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From Fillmore to Harvard

FIRST PERSON | Amy Bernstein

When we started telling friends that we were moving from San Francisco to Boston, we could count on getting one of two responses: an incredulous “Why?” or “Boston’s great. It’s a lot like San Francisco.”

My partner Nanette Bisher and I were moving because I had just landed a dream job. We’d always sworn we’d never leave San Francisco. After years of hopscotching across the country for work, we’d found our way to the Bay Area in 1999 and for 12 years we were happy — Nanette as the art director first of the Examiner and then the Chronicle, me as an editor at several business magazines. But the new job — as editor of the Harvard Business Review, where I’d get the opportunity to build on the success of a storied publication — was too good to turn down. And it was in Boston.

So we reluctantly agreed to give ourselves three years. In that time, we figure, we’ll either fall in love with Boston or we’ll come back home.

And by home, we mean our place at Bush and Fillmore, because nowhere we’ve ever lived has felt so much like home. We love our apartment in the Amelia. But home is much more than our condo. It’s our daily visit with Gary at Barry for Pets, where he’d ply our Corgis, Harry and Sadie, with treats and sit for a few minutes to discuss our beloved Giants. Home is our daily visit to the Fillmore Bakeshop, where I’d take way too long deciding which cookie to buy, mostly so I could spend a little more time with Elena and Doug, the daughter-father owners. Home is Alta Plaza and Mollie Stone’s, Osaka and Woodhouse Fish Co. The great people and frames at Invision. And home is the neighbors who became dear friends — our family, really.

Leaving was not easy. “Why?” indeed.

I got to Boston first; Nanette drove across the country with Harry and Sadie. During my first months in Boston, I kept looking for the qualities that would make people compare it to San Francisco. It’s small but cosmopolitan, like San Francisco. There are great restaurants, like San Francisco. And there are beautiful residential areas, which we discover as we look for a neighborhood that feels comfortable.

The truth is that Boston’s magic has yet to reveal itself fully to us, but we’ve gotten glimpses of it here and there: in the most delicious lobster sandwich ever, from a hole-in-the-wall where you eat in a more or less converted carport. At Regina’s Pizzeria, a 90-year-old mainstay of Boston’s North End, where the waiters are rude but the pies are delicious. At an arts and crafts sale in the South End, where the beautiful bronze pears were cast from fruit the artist had taken from Paul Revere’s yard. On the Cambridge street where a friend lives next to Julia Child’s house and across from e.e. cummings’ home.

That’s pretty great.

We’re starting to warm up to the place. I’m not sure when we’ll stop checking the weather in San Francisco, noting that when it’s 35 here, it’s 53 back there — a cruel numeric trick. But I do know that we’ll never find San Francisco in Boston. And that’s okay. I think we’ll learn to like Boston when we understand it better and can enjoy it on its own terms — lobster rolls, traditional pizza, historic sites around every corner.

It will take time.

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Driving cross-country with two Corgis and a pal was great. Here are some west to east highlights should you ever have to leave San Francisco:

The Groveland Hotel in Groveland, California, is a quirky Victorian beauty — and could be a weekend trip from San Francisco. Friendly people. Dogs are welcome in some rooms, in the outdoor eating areas and in the bar. A great stopping place enroute to Yosemite. Do not miss eating in the hotel restaurant. Had the best salmon dish. Ever. Price-wise? Higher end, but certainly not nosebleed.

In Utah: Drive I-75 from the I-15 east to the exit for Moab, Utah. Arches is the northernmost of the national parks that drops south into Bryce Canyon and then the Grand Canyon. The views along just about every minute of this drive are breathtaking.

Moab, Utah: Bucks Grill House and Vista Lounge. Amazing comfort food, if that includes Pheasant Pot Pie, the daily special when we were there. Culinary graduate takes on some great kitchens and then decides to open his own place back home in Moab. Yipee! Dress code seems to include pants that zip off at the knees. Starters include tasty treats like Mixed Game Sliders and Smoked Catfish Cake. Entrees are steaks to Turkey Pot Pie to Sweet Potato Vegetable Lasagna. Full bar. Nice wine list.

Reliance, Nebraska: Totally worth the detour to visit Carhenge — an homage to Stonehenge using classic cars instead of stone slabs. Built by James Reinders in 1987 during a family reunion. Makes every family reunion I have been to pale in comparison. Free and open 24/7 — except you need to get there during daylight to see it. It seems that this popular tourist site is for sale. So you could own it for $300,000.

Myers Grill and Catering, Williamsberg, Indiana: Recommended by the owner of the Crest Motel. Otherwise there wouldn’t be a chance of finding this place. Just two miles on the other side of the freeway, in the garage behind their home, Tracy and Michael Myers helm this not-to-be-missed treat. Great friendly group of locals. Food is simply delicious. A white board lists the 10 or so fresh salads for the day, including sauerkraut salad from Tracy’s grandma’s recipe when we were there — delicious, as was the pea salad and bean soup. We also had the most delicous and huge amounts of broasted chicken. Gallons of ice tea (we didn’t know it was byob.) Check for dinner for two was about $18. A one-of-a-kind experience not to be missed. Call 319-668-2321.