By Jonathan Dryden Taylor
I’m maybe not the best person to write this week’s blog, and nor would Fred have been: this was the week we both received what I shall officially call conjugal visits. Our other halves flew in from London to San Francisco to spend the week with us and they were a very, very welcome sight.
But you, dear reader, don’t want to read about our dears. I could bore you with talk of romantic meals for two at the chef’s table, cosy getaway nights in a hotel downtown, how wonderful it feels to wake up next to the person you married after you’ve spent six weeks apart, but it’s really none of your business.
Instead, let’s talk about how we were seduced by San Francisco. It’s a gentler, less in-your-face city than its frenemy down the coast. LA shouts “look at me, aren’t I cool?” while SF quietly waits for you to notice how surpassingly beautiful it is.
I love cities when you cross a street and in all four directions there’s a view down a long, straight road, and San Francisco does this to you on every crosswalk- with the added bonus of its crazy, vertiginous hills. The drivers in our company became very adept at hill starts (Richard: “I wouldn’t like to do this in a manual!”) and there were a few terrifying, Grand Theft Auto-style journeys up and down streets that were pretty much vertical, but the fear was beautifully assuaged by the stunning, colourful architecture and the gorgeous views over the bay.
Once San Francisco gets under your skin, you realize why it was such torture for the inmates of Alcatraz to gaze out at the city, a mile and a lifetime away. Fred, Richard and I visited the prison and can now say we’ve made it to Broadway- the central aisle of the cell block was given that ironic name and leads to an intersection called Times Square.
Other highlights included theatre at the world-famous ACT, where Mfoniso Udofia’s HER PORTMANTEAU broke my heart and soothed it better. A visit to the Castro with my husband was hugely moving, paying tribute to the heroes whose sacrifices made our marriage possible. Fisherman’s Wharf fed us sourdough and chowder, Turtle Hill punished us with its relentless climb but rewarded us with spectacular views of the entire city, and the Golden Gate Bridge genuinely took our breath away: the way it hides from you as you walk through Presidio Park then suddenly appears from nowhere could only be greeted with a gasp.
Audiences at the Little Theatre at San Francisco State were warm and appreciative, and Kurt Daw welcomed us with great kindness and generosity.
I’m writing this in my hotel room at just before 9pm. My alarm is set for 3:30am so as to be on time for our 6am flight. We’re spanning timezones tomorrow, flying from California to Alabama. One day, one country, two very different places. We’re ready for the next hairpin turn in this tour of contrasts.