East is East, and West is San Francisco

This post’s title comes from the mouth of O. Henry.

To be entirely forthcoming, the quote in full reads:

East is East, and West is San Francisco, according to Californians. Californians are a race of people; they are not merely inhabitants of a State.

I don’t think I’ll bother to unpack that opinion.

But another favorite, attributed to Frank Lloyd Wright is pretty much the way I see it, too.

San Francisco is the only city I can think of that can survive all the things you people are doing to it and still look beautiful.”

Frank Lloyd Wright died in 1959. I wonder what he’d say about the city today?

Even in my own lifetime I’ve seen so many changes to this vibrant and exciting city. There are many who complain the battle for San Francisco’s soul has been lost to the tech industries. I think for many people, and in particular people of my age, there is a tendency to ring alarm bells with change that doesn’t fit our interests or lifestyle.

No matter, I continue to think San Francisco is a fascinating and highly enjoyable city, and I feel extremely lucky to have family living in the city and surrounding Bay Area who eagerly extend themselves as personal tour guides.

We recently visited my cousins and spent a couple of days simply enjoying the company of each other and relaxing in the comfort of being with experienced locals.

We enjoyed lunch at one of the little stalls in Fisherman’s Wharf, mostly taking in the sights and aromas unique to the area.

If you’ll permit me to boast a little, I bake what I consider to be really good sourdough bread, BUT San Francisco’s sourdough is iconic and people line up to take home loaves, with tourists making arrangements to ship it home.  The classic sourdough originated in the city with the gold rush, and all I can tell you is, don’t leave the city without make its acquaintance.

I had never been inside the Presidio chapel, so we made a stop. The chapel was built by the U.S. Army in Spanish mission revival architecture and serves as an active chapel and a popular wedding venue. The walls are lined with plaques honoring fallen members of the military. I wish I’d taken more photos of the chapel itself, but I think I was so affected by the setting that I kept my eyes outdoors.

Turn around.

Afternoon drinks and tapas at the Cliff House provided rest after much walking and a visual treat as well.

My goal is always aimed towards an ocean view, and The Cliff House, in the outer Richmond neighborhood of San Francisco has been re-invented several times since its earliest beginnings in 1858, but that view has withstood earthquakes, fire and time!

There is so much history attached to this fabulous spot, but I’ll share just a little of the popular culture. From what I’ve read, the area immediately around the Cliff House is a featured setting in Jack London’s novel, “The Scarlet Plague.” And characters from London’s “The Abysmal Brute” meet at the Cliff House.

I you have any interest in seeing an image of the third incarnation of the Cliff House THIS article shows the cover of the album Imaginos by Blue Öyster Cult, featuring the image on its cover.

But perhaps more interesting to me is the way the Cliff House was originally poised on the cliff to overlook the famous, at the time, Sutro Baths, owned by Adolph Sutro, wealthy entrepreneur and San Francisco mayor (1894-96).

The baths contained six saltwater pools, equipped with slides, swinging rings and a springboard.

The Cliff House and the Baths struggled over the years with fires, very high operating costs and other economic difficulties, but both are currently part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, operated by the United States National Park. The good news in that sentence is that developers aren’t poised to ravage the ecologically fragile and beautiful coastline view.

I wanted a photo from our visit overlooking one of the best views of the city. Just once I’d like to have a photo of the two of us without me in dark glasses. I had to laugh.

Here I am. Squinting again! Jay has brown eyes and can take a good photo. I, with light blue, just can’t do it! If I weren’t quite so vain I’d be tempted to make you laugh with a whole host of odd photos sitting in my archives.

So here’s the official photo of the day. Perhaps pay more attention to the background. That’s one breathtaking view.

If the view doesn’t impress you, perhaps this?

My travel focus is always the people I love, but I’m also exceedingly joyful that my visits return me to such interesting locations.

I’m grateful for each and every “breathing lighter” moment. I wish you the same, my friends, as a new week and new month begins.




47 thoughts on “East is East, and West is San Francisco

    • I didn’t share a closeup by design, Jo! LOL! I had such a good day with my dear cousin, the photographer. We are really more like sisters, and she helps keep my heart light. 🙂

  1. I never thought about eye colour affecting glare problems !
    SF does look absolutely marvellous; and Jay has a faint resemblance to a much better-looking and MUCH younger Tommy Lee Jones. [grin] Your kids must be really good-looking !

