My junior and senior years in high school were spent in a girls' boarding school about an hour north of San Francisco. On weekends, we were allowed to take the transit bus into the city, a fact that amused me then and even more so now. We were not allowed to go to Sausolito because, in the words of an administrator, "Sausolito is, well, you know, Sausolito." This was 1964-1966. To the students' great delight, columnist Herb Caen got hold of that restriction, published it in his newspaper column -- and suddenly Sausolito was no longer out of bounds. My amusement stems from the fact that, quite likely, the school administration had never taken a bus into the San Francisco central station, or we would never have been allowed such adventures, which began and ended in less than desirable parts of town for unaccompanied adolescent girls. I chuckle, because I wonder how often we school leaders don't investigate our assumptions quite as thoroughly as we should.
The fact is, however, that San Francisco was then and is now a marvelous city to explore, whether on foot or public transportation. Visitors can find their way around easily. Streets are laid out in a grid that make sense. The BART system (Bay Area Rapid Transit) includes buses, trolleys, an underground, and the famous cable cars. It's easy to purchase passes that last anywhere from one ride to several days. Access to public transportation is easy and well marked, and one feels safe regardless of the hour in much of the city. San Francisco is friendly, open, welcoming and appreciating tourists. A decade ago I considered a job in the city and spent nearly a week there. I made a point of traveling to as many parts as I could without benefit of my own car or taxi. It was easy and inexpensive, safe and great exercise.
Every time I return to San Francisco, which my husband and I do readily from our home in Pacific Palisades, I do so with a sense of anticipation. I know I will get plenty of exercise, eat outrageously, be reminded of an essential history, view again the Golden Gate Bridge and various other familiar landmarks (always with Tony Bennett humming somewhere in my mind), and feel my spirit renewed. Those of you combatting yet another record snow storm, digging out your cars, and contending with young students and their teachers who are once again stuck inside during recess, can anticipate that the city of San Francisco itself, not just the NAIS Conference, will inspire your soul.