What’s so great about San Francisco?

Gorgeous buildings with amazing paint jobs. A paint job like this is a gift to the city.
This deserves two photos. I’ve seen this house when that bare tree is exploding with bright fall leaves. Stunning.

Let’s start with the architecture. And the way folks paint their buildings. The four or five color paint jobs on the Victorians always take my breath away, this one in particular. So bold. And the fence! This is a tour de force of color and joy. I love this house.

A lovingly kept corner building. That awning. The color scheme.

I haven’t found a better city for just walking around and looking at buildings. It helps that since there is so much money in the City now, more people seem to be spending to spruce up the lovely old buildings. SF has a boom and bust history, a history of rising from the ashes, and the care for these exteriors you see must bear witness to a deep love for this City. With each brightly or carefully painted building the mosaic of the city is enhanced.

Even when clad in more subdued colors these buildings charm.
Nighttime glamour. I’m glad I got this photo, that huge Christmas tree in the window was gone the next day.

Great buildings- check. What else makes San Francisco amazing?

Transit! Oh the joy of traveling around while someone else drives and I can look out the window. A bus window. Perfectly situated to enjoy a nice high view.

Great transit. San Francisco has it. I admit that I have always lived quite central and in the northern part of San Francisco where the transit, biking, and walking are all good, and not every corner of the city is as accessible, but I have explored every corner of this city by transit. It’s better than many places we’ve visited in the US. It helps that SF is a small city, 7×7 Sq miles. With the help of MUNI you can explore all the neighborhoods.

The MUNI worm logo. Best transit logo ever? Probably.
Mask free MUNI selfie. On the J Church.
This view. Top of Dolores Park from the J Church. Rivaled only by the view from the 33 bus line as it crosses Upper Market Street.

And what gives us the great views from MUNI? The hills. Tough by bike and even on foot, but a climb up a hill is well rewarded.

The roller coaster swoop of Dolores Street. You might not think of palm trees and SF together, but Dolores Street has an impressive line of palms.

Yes, I was that tourist standing in the middle of the intersection marveling at the hill. I love it when other pedestrians turn to look at what has me mesmerized. See! I want to say, look at that swoop of trees. So cool.

Not every view of hills is as glamorous, but something about seeing hills makes me happy. And those electrical wires are so SF.

We have been so fortunate to stay with different friends each time we come back to this city we love, and left. Each stay in a different neighborhood lets us experience a new to us neighborhood and see a part of the city with fresh eyes. A wise person wrote that you can’t hate San Francisco unless you love it first. (In response to one of those ‘I’m leaving because of…’ letters.) It’s not tolerated to hate this city if you haven’t first learned to love it.

The Golden Gate Bridge after the first big January storm. The road to Ft. Point took a beating.
And that old photo bombing bridge again, with Rich and his flat tire. Photo credit Rich1.

And love it we do. All the reasons I give above are nothing on the main reason why we love this City: so many good friends. We come back to recharge, to swap out stuff from our storage unit, and for Rich to get some bike rides in with his buddies. We come back to see how our city is doing, to find out if the continuing onslaught of wealth has chipped away at more of what makes this quirky city unique and lovable.

Another stunning view. The top of Dolores Park.

After Seattle our little City of hills seems so compact and charming. People are California nice, quick to smile and chat. It does make us wonder if we can settle anywhere else. So, a decision not to make that decision is made. We love SF, and we leave again. Houseless but not homeless.

The Happy Travelers waiting for a BART train to the airport, headed for Taiwan.

Packed up and on our way. Goodbye again San Francisco. See you in about five months. Until then, stay quirky.

Sitting Pretty in Seattle – 2022 in Review

Happy New Year! We’re just winding down our second house sit in Seattle and after almost 2 weeks, we’ve learned a lot about life during winter in Puget Sound. As expected, it is wetter, colder, and darker than the SF Bay Area winter. No real surprise there.

The amazing Cheryl and Seward Park along Lake Washington
Fully equipped kitchens, one of house sittings many perks

But “living” in two different untouristed residential neighborhoods has allowed us the opportunity to experience a bit more realistic perspective. We’ve walked to the parks, grocery stores, and restaurants that we might use if we lived here. We have to decide to walk, take a bus, or drive as yes, life in most of Seattle would be fairly limited without a car for some trips ( We’d also have bikes of course).

