Monday, July 30, 2012

Use your feet, walk places!

What a fabulous weekend this last one was! I had been waiting for a weekend like that for a bit now.

On Friday, Peru celebrated 191 years of independence and we celebrated it by going out on a long walk that took us all the way to Fort Mason.

When we walk around the city, we make a point of trying out new streets. Even if exploring means climbing up steeper hills, we usually choose to walk on streets we haven’t been before. Poking around unexplored areas usually has its rewards. A few weeks ago we ventured into a park that looked more like a private walkway, and we discovered a super cool, and super private, alley where blackberries grew wild. Unlike most blackberry bushes in the city, this one was untouched, full of ripe, juicy and tasty blackberries! Obviously, this alley does not get the foot traffic other places in the city do!

Well, our curiosity paid off once again on Saturday. While walking towards Fort Mason’s grassy fields, we walked pass a community garden! Yes, a lovely garden that is cared for by community members.

Because we had Bomber with us, only I was able to walk in while Joe waited outside with the puppy. No dogs allowed inside the community garden, which makes total sense.

Once I opened the gate and entered the garden, I felt as if I had entered the Alice Keck Park Memorial Gardens in Santa Barbara. The smell of flowers was so intense, and the variety in shapes and colors was incredible.

I walked around the garden for a while and then went back outside where Joe and a very anxious Bomber were waiting for me to continue with our walk.

We ended Peru’s independence day with a fabulous meal at La Mar, one of the best Peruvian restaurants in the city, and one of the many restaurants owned by our celebrity chef, Gaston Acurio.

Sunday started early and we decided to head West to Ocean Beach. We took the train there and rode for about 40 minutes all the way to the beach.  Once there, we unleashed Bomber and started walking on the beach. We went back and forth about 3 times.

The beach is such a relaxing place. When you are at the beach, you don’t have to worry about anything other than the steps you take, and that’s not even something to worry about.  At the beach, the only sounds are those of the ocean, the birds and other beachgoers. Such a soothing place. After a long week, a little bit of beach time was all we needed!

Ocean Beach is also the perfect place to find sand dollars!  We saw people looking for them and we saw many of them as we walked along the shore. Most of them were broken but, nonetheless, they were still very pretty!

Because we left the apartment early, we started getting really hungry around noon, so we decided to head back to the train station to find some food.

After we fueled our bodies, we decided to start walking in the direction of home, following the train tracks. We had never walked around the Sunset, the district south of the Golden Gate Park, and this was the perfect opportunity to check it out.

Walking around the Sunset was fun. We crossed the entire district and enjoyed seeing how colorful the houses are there.  I have never really understood why there are ordinances or rules about what colors to paint your own home. In the Sunset, those rules do not seem to exist as you can see a pink house next to a blue one, next to an orange one, next to a white one. The end result? A very colorful neighborhood where the houses light up the streets given that the sun seems to hide behind the clouds most of the time.

Once we passed the Sunset, we entered Cole Valley and then Parnassus Heights before hitting Buena Vista Park. At this time we were quite tired after having gone up all the way from the ocean to this point. We still ventured into the park but decided to come back and really explore it some other day. While walking through it, we found some blackberries. They were not totally ripe but we still ate some.  A bit bitter but still refreshing.

I think it was around Parnassus Heights that we saw the coolest and possibly the wackiest succulents I have ever seen in my life. If any of you have seen Pink Floyd’s The Wall, you’ll be able to picture them as they looked exactly like the animated flowers on the movie.  I indulged in a full 15 minutes of photos of just these guys!
We went up and down, over the hills and through parks and new neighborhoods. In total we walked about 9 miles before deciding to catch the train back by Duboce Park. At the end, I was very happy to have seen all these new places. After all, I might live in Nob Hill, but there is nothing stopping me from enjoying all the other fun neighborhoods that exist in this city. And, only a train-ride away, I can always position myself to start a long walk through unknown streets!

Hope you enjoyed the photos from this weekend. For more photos, check out my Etsy store at:

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Stop and Smell the Roses

This week I have nothing in particular to write about. The past 10 days have been kind of busy, kind of hectic, and a little bit stressful. Joe had a very intense week at work, and he continues to work long hours. Last weekend, my in-laws came over to San Francisco for a visit that turned into a family vacation. It’s always nice to have family around, but we all know the stressors that come with it. While they vacationed, our lives in San Francisco continued to happen around us. Joe still had to work, and I still have to take care of my projects, the apartment and Bomber. On top of that, yesterday we hosted a party for the summer class at Joe’s firm. The preparation was quite time-consuming. I don’t know if we’ll be throwing parties for work again.

Life, today, is back to normal. My day has gone slowly, but not as slowly as I would have wanted. It’s funny because, in some ways, I want the day to be over so Joe can come home to nothing else to do but hang out with the dog and me.

I’m so ready for a relaxing evening that, at 2:00 p.m., dinner is made and sitting on the stove!

