Beautiful Banff

We met in San Francisco in the late nineties/early naughts. We formed a fast friendship, even when one, then another, then another, then another moved away (then one moved back). We met up in new homes, on vacation, on work trips around the world, keeping in touch via group texts, Facebook, and occasional calls. When we met up it was usually in twos or threes, rarely all four of us in the same place. This year we decided to plan a long weekend away together – all four of us. As we started planning, we aimed for a spot none of us had been and decided on Banff, Canada. From the moment we landed in the airport (“Yes to YYC”) to the moment we left, Canada delighted us. Highlights of the trip included:

  • scenics drives along the Trans-Canada Highway
  • free admission to Banff National Park (Happy Birthday, Canada!)
  • an extraordinary dinner at Three Ravens
  • stunning views from our lodge (and it had a fireplace!)
  • waffles and bacon for breakfast
  • a hike around Lake Louise (I never knew water could be so breathtakingly blue) and up to Plain of Six Glaciers Teahouse
  • hot tomato soup, crusty bread, and hot chocolate at the Teahouse
  • dusting of snow
  • a hike in Johnston Canyon to the Lower Falls, Upper Falls, then on to the Ink Pots
  • Thanksgiving poutine (turkey and stuffing and gravy over french fries? be still my beating heart…)
  • a soak in the Banff Upper Hot Springs at dusk
  • late night and early morning conversations in jammies
  • four fabulous days with three dear friends.

This really was a great idea.

America’s Castle

I feel so lucky that I’ve had visitors every week since I’ve moved to Asheville, NC (I hope it never stops!). This weekend Kyle and I decided to explore the Biltmore Estate, also known as America’s Castle. We marveled at the perfect day for touring the grounds: blue skies, warm rays, and great company. It’s a short walk through the woods from the parking lot to the house, and as you exit the forest, you’re greeted by a awe-inspiring view of the enormous yards leading up to a castle-esque structure.

Each room is more marvelous than the last. The seven-story high banquet hall with three enormous fire places side by side, facing a large pipe organ. The more intimate breakfast room with Renoirs hanging on the walls. The library with tens of thousands of books, stacked two stories high. And the views from every window. Breathtaking views of the Blue Ridge Mountains, ridge after ridge after ridge. Listening to the stories behind the rooms, behind the house, behind the family. The basement, where the walls were painted with scenes inspired by the Russian cabaret group La Chauve-Souris, in preparation for a New Year’s Eve party. The kitchen, where the menu for a scrumptious Thanksgiving meal for 26 guests was recalled. And the gardens, the fabulous gardens, surrounded by hundreds of acres of green forest.

Whoever created the audio tour was artful in their final message. One of the last vignettes tells how guests to the estate marveled at the milk and ice cream served, the best they’d ever tasted. We returned our audio sets and walked out of the house, directly across from the entrance to the Ice Cream Parlor. Why, yes, I think we will have a scoop, thank you very much.

10 Days In A New Home

1 broken appliance (fixed by the repairman unplugging, then replugging in, the refrigerator…)

2 near heart attacks (once when a squirrel jumped on the roof and starting throwing nuts, I thought I was under attack and once when I was in the basement and the gas furnace came on, spewing flames, I thought the house would explode)

3 evening walks through beautiful trees

4 neighbors met

5 locks re-keyed

6 floor cleanings (houses with no furniture are easy to sweep and mop)

7 pieces of mail received

8 days of working with the front door open, a cool breeze blowing, and birds singing

9 nights falling asleep to crickets chirping

10 hours sitting in the porch swing, swinging and reading and daydreaming.

I’m feeling mighty happy about living here.

I Left My Heart…

  • 57 boxes
  • 9 sing alongs to the complete Hamilton soundtrack
  • 632 feet of bubble wrap
  • 5 trips to UHaul for supplies

… and 25 years of life in San Francisco packed up.

Packed up

Packed up

It took the movers just over two hours to load everything on a truck, which I’ll see again in 7 to 21 business days in Asheville, NC.

Empty

Empty

I’m excited, and anxious, and sad, and nostalgic, and well, all the feels at once. I’m sad to leave such wonderful friends in the Bay Area. I’m excited to move to the mountains. I look forward to quiet. I’ll miss walking everywhere. I’m nervous about driving again (it’s been 17 years since I owned a car). I’m excited to re-kindle friendships.

I’ve spent the last month soaking up the best of San Francisco. Museums, drinks with friends, one-on-one and group dinners, concerts, and walks, so many walks, through the city, nostalgia sweeping over me like a tsunami. I have a strong feeling that the cliché is true: I will leave my heart in San Francisco. Until we meet again, <3.

 

 

Turning to Gratitude

I’ve found it easy to get frustrated with life in San Francisco recently. The city is more expensive than it ever has been (how did I just spend $52 on a small bag of groceries?), there’s construction going on on both streets that border my corner building (who wouldn’t think 7 am is a great time to start jack hammering?), and it’s been a while since the last rain, so the smells of the city can be overwhelming. So tonight I decided I would be intentional on my walk. I’d only focus on what I’m grateful for in the city.

I’m grateful that I can walk two blocks and eavesdrop on conversations in four different languages.

I’m grateful that there are still so many mom and pop businesses in my neighborhood that are thriving, and that we’re on a first name basis.

I’m grateful for hills that get my heart rate rising.

I’m grateful for sidewalks and for cars that yield to pedestrians.

I’m grateful for living in a city for so long that virtually every corner I turn I have a fond memory (the building I lived in when I first got divorced and the pancakes we made on New Year’s Day, the bar where we saw a friend’s band play and drunk them out of Jack Daniel’s, the now vacant lot where I got my first Christmas tree in San Francisco).

I’m grateful for the water that surrounds this city, offering calm and peacefulness.

And I’m grateful for living on the west coast, and watching the sun set at the end of the day.