    • You’re very kind, M-R. The lighter eyes just don’t give me much filter. That, and I may just have very sensitive eyes. My daughter has brown eyes and my son, blue. He has as much trouble as I do, so I concluded the color was the problem.

  2. Fabulous post, Debra . . . with spectacular and sparkling photos. Love seeing both shots of you and your guy. You look GREAT!

    I’m not a city gal but I enjoyed a couple of visits to San Fran with my brother as tour guide. We toured Fisherman’s Wharf, rode the cable cars, marveled at Lombard Street, AND . . . ate sourdough bread!

    • I think perhaps my love of San Francisco sourdough is what inspired me to do my best to replicate it at home. I could live on it. LOL! I’m glad you know the charms of the city, Nancy. It isn’t an easy city for the uninitiated to navigate, at least that’s my impression, but when others are more at home and I can just relax with it there is more to enjoy than I can even take in! The setting alone has me in its spell. 🙂

    • Thank you, Colleen. It’s a wonderful place to visit. Large cities aren’t everyone’s greatest enjoyment, but there are so many individual sites within the matrix of the city at large highlighting art and beautiful spots to breathe in quiet and the lure of the ocean views. I look forward to my “next time.” 🙂

  3. I love San Francisco … especially North Beach area for eating. Thanks for the reminders of this outstanding city. Now about that last beautiful pic … I didn’t not notice the view.

    • How nice to hear from you, Frank! There are wonderful places to eat in the city, that’s for sure. Once again it helps me to be in the company of family members who know what they enjoy and can share their experiences with us. I was watching that young woman do a series of movements on that short retaining wall and my heart was in my throat. Someone said she was a part of a city ballet troupe. I was very happy when she stepped down. 🙂

  4. I’ve been to SF several times. I love the food and the energy. You have some great pictures including the one of your and your husband. You are so lucky to have relatives there.

    • I’m so glad you have been to San Francisco and know something of the vibrancy of the city. It really does have its own unique vibration, I think. Sometime when I’m up there I’d like to focus my camera on the neighborhoods and the interesting homes. I think the old Victorians juxtaposed against the skyscrapers is perhaps what most captures my imagination. 🙂

    • I think if I worked in the city I’d be lost, Andrew. I have been to San Francisco many times over a lifetime and even visited very frequently when my son was in college there. He lived is several different districts and I never did figure it all out! LOL! I now truly rely on family to chauffeur me around. The other option has been to be dropped off or take BART and walk! If I’m on foot I feel less vulnerable. It’s a lovely place to visit, however. I marvel at those who actually live there!

    • Oh you just must, King! You’d love the setting at Cliff House. There are so many beautiful places along the coast but I found this spot particularly delightful. It may in part have been because of the company I was keeping. 🙂 Invite someone special and you’ll be pleased, for sure.

  5. Dare I say it? I’ve never been to San Francisco! (The airport doesn’t count.) It’s always felt like a big mountain to climb—how long would I need to do it right? Thank you for giving me new places to reference (for my “Some Day” trip. As always, your photos are spectacular, Debra. Thank you for including ones of you & Jay!❤️

    • With all of your world travel, I am surprised about your reluctance, in any way, to visiting the city. I think before our navigation systems and the rise of Uber and Lyft perhaps it was more intimidating to me, too, but you’d have many things to fit into your interests. We’ll have to talk…and maybe take a girls trip one of these days. 🙂

    • Jim, if you haven’t been in a while I think you’d be fascinated with the combination of familiarity and major change. There is so much new building and many of the smaller neighborhoods are being “eaten up” by the tech companies. I am confident this is true in almost all cities, but somehow San Francisco feels different to me simply because there are so many truly iconic features to the city, as well, I suppose as a little nostalgia. I felt very grateful to have chauffeurs, however. I don’t think Jay and I have ever navigated the city with any confidence. I like to walk the city more than drive through it! 🙂

  6. So glad to see you (sans dark glasses) and JJ together in a photo. Terrific! The view is fabulous indeed, even with the dancer perched on the edge; heart-stopping!! Your post might encourage me to exit a cruise ship I’ll be on in May which stops in SF to re-visit the city sites. Hugs, E

  7. Debra, how nice to find your post. I’ve lived an hour south of San Francisco for most of my adult life, and like you, I still find plenty of things to love about the place. It’s iconic. Mike and I spent 24 hours there for our anniversary last year. We always discover new things, while celebrating the old and marveling at the changes. I do have long time friends living in the City who are feeling priced out and that is sad. The same is true here in San Jose. I loved seeing your picture and the view and I can also relate. I’m either squinting or my eyes are fully shut. I think you’re adorable with your warm shining through. I’m so glad you had an enjoyable time with family and friends.