But, of course, not all was running around and being busy over the past few days. In fact, one of the best things about the past few days is that summer seems to have finally arrived to San Francisco! Yes, it’s sandals weather and time to wear sunscreen.


Starting last Friday, every day has been sunny from the moment the sun rose. No fog for us lately, which is wonderful! Sunny days bring such a positive vibe into my life. When the sun is shining, the park is crowded with people having fun, everybody seems to be happier, the dog enjoys his walks a lot more, and I feel in love with the warmth on my face and the kisses the rays leave on my skin.

Over the weekend, we went to wine country with my in-laws. Because there were 6 of us, we couldn’t drive our own car there, so they booked a private tour to take us to Napa and Sonoma. Joe, his sister and I had already been there. This was the first time for Joe’s parents and for my sister-in-law’s boyfriend. In fact, this was her boyfriend’s first time ever to the West Coast!

The boyfriend brings me to another positive aspect of the past few days.

We had never met this young man before so there was a lot of expectations and a lot of curiosity about what he would be like. We weren’t worried. My sister in law has a history of only dating nice guys and, this time, it was not any different. Her boyfriend was quite charming, good-natured and very easy going. We liked him and are happy for them.

Wine tasting was fine. We went to wineries we had not been to before. In fact, our tour guide took us “off the beaten path,” which was fun, but we didn’t get to see some of the iconic wineries that are all over the area.

We did end up tasting some delicious wines and we enjoyed meeting the people who made them. Well, I enjoyed all of them except for one: a winery ran by a man named “Bob”. I don’t really want to go into details but let’s just say that Bob was one of the most offensive people I have encountered in quite a long time. Did he serve us good wine? Yes, he did. Was he incredibly generous about his servings? Yes, he was. Did he joke about hidden cameras in his bathroom that were not aimed at your face? Yes, he did. Would I ever go back to taste wines at his place? No, I would not.

Continuing with the highlights of the past 10 days, we also visited the Golden Gate Park with the family.

It had been about 7 months since we strolled around this awesome park, so our visit on Sunday was definitely a highlight!

At the park, we walked around the many gardens but weren’t able to go into all of them because of the dog restrictions. A bummer, but I totally understand that dogs can cause damage to flower beds and landscaping. Also, there is the fact that some dog owners seem totally incapable of picking up their dog’s droppings, and I’m sure we all know how unpleasant it is to walk on grass and step on poop!

Many flowers were blooming at the park and that’s what I took photos of. Actually, over the past few days, I’ve only taken photos of flowers. California has such a gorgeous variety of flowers. They seem to be more complex in their form than the ones I saw while living in Minnesota. When we moved to Santa Barbara, I was so excited about all the new flowers I saw. Every month a new beautiful kind of flower would bloom. I’m glad San Francisco has more than its fair share of gorgeous flowers too!

So many things happened over the past 10 days, and I had my camera with me every single time. Most of the photos on this blog post are of flowers. In addition to being totally drawn to the beauty of flowers, being with other people makes it hard to constantly stop to try to frame the photo you want, but flowers can be easily captured. After all, no matter how big the group you are with is, there is always time to stop and smell the flowers, right?

So, I guess no matter how stressful or busy life gets, there is always a silver lining. I think it's just a matter of taking the time to take a deep breathe and look at the bright side of things.

Enjoy this week’s photos. For more fun photos, visit my Etsy store at:

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Morning Walk

Green Building Downtown SF
Today I went for a long morning walk. I usually walk Joe halfway to work and then turn around before hitting downtown pedestrian traffic. I have no problem enjoying the masses of people who are intensely focused on arriving to their workplace on time, but I worry about Bomber getting stepped on by people who are paying attention to nothing other than their smart phones and who do not expect to see a small dog walking by them.

Downtown SF
Oftentimes, when I’ve walked downtown for whatever reason, I have wondered about what people used to do when they didn’t have constant internet connections. Did they used to be more social? Did they used to read more? Did they used to pay more attention to life happening around them? I don’t really know. I do know, however, that I am also guilty of the face-on-the-little-screen syndrome and, sometimes, I walk down to the train—a walk I have done countless times—while reading the news or checking my email.

Adult entertainment area
Yes, I too am sometimes a smart phone erratic walker.

This morning I decided to take a minute and enjoy life around me. I decided to pay attention to as many details as I could find. This is one of the reasons why I love photography so much. I love the curiosity it inspires in me. Every time I set out to take photos, my eyes become better at seeing things. Every time I set out on a photographic excursion, I feel more eager to walk over steep hills, just because you never know what will be waiting for you on the other side.

Couple in Alley
In reality, I feel happier when my eyes are wandering, when they are scanning the beauty that surrounds me. Connecting to the world around me makes me feel more energetic and more willing to go the extra mile just because I can.

I remember about 6 years ago, when I first traveled to Europe, there was a moment when I really made a mental note of always appreciating what’s around me, regardless of how often I saw it.

