Before you call one “home.” If you don’t, you’re either really lucky. Orrrr you’re really screwed. Take it from this fresh-from-DC transplant who thought she could escape apartment hunting insanity by researching “ahead of time” and relying on craigslist. Wrong. Oh, so wrong, so very wrong.
It’s as true as people tell you. The neighborhoods define you. And you are defined by the neighborhoods.
My first visit to the micro-hoods on day #3 were a testament to this.
A brisk, typical San Francisco morning of 65 degrees and overcast, my friends Rima and her husband Jeff offered to play tour guide for the day. I was the bright-eyed, naive shopper on the block looking for “something kinda perfect.” They were the 2 software engineers, house-hunting for a decent 2-BR house to possibly raise some fish and a dog. We were a perfect match.
First pit stop: SOMA or “South of Market”
They lived here, so it was naturally a quick stumble out the door.
Industrial, centrally located, home to the SF Giants Stadium and quintessential “start-ups” you often hear about, SOMA was a watering hole for the after-work-exodus. It had a raw, city-like feel, comparable to that of a light New York.
Leaving SOMA as quickly as we entered, we checked it off the list and yelped coffee in the next hood:
The Castro, the Gay capital of the world
It’s really quite different here in daylight here than 3AM bar time.
From my one nightlife experience (more on that later), I half expected to still see the Bachelorette ladies tearing it on the dance floor, surrounded by a thousand gay dudes and hot Chippendales. Yet, it was sunny and pleasant. Every corner had some kind of flamboyantly colorful, tie-die street sign and an outdoor cafe, bar or open markets.
Our next destination: Alamo Square
Where the famous row of houses called “the Painted Ladies” sat hoisted on their hilltop. Where the parks were green and dog-friendly. Where the 3 of us, pooped from half a day’s journey, climbed to catch our breath and take in the views.
Our next apartment mission: Drive through “The Mission.”
About 10 minutes into the heart of the city, the Mission is a simmering melting pot of culture with grit and glam in one neighborhood package. A dive bar, thrift store, metal band shop, creamery, produce market, Walgreen’s and burrito joint with a mariachi band stretched along just one block.
Dolores Park, a sprawling, college-looking quad sat on the edge of the Mission and we walked over to see what was going on that day. Of course like any day in San Francisco, something was always going on. That day, the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra was playing their annual “Summer Concert Series” in the park and we showed up just in time. (More on the whole experience in the next bucket list post)
Noe Valley was up next, and a quick drive
Nick-named the “Stroller Derby capital, it’s pretty much a must-live if you’re new to the area and seeking great quality of life. Family central, restaurants galore, quaint and safe.
The day finally nearing an end, we decided to call it quits. We’d have to tackle the 19,000 micro-hoods some other time. But, a word to the wise on apartment hunting:
Choose wisely, your soon-to-be-home. Prepare with coffee and damn-good Bay bread for your tour. Go in person. It’s eye-opening and way different than Craigslist. Really.