Hippies, Zen and Painted Ladies…

Today has been a day spent hanging out in what will be Nell’s cousin Lizzie’s neighbourhood.

Right from the beginning I knew I wanted Lizzie to live in Haight-Ashbury (or ‘The Haight’ as everyone from there seems to call it.) When Bob and I walked into the neighbourhood made famous by the Summer of Love we weren’t disappointed. It’s a creative, weird, chilled out place where no two stores are the same and most of them have hand painted signs. Several of the shops have brightly coloured murals on the outside and they sell anything and everything, from the shop which only sells hats to a gorgeous indie bookstore called Booksmith (where the owner has hand-written passages from famous books in chalk above the bookshelves), a Himalayan goods store and, of course, the pipe and smoke shops where tobacco isn’t the only item for sale.

Several guide books I’d read prior to visiting had called The Haight ‘a faded shadow of its former self’ and ‘a bit rundown and shabby’, but I couldn’t disagree more. It’s vibrant and quirky and happy to be different from, well, anywhere else, to be honest. I loved it – it’s perfect for my story and the kind of place it will be fun for Nell to visit.

We started our day at Alamo Square, home of the ‘Painted Ladies’ – a row of beautifully painted wooden buildings overlooking a park at the top of one of San Francisco’s many hills. Like many buildings in the city each one is painted a different colour (even the modern buildings follow suit, which makes me wonder if this inspires the laid-back, individual San Franciscan character). The park in the middle of the square rises steeply from the road but gives the best views of San Francisco through the tall cedar and palm trees at its summit. As it was Sunday everyone was out walking their dogs, playing tennis on the courts at the summit or practising baseball with their kids.

After visiting Haight-Ashbury we walked into Golden Gate Park and visited the Japanese Tea Garden. This was the place I had been looking forward to the most and it was lovely, if much smaller than I’d imagined. Although it was busy with Sunday visitors from all over the world, there were still some parts that were still and peaceful. This is where Nell visits with a character I know you’re going to love – but are they just friends or on a date? You’ll have to wait to find out!

More soon… Peace out, dudes! xx

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