Did I mention how much I adore San Francisco? No?
I love this city.
Five stories below my window, the cable car bell dings and I hear the cables grind as the car moves slowly up California Avenue. We are staying at the conference hotel, the Hyatt Regency at the Embarcadero Center, and of course it is lovely. From the window of my room I can’t see too much — buildings, including the Transamerica pyramid. But the other side of the hotel leads to the waterfront, with a great view of the Bay Bridge. The rooms are insanely expensive but we’re on the conference group rate. Better yet, AIAA has sprung for free wireless access for all conference attendees, so I can avoid paying $10/day for Internet.
I am amusedly appalled by the assumption that if you can afford to stay in this hotel, you can afford to spend even more money on all the little extras. We have a mini-bar in the room. If you want it cleaned out so that you can simply use it as a fridge, you have to pay $10. We had the car valet-parked, which was a jaw-dropping $41 per day. (The other option, we were told, was $30 per day down the block, with limited access to the car. Tomorrow we must remember to call Roz to see if parking is covered in our travel, otherwise, we’ll be looking for cheaper accommodations for the rented Chevy Malibu.)
This morning we had breakfast at the Peninsula Grill in Palo Alto, a place I remember well for their amazing milkshakes. No one had one for breakfast, but the omelette was yummy as well. From there we drove to the Stanford campus where Gavin and Rich indulged my hour-long trip down memory lane. Last night I drove us through campus but the darkness prevented any great views unless you knew what was there and could picture it in your mind; I smiled as we passed my old apartment and I saw the sidewalks and paths where I first started running. This morning we walked through the quad, past the bookstore and student union, around the aero/astro building, and back to the quad. I took many photos, and simply reveled in the cool breeze, warm sun, and the beauty of the sandstone and red-tile rooftops.
I lived there for such a short time that often I feel as if my three quarters at Stanford are just a dream. The streets seemed both familiar and foreign today. Being there as a student three years ago certainly had its bad moments, when I was angry or stressed or sad or scared. But it also lent itself to some of my happier days. I don’t remember as many specifics as I thought I might, but I can’t shake the ghost of the good times. Nor do I want to.
More than anything else, I simply remember my time at Stanford and in this beautiful area as a time of contentment despite all the other issues I had. I remember many days spent riding home from class, staring up at the brilliantly blue sky, wind in my hair, smile on my face, thinking:
This is it. This moment. This is perfection.
And so it was nice to relive those days today, if only for one hour.
We picked Kara up at the airport just before noon and checked into the hotel. We walked about 2 miles along the Embarcadero, from the hotel to Fisherman’s Wharf, where we had lunch (clam chowder in a sourdough bread bowl) before heading to Ghirardelli Square for ice cream. I had the most amazing chocolate raspberry sundae — MMM. We rode the tightly packed cable car from there back to the middle of downtown, and then walked down one of the famously steep hills and through the skyscrapers until we arrived back at our hotel.
We are all a little jet-lagged and about to head towards bed. After all, the conference awaits us bright and early in the morning, and there are a lot of interesting topics on the agenda. Ron’s paper is up in one of tomorrow morning’s sessions, so I am looking forward to that. Tomorrow night we hope to make it to the A’s-Orioles game in Oakland.
I love this city. I love this area. It’s good to be back.