SAN FRANCISCO – Reconnecting on the West Coast

“What’s up? How are you doing? Sent via Messenger…”

Our friendship hangs online, on Facebook, on Twitter, on Instagram. It’s not easy being friends long-distance. Our story began with only a few streets between us and here we are today separated by oceans. Paris – Lorient – San Francisco. Three longstanding friends who still feel inseparable. Living according to the time difference, a simple question via Facebook will only be answered a few hours later…

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When Edouard called me that morning, his words seemed unreal. “Should we go see Tib’ in SF?” To leave on the spur of the moment, surprise him on the other side of the pond… Impossible to refuse! No warning, not a word, not even a mention of a visa application or the purchase of a travel guide… Complete and utter surprise. And it was! After a 12-hour flight, one bottle of wine, a 1-hour taxi drive and tons of “Do you have Wifi?”, we arrived in front of Tib’s restaurant. Tears rolling down faces, embraces, thousands of “Oh shit!” and there we were drinking our first beer already feeling at home. Let the visit begin.

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San Francisco is unique in that it leaves a funny taste in my mouth. Between the pleasures of discovering a city that mixes all kinds of people and offers completely different panoramas, and a place where the social differences are very real and where many people have had to move faced with soaring house prices. So what should I recall? Obviously I won’t tell you that I spent the week balancing the pros and cons, the warmth of the IPA having concealed all contrasts in me. The idea was to meet up all three of us, and the rest could wait. And anyway, there are basic rules to be followed in this kind of place and this type of scenario: eat as much as you can, drink like madmen, and have fun until you drop. We followed each rule to a T, stuffing ourselves on burgers, Poke bowls, BBQ sandwiches, tacos, crêpes, etc. and yelling “IPA!” at every breather on the roof of the apartment.

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We were staying in the Mission District so we couldn’t have been better placed to feel the “Cool Effect” of this proudly Californian city. With a digital Canon around our neck and the film version in our hand, we felt we had to do all the touristy things, but also allow ourselves to get lost. As usual, the question was to know what attracted us more, what made us feel like we were truly discovering something new and not just ticking a box. Our fingers kept taking photos, capturing a city that was amusing to look at but difficult to grasp, as San Francisco is one of those places that never divulges itself fully on the first date. A tourist syndrome, my eyes were drawn to the obvious things, those written down in our guide, and it was only nearing the end of the week that they ventured in the less-obvious spots, as if a part of SF was reserved to the locals. We hung out in Castro, hit the bottle in Mission, didn’t wait around too long in Civic Center, turned our noses up at the Marina, marvelled at the magic of Chinatown and ended everything with the postcard-views of the Golden Gate Bridge.

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But our favourite was Sausalito, a small town located after the Golden Gate that gathers the wealthy population around a cosy harbour. I will always remember how Addison, a friend of Tib’s, described Sausalito as “The place where the Gods love life”. That says it all. When the fog covers San Francisco, the sun comes out in Sausalito, only caring about the sleepiness of the waves that can enliven the surfers’ hearts. We settled down for a barbecue on the beach at Bar Bocce and had fun driving like crazy teenagers in the surrounding mountains. Life can be simple and beautiful at times, really.

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In the end it was an intoxicating week. I left San Francisco with no regrets, even thinking that I had not succumbed to the charms of the city, when a few weeks after having settled back down in my little Paris, I began to miss it. The smells, the tastes, the sounds all washed over me again. SF had cut me to the quick, holding me prisoner of this beautiful reunion on the West Coast.

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