COMMENTARY: A traveler’s diary of San Francisco

By Zeb Eckert
U-WIRE Washington Bureau Chief
February 26, 2001

SAN FRANCISCO – Tony Bennett wasn’t the only person who left his heart in San Francisco. One weekend of work and play in this lovely city and life’s cares seem, well, a little less important.

Earthquakes and an outrageous housing market aside, one cannot help but adore this California gem of Victorian mansions and roller-coaster hills. I savor the charming juxtaposition of the avant-garde and traditional. Although I traveled to San Francisco for a journalism conference, I must admit I was predictably intrigued by what lay beyond the hotel ballroom.

San Francisco is a city with striking contrasts — where diverse people and lifestyles vary as much as the architecture, but all seem to exist in harmony.

Sitting comfortably aboard United Airlines and cruising home to the grind of Washington I could not help but feeling, as Coffee Talk’s Linda Richman would tartly say, a bit verklempt. I haven’t even stepped off the airplane and I’m ready to return.

Long story short, San Francisco combines Old World charm and savvy urban progress in one complete package. During my short four days, I enjoyed the neighborhood vibes of a Portuguese bar, dined on impeccably prepared Thai and North Beach Italian cuisine, pranced on some of the city’s liveliest streets, and had a fascinating exchange with a Castro queen known only as “Big Mama.”

I conquered “the rock,” testing my endurance at Alcatraz — America’s most notorious and feared prison. As the boat approached the imposing island, I realized why Al Capone and his colleagues saw escape attempts as a death wish. Steep cliffs, freezing bay waters and the unreachable San Francisco just beyond, Alcatraz must have been torturous for the convicts who called it home.

Back on the never-ending city hills, I joined some delightful newfound friends for a night out on the town. Exploring the clubs and bars seemed a greater feat than Alcatraz as we learned the hard way that yes, in fact, many establishments do close at two in the morning. P.S. Arriving at such clubs at 1:40 a.m. is not conducive to an extensive night of partying.

Throughout the weekend, I networked with some interesting and talented journalism students from around the nation. Perhaps most exciting about the convention was the level of ambition and unique promise exhibited by students. I firmly believe that newsies are the most driven bunch — curious about all that makes the world turn and never settling for anything less than the best.

In true fashion, my weekend in San Francisco was spectacular. Though it may have rained in random spurts and the hills gave my legs a workout, the city by the bay offered me its magic — if only for a weekend.

Now a few short hours from touching the chilly Dulles ground, I dread the piles of work that will undoubtedly grace my desk and the ever-engaging library study sessions this week in preparation for midterms.

So in the meantime, I will let these California dreams continue. I’m settling back into my seat, cocktail in hand, and a smile on my face with many happy memories and even more fanciful visions for the next trip.

San Francisco, your golden sun will always shine for me.

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