    • I am glad to have your perspective, Alys, as a person very familiar with San Francisco! The word I keep using in description for the city is “vibrant.” My son works in the city and I have other family living there, too, so I feel like I’m connected, even though I live in Southern California. Sometimes just for fun I listen to San Francisco radio feeds (NPR) and try to stay in tune with museum and theater opportunities. I have timed visits to take advantage of a few special events. The being “out priced” is no joke. I cannot believe what I’m hearing, and I think much of the country would experience serious “sticker shock” if they could even begin to understand the cost of living “up there.” Thank you for sharing, Alys. And take care while you’re recuperating. xx

      • I’m a huge KQED fan. I’m glad to know you listen in, too. Vibrant is an excellent way to describe the City. I’m so glad you get to visit often as well. My youngest son is attending school in Southern California (Chapman) and we have relatives and friends there is well. I’m certain we’ll bump into each other one of these days, Debra.

  8. I’ve been to San Francisco many, many times but I know there is so much more to explore. My favorite thing to do is just walk… everywhere. In every picture I have of myself taken outdoors, I’m wearing sunnies too (I also have blue eyes). I try to take them off, but I feel like I’m frying my eyeballs.

    • I just cannot keep my eyes open if the sun is bright. My eye doctor told me I have large pupils. I don’t know that they’re that much larger, LOL, but something is amiss!

      I have done a lot of walking in San Francisco myself. My son went to school there and before I had family to chauffeur me around I needed to trust my feet. Driving in the city scared me. But as many times as I’ve explored, like most major and exciting cities, I can’t say that I know it! I just look forward to each and every visit hoping to know it a little better. 🙂 Thanks for stopping by, Janis!

  9. It’s so nice to see a photo of you. San Francisco is one of my favorite cities and has been for decades. We often take our visitors to the Cliff House, it is such a special place.

  10. The coastline is really lovely there Debra – something I wouldn‘t have automatically associated with San Francisco, but thanks to your posts I am learning constantly! Thanks for sharing. Hope March is a good month for you both. 🙂

  11. The two of you must have really enjoyed your visit, especially with your own private guide. The photo of the dancer perched on the edge of that wall made a lump in my throat…I hope it wasn’t a steep drop down.

  12. Debra, what a lovely photo of you and Jay looking so happy!

    I have been slow to respond to this wonderful post because, would you believe, Hazel and I were away on a sourdough baking course, which we both enjoyed. More rustic than the San Franciso kind of sour dough I think.

    And your pictures and locations really touched my heart, These were some of the places I loved in the City when I lived in Berkeley across the Bay and I have so many memories!

  13. Dear Debra, thanks so much for posting those two photos of you and your husband. You are so attractive physically, but what draws all of us to your blog is the great beauty of your soul. Peace.

  14. Hi Debra. What a beautiful post. I’ve only been to San Francisco once, but it has always been one of my most favorite cities. Very often, when we travel, we ty o imagine if we could live in the location of the moment. San Francisco was one of those places. I also paused when you mentioned about the changes in the city and the idea of ringing alarm bells when those changes don’t meet our lifestyles or interests. Perfectly stated — and how nice to be able to embrace the evolution of our cities and ourselves. I hope you and yours are safe and healthy. Thinking of you . . . Be well.

  15. Hi Debra, what a beautiful view it is when you get to a height and see stretched out ahead of you the fabulous white city of San Francisco on her eleven mystic hills with the blue Pacific and its advancing wall of potato-patch fog beyond, and smoke and goldenness in the late afternoon of time. Thanks for sharing 🙂

  16. How lovely to be able to travel to so many surrounding retreats and breathelightly! What a title you hold Debra on making sourdough…I tried to make a starter once and failed and am too afraid to try again, especially when we have a bakery in town that bakes with a fifty year old starter! I have asked to purchase their starter but they refuse to sell…so much for sharing the love.

  17. I was station at Fort Ord for three years, 1992-1994. I visit San Francisco often. Was a amazing city. Me and my friends roamed the city. No-one bother us. A safe city then. The photos are amazing Debra.

I always enjoy hearing from you!

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