16 Oct Falling in love with San Fran
I’m here to declare my love for the city of San Francisco. It may be the hills reminding me of my home city in Brazil, but the geography of San Francisco amazed me with its combination of sea, redwoods and mountains. Free things we can take for granted such as air and water are good and fresh. Maybe I was lucky, but the sun was blessed us with its presence most of the time. The blue of the sky seemed so vibrant when contrasting with pink sunsets that it made me feel like I was a bit colorblind after living in London for so long. I was even charmed by the fog, which can change the character of the weather within a blink of an eye; it normally sits heavy and dense hiding the horizon from Golden Bridge to Alcatraz, but can be full of surprises. San Francisco has a home feeling, its architecture is comprised of gorgeous and well maintained houses from the Victorian period. There are several public parks and the people who enjoy them are warm, friendly and seem to spend much of their time playing silly (in the best possible way.) There are people from all over the world; SF is welcoming to pretty much anyone and I didn’t see one soul having a bad day. Does it get any better? Yes! For a pescetarian, the abundance of fresh seafood just makes San Francisco a banquet from heaven. And all this happens within 49 square miles, 7×7. Plus just across Golden bridge there is Oakland, Sausalito, Berkeley and several wild beaches, lighthouses, trails, vintage military banks, monasteries… if you live there you better have a 4 wheel drive or you could get your ‘derriere’ super fit cycling around: San Francisco is a small city with a lifestyle quality that feels just right.
I was in The City before and after my California road trip and both times it was fun in a different way. I stayed in a hostel, a boutique hotel and I couch surfed. This gave me a really good idea of the city vibe, meeting everyone from homeless to business people. I may not have done all touristy attractions, but I’ve put together my personal recommendations of things to do and places to see in case you have San Fran on your next trip schedule:
Four Barrel Coffee 16th Mission, 375 Valencia St.
The coffee comes mostly from Africa, Ethiopia to be specific and you can smell it from the corner of the street. From outside you see a really cool bike locker combined with a sitting area made of a rusty all-in-one design sculpture, with the front windows lit by the rope’s lamps. There was no evident shop sign but a large queue coming through the door; I liked the selection of socks in the queue. People were that certain kind of intellectual relaxed type of cool, in search of an aromatic buzz. When I got to the counter, I noticed that they roast the coffee too, in the back of the open space shop where you can see it all happen: from preparing the grains to packing them up. My moment of hypnosis was interrupted by the sexiest barista handing over my chilled iced coffee with soya milk and a dash of maple syrup. Yum! Four Barrel Coffee play vinyl, they have useful bits and bobs to sell but have no wi-fi. Analogue, raw and enough.
Best cycle ride:
Cycling is quite a challenge in such a hilly city, although it can be very good for your ‘rear pack’, if you know the right cycle rides you can actually manage to get to places through longer but flatter ways. San Francisco considerate to its bikers; most roads have a large cycle lane and there are a considerable number of cyclists. My favourite route was cycling through Pier 39 to the Golden Bridge. On the way there are all the piers and the Maritime Museum with boat’s history to satisfy maritime lovers. Further from the piers, you are further from tourists and closer to the locals hanging out by the parks and beaches on the way. You can also come a little further from the shore to see the wonderful gardens around the Palace of Fine Arts. Make sure you catch best light during sunset to see San Francisco’s skyline in pink, from the other side of the bay if you are more adventurous.
Food is generally fine, very US style with gigantic portions and quite a lot of cheese and fried things. For a single person its cheaper to eat out than to cook at home, so I went dining out quite a lot!
1230 Grant Avenue San Francisco, CA 94133 (415) 986-8612
The house is located at the clasp of Chinatown next to The Saloon, the oldest bar in town, which, having surviving the fire and the earthquake is definitely worth a pre-dinner drink. If you are lucky you may find local live jazz too. The house serves delightful seafood with an Asian twist. The crispiest crab ever. We ordered 4 starters and it was more than enough for a light dinner; flavours were refined and even if we needed to wait a while for our table, the service was very attentive.
Sushi – Ryoko Restaurant & Bar
619 Taylor Street San Francisco, CA 94102 (415) 775-1028
Pick two of the best things in life: sushi and electronic music and yes they work well together. Ryoko’s has a queue that was extremely entertaining; everybody sat on the little staircase as the restaurant is on the basement and it doesn’t have as many tables as clients. We got a place at the bar, right in front of the chefs; its a place that makes you want to dance whilst working your way through the exquisite menu. The basics are perfect, fresh and succulent. While sipping the deliciously chilled sake, and dribbling whilst watching the ninja skills of the chefs as they go about their creations. The lucky man next to us seemed to have some influence, being fed by the chefs with some really quirky dishes and judging from his face and the amount he ate… well it was influence worth having. Our food was delightful; service was pretty funky and friendly.
2211 Mission Street San Francisco, CA 94110 (415) 683-1346
I actually didn’t go there, I left it for my next time, but feel like I know that this is a smarter place for the best of vegan Mexican food in town and it came really highly recommended.
Best Art Walk:
San Francisco is smaller than it looks and public transport is quite good, but a good walk can be just precious. So I joined a couple of things I love and decided to spend an art day around Market St. I started my day going to Cindy Sherman’s show at SFMOMA, which I left with some interesting concepts about photography and its potential to re-create an image and portrait a subject. Next to SF MOMA 151 3rd St, San Francisco, CA
(415) 357-4000 · sfmoma.org there are also more than a few galleries around, all really worth a visit.
Then I headed to 49 Geary Street, San Francisco, CA, a building filled with contemporary art galleries; catch an opening night if you can. I ended my day finding some great street art in Clarion lane in the Mission.
Through the Haight and Ashbury’s corner you will find loads of vintage stores, or new stores selling retro-look items. There you can find pretty much everything you need for Burning man, Halloween or Carnival, as well as some really wicked items for your daily retro allowance. Entering made me go back in time, strangely enough, to a time before I was born, from the people in the stores haircuts, to the music… slightly bizarre
But just in case you want to shop for more eccentric souvenirs, Castro is just next door and has the most appealing names for shops and restaurants ever. Just the Hot Boyz Curry or the Auto Erotica are places not to be missed. If you fancy staring at gorgeous man, you might even be able to see a naked one bathing his wonderful body in the sun in the square during a week day. There is a lot to shop for there, from luxury homewear to outrageous underwear, but I will insist that you give yourself a gay sex shop experience. Sure it is intimidating and they all flashed their eyelashes at me when I entered their territory. I felt attracted by the sign on the door that said: ‘this is not your dad’s porn store…’ Hmmm…. The guys there were so friendly and showed me more about dildo’s that I could dare to know. We chatted about the gay porn scene and they even said that if I knew of anyone selling porn that they would buy it!
Funniest things to do:
They have this road called Lombard street, that is a straight line that goes up the hill, and from up there is a 40 degrees steep wiggly bloc with an amazing view. Now that’s cool and coming down walking is insane, but if you want a bit more fun, find a skateboard and a helmet, and that’s just the coolest thing I’ve done in town. The view even looks nice when you are dizzy!
Go ‘bake’ in Baker Beach! Nothing better then watch the sunset passing ‘it’ around where Burning Man started. The light on the bridge makes it truly Golden and the houses behind the end of the beach are dreamlike. Local people hang around, especially on the weekdays, playing, singing and enjoying life. Then, just watch people trying to get in the water and much respect to the ones that do it ‘a poile’.