Great Big Gates

This is less about the threads and more about the not-so-hidden gems of San Francisco. Every single time we entertain out-of-town guests, we discover or rediscover a shiny facet of love for this city. I've tried several times to see the incredible new Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park; it hasn't worked once! Monday was no exception. The lines were impossibly long, so we started off toward the Conservatory of Flowers after a stop at the historic fountains in the Music Concourse.

The walk was pretty and bustling with the sounds from children, squirrels, birds. The light was low and soft. The trees tossed their branches slowly to let it come tumbling down to the ground. The Conservatory was closed (so was the carousel, but for renovations).

Instead, there was this haunting little tunnel with its big black gates. I ran straight down to it.

I get the most dizzying deja vu in the park. I sort of remembered the tunnel, but I also remember riding a pony through the little dirt paths of Golden Gate Park, which can't have possibly happened, however young I might have been at the time.

I think it's because I used to run the streets wild with my older sister when I was younger, from the Sunset to Dolores Park to the trails at Lands End, petting the shiny royal blue satin of a battered Yankees letter jacket handed down to me by one of her boyfriends (I think it was the Alioto), terrified of and intoxicated by the unadulterated, unsupervised freedom unbeknown to me at home.

I was the dorky kid sister, the perpetual late bloomer. A goody-two shoes. She had sex, she did drugs, she drank and broke bottles and blew things up with her posse in the tea garden at night. One of her best friends was a pretty blonde whose brutal fisticuffs ended up on the pages of newspapers, and at age ten or eleven I remember feeling a bizarre and perverse sense of pride that I'd landed on her good side by one tiny degree of separation. She could ruin any girl's face for life, but she looked out for me.

My sister and I don't talk anymore. Not since I became the dark horse and she took her place way up high on the shoulders of religion.

I do know for sure that I'd never been to the botanical gardens. Neither had M. We didn't expect very much, but we were so pleasantly surprised! The grounds are vast and contain species from all around the world. My favorite was the ancient forest, with its little boardwalk and all the water around it. You could spend hours there and still miss things. We vowed to return in the Spring, and to find out exactly how the After Hours exits work.

It's very possible that I'll have seasonal favorites, and Spring's will be the Garden of Fragrance, which is exactly what it sounds like it must be. If you're ever in this fine city for a visit, I highly recommend it.

Bring a cheese plate, a bottle of champagne, a blanket and someone pretty to look at. You won't regret it!

Linea Paolo shoes Richard Chai for Target trench coat Banana Republic raw silk tunic Necklace from Buffalo Exchange (Valencia Street) Freebird by The Sak hobo bag Double-bit leather gloves by Cole Haan