Cute cats, another perk
Not to mention security detail!
Kubota Garden – a Japanese garden oasis and one of Seattle’s 485 parks!

People are very laid back compared to SF and friendly if you engage them, but sidewalk or trail greetings are not a given. Just all a bit reserved here. Nordic roots maybe play a part in this. Or maybe it’s the fact that the area draws more introverts with the weather and open space of the Northwest. Where can I hide in the wet woods? Seattle for sure.

Coal Creek Falls in Cougar Mountain Regional Wildland Park
Cougar Mountain Reserve was previously an active coal mine…ferns hide the legacy pits!
Cheryl never listens!

Seattle has been cool and intriguing to the nation for years, but especially since the rise of grunge and SubPop records in the late 80’s and early 90’s. We’ve been here many times, including multiple bike tours and I’ve been listening to the amazing KEXP for years on the web.

The glassy north side view of Seattle’s skyline with our friend Christine.

We always enjoy it, but how would it be in the dead of winter? Well, we still love it. The magnificent firs, cedars, and other evergreens are in frequent view and are so soothing along with the occasional spectacular Mountain View’s. But it IS cold and damp, and we’ve only had two doses of sunshine in two weeks. Other than an unusual ice storm our first few days, the rain has always been on and off.

The mighty Olympic Mountains from Queen Anne near downtown Seattle. The core and inner neighborhoods are very walkable.

But like the locals, it’s really not an issue if you have decent gear or just ignore it and run or walk in the rain. It’s just water Californians, don’t freak out like a cat in a bathtub! We haven’t freaked out.

More cute cats to keep us warm in Seattle
What’s that thing on the ground behind Cheryl? Rare winter sun in Seattle.

So we’ve surmised that cozy and warm housing is a key to happiness here as there is no fallback to walk in regenerative sunshine in winter, like SF. Oh, and Vitamin D supplements left over from our last dark winter in the UK are just what the doctor ordered. And we’d also need to scale back our pace a bit…which is good.

A rite of passage in the PNW…drive thru Espresso near Mount Vernon.
Caffeine brightens the gray days

Another place we’ve been intrigued about, mostly from afar, is the City of Bellingham which is two counties and about 90 miles north of Seattle. Close, but a very separate place. We bike toured through the area during late summer many years ago and found it beautiful and it felt a bit undiscovered. It’s no longer undiscovered by any means after articles in the New York Times and appearances on endless “best places to retire” lists.

Lake Whatcom…drinking water and recreation source for Bellingham.

We only had two brief days to explore the city and environs but it is a very nice place. Funky but somewhat vibrant downtown, hills, views, forest, lakes, mountains and many parks. It’s also only about an hour by car to Vancouver, Canada, although the border crossing can slow things down.

Downtown Bellingham is funky and hip boosted by 16,000 students at Western Washington University
Old building charm in Bellingham

Could we live here? Sure, it’s very cool. But at this point in our lives, we still crave a bit more urban density, diversity, and a variety of neighborhoods to explore. Seattle has this AND access to the outdoors, although maybe not as close or as as quickly to remote wilderness as Bellingham.

Afternoon Chai and a Cortado at Makeworth Coffee Roasters – Bellingham Chic.

So the decision to live somewhere else for awhile is not easy for us and is not easy when you’ve been in the blissful bubble of San Francisco, which is so eminently walkable, very bikeable, and still full of creative people, variable cultures, and amazing food. We always compare places to these high bars.

Whatcom Falls Park in Bellingham. Including a landmark WPA bridge.
A legacy logging railroad trestle in Bellingham who’s days are unfortunately numbered due to collapse and flood risk.

But SF has its problems, especially affordability, exacerbated by a lack of new housing and stagnant neighborhood planning. The financial disparities are tough and strain everything. Seattle has similar issues, but has more of a relief valve in buildable area and housing options. But we also have deep roots and hundreds of friends and family in the Bay Area. We would miss them but are convinced we could find some good friends here too…we just might need to start the conversation!

Breadfarm in the quirky artist hamlet of Bow…very picturesque but we didn’t think the bread lived up to the scene.
Enjoy your pastry and coffee by an inlet of Puget Sound
Unfortunately, the King tides and the lowlands around Samish Bay don’t always mix well.

