Moving to San Francisco: Part 2 (The exciting* conclusion!)

November 20, 2011 at 7:50 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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*Disclaimer: may not actually be exciting. This post is part 2 of 2 — you may want to check out part 1 first.

As we drove into San Francisco in our two separate cars, the first thing that struck me was the sheer number of little buildings. I couldn’t really look carefully since I was driving, and I definitely couldn’t take a photo. But all around us — on both sides of the highway and as far as we could see — it just seemed to be low rolling hills that were made of little houses. In most cities (I think?), that continuity is broken by apartment buildings and billboards and water towers and lots of structures of different heights. But for whatever reason — zoning and other government regulations, no doubt — all the buildings just formed a continuous gentle slope that looked like it matched the ground beneath it. It was very strange looking and almost alien. Not bad, really, just… surreal.

The Victorian house from the street

Eventually we got to the place we’re staying. It’s a little cottage in a neighborhood called Glen Park, and it’s situated sort of behind and below a pretty Victorian-style house. Since this is San Francisco, however, it’s of course on a big steep hill. It’s an interesting setup: the Victorian house at street level only appears to be 1 or 1.5 stories tall, but the land slopes away steeply as you go further away from the street. So from the car you walk down eight or ten steps to the area under the front porch, open a locked gate, then walk down ten more steps (which are much more rickety) under part of the house. Then you go down a straight section (where yesterday’s photo was taken)  and come out from under the house, and then it’s down about ten more steps, and then you’re at the front door to the cottage. It wasn’t too terrible a distance or too strenuous a climb, but we weren’t relishing unloading our cars this way.

Happily, however, we knew that there was a cute little alley behind the row of houses. It’s an old-fashioned alley — the kind that runs parallel to the street and all the houses’ garages open up to it.  After a while we also realized that our cottage seems to be a studio apartment over the free-standing garage that goes with the Victorian house — there’s a little internal staircase in the “cottage” that goes down to the alley below. It’s good for walking the dogs.

The back of the Victorian house rising up into the sky (blue building) with the back of our "cottage" on the left (dark building with white on the corners). The street level, where our cars are parked, is even with the top floor of the blue house.

Anyway, so having just arrived with our two laden cars, we got the bright idea to pull our cars into the alley one at a time and then unload them via the single flight of stairs in the cottage — far easier than the trek from the street, which was nearly three stories tall. Since Blake’s car had most of the stuff, we decided to do his first, and I waited in the alley for him to drive around. It actually ended up taking quite a while — the entrance to the alley was a block or so away, and the tiny streets were technically two-way but certainly not big enough to turn a car around. But eventually he arrived and we got to work. The whole unloading part went pretty quickly, and we were psyched. It had been such a long day already, and with most of the unpacking done, surely it was just going to be downhill from there.

The alley. Pretty, but not very wide. Our "cottage" is the dark building above the garage on the right.

Unfortunately, we still had a few more obstacles. Once the car was empty, Blake drove forward and made the sad discovery that the alley was a dead end. And even worse, there was no cul-de-sac down there. It just ended in someone’s garage, and there was absolutely not enough room to turn around. So instead he had to start backing up, and it was probably a good eighth of a mile. Which wouldn’t have been so bad, but near the main road the alley started getting very curvy and narrow and hilly and full of pot holes. Apparently it hadn’t been too difficult driving in, but it was considerably less fun to back out of.

And next we had my car. Blake warned me about the length and unpleasantness of the alley, which I hadn’t yet seen, and we weighed our options. Eventually we decided that the trek from the street would still be worse than the complexity of navigating the alley backwards, and so off I went to bring my car around. To my dismay, the curviness and narrowness were even worse than I’d pictured, and I was starting to get a little nervous in advance. But I kept driving until I got to our building where Blake was waiting.

…at which point we discovered that we had locked ourselves out of the cottage. The back door had fallen closed and locked automatically, and there we both were in the alley — four stories and a several-minute walk from the path to the cottage’s front door. So we cursed our luck and Blake made the walk back around while I stayed with the car. As mentioned previously, the alley is definitely not wide enough for two cars to pass, so the entire time he was gone I kept nervously glancing at my rear-view mirror and hoping nobody was going to drive up behind me. Thankfully, nobody did, and after about eight minutes Blake reappeared from inside the cottage and everything was fine. (We hadn’t even been certain that the front door was still unlocked, so I was very relieved to see him.)

The view from the cottage with my plants in the foreground

So we unloaded my car, which was even faster still, and then we began the arduous process of extricating it from the alley. But although Blake’s car couldn’t have turned around, a mini-driveway at the end of the alley looked more promising for my smaller car. So I put the top down for increased visibility, Blake climbed out to tell me exactly where the corners of my car were, and after about twelve minutes we were able to actually drive forward out of the alley. I think I could have done it backwards if necessary — especially with the top down so I could see everything — but it was certainly pleasant to drive out the way nature intended people to drive: facing forward.

Walking the dogs in the alley in the rain. (Blake took this from the window of the cottage.)

After so much unloading, the cottage looked like a bomb had gone off in it. Every horizontal surface was full of stuff. As I’m writing this, 24 hours later, it looks substantially better but still pretty crowded. (This is why there are no photos of the cottage’s interior yet.) I hope to make it look a lot better in here while Blake’s at work tomorrow, and then maybe I’ll get a shot or two.

But the inside of the cottage really is cute. It’s about 400 square feet, but in that space they’ve squeezed a small couch, a small fridge, a small microwave, a small table and chairs, small bedside tables, a small closet, and a full-size oven. With no dishwasher, though, we aren’t going to attempt to make Thanksgiving dinner here. (We have restaurant reservations near Foster City.) The listing for this place said there were laundry facilities available, but it turns out that “available” means four blocks away in a laundromat (up and down a steep hill, of course). That’s a little irritating, but otherwise the place is great and the price is good.

The view at sunset tonight. Our window faces southwest.

So all in all we’re pretty pleased. The place is clean and cute and meets almost all our needs. We had a lovely dinner at an upscale pizza place a few blocks away, and I think it will be fun living in San Francisco for a short time. It’s funny; walking around here, I can see why people love it — but I’m also very glad that we’re not going to be living here permanently. I’ll have to expand on that in another post, however, because now it’s time to relax.

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