What has San Francisco taught me?

Dogcart
Photo by Mezarc Buslon

Dogs can shop. I was amazed to see people casually wandering the local Safeway (Church and Market) with pet dogs. According to a worker, they're forbidden by law from asking for proof that a dog is a service animal, and customers take full advantage. I'm torn – as a dog lover thIs is incredibly convenient, but it seems like a really underhand way of achieving it. If I wasn't a canine fan, I'd probably be aghast. I haven't taken Thor shopping yet, but I have been taking advantage of other places' dog friendliness. Shotwell's beer bar in the Mission not only welcomes them, the bar staff even give out treats, so my evening dog walks have a strange tendency to head in that direction. 

Clippercard is hard. I've lost around $30 thanks to my inability to understand the nuances of the system. I swiped through the BART gate instead of the Muni one at Montgomery St, thought my card wasn't valid after I swiped and went into a negative balance on a Caltrain return trip so bought a paper ticket, swiped at a station before I realized there wasn't a train due in time and I'd have to take a taxi, amongst other mistakes. I'm starting to figure it all out now, but I'm still confused by the apparent lack of a way to top up your card at a station. I was excited by the idea of doing it online, until I found out it might take three days for the money to appear on my card. Maybe the autopay system is what I need?

I can parallel park. I never owned a car in the UK, and living in LA and Colorado I was spoilt by having a compact in a sea of parking lots, so I didn't have to learn how to squeeze my vehicle into a tiny curbside spot. That all changed here, I spent the last few weeks becoming a parallel parking ninja, and discovering the secrets of dealing with a car in the city. Almost all streets in my neighborhood are residential permit only over two hours, but there are a couple of back-streets that were open to all comers. Of course, you still have to move them weekly for street-cleaning, so it's hardly a painless solution. After spending the last month of navigating the system, I was very relieved to sell my car, it was such a source of stress, and the only way out looked like paying a few hundred bucks to rent a garage, which made no sense for something I rarely used.

Big umbrellas are obnoxious. I didn't own an umbrella when I moved here, so as I was loading up with furniture at Ikea, I picked one up. Big mistake. You could have camped under it, and while it kept me perfectly dry, it was very embarrassing to jostle through the downtown crowds knocking lesser umbrellas out of the way. I found a nano-umbrella that folds down to pocket size, and now feel much less of a jerk.

French food is good. I'm a bit late to the party on this one, I know. I've never gone out of my way to eat a French restaurants, the few I've been to have been long on pretensions and short on execution, very forgettable. A couple of weeks back, an old Apple colleague and I got into a conversation with another diner at a local sushi bar, and it turned out he was a restauranteur himself. My companion is an impressive foodie, so she grilled him on his favorite places. He went into rhapsodies over L'Ardoise, a traditional French bistro that's only a few blocks from my place. Intrigued, I tried it out and found myself in heaven. It's a tiny place, galley-style, the staff are entirely French, the atmosphere and service were very welcoming, the prices are reasonable, but most importantly, the food was a revelation. From light but rich soups, through salmon that melts under your fork, to coq au vin with a perfect sauce. Even their Creme Brulé isn't the stodgy pudding I remember, but a soft, creamy delight. I can't help myself, I keep going back. They have bar seating for when I'm on my own, which gives you a great view of the chefs preparing the meals behind the hatch and I've never needed a reservation.

Those blue boxes are for mail. It's a small thing, but I'd never lived anywhere without a mailbox in the front yard. For the first few days I left my outgoing mail in my apartment box, and couldn't figure out why they wouldn't take it. Finally I cornered our mail-lady, and she very patiently explained what those big blue boxes on most street corners are for.

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