But no need to fret about where we land yet as we have decided to wander the globe for another year. We stayed in 130 different places in 2022….yup, that is a lot, so settling down somewhere now would be a bit like hitting a travel brick wall at 100mph. Other stats for 2022 FYI: 45 days of house sitting (9 cats, 2 horses, 2 bunnies), 61 days in apartments, 146 days in hotels (apart hotels, B&Bs, Inns, and pensions), 3 nights on transport(planes, trains, and a ferry), and finally 110 days with friends and family (thank you all-:). Whew!

Where will we go in 2023?

So tomorrow we meander a few days back to the Bay Area for final prep and friend catch up before heading on our next big adventure in Asia…first stop, Taiwan. So excited!

Happy travelers ready for 2023!

Happy New Year and Happy Travels. Maybe we’ll see you out there!

Road trip! PNW, here we come!

Let’s get this part out of the way up front. This road trip does involve a car. I would love to say we figured out a way to do this trip car free, but we didn’t. Do we love road-trips? Well yes, they are a great way to explore the western USA. And who doesn’t love the idea of (safely) cruising up the coast singing along to the radio?

Bye bye California. Oregon and Washington here we come.

In a movie of this road trip you’d now have a montage of us visiting our storage unit to pick up cold weather and water proof gear and excitedly stuffing the rental car with this and that (A cooler! An air filter! Bike helmets! Rain gear!) Upbeat fun music would play. And what would be the music playing when we have to take all of that stuff out of the car each night and into a hotel? Some mournful march. So many bags.

Yes. Rolling luggage cart in use.

Going from one backpack each to this excess of luggage is quite a shock. We’re also toting around groceries from our stay in SF, since we’re house sitting in Seattle and we love the opportunity to cook. And has anyone ever stayed organized during a road trip? Not us.

After a lovely night with friends near Redding our first stop is for spring water.
Every available bottle filled with spring water.
The travel planner was thinking about the coming storm and the pass we needed to get over. This smile says, get moving please.
The happy travelers in front of the spring which is the headwaters of the Sacramento River.

There is something about heading north from San Francisco which always excites us. North. Towards wilderness. Towards mountains and coastline. Remote stretches of road and big views. Not south towards bigger population centers, but north.

North, where The State of Jefferson is proposed. Wikipedia will explain it in full.
What heart doesn’t thrill to the blacktop stretching out for miles under a big sky?
A stop in Ashland Oregon for coffee and chai.

Still racing that storm which eventually wrecked havoc on much of the US, and coated Seattle in ice, we spent a night in Eugene and got an early start to make it to Seattle and our first house sit, the temperature dropping sharply each hour, and the ice day looming.

Chilly picnic sites of the world.
Turkey chili on a cold night, cozy at our house sit.
Seattle’s Mayor asked everyone to stay home during the ice event. Barnacle was happy to oblige.

Snow. Freezing temperatures. Sleet. Streets and sidewalks were solid sheets of ice. Thankfully we went grocery shopping right after we got to our two cat house sit, so we were well equipped to stay inside with the kitties and wait for the thaw. We did put on our boots at one point and opened the front door. The ice on the front steps convinced us to just go back inside. We were regretting not grabbing our traction devices for our boots during our storage unit rampage of stuff accumulation.

Barnacle and Lucy snuggled in for the day.
But even the cats were getting cabin fever.
Kitty on a leash! She was thrilled to be a bit closer to the birds she had stalked through the window. (That is continuing construction of Seattle light rail behind me.)

Once the snow and ice had melted we took one of the cats outside on her leash and harness. Seattle weather wasn’t done with us yet though. During our last morning at the house sit high winds caused a power outage. Now I regretted not having the small solar lantern I always take camping. Rich regretted not grabbing the headlamp he had held up in the storage unit. Thankfully, we had noticed where our host kept candles and matches, so, congratulating ourselves on our adaptability we began to pack up by candlelight.

Overcast morning, candle and iPhone light.

So what was the draw to Seattle in December, you might wonder? Good friends were going to be visiting family in Seattle and generously included us in their Christmas celebrations. We found two different Trustedhousesitters in two different Seattle neighborhoods, and jumped at the opportunity to explore a city we are familiar with, but want to know better.

Christmas morning is even better with musical friends.

As we travel we wonder a lot about when and where me might settle eventually. Back in SF? Somewhere around Seattle? It might be difficult to understand how unstressed we are by our lack of future living plans, but we’re really enjoying our travel life. When we aren’t trying desperately to find something in a pile of luggage. Solution? Less stuff!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from the happy travelers.