I Left My Heart in San Francisco
In May of 2016, I spent 10 days in San Francisco on vacation. I got an Airbnb in Lower Pacific Heights that was really more of a hostel. There were 10 of us staying there at any given time, and there was only one bathroom. I got used to it fairly quickly, waking up at 6am everyday to shower before anyone else was up (it’s funny how we adapt to new environments so quickly).
I spent most of my days walking around the city alone – exploring Haight-Ashbury, the Mission, the Botanical Gardens and museums, the pier, Union Square, and the Tenderloin once by accident and once on purpose (Tadu is a great Ethiopian restaurant). I took a day trip to Muir Woods and Sausalito, and spent some time at a few offices downtown to meet some folks for the classic tech sector coffee chat.
The people staying with me at the hostel were great – except for the girl who FaceTimed her boyfriend at 4am in the bunk below me without headphones (?). I met a guy who was featured in a BuzzFeed article about the hottest guys at Coachella, a wonderful girl from Vancouver who was going through a recent break-up, and a man from the Netherlands who was the founder of a start-up and was in SF for VC meetings. We all hung out at night, hitting up jazz bars, Mexican restaurants, and Toronado more than once.
One of my favourite memories from that trip was when an older French man came to stay. He had arrived while I was gone for the day, but everyone, knowing I was from Canada, told him I spoke fluent French (I don’t). So, when I met him that evening, he was so happy to see me. He didn’t speak a word of English, so we had one of those Franglais conversations where I was nodding my head a lot and playing charades. He was super kind, and came out for dinner with us that night. I honestly don’t think he understood a word I was saying – but I was haphazardly translating our conversation to him the whole night anyway.
It was a jam-packed 10 days, and a few days before I was leaving, my Airbnb host Hana was chatting with me about her latest freelance writing project. Hana is an incredible writer, and had done a hilarious food review for The Bold Italic the previous year. She was a great host, and I often helped her out with host duties when she was busy. So, when we were having breakfast one day talking about her most recent writing project, I invited myself along.
Her mission was to write food reviews of selected strip club buffets in the city. From 'gourmet' lunch buffets, to all you can eat fried chicken, there’s something for everyone. Having never been to a strip club, I figured if I was going to go to one, this would be by far the most interesting way to experience it.
We ended at the Hustler Club. We were somewhat-surprisingly the only people there on a Monday at noon, but we drank our beer, ate our mozzarella sticks and chicken wings, and sat in awe over the physical fitness of the dancers. Not wanting to come off as rude, we would take turns running up to the stage and putting down money whenever one of the women would finish her routine.
Pretty soon, all of the dancers were at our table chatting with us. One of the girls told me she loved my shirt – it was a red, short sleeved dress shirt with white anchors on it – because it reminded her of a 'music festival cruise' she had taken earlier that year with a bunch of mid 2000’s bands. That story only added to the beautiful randomness that my Monday had turned into.
The girls asked Hana and I if we were dating – we laughed, and I told them “Nah, she’s my Airbnb host! Also, we’re both straight”. One of the girls, Blossom, who loved that we were both named after flowers, told me suggestively to let her know if I needed anything. I respectfully declined, but told her I was so impressed by how in shape she was. I had no idea how to compliment or turn down a stripper, but I figured that was a safe bet.
Hana told the girls why she was there, and they all told us if we were reviewing the food, we had to get the hot fudge sundae. We couldn’t pass up that endorsement, but honestly, it was pretty average. That said, I don’t think I’ll ever forget eating a hot fudge sundae in a San Francisco strip club at 1pm.
This was one of those stories that when I told certain people, they thought it was amazing. While others were just really confused and didn’t see the beauty in it. So, when I told the CEO of a very successful tech company in SF my story at a post-conference dinner, it was a risky move. Thankfully, he laughed for about five minutes straight and asked for all of the details (I only spared a few).
My time in San Francisco reminded me that often the best way to see a city is to spend enough time there to feel more like a local than a tourist. It also reminded me that for me, the best part of travelling is always the people I meet along the way. Those people are what make everyone's travels unique, even in the most touristy of locations.
Check out Hana’s article before your next trip to San Francisco - I hear The Gold Club does great fried chicken.