Sunday, May 24, 2020

Play tourist in your own town: Go on a sea lion "hunt."

Lockdown day 1,000,000. Let's face it, it's going to be a long time before any of us go on a vacation with a plane, so I'm trying to get good at being a tourist in my own town. On the Sunday before Memorial Day, I decided to go on a sea lion "hunt" along the Embarcadero. (As a 20+ year vegetarian, I would never go on an actual sea lion hunt—this was a hunt for sea lion sculptures.)

Here's a little backstory....

Last weekend, I decided to run home to the Mission from North Beach and explore some hills and stairways along the way. On my way back, I noticed a sea lion statue on the Embarcadero. (I originally thought it was a seal, but I was wrong. Here's the difference.) I am a huge animal lover, so I crossed the street to get a closer look. It reminded me of the "I left my heart in San Francisco" sculptures you can still see around town, so I figured this statue might be part of a series. When I got home from my run, I decided to learn more.

On the Aquarium of the Bay website, I found out that through January 2021, you will be able to find 30 hand-painted 6-foot-tall sea lion statues throughout San Francisco. The statues commemorate the 39th anniversary of the sea lions arrival at Pier 39. In order to be seen by a maximum of people, the sea lions have been placed in some of SF's most-visited areas.

I found a map of their locations online (and made a fun link" and decided to visit as many sea lions as I could. So I started out in Mission Beach and ran just under 5 miles to Aquatic Park. As this is lockdown, some places like Pier 39 (which houses an abundance of statues) are closed, but I still got to see a lot of them.

sea lion statues map

I highly recommend taking yourself or your family on a sea lion "hunt." If you stay on the Embarcadero, you don't need to think about any directions and can just spot the statues alongside the path. For a short 1.5-mile walk, start at the Ferry Building and walk to Pier 39.

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Quarantine wanderings, i.e. getting reacquainted wtih your neighborhood during the COVID-19 pandemic

It's been a LONG time since I posted. So long that in fact that since that last post, I have given birth to two babies: one human and one paperback

Being a mom has been wonderful, but I do feel like I have a lot less time than before. And while some people feel like they have more free time during quarantine, my experience has been quite the opposite! In addition to holding down a job, I was now a house cleaner, nanny, dog walker, and chef.

One thing that has not just kept me sane, but also brought me great pleasure during COVID-19 is taking daily walks. During this pandemic, exercise in fresh air was always considered an essential activity, but for a while, the rule was that you were supposed to exercise in your own neighborhoods. Guided by the mantra "If you need a car, it's too far," I started taking off on walks and runs from my home in the Mission District seeing where I would go in any direction in a 2.5-mile radius—which roughly equated to the time I had off between shifts watching our toddler.

At first, I was BORED. I felt I had seen everything there was to see in my neighborhood, but then I looked at my surroundings with new eyes and I got creative—and I've found so many new things. It made me think that there's always more to see. You just have to be open to it.

If you're feeling a similar case of boredom right now and you live in San Francisco, here's what's helped me get out and explore.

1. Visiting parks. This is easy. Open up Google Maps and see what parks are near you. Walk to them. You'll get to see the park, but you'll also find interesting homes and places on the way. This is how I ended up in Corona Heights Park, Buena Vista Park, Billy Goat Hill, Walter Haas Playground, and more.

Billy Goat Hill

2. Visiting stairways. San Francisco has some 700 or so public stairways, and I've decided to list them all in a spreadsheet and map them all out on Google Maps. This way, everyone in the city can use this as a resource to check out stairways whenever they want. (I will share this as soon as I'm done!) In mapping out the stairways, I was reminded that there are a lot of stairways close to my home, so I decided to check out a bunch of them in person. Some of them are basic and functional, but some are really elegant. And just as with visiting parks, when getting to your destination stairway, you see a bunch of other neat stuff on your way.

Stairway in Noe Valley

3. Wandering aimlessly. Sometimes I just feel I can't be creative and come up with a new destination and I just wander aimlessly around the Mission, Noe, Hayes Valley, or Potrero. I think to myself, "I'll never see anything new...I'm close to home." But soon enough, I pick up a small sidestreet and see interesting things on the way. If I end up on main streets instead of small side streets, I take photos of boarded-up shops and restaurants to help future me remember what it was like to live through during COVID-19.

Beautifully boarded-up buildings

I hope these ideas help you get out in your neighborhood. Even if you've lived in the same neighborhood as I have for 11 years, you can still find new things to see. And you can even use these tips when quarantine is over if you have just a short time to get outside. Stay safe and enjoy this strange time as much as you can.