The biggest fear I had about visiting my hometown for the first time in seven years was that nothing would ever be able to live up to the idea of San Francisco that I had created in my head. I had cobbled together the vision of a dream town from the stories my parents used to tell me and the mythos surrounding the city, a patchwork of borrowed memories from before I was born, Alfred Hitchcock films, and vague memories from both the last time we had visited and my own childhood. In my head, the leftover nostalgia inherited from my parents had painted the city so beautifully that I was afraid nothing real would ever be able to measure up.
No sooner had we entered the airspace over the city than I knew my fears would prove to be unfounded. Night had fallen, and the lights of San Francisco shone like diamonds against the blue velvet setting of the bay, and I knew for certain that my father was right. This was the most beautiful city in the world.
The four days we spent in the city comprise the most amazing vacation I have ever had in my life. Although the primary purpose of the trip was to visit the University of San Francisco, the school I will be attending in the fall, the brief school tour left us with countless opportunities to experience the city my parents loved so well. It’s worthy of note, our campus tour allowed us to briefly visit the breathtaking Saint Ignatius Church, which is one of the most overbooked wedding venues in California for very good reason. Our hotel was located in Union Square, the bustling commercial center of the city. Union Square is full not only of large department stores and trendy boutiques, but also restaurants and shops unique to the city, notably the (in?)famous Jacqueline Perfumery, and the absolutely delicious Honey Honey Café and Crepery.
On our days of exploration, we strolled down Chestnut Street, stopping at my parent’s favorite coffee shop, The Coffee Roastery, which proved to be just as delicious as they remembered, and we ate at the one and only Izzy’s, nostalgia for which had been my parent’s inspiration for many a dinner over the course of my life. We took a ride on the historic cable car (it’s not the trolley) from Union Square down to Fisherman’s wharf, where my littlest brother was delighted to discover the arcade on Pier 39.
Although beautiful, interesting, and fun, the places we visited cannot themselves capture what is was like to spend those days immersed in San Francisco. Every street corner provides a breathtaking view. The streets are adorned with street art that is at times charming, witty, silly, and powerful. The culture is both incredibly varied and distinctly San Franciscan. My favorite experience by far was the walk I took with my family all the way from Union Square through Chinatown and North Beach to Fisherman’s Wharf, simply drinking in the environment and culture of this incredibly original city. It was that walk, more than anything else, that made me realize that my heart had found its home.
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