Get Out of Town!
A San Francisco Treat
August, 2018 - Issue #167
courtesy of Shutterstock
courtesy of Shutterstock

EDS. NOTE: Our "Get Out of Town" columnist Eric Harish handed over the proverbial pen this month to his daughter, Laurel. He'll be back next month!

Our weekend in San Francisco is much like the city itself - packed, busy, close - a whole lot going in a very small space, or in our case, a small amount of time.

My mom, aunt, cousin and I were in the City by the Bay to celebrate my 16th birthday and my cousin's high school graduation. No dads. No brothers. Just us girls.

Armed with an old school map and a Pinterest board overflowing with possibilities, we were determined to experience as much of San Francisco as possible in the three days we had together.

First on our list was, of course, Pier 39's sea lions. Hundreds of the city's most famous harbor-dwelling residents teemed onto docks to soak up the sun and dry the salty water on their fur. My cousin and I spent a solid half hour just watching them sleep, jealous of their lazy lifestyles.

Just like the seals cram onto the docks, tourists jam Pier 39, drawn to its varied attractions. From fresh fish, to old arcades, to bread factories there are an overwhelming array of options. By mid morning it was Disneyland crowded, challenging to even walk through the throngs.
"Though the city is PACKED, its neighborhoods retain their distinct characters which can change from one street to the next."

But that didn't keep us from Ghirardelli Square. The eponymous chocolate store was visited. Samples were nibbled and every flavored examined.

As we wandered the city, I was struck by its density and its many unique identities. I'm an L.A. native and therefore accustomed to sprawl. Surrounded by water, San Francisco has been forced to build up. Though the city is packed, its neighborhoods retain their distinct characters which can change from one street to the next.

Little Italy and Chinatown are barely a cross walk away from each other. Yet the second you cross the street, you're aware of the difference in culture and people groups. As we walked around, we got calamari and honey-flavored pizza for lunch. Within a few steps, we were having boba for dessert and then visiting the fortune-cookie museum. A few blocks more and we were in Union Square, its name-brand stores larger than those found at almost any mall, with seemingly-endless floors and contents.

While the variety and scale of the shopping spectacle was impressive, my cousin and I found ourselves more at home in Haight-Ashbury, the epicenter of hippiedom. There were record stores with dollar CDs from unheard-of bands, thrift shops full of hidden treasures and book stores overflowing with intriguing titles. Hours were spent flipping through cassette tapes, looking at records, trying on clothes and generally buying stuff we never knew we needed.

Our final day was the most eventful. We squeezed in anything we forgot to do - like ride a cable car.

The ride was short but it summed up our trip. Packed inside the car, the four of us were closer than we ever have been, both literally and figuratively. And that was the best part of the weekend - in the city with millions of strangers that brought us closer than we could have imagined.
Laurel Harnish lives in Castaic, where hippies are usually spotted on the northbound Interstate 5 onramp with thumbs pointing north.
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