When DHC USA, Inc. contacted me asking me to fly out to San Francisco for a January photo shoot, it was one of those "pinch me" moments. "Me? Model? I'm a writer!" were some of the silent thoughts running through my head on the other end of the phone. But something excited me about it - I had only been to California once briefly before, and only saw Death Valley. I really wanted to see the West Coast. Now was my chance!
I also believe firmly that things happen for a reason; and when opportunity presents itself, I should definitely explore the possibilities.
I'm a summer girl. The ability to escape to someplace warm(er) versus the almost single-digit temperatures in the North East was beyond appealing in the middle of freezing winter. And my heart skipped a beat (or two) when I thought about how this was the chance of a lifetime to have a little light shine on me, after all of the light that I enjoy shining on the talented people I write about every day.
I left my home when my first driver arrived and easily navigated through the Philadelphia airport. I'm one of those people whom wherever I travel to, at any time of day, my plane will always be at the very last gate at the far end of the airport. What can I say - I'm blessed (and I get my exercise). To make up for my trek, I was extremely lucky in the fact that I had two empty seats next to me for the almost 6 hour plane ride to San Francisco! Score!
When I landed, I was greeted by my driver who graciously took command of my bags after a very long day for me, which was now extended by a 3 hour time difference.
I was on lucky floor number 12 at the beautiful InterContinental Mark Hopkins Hotel in San Francisco. I always wondered why there is no 13th floor. I'm not superstitious. And after all, even if they don't label a 13th floor, wouldn't that effectively make the 14th so-called floor the 13th?
After a great night's sleep, I woke up with most of the day to myself to do some sightseeing of the city by the bay. I made my way downstairs to brunch and was pleasantly surprised to learn that I love steamed dumplings with my breakfast! Because of the Asian influence in San Francisco, some restaurants cater to their culinary preferences. I really wish I could have steamed dumplings on my plate every day!
As I ate my breakfast, I could hear the "ding ding" from the cable cars passing by. I couldn't wait to ride one!
For those of you who know me, you know I have ZERO sense of direction, so even when the concierge directed me to the stop that I should go to to get on a cable car, I managed to screw that up, and got on the wrong one! I was headed to the financial district, instead of the shopping district, but truthfully, I didn't mind. The experience of being outside with a light jacket on, feeling the breeze hit my cheeks as the cable car cruised down some of the biggest hills I've ever set foot on surpassed the fact that I wasn't headed towards my intended destination.
One of the cable car conductors, Al, asked me where I was from, and we struck up a conversation. He promised to get me on the right cable car so I wouldn't find myself lost in the city.
I found myself headed for Lombard Street at the suggestion of Al, my unplanned tour guide for a few minutes. Lombard Street is one of the most famous streets that's a "must see" for anyone who is trying TO see the town. When I got there, I wasn't sure which way to go. I relied on my phone to tell me which way the water was, hoping I would see the Oakland Bay Bridge. I found myself taking the most beautiful walk, reminiscent of springtime in January, with the flowers and greenery among the stacked condos and crooked trees lining the street.
When I got to the top of the hill, I found myself overlooking a basin with the most breathtaking view of the Bay Bridge.
After soaking in the scenery, I did an about-face and summoned up the courage to walk up an intimidating incline towards the opposite end of Lombard Street. (If I lived here I would be in the best shape of my life! These hills aren't for sissies!)
I paused for an espresso in one of many corner coffee/wine shops/stops, and continued on my way to "Crookedest Street" - the point of Lombard Street in San Francisco known for its twists and turns. After re-energizing, I headed out for the steep, curvy incline.
I caught the next cable car to head back towards Union Square. I thought I would see what the shopping district was all about.
It was too nice outside to just ride around town, so I got off at the next stop and walked towards Union Square. I was a bit chilly and wanted to warm up with a cup of tea. I stopped in the Cable Car Cafe and decided to indulge in a decadent banana-walnut-caramel crepe, topped with whipped cream - oh, a cup of tea, too.
After indulging, I wanted to walk off the calories, so I continued on my quest to get some San Francisco souvenirs. At first I noticed a shopping district consisting of stores that I could find anywhere - Coach, Banana Republic, and such. I wanted something more authentic - something that spoke "San Francisco". I kept wandering, and when I made a left turn, I stumbled upon an entrance to China Town! My wish was granted!
I found a few Chinese souvenirs and looked at the time. I had just enough to get my workout uphill by walking back to the hotel. I'm not in the worst shape, but the hike up the hill started to take my breath away. So, you know, I did what anyone would do who didn't want to look like they had to pause to catch their breath - looked at my phone and pretended like I had something very important to read while my oxygen levels caught up with my climbing. ;)
After taking twenty minutes to zipper myself into my gorgeous Nicole Miller plum ruched dress (don't ask!), and put on my Jimmy Choos and newly acquired purple sparkly bracelet from China Town, I was ready to do dinner with DHC.
I met Kelly, a graphic designer, and Tia, a videographer, at Scoma's for the freshest seafood! We dined on Dungeness crab caught right off the pier, calamari, sand dabs in a lemon-butter sauce, and topped it off with Tiramisu and a chocolate brownie with ice cream for dessert! Oh, yes, of course, and some wonderful wine!
It was a really great evening to get to know each other in preparation for the photo shoot the next day.
The next day, bright and early I left for the photo shoot at Alexander Imaging. Upon entry, I noticed two things - one: the cameras set up around the set that was to be assembled, and two: the WARDROBE!
Jeff Alexander, chief photographer in charge, and several DHC staff all greeted me with excitement in the modern San Francisco studio space.
I appreciate the endless patience of the photographer and the entire entourage who made it all happen from the cosmetics company. While you are all done up, you have to focus and take direction. Pose this way, and that. Move your head this way, and your hand that way, tilt a little to the left, but not that much - oh, and smile! Don't forget to smile, even though your make-up is melting under the hot lights, and your knees are going numb while you hold that perfect pose that was finally achieved after two hours of "Not this way, but that...and hold it right there!"
Then there's the wardrobe change - and you can't mess up your hair, or smear your make-up - so you silently say a prayer that the designer put in a zipper that actually unzips all the way down the length of the dress, so you don't have to do backbends in the dressing room to disrobe - in heels.
All of our hard work was rewarded, though, when at the end of the day the photographer, Jeff Alexander, brought out bottles of wine!
After some wine and casual conversation, my driver (Eep! I still can't believe I had a driver! :) ) arrived and it was time for me to gather the three beautiful dresses I was bringing home from the photo shoot and go.
When I arrived at the hotel that evening, I teetered to the elevator and made it up to the twelfth (below the no-13th) floor. I had just set my phone down to charge, and there was a knock at the door. To my surprise, the hotel brought me a complimentary basket of fruit, chocolate, and bottled water as a 'thank you' for tweeting about them during my trip! That was so nice of them!
The next morning came too fast! I had to get up before dawn to make my flight. The combination of jet lag and excitement wore me out. Thankfully, my driver (I still can't get used to saying that!) picked me up at 6:30am and navigated to the airport, as I was still trying to figure out how to keep my eyes open pre-coffee.
It's true what they say - once you visit California you'll want to go back. I am so glad I got to see the city, and the people of San Francisco, and that I could experience a little bit of "Spring" in January! I can't wait to go back!
When I was walking up Lombard Street, I looked down at the sidewalk and saw this saying painted on the ground in front of me. I always love coming across quotes and snapped a picture. I can't think of a more perfect way of parting, hoping to return and experience more adventures on the West Coast.
Wherever we go, we bring a bit of home with us, and that's the wonderful thing about new adventures - our hearts can feel at home anywhere!
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