thought I was in a local Costco – it looked and smelled exactly the same. It was hard work bending down, packing, and lifting, but so worth it at the end of the night. The time went by quickly because we were talking the entire time.

I am looking forward to volunteering at the Food Bank again next month and hope to continue my work with this great organization!

 

shoreline park

After I signed the lease on my apartment, I immediate began wondering if I had made the right choice. While searching the internet for Mountain View crime statistics, I stumbled upon an article about nearby Shoreline Park. Growing up in NorCal, I knew all about Shoreline Amphitheater, but had no idea there was a park attached to it.

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Originally a landfill, the 700-acre park opened in the early 1980s. It includes a man-made lake, complete with sailboats, kayaks, pedal boats, and stand-up paddleboarding; miles and miles of paved trails; and a golf course.

IMG_2239IMG_2603I live only a short drive or bike ride away and am so happy I do!I recently started running (again) and even when I am huffing and puffing, I don’t curse too loudly because I can look over and see the bay surrounding me. The trails are well maintained and everyone is very friendly.IMG_2186IMG_2245It’s fun to watch local kids taking sailing lessons and I recently signed up for a paddleboarding membership. My niece Eleanor has already taken advantage of the awesome playground designed to resemble an early 1900s steamer.

IMG_2192And perhaps my favorite feature of the park? A designated kite flying area. Only in San Francisco.

 

 

exploring nor cal: coit tower

I love San Francisco and have for years so it truly was a dream come true to move north. While I don’t live in the city proper, it’s only a short drive, BART, or CalTrain away. It’s basically heaven on earth.

A few weeks ago, I decided to BART into the city to visit Coit Tower, one of San Francisco’s most-famous landmarks. Sitting atop Telegraph Hill, the monument resembles a fire hose, and boasts panoramic views of the city and the bay. The tower recently re-opened after three months of renovation so it seemed like a good time to visit.

 

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Now, you can drive your car up Telegraph Hill and park in front of the tower, but who wants to do that? Like a good local, I hiked up to the entrance. It may not look like much, but I was huffing and puffing by the end.

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Once I reached the top, it was so worth it. The day was unseasonably warm and clear (early SF summers are typically cold and foggy) and I couldn’t stop telling myself … “You live here now! This is your home!”

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Beautiful. Surreal. Awesome.

exploring nor cal: filoli estate & gardens

Last Christmas, my mom, Lester, and I spent some time exploring NorCal. One of our stops was Empire Mines in Grass Valley. While we were touring the main house, our guide mentioned that the Bourn family owned another home, located in the SF Bay Area. I made a mental note to visit, but had no clue it would be so soon!

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Filoli, located in ritzy Woodside, refers to the grand summer estate of the Bourn family. While the house itself is beautiful – its exterior was used as the Carrington mansion on Dynasty – Filoli is truly famous for its numerous and beautiful gardens. I spent my first visit amazed at the hundreds of flowers in bloom, many of which I had never seen or heard of before. My mom, the green thumb, knew most of the names, but even she was stumped at times.

While they don’t allow picnicking on the property, you could easily spend an entire day touring the gardens. Guides also lead frequent nature walks and some weekends feature jazz concerts on the main lawn. It didn’t take me long to become a member and I have already been back a few times … to get inspiration for my own (much smaller) garden.

off the grid: picnic in the presidio

One of the hardest parts about leaving SoCal was the incredible network of friends I had built during my 17 years.  One of my more incredible friends Nina, now living in Paris, encouraged to me to check out MeetUp.com and because she has had good luck using it, I decided to give it a chance.

So on only my second weekend in the Bay Area, I found myself heading up to SF to meet a group of strangers in the hopes they would become friends. IMG_2229

The MeetUp was taking place at an event called Off the Grid: Picnic in the Presidio. Off the Grid is a SF-based business that organizes food truck, craft, and lifestyle fairs throughout the Bay Area. Every Sunday they take over the main lawn of the Presidio, a former military base turned park and housing development. There are hundreds of trucks and vendors, as well as live music.

After hunting for parking, I made my way to the main lawn. I knew I was looking for a picnic basket with a pink pinwheel attached. I quickly found the picnic basket, but the blanket was empty. Now, it may come as a shock to some of you to know that I am extremely self-conscious. I have the ability to small talk with the best of them and make friends easily, but have to force myself to do it.  So here I am standing alone in a sea of people not sure if I should just walk over and sit on the blanket … or get in my car and drive home to the comfort and safety of my apartment.

Before I could run, two girls returned to the blanket and within minutes, we were chatting about our favorite food trucks. In all, there were five of us and we spent three hours drinking wine, eating good food, and getting to know each other. Everyone else lived in the East Bay (while I am south of SF, on the Peninsula) so while I don’t think we will see each other often, it was nice to feel normal for an afternoon … sitting next to the Golden Gate enjoying a Sunday afternoon with friends.

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I’ve joined some new MeetUp groups based closer to home … here’s hoping I make some new friends!

 

greetings from the peninsula!

Surprise! Less than two weeks ago I relocated from Southern California to the San Francisco Bay Area. Returning home to my “NorCal roots” has been something I have dreamt of for awhile and finally the stars aligned! I accepted a new job in mid-February … and instead of packing … proceeded to chair a week-long conference in New Orleans, present at a convention in Washington DC, and spend four glorious days with my niece. Somehow I also packed, rented an apartment, cleaned out my office, and said goodbye to my SoCal family and friends.

The move itself went well – or as well as moves can go! It took the movers longer to get me out than anticipated so I didn’t get on the road until 2:30pm. A long drive was made longer by crazy traffic on the 405 (if you aren’t from SoCal, the 405 is the WORST of all the LA freeways). The unloading the next morning went much better.

My cat Bailey successfully campaigned for Cat of the Year. She meowed a bit in the beginning, but then after I turned her carrier to face me and opened the door, she slept and would periodically requested a few pets. She was skittish for the first two days, but is back to her old self and has discovered a love of hard wood floors … she thinks skidding on them is fantastic when playing with her toys.

Sadly, I decided to move to the Bay Area during a record heatwave. We are talking 95 degrees with no air conditioning because the Peninsula normally has a bay breeze. Unpacking and organizing was an experience, but I survived.

I’ve now been at my new job for seven days and after nearly 14 years at Fullerton College, it is odd to be the new kid on the block, but I am learning a lot and trying to take notes on everything and everyone. My office is gorgeous. Huge – light – and on the main quad.

I have promised so many of my SoCal friends that I will document my new life here on this blog and it’s a promise I intend to keep. Looking forward to sharing my adventures with you all. And for now, good night … and go Giants … three out of four against the Dodgers. I can live with that!