The coldest winter I ever spent was summer in San Francisco

Apparently Mark Twain never said that coldest winter quote. It was probably another witty journalist who went penniless to his or her grave.

Nevertheless this Sunday morning the time had come for one of our speedy trips into San Francisco and we knew it was going to be chilly. We never seem to last long in San Fran – but we have fun while we are there.

I had found an excuse to drag the whole family out. It was the 14 year old’s final orienteering meet for the year – he belongs to an orienteering club at high school – they arrive at regional parks on a Sunday morning with a map and compass and get from A to B as quickly as they can  – and the final event for the year  was being held at Golden Gate Park.   We had only been there once and that was to visit the wonderful California Academy of Sciences but I wanted to see more. Golden Gate Park is no Central Park, I don’t think, but in size, it trumps New York by 20 per cent and it is very well used and beloved by San Franciscans.

We left the house with the usual snarky comments from the back seat –  the 13 year old NOT going orienteering and being dragged away from his computer to his chagrin: “This is stupid, do you even know where you are going?”

We were over the Bay Bridge in no time – despite an astonishing amount of traffic at 8.45 in the morning – it really does not let up here much on weekends – and then we were fighting against the one way system which dominates central San Francisco, nicely supplemented by many, many no left turn and no u-turn signs. Google Maps, schmoogle maps. But we got there after various manoeuvres,  dropped off the orienteering chap at Marx Meadow and then strolled over to what we discovered was Richmond. We had to keep moving, the San Francisco chill was beginning to settle into our bones.

Living in Berkeley, you just assume all the housing in San Francisco is drop dead expensive and walking along 43rd St and Balboa, we could only imagine it was. It was very residential and quiet with plenty of space for parking and even garages but bare, very few trees or vegetation and not lots of character. I much prefer the Haight-Ashbury area, also near the park but a bit further away.

The main mission was a hunt for second breakfast. You always expect a good food experience when you go to San Francisco. After a bit of searching and asking people, we came across a cluster of shops and cafes on Balboa Street and 38th. I knew I had found our cafe as soon as we walked in. It was shabby San Francisco – not one of those upmarket places with its own PR company and website – Nibs was just good baking, applesauce muffins coffee cake and croissants, a piano, a bookshelf crammed with books, a cute dog and quirky locals. You felt like getting out the vacuum cleaner and a hot sponge but we weren’t there for long. The main topic of conversation as we munched was the NZ – England cricket test which was looking pretty hairy. The Black Caps are never far from our thoughts. A wonderful respite before we returned to Marx Meadow and a chocolate croissant for the boy who had actually done some exercise.

The park had slightly warmed up by the time we returned. Fit-looking Dads were jogging with their blanket-covered toddlers – who frankly looked as if they were ruing the moment they volunteered to go out for an “adventure” with Daddy and leave Mummy to have a lie-in. Meanwhile a wonderful sight to go home with, a mature Chinese man resplendent in full Scottish kilt with bagpipes at the ready, talking on his cell phone. He was probably trying to track down the rest of his band.

By the time we got back home to Berkeley, the sun was just starting to peep behind the clouds and the afternoon was beautiful and sunny. A friend of mine moved from San Francisco to Berkeley for the weather and I don’t blame him.  Brrr. Note to self, next time we go into San Fran, don’t even think about it til the afternoon.