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Beauty in the Shadows

Updated: Feb 26, 2023

San Francisco is a wrap. Sitting here writing from the American Airlines Admiral club inside SFO on my way to Denver via a short layover in Phoenix.

It's been a great trip. It's been a different trip. I may have set my expectations too high. Not at all a "let down" by any means, but it wasn't as magical as I expected either.

I am definitely glad SF is checked off the list. It's been there for 30 years, but it's not a place I would run back to and also not a place I would ever avoid either.

Highlights were day 1, Alcatraz. I love the energy. It's wasn't a dark and painful energy like I expected. Peaceful and beautiful is what I took away from my visit.

Friday, Feb 17th was filled with a lot of steps, over 22,000! It started with a 6a wake-up call and hike up to Twin Peaks, said to be the highest spot in the city with breathtaking views. Sunrise at 6:57a was stunning and cold. I took a Lyft back down to the hotel where I ventured to Le Marais Bakery.

Le Marais became my favorite spot. Located on the corner of 18th/Sanchez, just a few blocks down from my hotel, I visited 3x over the course of 6 days and it only got better each visit. The French know how to make a pastry, and my bacon/onion marmalade croissant and soft egg was beyond mouthwatering. I may even venture to say memorable...

Continuing on with the day, I next set my sights on walking across the Golden Gate Bridge and on to Sausalito. While on the SF side, I met Sophie, another solo traveler, visiting the city for work and visiting her cousins new baby. She and I connected over a photo, and she became my muse and model for the trek across the bridge. Her warmth and personality was the perfect addition to the sunshine-filled walk. Once across, she got a ride back to the city and I continued on towards Sausalito. A quick lunch of crab cakes and salad at the Spinnaker, a restaurant with panoramic views back towards the city, I jumped on the ferry back to the Ferry Building on my way to Happy Hour back in the Castro.

Tara, my new SF-based friend (friend of a friend...but now a true friend in her own right) and I had a marvelous night of food, cocktails, gossip and laughter. We met up at the famous Twin Peaks Tavern in Castro for Happy Hour. "In 1972, the business was taken over by two lesbian friends Mary Ellen Cunha and Peggy Forster, who removed the window coverings a year later, making it believed to be the first gay bar which revealed its customers to the outside. Until then, most American gay bars and clubs had shuttered windows so outsiders couldn't see who was inside and thus apparently queer, something that could have lead to job loss or social exclusion." I was filled with and an overwhelming feeling of thanks and pride in an ever-changing world of hate and acceptance. History lives here.

While there, the legendary Casper the Cockatoo was wandering around visiting and greeting guests like he owns the joint...and he may.

After a few libations, we jumped on the bus and headed towards Alamo Square and the famous Painted Ladies, SF icons set aside a steep hillside and stunning city backdrop. It was a pinch me moment. A few quick pics and we were off to Brenda's Meat and Three, a Southern restaurant where you chose a meat main accompanied by 3 sides of your choosing, all posted on the daily rotating board. Blackened Catfish, collard greens, red beans + rice and cheese grits made it way to my plate, and it couldn't have been more delicious! (Brenda’s Meat & Three/919 Divisadero Street, San Francisco/415.926.8657)

Our visit was genuine and sincere, and I can't ever thank you Tara for the human connection in a city where I largely otherwise felt alone.

Saturday, I visited Muir Woods National Monument where you get to "walk among old growth coast redwoods, cooling their roots in the fresh water of Redwood Creek and lifting their crowns to reach the sun and fog. Federally protected as a National Monument since 1908." I hiked up and back along the Canopy View trail and then wandered around the boardwalk.

I shuttled from the forest to Larksupr Ferry and then back to the Ferry building on an hour-long bay transit.

In my continued Saturday excursion, a late lunch of dim sum at Yank Sing at the recommendation of friend and former colleague Angela. Pot stickers, steamed pork buns, shrimp dumplings and crab Rangoon rounded out a meal that was entirely too large and delicious for a party of 1.

Exhausted, I took the Muni (enclosed streetcar) back to to the Castro district, wandered to Hotel Castro, freshened up and went to Edge and the Lobby Bar for a few cocktails before turning into bed entirely too early on a Sat night and my last night in SF.

I woke at 6a, packed, got coffee, showered and then back to Le Marais Bakery for another helping of pastry's and bacon croissant before headed to the airport. (498 Sanchez at 18th Street, SF • 415-872-9026)

85,432 steps. 5 hotel nights, 11 Lyft rides, 4 ferry transits, 5 muni rides and 4 flight segments. That's a wrap!

Colorado, over and out




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about me:

Hey!  I am Cole from Grand Junction, Colorado. In 2023 I stepped on all seven continents, in a single calendar year, solo!

The year continues to shape my life and my lust for travel.

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