Up we go!
Views of SF

Back in 2006, I was on a train going from Nice to Monaco, in France. The train ran all along the Mediterranean Sea, with gorgeous views of the water and, when the train took turns, gorgeous views of the coastline ahead. I was totally mesmerized by the scenery. The other riders, however, all had their faces glued to their newspapers, their electronic devices (although, in my opinion, cell phones are not so much of a social handicap in Europe), or their books. The point is, very few people were actually paying attention to the beauty of the scenery.

Bay Bridge view from top of some stairs
I’m sure these commuters had been on that ride a million times before, and they had probably already admired the views many times. But seeing them made me think that I never want to get used to beauty. What I mean is, I never wanted to stop admiring beautiful things around me just because I had seen them before. In that moment, I told myself I would always try to discover new beauty in the world around me. At least I would try my hardest to do it.

Treasure I found in one of the stairways I discovered!

I started my walk today with that frame of mind. I decided to look at every street, every corner, every building, every alley, with a fresh pair of eyes. I looked at my surroundings as if I were trying to find a treasure hidden somewhere in the streets of San Francisco.

Gorgeous cactus
After parting ways with Joe when we got to Kearny St., Bomber and I started going uphill towards Telegraph Hill and Coit Tower. As I walked up the hill, before reaching the stairs, I realized I had done this walk about 3 years ago when Joe and I had come to the city for him to interview. While Joe was interviewing in one of the buildings downtown, I set out on a walk and ended up going up this same hill. I remembered seeing a woman doing Tai Chi when I reached the top and, this time too, there was someone on top of the stairs, working on their Tai Chi!

Beautiful flower

I greeted the Thai Chi man and kept walking. Usually, here, Joe and I would continue going up on Kearny, but this time I decided to turn right and see what was over the hill. Probably a dead end, I thought, but I still decided climb up it.

Almost to the top of Telegraph Hill
To my surprise, once I got over the hill, I found stairs going down the other side of the hill. From the top I had a gorgeous view of the Bay Bridge in the morning fog. I went down the stairs for a bit, let the dog off the leash and started exploring.

I love the fact that San Francisco has so many hidden stairways. These hidden stairways are all over the city, they are usually gorgeously landscaped and they provide a necessary pocket of nature in a city that has done its best to keep as many natural sanctuaries as possible. These new stairs I discovered today were not any different. In fact, they were one of the prettiest I have found to date.


After checking out the new place, we continued walking up to Coit Tower. I was very surprised to see how well Bomber knew where to go. He kept making the right turns towards the Tower, even when I was trying to take a different route! We got to the top of Telegraph Hill, took in the views of downtown, which were gorgeous in the fog with some rays trying to peak through, and then we went around to face West and try to catch a glimpse of the Golden Gate Bridge.

Quiet stairs
The red bridge was hard to see. The fog was covering about 80 percent of the pillars and I only got to see the base. Next to it, the city was beaming under the first rays of sun. I looked back East, up to the sky, and saw some blue sky patches behind the thick clouds and fog. I decided it was time to start making my way back home, before the summer fog burned out and the sun started to burn me!

On our way back I walked down Greenwich St., on a new stretch of it, at least new to me! As I walked down the hill, I made a point of going into every single alley I saw on the way. 

Secret patio with a view
You never know what’s at the end of an alley, right? Well, I wanted to find out!

In some alleys I found nothing other than a plain dead end but, in others, I found cute and colorful motorcycles, improvised hidden patios with awesome views of the city, and I even found a very colorful elementary school!

Motorcycle alley!

We kept walking towards Washington Square, where Bomber found a perfect playmate whose owner came over and chatted with me while our dogs played.


Have I mentioned that one of the reasons I love San Francisco, besides its awesome public transit and the fact that it’s so walker friendly, is the people? People here love talking to you. They love small talk and not so small talk. In the 8 months I’ve lived here, I have made many friends. Most of these friendships started when we randomly engaged in conversation in the street, usually because of our dogs.

My partner in crime!

St. Peter and St. Paul Church

Anyway, we left the square and headed towards Mason St., and we went up it to Vallejo, where the gorgeous Vallejo Stairs begin. I do these stairs pretty much every day because they are super close to my apartment. Bomber loves them as he gets to do them off-leash. Walking up the stairs I took a second to absorb everything around me. The views were stunning, the flowers were fragrant and in full bloom, and, on top of the hill, three women were doing Tai Chi and chatting loudly.

I said hello and kept going, down Taylor St., the street we walk almost everyday. I continued to keep my eyes really open, my brain really alert, in case there was something I had missed before in my many walks down that street.

A few blocks later, we passed Grace’s Cathedral and shortly afterwards we arrived home. Bomber looked very happy to be back. We had been walking for about 2 hours but only covered about 3 miles! I guess time goes by quickly and distance moves slowly when you are having fun and loving the world around you!
Grace Cathedral

A escape from the city!

Enjoy the photos from this morning’s walk. For more fun photos, visit my Etsy store at:

Elementary school tucked in an alley!

Gorgeous flower

Are these hydrangeas?

Vallejo Stairs
Looking up at the second set of Vallejo Stairs

Hidden stairs