Going back to Cali

In early summer of 2005, after a year of living in Australia and in a bid to continue my self-imposed exile from the UK,  I moved to San Francisco, CA. I was 20, broke and ambitious. Within a couple of weeks I had a room and 2 jobs. The American Dream starter kit. A lot happened in the 9 months I was there that can be told another day, but my time there was a solid milestone in my own coming of age story. I bought my first DSLR there. I achieved legal drinking age for the second time in my life, and gained a scar to mark the celebrations. And it was from San Francisco that I embarked upon my first trip around South America in 2006, inspired by the many wonderful immigrants from Latin America that I had worked alongside in the pizzaria in the city.

Now nearly thirteen years later, im revisiting the city and my family there, on route to another South American adventure. In many ways I’m not just rediscovering this incredible city, but discovering it for the first time. Able to afford many things that were simply out of my budget back then, and with the advent of the smart phone and the wealth of online local knowledge, it’s already looking like a different city to the one I got to know in the mid-00’s. Réka, an adventurer in food, has done her own research by watching as many Anthony Bourdain episodes as possible. Together, we are well prepared.

 Our first couple of days are spent mostly walking and eating. Swan Oyster Depot, Tartine Bakery, a vegan place I can’t remember the name of that did one of those ‘can’t tell the difference’ burgers, Taqueria Cancun, mission Chinese. After a couple of days in the city we headed north to Marin and Sonoma, hosted by my wonderful family who live just across the Golden Gate Bridge. While we were there the disastrous ‘Camp Fire’ wildfire spread out of control, destroying thousands of homes, an entire town, and engulfing the whole of the Bay Area in a dense and choking fog-like smoke. Everything looked like Las Vegas in Blade Runner 2049 for a while. A really scary thing to experience.